may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996)
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Star Tribune Div.,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Agency File No. 7941UC97
Patricia K. Oakes, Kathlyn E. Noecker, Faegre & Benson, LLP, 2200 Norwest Center, 90 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402-3901 (for respondent Star Tribune)
Kent E. Todd, Minnesota Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent commissioner)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Norton, Judge.*
*Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 2.
Marlys Olson appeals an order of the Commissioner of Economic Security disqualifying her from receiving reemployment benefits. The evidence reasonably tends to support the decision of the commissioner's representative that Olson quit her job without good cause attributable to her employer, and we affirm.
The Star Tribune Division of Cowles Media employed Marlys Olson as a benefits accounting associate from October 1981 until March 1997. In June 1995 Olson informed Star Tribune that she suffered from metabolic myopathy, a connective tissue disease causing pain, muscle weakness, and fatigue. Star Tribune responded to Olson's requests to accommodate her medical condition by allowing substantial leave, frequent rest breaks, exemption from tasks requiring repetitive motion, exemption from lifting and bending, and self-paced work assignments. In October 1996, based on her doctor's recommendation, Olson changed to a part-time work schedule of three days a week.
When Olson began working part time, Star Tribune transferred her to a position in the benefits department that could be performed on a part-time basis because the duties of a benefits accounting associate required a full-time employee. Olson's hourly wage remained the same. Olson was dissatisfied with her changed job description and expressed concern that her new duties required repetitive motion and would not continue to be available.
In February 1997 Olson elected to take early retirement under Star Tribune's early retirement plan. In addition to receiving early retirement and continued medical benefits, Olson received a sum of money representing both severance pay and settlement of an EEOC claim.
Olson applied for reemployment insurance benefits but her claim was denied, and her appeal to a reemployment insurance judge and the commissioner's representative were unsuccessful. Olson appeals the decision of the commissioner's representative that she quit without good cause attributable to Star Tribune.
A person who voluntarily quits employment is disqualified from receiving reemployment insurance benefits unless the employee demonstrates that he quit for good cause attributable to the employer. Minn. Stat. § 268.09, subd. 1(1) (1996); Marz v. Department of Employment Servs., 256 N.W.2d 287, 289 (Minn. 1977). Good cause is a legal conclusion, but it must be based on findings that have the requisite evidentiary support. Zepp v. Arthur Treacher Fish & Chips, Inc., 272 N.W.2d 262, 263 (Minn. 1978).
The commissioner's representative found that Olson did not meet her burden of demonstrating that her separation was with good cause attributable to Star Tribune. See Marz, 256 N.W.2d at 287 (employee terminating employment must sustain burden of proof on good cause attributable to employer). Specifically, the commissioner's representative found that in response to Olson's health problem, Star Tribune made generous attempts to provide Olson with work at the same rate of pay that could be performed within her medical restrictions during the three-day work week. The accommodations included an assurance that if Olson could not perform an assignment, she should notify her supervisor. The commissioner's representative also found that Olson's concerns about the continuing availability of the job were conjectural. Star Tribune had informed Olson that it would continue to find work for her within her medical restrictions. See Seacrist v. City of Cottage Grove, 344 N.W.2d 889 (Minn. App. 1984) (employee's concern about future employment is not good cause attributable to employer to voluntarily separate).
Olson contends that Star Tribune's accommodations were inadequate and her substitute work duties were not comparable to her previous position. Although the record provides some evidence through Olson's testimony that the accommodations posed adjustment problems, the record supports the commissioner's representative's findings that the changes in the job duties were required by Olson's part-time work restriction and were more than reasonable accommodations. The findings of the commissioner's representative must be viewed in the light most favorable to the decision and may not be disturbed if the evidence reasonably tends to support the decision. Lolling v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 377 (Minn. 1996); see also Tuff v. Knitcraft, 526 N.W.2d 50 (Minn. 1995) (findings of commissioner's representative entitled to high degree of deference).
Finally, the commissioner's representative found that an employee who terminates employment to take advantage of an early retirement program does not quit with good cause attributable to the employer. See Kehoe v. Minnesota Dept. of Econ. Sec., 568 N.W.2d 889 (Minn. App. 1997) (when employee has choice of remaining employed or resigning as part of early retirement program, termination is without good cause attributable to employer).