may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed December 10, 1996
Department of Economic Security
File No. 3535UC95
Kent E. Todd, Minnesota Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for Respondent Commissioner of Economic Security)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge, and Norton, Judge.
A Commissioner's representative of the Department of Economic Security concluded that relator Alicia T. Paradeau was disqualified from receiving reemployment insurance benefits because she had voluntarily quit her job. Because we find no error in the determination of the Commissioner's representative, we affirm.
Paradeau told Bame that she could not live on the reduced salary and would need to get a different job. Bame told Paradeau that she would have the opportunity to earn her prior salary, and more, based on her monthly sales. According to Bame, Paradeau could earn an additional amount in any month she made sales that were at least 75 percent of the sales corresponding to the same month in the previous year. Paradeau did not discuss the salary reduction again until she quit work in April 1995. Paradeau's sales were never sufficient to meet the bonus threshold.
Paradeau had one instance of difficulty in receiving her wages. The payroll check she received on October 10, 1994, was returned for insufficient funds. Bame reissued a good check dated October 18, 1994, and paid Paradeau for expenses caused by the original check.
In early April 1995, Bame scheduled Paradeau to work the 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. shift two days a week for the two weeks before Easter. Prior to that, Paradeau's schedule had been 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. This was the first time that MainStreet Kids had required her to work evenings. Bame advised Paradeau that the schedule change was temporary and was necessary to meet the increased demands of the Easter season. Paradeau continued to come in at 9:30 a.m. on the days she was scheduled to work late, because she believed that the person scheduled to open the store on those days was irresponsible; Bame did not require her to do this.
On April 6, 1995, Paradeau met with Bame and informed Bame that she was quitting her job immediately. Paradeau told Bame she was unhappy with the change in working hours, she was dissatisfied with the cut in her pay, and she no longer enjoyed her job. Paradeau had not complained about her salary reduction since June 1994. Bame encouraged Paradeau not to quit; Bame offered to increase Paradeau's salary or to give her part-time work. Paradeau refused the offer and quit, effective immediately.
Paradeau's subsequent claim for reemployment insurance benefits was denied; the denial was affirmed by the reemployment insurance judge and the Commissioner. Appeal to this court resulted in a remand to determine whether Paradeau complained about the change in her compensation before continuing to work under the commission program.
On remand the Commissioner's representative found that, other than the comment made on June 21, 1994, Paradeau had never said anything to her employer about the salary reduction until she quit in April 1995, and that the employer was willing to negotiate a higher pay rate when Paradeau indicated she was quitting. The Commissioner's representative concluded that Paradeau "had an obligation to at least discuss the matter which would then have alleviated her complaints which she contends caused her to quit." Paradeau appeals from the Commissioner's affirmance of its prior decision.
Whether an employee had good cause to quit is a question of law that "is not binding on this court if it does not have reasonable support in the findings." Zepp v. Arthur Treacher Fish & Chips, Inc., 272 N.W.2d 262, 263 (Minn. 1978). The Commissioner's representative's factual findings, however, are reviewed in the light most favorable to the decision to determine whether there is evidence in the record reasonably tending to sustain them. White v. Metropolitan Medical Ctr., 332 N.W.2d 25, 26 (Minn. 1983).
The employee bears the burden of showing that she had good cause attributable to the employer to quit. Marz v. Dep't of Employment Servs., 256 N.W.2d 287, 289 (Minn. 1977). Paradeau contends that the reduction in salary, the change in her work schedule, and the October 1994 delayed payment of her salary constituted good cause for her resignation.
A. Reduction in Salary
"[A] substantial pay reduction gives an employee good cause for quitting." Scott v. Photo Center, Inc., 306 Minn. 535, 536, 235 N.W.2d 616, 617 (1975). Scott involved a wage reduction of 25 percent. See also Sunstar Foods, Inc. v. Uhlendorf, 310 N.W.2d 80, 84 (Minn. 1981) (suggesting that a reduction of less than 15 percent may not provide good cause to quit, whereas a reduction of more than 20 percent does provide good cause); McBride v. LeVasseur, 341 N.W.2d 299, 300 (Minn. App. 1983) (30 percent reduction in pay).
Here the wage reduction was 16.8 percent, but Bame also put Paradeau on a bonus plan whereby she could recoup the reduction of her wages if her sales exceeded 75 percent of the corresponding monthly sales for the previous year. Paradeau continued working for nine months under the plan, although she did not receive a bonus. At issue is whether Paradeau's silence for nine months was reasonable under the circumstances.
