may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Jacqueline C. Munson,
University of Minnesota Hospital,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed March 25, 1997
Department of Economic Security
File No. 1088UC96
Joseph L. Daly, Hamline University School of Law, General Practice Clinic, 1536 Hewitt Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104 (for relator)
Mark B. Rotenberg, General Counsel, Tracy M. Smith, Associate General Counsel, University of Minnesota, 325 Merrill Hall, 100 Church Street Southeast, Minneapolis, MN 55455 (for respondent University of Minnesota Hospital)
Kent E. Todd, Minnesota Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner)
Considered and decided by Huspeni, Presiding Judge, Parker, Judge, and Schumacher, Judge.
After resigning from her job at the University of Minnesota Hospital (UMH), relator Jacqueline Munson was denied reemployment insurance benefits by the Minnesota Department of Economic Security. Following an appeal by Munson, a reemployment insurance judge determined that Munson was not disqualified from receiving benefits. After an appeal by UMH, the Commissioner's representative (Commissioner) remanded the matter to a new reemployment insurance judge to conduct an additional evidentiary hearing to receive further evidence from both parties. On remand, the reemployment insurance judge found that Munson was disqualified from receiving benefits because she quit her job without good cause attributable to her employer. The Commissioner affirmed.
Munson appeals, arguing that her due process rights were violated by the Commissioner's order remanding her claim to a new reemployment insurance judge. She further challenges the Commissioner's decision that she quit her job voluntarily without good cause attributable to her employer. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
1. Due Process
"Unemployment benefits are an entitlement protected by the procedural due process requirements of the fourteenth amendment." Schulte v. Transportation Unlimited, Inc., 354 N.W.2d 830, 832 (Minn.1984). In Schulte, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that "[t]he individual's interests and the agency's interests must be balanced in each case to determine whether due process requires additional or different procedures." Id.
Due process requires that a party receive adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard. Id. at 834. First, due process mandates that the "content of notice must be reasonably calculated to fairly apprise prospective claimant that an adverse claim is asserted." Schwartz v. First Trust Co. of St. Paul, 236 Minn. 165, 170, 52 N.W.2d 290, 294 (1952). Second, due process requires the opportunity for a hearing, i.e., "the opportunity to be present during the taking of testimony or evidence, to know the nature and contents of all evidence produced in the matter, and to present any relevant contentions and evidence the party may have." In re Amalgamated Food Handlers, Local 653-A, 244 Minn. 279, 287, 70 N.W.2d 267, 272 (1955) (citing Justice Bros., Inc. v. Christgau, 214 Minn. 108, 119, 7 N.W.2d 501, 507 (1943)).
Munson argues that her due process rights were violated twice by the ruling of the Commissioner: first, when the matter was remanded to a reemployment insurance judge for an additional evidentiary hearing, and second, when the Commissioner ordered a new judge for the rehearing instead of the presiding judge from the initial hearing.
We observe that the Commissioner has broad discretion in determining whether to remand a case for the taking of additional testimony and evidence. Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 3 (1996), governs reemployment benefit appeals:
Upon review, the commissioner or authorized representative shall, on the basis of the evidence submitted at the hearing before the reemployment judge, make findings of fact and decision, or remand the matter back to the reemployment judge for the taking of additional evidence and new findings and decision based upon all the evidence.
In Youa True Vang v. A-1 Maintenance Service, 376 N.W.2d 479 (Minn.App.1985), this court held that the Commissioner is entitled to substantial deference in making remand decisions based on Minn. Stat. § 268.105. We stated clearly that we will not substitute our judgment for that of the Commissioner, unless the action was "so arbitrary and unreasonable that it represents its will and not its judgment." Id. at 481-82 (citing King v. Little Italy, 341 N.W.2d 896, 898 (Minn. App. 1984)).
In this case, the Commissioner acted within her wide discretion by remanding and directing a rehearing of the matter for the purpose of obtaining all available testimony bearing on whether Munson quit for good cause attributable to her employer. Even though Munson may not have received a copy of UMH's letter "offer of proof" on its first appeal to the Commissioner, we believe Munson received adequate due process; upon remand, Munson received proper notice and was given an opportunity to present additional evidence. Thus, the Commissioner's decision to remand was not an abuse of discretion or a violation of Munson's due process rights.
