may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. sec. 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Data Card Corporation,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Agency File No. 6-UC-97
Barry A. Sullivan, 2140 Fourth Avenue North, Anoka, MN 55303 (for relator)
Kent E. Todd, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner)
Data Card Corporation, c/o R. E. Harrington, P.O. Box 1160, Columbus, OH 43216-1160 (respondent employer)
Considered and decided by Huspeni, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Harten, Judge.
Relator Michael Heurung challenges the decision of a representative of the Commissioner of Economic Security disqualifying him from an award of reemployment insurance benefits. Heurung contends that he had good cause to quit attributable to his employer. We affirm.
At least once a year, assignments outside of the Twin Cities area would arise. During the months of September, October, and November 1996, Heurung was assigned to assist a client in Fargo, North Dakota. The assignment was meant to conclude at the end of November. During that time, Heurung spent two out of every four weeks in Fargo. During the other weeks he worked his regular schedule, including his on-call time, in the Twin Cities. Thus, Heurung worked additional hours during seven of eleven weeks.
When Heurung was scheduled to work in Fargo, he spent approximately ten hours traveling, worked at least a 40-hour week, and was on call for four hours each evening from Monday through Thursday. Because he did not have a pager in Fargo, he was required to stay in his hotel room while on call. Therefore, including on-call time, Heurung worked approximately 66 hours per week in Fargo. One of Heurung's main difficulties with his schedule was that twice he was on call in the Twin Cities immediately after returning from Fargo. When that occurred, he did not have a day off for almost two weeks.
Heurung was scheduled to be on call the week of November 24, 1996, which included the Thanksgiving holiday. He also was scheduled to be on call the Christmas holiday week. On November 19, he asked his supervisor for one holiday off, explaining that he was feeling extreme stress from all the hours he was working. The supervisor replied that Heurung would have to find someone to switch with if he wanted a holiday off. Heurung also requested some vacation time during the next two weeks (Heurung had already taken approximately 200 hours of vacation in 1996), which his supervisor denied. Because of busy scheduling, Data Card needed Heurung to work during the particular weeks for which he had requested vacation time. Heurung told Data Card that he worried about having a relapse of alcoholism as had happened in 1994 when he worked a very demanding schedule. Nevertheless, Data Card's answer remained the same. On November 25, 1996, Heurung voluntarily resigned.
The department adjudicator disqualified Heurung from receiving reemployment insurance benefits, finding that he voluntarily quit without good cause attributable to his employer. On departmental appeal, a reemployment insurance judge reversed the disqualification, finding that Heurung's hours were "clearly excessive" and that the employer made no effort to reduce his work schedule. The reemployment insurance judge found Porrazzo v. Nabisco, Inc., 360 N.W.2d 662 (Minn. App. 1985), to be dispositive. Data Card appealed; a commissioner's representative distinguished Porrazzo and reversed the reemployment insurance judge's decision. This certiorari appeal followed.
[T]he applicable standard of review is whether there is reasonable support in the evidence to sustain the decision of the [commissioner] rather that the decision of the [reemployment insurance judge].
Id. (citations omitted). The employee has the burden of proving good cause attributable to the employer. Zepp, 272 N.W.2d at 263.
Good cause to quit exists when the motivating circumstances are "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 Serv., 311 Minn. 34, 44 n.5, 247 N.W.2d 895, 900 n.5 (1976). The standard for good cause is reasonableness as applied to an average person. Id. Good cause exists when employees resign for reasons directly connected with their employment, and not through any fault of their own. Bergseth v. Zinsmaster Baking Co., 252 Minn. 63, 66, 89 N.W.2d 172, 174 (1958). The standard does not require a finding of negligence or wrongful conduct by the employer. Hanson v. I.D.S. Properties Management Co., 308 Minn. 422, 425 n.1, 242 N.W.2d 833, 835, n.1 (1976); see also Helmin v. Griswold Ribbon & Typewriter, 345 N.W.2d 257, 262 (Minn. App. 1984) (Whether the employer acted reasonably is irrelevant; the question is whether the employee left for a sufficient cause connected with his employment), review denied, (Minn. June 12, 1984).
Courts have found good cause when the "employer made unreasonable demands of employee that no one person could be expected to meet." Zepp, 272 N.W.2d at 263. Mere dissatisfaction or frustration with working conditions, however, does not constitute good cause attributable to the employer. Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Minn. App. 1986).
Heurung contends that this case is controlled by Porrazzo, in which we held that there was good cause to quit attributable to the employer. There, the employee's responsibilities and work hours substantially increased. Porrazzo, 360 N.W.2d 662, 663 (Minn. App. 1985). The employee was not compensated for all of his overtime hours, had an unworkable relationship with his immediate supervisor, and received no help from management in remedying a situation that affected his mental and physical health. Id. Heurung argues that his case is similar because he experienced stress, his schedule was unreasonable, and his requests for vacation time were denied.
We agree with the commissioner's representative that Porrazzo is distinguishable. First, the employee in Porrazzo experienced a substantial a change in work conditions. Porrazzo, 360 N.W.2d at 663-64; see also Zepp, 272 N.W.2d at 263 (holding there was good cause when work hours and responsibilities more than doubled). In contrast, Heurung's situation had not changed. He had been employed by Data Card for several years and testified that in the past he had worked extremely long hours for months in a row. Second, Heurung received appropriate compensation for his overtime work, whereas the employee in Porrazzo did not. Finally, the employee in Porrazzo had visited a physician, who found a stress reaction and irregular heartbeat. Heurung did not seek medical attention before he resigned.
The commissioner's representative found that Data Card did not make unreasonable demands that no reasonable person could be expected to meet. Heurung did have four regular 40-hour workweeks in the three months before he quit; he reported a total of 30 hours of overtime for those months. He was aware that the Fargo assignment was scheduled for completion by the end of November. Moreover, Heurung had already taken five weeks of vacation in 1996, including two days in October, and the commissioner's representative found that Data Card had valid business reasons for denying Heurung vacation at the end of November. The commissioner's representative also found no evidence that Heurung's work schedule breached his hiring agreement, or that Data Card's demands were so unreasonable that the average person would be compelled to quit. We give deference to the decisions of the commissioner. Tuff, 526 N.W.2d at 51. Our standard of review is narrow--whether the evidence reasonably supports the decision of the commissioner's representative. Id.
Accordingly, we conclude that the decision of the commissioner's representative that Heurung did not quit his employment for good cause attributable to his employer is reasonably supported by the evidence.