may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
Ira L. Phillips,
Langdon's Uptown Motel,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Agency File No. 3724 UC 97
Mark W. Delehanty, Klampe, Delehanty & Borgesen, 300 First Avenue Northwest, Rochester, MN 55901 (for respondent Langdon's Uptown Motel)
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 Short, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Peterson, Judge.
Relator Ira L. Phillips challenges respondent Commissioner of Economic Security's representative's determination that he was disqualified from receiving reemployment insurance benefits because he voluntarily quit his job without good cause attributable to the employer. He also argues that he is entitled to receive reemployment insurance benefits because his employer did not appeal from the Department of Economic Security's reemployment insurance account determination. We affirm.
Langdon's manager, Maxine Langdon, testified as follows about Phillips's separation from employment. Phillips worked on Saturday, March 29, 1997. He told Langdon that he could not work the next day, and Langdon told Phillips to contact her on Tuesday, April 1, about coming into work. On April 1, Phillips failed to contact Langdon, so she left a message with the desk clerks to have Phillips contact her if he came into the motel. One of the desk clerks informed Langdon that Phillips came into the motel to pick up his mail on Tuesday, April 1, or Wednesday, April 2, and that she gave him the message to contact Langdon. Phillips did not contact Langdon. Langdon also tried to reach Phillips by telephone, but her calls were not answered.
Langdon testified that she did not hear from Phillips until he came into the motel on Monday, April 7. Phillips asked Langdon about working, and Langdon asked him what happened the previous week. Phillips said he had taken a vacation because he was paid for vacation in February or March but had not taken a vacation at that time. Langdon testified that Phillips had not told her that he was taking a vacation during the week of March 30 through April 6 and that she had not given him permission to take a vacation during that week. According to Langdon, when she told Phillips that he had not told her that he was taking a vacation, Phillips became angry, swore, left the motel, and did not return. Langdon denied telling Phillips that she did not want him working at the motel anymore, that he was fired, or that he was laid off.
D E C I S I O N
An employee 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). The employer has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that an employee voluntarily quit. Marz v. Dep't of Employment Servs., 256 N.W.2d 287, 289 (Minn. 1977). Whether an employee voluntarily quit is a fact question for the commissioner's representative to determine. Shanahan v. Dist. Mem'l Hosp., 495 N.W.2d 894, 896 (Minn. App. 1993). We review findings of fact in the light most favorable to the decision and will not disturb them if there is evidence reasonably tending to sustain them. Id. An employee who "directly or indirectly exercises a free-will choice to leave" employment voluntarily quits. Id.
The commissioner's representative found that: (1) Phillips failed to contact Langdon on April 1 after being told to do so by Langdon on March 30 and by a desk clerk on April 1 or 2; (2) Phillips was absent from work during the first week of April without permission; (3) when Phillips came into the motel on April 7 and Langdon told him that he had not had permission to take vacation the previous week, Phillips became angry, swore, left the motel, and did not return to work thereafter; and (4) Langdon did not tell Phillips that he was discharged or laid off. Langdon's testimony supports the commissioner's representative's findings. Taking a week off of work without permission and then leaving work and failing to return thereafter constitutes a free-will choice to leave employment. The commissioner's representative did not err in determining that Phillips voluntarily quit his job.
Once the employer has shown that the separation from employment was voluntary, the burden shifts to the employee to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he quit for good cause attributable to the employer. Marz, 256 N.W.2d at 289. The commissioner's representative's determination whether an employee had good cause to quit is a conclusion 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). Good cause has been found in situations in which the employer has treated the employee unfairly or unreasonably or where the employer has violated the terms of the employment contract or agreement. Hanson v. IDS Properties Mgt. Co., 308 Minn. 422, 424, 242 N.W.2d 833, 835 (1976); Helmin v. Griswold Ribbon & Typewriters, 345 N.W.2d 257, 261 (Minn. App. 1984), review denied (Minn. Jan. 12, 1984).
In a memorandum submitted in support of his appeal to the reemployment judge, Phillips listed claims of harassment, theft, invasion of privacy, unfair distribution of workload, and other improper treatment by his employer. But he failed to appear at the hearing before the reemployment judge, and the reemployment judge concluded that the claims were not substantiated. The commissioner's representative concluded
that the parties had adequate notice and opportunity to appear and present evidence and that it would not be necessary or appropriate to remand this case for further evidence. We agree with the conclusion of the judge that these allegations were not substantiated.
The record supports the commissioner's representative's conclusion that Phillips failed to substantiate his claims of improper treatment by his employer. Because Phillips did not appear at the hearing before the reemployment insurance judge, the commissioner's representative properly determined that a remand would be inappropriate.
Phillips argues that the evidence does not support the reemployment judge's decision. This court, however, is limited to reviewing the commissioner's representative's decision and not that of the reemployment insurance judge. See Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51-52 (Minn. 1995) (task of court of appeals is to review the findings of the commissioner or the commissioner's representative, not those of the referee).
Phillips argues that he is entitled to receive reemployment insurance benefits because Langdon's did not appeal from the Department's April 11, 1997, reemployment insurance account determination. The statute governing the reemployment insurance account determination provides:
An official, designated by the commissioner, shall promptly examine each application for benefits to determine the base period, the benefit year, the weekly benefit amount payable, if any, and the maximum benefit amount payable, if any. The determination shall be known as the determination of reemployment insurance account.
Minn. Stat. § 268.07, subd. 1(b) (1996). In determining a reemployment insurance account, an official determines only the amount of money in the account and does not address other issues of eligibility. See Minn. Stat. § 268.07, subd. 2 (1996) (explaining how reemployment insurance account is determined).
The disqualification determination is separate and distinct from the reemployment insurance account determination. See Minn. Stat. § 268.101, subd. 2(a)-(c) (1996) (commissioner makes disqualification determination based on information provided by the claimant about the reasons for the separation from employment and on any protest made by the employer). The issue of Phillips's disqualification was not addressed in the April 11 reemployment insurance account determination. The issue of Phillips's disqualification was first addressed in the Department's April 18, 1997, disqualification determination. Langdon's failure to challenge the reemployment insurance account determination, therefore, did not affect the later disqualification determination.
Phillips raised a due process claim based on Langdon's failure to appeal from the reemployment insurance account determination. Because Langdon's was not obligated to appeal from that determination, the due process claim is without merit.