We further conclude that the decision to remand to a new reemployment insurance judge, instead of the judge who presided at the initial hearing, was also within the discretion of the Commissioner. In City of Moorhead v. Minnesota Pub. Utils. Comm'n, 343 N.W.2d 843, 849 (Minn.1984), the Minnesota Supreme Court stated:
An administrative decision is not invalid due to a change in personnel or because one of the officers participating in the decision was not present when evidence was taken, providing that he has considered and acted upon the evidence received in his absence.
On remand, the reemployment insurance judge had before him the audio transcripts of the initial evidentiary hearing. UMH presented evidence of its actions which Munson claimed gave her cause to quit. Munson also had the opportunity to present additional evidence at the second hearing. The findings of fact indicate that the judge upon remand gave thorough consideration to this matter. On this record, we cannot say that the Commissioner abused her discretion or deprived Munson of due process by remanding the matter to a new reemployment insurance judge.
2. Good Cause to Quit
An individual who voluntarily quits a job without "good cause attributable to the employer" is disqualified from receiving reemployment insurance benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.09, subd. 1(a) (1996). In reviewing the Commissioner's findings, we are limited to determining whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the decision, there is evidence reasonably tending to sustain the findings. White v. Metropolitan Medical Ctr., 332 N.W.2d 25, 26 (Minn. 1983). Whether an employee had good cause to quit is a question of law that this court reviews independently. Porazzo v. Nabisco, Inc, 360 N.W.2d 662, 664 (Minn. App. 1985).
Once it has been established that an employee voluntarily quit, the employee bears the burden of proving, by the greater weight of evidence, that he left with good cause attributable to his employer. Zepp v. Arthur Treacher Fish & Chips, Inc., 272 N.W.2d 262, 263 (Minn.1978). "Good cause" to quit has been defined as a reason that is "real, not imaginary, substantial, not trifling, and reasonable, not whimsical; there must be some compulsion produced by extraneous and necessitous circumstances." Ferguson v. Department of Employment Servs., 311 Minn. 34, 44, 247 N.W.2d 895, 900 (1976). The standard for determining good cause is "the standard of reasonableness as applied to the average man or woman, and not to the supersensitive." Id.
In several cases, we have held that irreconcilable differences with an employer and dissatisfaction with working conditions do not constitute good cause attributable to the employer for quitting. See Ryks v. Nieuwsama Livestock Equip., 410 N.W.2d 380, 382 (Minn. App. 1987) (if a demand is reasonable, the employee generally does not have good cause to quit; the employee's "mere dissatisfaction with working conditions" will not provide the employee with good cause to quit); see also Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d 12 (Minn. App. 1986) (unsatisfactory working conditions, including difficult work assignments, employer's alleged better treatment of other employees, and poor relationship with supervisor, are not good cause).
Munson maintains that her supervisor created a hostile work environment in retaliation for her filing of a complaint with the UMH Office of Equal Opportunity (EEO). Testimony from UMH, however, provided several legitimate business reasons for the actions that Munson described as retaliative. Munson's supervisor testified that during the period in question she did have fewer meetings with Munson due to misunderstandings, but she did not discontinue the meetings or supervision altogether. Munson's supervisor also testified that UMH continued to provide Munson with transcription services necessitated by her dyslexia, while other support services for UMH employees had been reduced during a period of cutbacks. UMH did so even though Munson did not follow her supervisor's instructions to document her disability.
We note further that, at the time of Munson's resignation, the EEO office was still investigating her retaliation complaint and had not yet issued a decision. In McLane v. Casa de Esperanza, 385 N.W.2d 416, 418 (Minn. App. 1986), we indicated that a claimant who quits her employment while her complaints are being investigated does so prematurely and without good cause attributable to the employer.
We agree that Munson failed to sustain her burden of proving by a "greater weight of the evidence" that she had good cause attributable to UMH for quitting her job or that UMH's treatment was so grievous as to compel the average man or woman in a similar situation to give up his or her employment. We hold that there is reasonable evidence in the record to support the Commissioner's decision.