Generally, an employee who quits without making his or her complaint known to the employer and without allowing the employer an opportunity to remedy the situation, if necessary, forecloses a finding of good cause attributable to the employer. See, e.g., Larson v. Dep't of Econ. Sec., 281 N.W.2d 667, 668 (Minn. 1979). When an employee fails to apprise an employer of a continuing problem, it is "reasonable for the employer to assume the problem has been corrected." Id. at 669.
The record supports the Commissioner's representative's finding that Paradeau did not again complain about her pay until the day she resigned nine months later. The record also supports the Commissioner's representative's finding that when Paradeau met with the employer and informed her she was quitting and that she was dissatisfied with her pay, the employer offered her a pay increase and asked her not to quit. We find no error in the Commissioner's representative's determination that the change in Paradeau's wages did not constitute good cause for Paradeau's resignation.
B. Increased Work Hours/Change in Work Schedule
Paradeau contends she quit for good cause because her employer substantially increased her work hours and changed her work schedule by requiring her to work nights, twice a week for a period of two weeks. She cites Porrazzo v. Nabisco, Inc., 360 N.W.2d 662 (Minn. App. 1985) in support. The employee in Porrazzo had his hours increased to 55 per week; he was not compensated for all time worked, and his physical and mental health suffered from the increased stress in his relationship with his employer. Id. at 663.
Porrazzo is distinguishable. Unlike the employee in Porrazzo, Paradeau increased her own hours by voluntarily continuing to come in at 9:30 a.m. on the days she was scheduled to work late. Further, unlike Porrazzo, there is nothing in the record to indicate that Paradeau was not compensated for any additional time she may have worked. Additionally, Paradeau does not indicate that she suffered physically or mentally from the increased hours, or that Bame had knowledge of any such problems. Finally, unlike Porrazzo, Paradeau's work pressure from the additional hours did not result in "unreasonable demands of an employee that no one person could be expected to meet." Id.
Paradeau also cites Baker v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, 394 N.W.2d 564 (Minn. App. 1986), to support her contention that her employer's change in her work schedule constituted good cause attributable to her employer for quitting. Baker is also distinguishable: the employee's schedule changed from days to two or three nights a week on a permanent basis, although she was hired to work only days, and she repeatedly complained. Id. at 565-66. Unlike Baker, there is nothing in the record to indicate that there was an understanding that Paradeau would never be required to work nights, Paradeau did not repeatedly complain, and Paradeau's change in schedule was only twice a week for two weeks.
In this case the Commissioner's representative found that the change in scheduling was temporary and Paradeau's resignation was based on her dissatisfaction with her job. "The phrase 'good cause attributable to the employer' does not encompass situations where the employee * * * is simply frustrated or dissatisfied with his working conditions." Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Minn. App. 1986). See also Trego v. Hennepin County Family Day Care Ass'n, 409 N.W.2d 23, 26 (Minn. App. 1987) (temporary crisis situation and the existence of a personality conflict did not constitute good cause). Further, when Paradeau complained to her employer, Bame explained that the crisis was temporary and the change in schedule was only for the two weeks prior to Easter; Bame also offered Paradeau an increase in wages or a change to part-time work. Paradeau gave Bame no opportunity to change the working conditions, but instead resigned effective immediately. The record supports the conclusion that the change in working conditions/schedule did not constitute good cause attributable to the employer for Paradeau's resignation.
C. Delay in Payment of Wages
Where an employer's cash flow problem causes the bank to dishonor payroll checks, the employee's repeated difficulty cashing payroll checks constitutes good cause attributable to the employer for the employee's voluntary separation from employment. Wonder Indus., Inc. v. Marohn, 345 N.W.2d 273, 273 (Minn. App. 1984) (holding that "the uncertainty of time of payment render[ed] the conditions of employment intolerable"). Unlike Wonder, this record reveals only a single incident of an insufficient funds paycheck, and the incident occurred six months before Paradeau quit. Further, Bame immediately issued a new paycheck and reimbursed Paradeau for any expenses incurred. The record supports the Commissioner's representative's determination that the single occurrence of an insufficient funds paycheck did not provide Paradeau with good cause attributable to her employer to quit six months later.