may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Air Lite Transport,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Department of Economic Security
File No. 5921UC97
Dawn M. Parson, 5200 West 73rd Street, Edina, MN 55439 (for respondent Air Lite)
Kent E. Todd, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Kalitowski, Judge.
Relator Henry Amos challenges his disqualification from reemployment insurance benefits, contending he had good cause to quit attributable to his employer, respondent Air Lite Transport, because Air Lite had made various errors in paying Amos his wages. We affirm.
Amos worked as a truck driver for Air Lite from September 1996 through April 1997. He voluntarily quit his employment and then applied for reemployment insurance benefits. During a call to the Department of Economic Security (DES), Amos explained that he decided to quit his job because he was experiencing car problems and wanted to find a job closer to home. The claims representative found him disqualified from receiving benefits.
At the hearing, Amos argued that he voluntarily quit because Air Lite made several errors in his paychecks, failed to compensate him correctly, changed his pay scale from hourly to per load, and was late in paying him because it mailed his paycheck rather than hold it for him. During the hearing, Amos outlined several instances to support his argument. The reemployment insurance judge found Amos had quit his job voluntarily with good cause attributable to the employer because the employer "shorted" Amos's wages and had not paid him when due.
On appeal, the commissioner's representative reversed that decision and found Amos disqualified from receiving benefits. The commissioner's representative found Amos had voluntarily quit without good cause based on Amos's initial statement to the department that he had quit because he was experiencing car problems and needed work closer to home. Amos obtained a writ of certiorari to challenge that decision. On appeal, the commissioner's representative reversed that decision and found Amos disqualified from receiving benefits. The commissioner's representative found Amos had voluntarily quit without good cause based on Amos's initial statement to the department that he had quit because he was experiencing car problems and needed work closer to home. Amos obtained a writ of certiorari to challenge that decision.
Minnesota law disqualifies from receiving benefits any person who discontinues employment voluntarily and without good cause attributable to the employer. Minn. Stat. § 268.09, subd. 1(a) (1996). To constitute "good cause," an employee's reason for quitting must be "real, not imaginary, substantial, not trifling, and reasonable, not whimsical." Ferguson v. Department of Employment Servs., 311 Minn. 34, 44 n.5, 247 N.W.2d 895, 900 n.5 (1976). The court judges reasonableness based on the average man's or woman's standard, not on the oversensitive. Id. The employer bears the burden of proving an employee is disqualified from receiving benefits. Johnson v. Ford Motor Co., 289 Minn. 388, 394, 184 N.W.2d 786, 790 (1971). Once the employer makes that showing, the burden shifts to the employee to prove he left for good cause attributable to the employer. Marz v. Department of Employment Servs., 256 N.W.2d 287, 289 (Minn. 1977).
The commissioner's representative found that Amos quit because he had car problems and wanted to work closer to home. The record supports this finding. Transportation to and from work is generally the concern of the employee and, thus, does not constitute good cause attributable to the employer so as to warrant a voluntary termination. Hill v. Contract Beverages, Inc., 307 Minn. 356, 358, 240 N.W.2d 314, 316 (1976). Amos's initial statement to the DES expressed only these reasons for quitting; he mentioned nothing about problems with payment of wages.
The commissioner's representative also found that, even if Amos quit because of wage and payment issues, those reasons were not so significant as to constitute good cause attributable to the employer. Some wage issues do constitute good cause attributable to the employer to warrant an employee's voluntary termination. See, e.g., Scott v. Photo Ctr., Inc., 306 Minn. 535, 535-36, 235 N.W.2d 616, 616-17 (1975) (affirming good cause to quit when employer changed wages from salary to commission and reduced employee's wage by 25%); Wonder Indus. Inc. v. Marohn, 345 N.W.2d 272, 273 (Minn. App. 1984) (affirming good cause to quit where employee had difficulty cashing paychecks because employer did not have enough cash flow to pay employees).
Unlike those cases, Auto Lite did not materially reduce Amos's income or have insufficient funds to cash Amos's checks. Auto Lite made several alleged errors in calculating reimbursements and wages for Amos. When Amos mentioned the errors, however, Auto Lite corrected the discrepancy in the next paycheck. The record also indicates that Auto Lite mailed Amos's paychecks by oversight, not as a deliberate attempt to deprive Amos of his wages. These conditions do not rise to the level of substantial, unfair or illegal conduct, or violation of the employment contract, so as to constitute good cause attributable to the employer.
Amos also challenges the ability of the commissioner's representative to reverse the credibility determinations of the reemployment insurance judge who presided at the hearing. Under the law, however, the commissioner's representative has the power to disregard the hearing judge's findings, reexamine the evidence, and render independent findings of fact as the evidence may require. Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 3 (1996); Tuff, 526 N.W.2d at 51.