may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Lon J. Hoy,
Continental Grain Company,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed September 16, 1997
Department of Economic Security
File No. 10969UC96
Lon J. Hoy, 1003 Cottonwood Ave., Lot 98, Red Wing, MN 55066 (pro se relator)
Thomas E. Ring, Marko J. Mrkonich, Oppenheimer, Wolff & Donnelly, 3400 Plaza VII Bldg., 45 South Seventh St., Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent Continental Grain Company)
Kent E. Todd, Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert St., St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner of Economic Security)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Davies, Judge, and Peterson, Judge.
Relator Lon Hoy challenges his disqualification from reemployment insurance benefits, claiming the Commissioner of Economic Security erroneously concluded that Hoy quit his job without good cause attributable to his employer. We affirm.
A claims representative denied Hoy's claim for reemployment insurance benefits and Hoy appealed that decision. Following a hearing, a reemployment insurance judge affirmed the denial of benefits. Hoy again appealed and a representative of the Commissioner of Economic Security affirmed the decision of the reemployment insurance judge. This appeal followed.
We are bound by the findings of the commissioner's representative if there is evidence reasonably tending to support them. Ress v. Abbott Northwestern Hosp., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989). A reviewing court, however, may exercise its own judgment regarding questions of law. Smith v. Employers' Overload Co., 314 N.W.2d 220, 221 (Minn. 1981). On established facts, whether an employee had good cause to quit is a question of law. Parnell v. River Bend Carriers, Inc., 484 N.W.2d 442, 444 (Minn. App. 1992).
Hoy claims that he quit because of the following problems: (1) his safety concerns regarding extensive work hours and Continental's practice of allowing employees to work alone on a barge; (2) Continental's disproportionate assignment of undesirable work to him; (3) the frequency of his layoffs; (4) Continental's decision to grant a vacation day to an employee with less seniority than Hoy; (5) his belief that a Continental employee had him followed by the police; and (6) his dissatisfaction with his union. We find that Hoy's allegations, even if true, do not provide a basis for concluding that he quit with good cause attributable to Continental.
Continental ships and stores grain on barges on the Mississippi River. The work is seasonal and requires extremely long hours. When the river freezes, workers are laid off, then recalled in the early spring.
Although workers are paid time-and-a-half for work in excess of eight hours a day, Hoy complains that the excessive number of hours he was required to work created unsafe working conditions. Hoy also asserts that Continental's practice of allowing employees to work alone on a barge, which he considered highly unsafe, contributed to his decision to quit. Continental disputed Hoy's assertion that it was contractually obligated to keep two people on the barges at all times, although representatives testified that Continental tried to do so whenever possible. There were no allegations that Continental's practices violated state or federal safety regulations.
[a]n employee's failure to complain about a serious problem before quitting may foreclose a determination of good cause to quit that is attributable to the employer.
Haskins v. Choice Auto Rental, Inc., 558 N.W.2d 507, 511 (Minn. App. 1997). If, after an employee complains about alleged unsafe conditions, the employer gives the employee some expectation of assistance, the employee then "has a duty to complain further if the conditions persist." Id. In certain circumstances, an employer's practices may be good cause to quit, even though the employee failed to complain prior to quitting. E.g., Parnell, 484 N.W.2d at 445 (when an employer violates federal trucking laws related to public safety by having drivers work excessive hours, employee has good cause per se to quit at any time).
Hoy testified that he once "mentioned" to a supervisor his concern regarding working alone on the barge. The commissioner's representative found, however, that Hoy never complained about the practice or about the hours he was required to work. Because there was no allegation that Continental violated state or federal regulations or that its practices triggered public safety concerns, the Parnell exception to the requirement that an employee inform the employer of offensive or unsafe work conditions does not apply here. As a result, we agree with the commissioner's representative that Hoy's professed safety concerns did not provide him good cause to quit.
Hoy complains that he was given a disproportionate number of undesirable work assignments. Even if true, "good cause to quit" does not generally encompass an employee's frustration or dissatisfaction with work conditions. Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Minn. App. 1986). We agree with the commissioner's representative that Hoy's work assignments did not provide good cause to quit.
Hoy also objects to the frequency of his layoffs. But seasonal layoffs were one of the conditions of his employment with Continental and the layoffs did not violate Hoy's employment contract. Similarly, Hoy admitted that his contract did not require Continental to consider seniority when granting vacation requests. Hoy's complaints regarding his layoffs and vacation time do not provide a basis for reversing the decision of the commissioner's representative.
Hoy alleges that he has been followed by the police at the request of another Continental employee. Hoy offered no evidence that the employee was acting at Continental's behest. The alleged incident provides no basis for concluding that Hoy quit with good cause attributable to Continental.
Finally, Hoy's dissatisfaction with the manner in which his union handled several of his grievances against Continental is irrelevant to determining whether Hoy quit with good cause attributable to Continental. We affirm the decision of the commissioner's representative that Hoy quit without good cause attributable to Continental.