may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Farm Services Agency,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Reversed; motion denied
File No. 107UCFE97
Dustan J. Cross, Gislason, Dosland, Hunter & Malecki, P.L.L.P, One South State Street, P.O. Box 458, New Ulm, MN 56073 (for relator)
Farm Services Agency, 1400 Cannon Circle, Faribault, MN 55021 (respondent)
Kent E. Todd, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner of Economic Security)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.
Relator Eileene R. Larson appeals from the decision of the Department of Economic Security, arguing the commissioner's representative erred in determining that Larson voluntarily quit her job with respondent Farm Services Agency (FSA) without good cause attributable to FSA. We reverse.
In 1986, two of Larson's co-workers filed complaints against Goettsch. Goettsch told Larson she should not be friends with the co-workers and that he did not get mad, he got even. In 1989, Goettsch asked for Larson's resignation at a county committee meeting. Goettsch also told Larson she would be fired if complaints were received from farmers and that she needed his permission to have any contact with farmers. In 1990, Larson found Goettsch had moved her to a new desk by dumping the contents of her old desk onto the new one.
In 1991, Goettsch refused to upgrade the positions in the office even though all other employees in the state had their positions upgraded.
Throughout her employment, Goettsch placed his foot on Larson's desk so that his crotch was near Larson's face. Larson told him to stop, but the behavior continued. In 1993, Goettsch swore at Larson.
In 1994, Goettsch told a temporary employee not to be friends with Larson, that Larson was a bad employee, and that if the contact continued, the temporary employee would not be hired full time. Goettsch had shown all other employees how to process refund checks, but had specifically denied her that training. During 1995-96, approximately 15 staff meetings and training sessions were conducted while Larson was not present at work or was busy with customers. Larson complained of improprieties to state and federal offices. Larson was then given some training.
In February 1996, FSA's District Director commented that FSA was going to get rid of Larson. That same month Larson asked to interview for a new position, but was denied by Goettsch even though he admitted she was the most qualified. In June 1996, the county commission chairperson commented that they would "get" Larson.
In August 1996, Larson filed grievances against Goettsch and other FSA employees, alleging improprieties in office procedures. The state FSA office rejected the grievances and suspended Larson for seven days for improperly examining and copying Goettsch's personal evaluation log. Despite rejecting the grievances, the state office reviewed the situation and suspended Goettsch for two weeks.
In November 1996, Larson was given a negative performance evaluation. On December 1, 1996, Larson filed a grievance concerning her performance review, claiming Goettsch treated her unfairly. On December 5, 1996, after Goettsch returned from suspension, Larson met with Goettsch, other co-workers, and state office and county committee members. The state office representatives expressed disappointment with the situation and said that if things did not improve, somebody would lose their job. The state agreed to monitor the situation for 30 days. The county commission chairperson said he was disappointed in Larson. The vice chairperson said Larson was "lucky" because he wanted to fire her. At the meeting, some of Goettsch's co-workers complained that Larson did not talk loud enough and never smiled. Larson explained she suffered from temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) and could not talk or smile easily.
After the meeting, Larson resigned. Larson filed for reemployment insurance benefits. The department denied her request, concluding she was disqualified because she quit her job due to her own dissatisfaction with the working conditions. Larson appealed and the reemployment insurance judge reversed the disqualification, concluding Larson was treated inappropriately, thereby providing good cause to quit attributable to FSA.
FSA appealed to the commissioner's representative who reversed the reemployment insurance judge, concluding Larson's own inappropriate conduct, history of discipline problems, and failure to stay for the 30 day monitoring period set up by the state office establish that Larson did not show by a preponderance of the evidence that she voluntarily separated from employment with good cause attributable to FSA. Larson appeals.
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 Med. 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).
Good cause is 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, n.5, 247 N.W.2d 895, 900, n. 5 (1976) (quoting 81 C.J.S., Social Security & Public Welfare § 167). 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.
The record shows there were many conflicts between Larson, Goettsch, and other co-workers. Goettsch excluded Larson from meetings and training. Goettsch specifically denied Larson training necessary for her job. Goettsch refused to upgrade Larson's position even though all other state employee's positions were upgraded. Goettsch made derogatory comments about Larson to co-workers, swore at Larson, and placed his foot on her desk such that his crotch was near her face. Larson was denied an opportunity to interview for a position by Goettsch even though he admitted she was the most qualified. Larson was continually told by FSA that it wanted to fire her. Larson made numerous reports concerning Goettsch's practices to the county committee, the state office, and the federal office. Goettsch was reprimanded and suspended for two weeks based on reports made by Larson.
Based on the record, we conclude FSA's treatment of Larson was so grievous that the average man or woman in a similar situation would be forced to give up his or her employment. Thus, Larson established good cause attributable to FSA for quitting her job. Larson's motion to strike portions of the commissioner's brief is denied.
Reversed; motion to strike denied.