may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Private Sector Systems, Inc.,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed October 6, 1998
Department of Economic Security
File No. 1455UC98
Richard Judge, HC1, Box 248, Motley, MN 56466-9426 (pro se relator)
Kent E. Todd, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner of Economic Security)
Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Willis, Judge.
Relator Richard Judge challenges the decision of the commissioner's representative denying him reemployment insurance benefits. He contends he quit his job as a dispatcher for Private Sector Systems, Inc. for good cause due to harassment by co-workers. We affirm.
"Good cause" may be established if the employee has been subjected to harassment on the job and can demonstrate that he gave his employer notice of the harassment and an opportunity to correct the problem.
Tru-Stone Corp. v. Gutzkow, 400 N.W.2d 836, 838 (Minn. App. 1987) (citing Larson v. Department of Economic Security, 281 N.W.2d 667 (Minn. 1979)).
But whether an employee has "good cause" to quit is a question of law that "is not binding on this court if it does not have reasonable support in the findings."
Hanke v. Safari Hair Adventure, 512 N.W.2d 614, 616 (Minn. App. 1994) (quoting Zepp v. Arthur Treacher Fish & Chips, Inc., 272 N.W.2d 262, 263 (Minn. 1978)). However, this court must defer to the factual findings of the representative of the commissioner:
Findings must be viewed in the light most favorable to the decision, and if there is evidence reasonably tending to sustain them, they will not be disturbed.
Bestler v. Travel Co. of Minnesota, 398 N.W.2d 611, 613 (Minn. App. 1986) (citation omitted).
Here the commissioner's representative determined: (1) the management at Private Sector Systems, Inc. (PSS) was not sufficiently informed of Judge's complaint that he was yelled at and threatened on a daily basis by the taxi drivers; and (2) Judge did not complain of harassment in December 1997 when he threatened to quit or in January 1998 when he quit his job.
1. Notice of harassment
"[N]otice of harassment to management is essential to a claim for [unemployment] benefits." McNabb v. Cubb Foods, 352 N.W.2d 378, 382 (Minn. 1984).
The failure of management to timely discipline employees is strong evidence of acquiescence in discriminatory practices by subordinates. * * * An employer must act to prevent and correct harassment when it becomes aware of the problem.
Id. at 384.
Judge argues that the commissioner's representative erred when he found Judge did not quit his job as a dispatcher for good cause due to daily harassment by the taxi drivers. We disagree. The record supports the determination that Judge quit his employment for reasons not caused by the employer based on the findings of the commissioner's representative that: (1) although there was evidence to show Judge was subjected to yelling and threats, Judge engaged in the same type of behavior for which he was cautioned by the employer; (2) on one occasion when a driver threatened Judge, the general manager disciplined the driver; (3) Judge did not discuss his concerns with his "immediate supervisor;" (4) Judge's supervisor testified credibly that he was not aware of any verbal abuse or threats against Judge; and (5) Judge did not submit any complaint forms which were available to him.
Further, in Larson the supreme court held that after an employee has made an initial complaint and is provided an expectation of assistance, the employee has a duty to report additional incidents of harassment to the employer. Larson, 281 N.W.2d at 669. Similarly, here the commissioner's representative found that Judge was given some expectation of assistance, and had a duty to continue to inform management of ongoing problems. The record reflects that although Judge informed Waldman of harassment at one point, he failed to file any formal complaints or inform members of management of additional incidents of harassment. We conclude the determination of the commissioner's representative that Judge did not sufficiently inform PSS management of the harassment is reasonably supported by the record.
2. Reason for quitting
This court generally defers to the credibility determinations of the commissioner's representative. Hanke, 512 N.W.2d at 616. Credibility of witnesses and the weight to be given in their testimony are determinations to be made by the fact-finder. DeMars v. State, 352 N.W.2d 13, 16 (Minn. 1984).
Judge argues he left PSS due to personal stress because of harassment by the drivers, and not for personal reasons. Judge's supervisor testified that Judge told him that personal stress meant stress outside of work. Further, although Judge denied that any personal problems prompted him to threaten to quit on December 22, the supervisor testified that on December 22 Judge stated that he was leaving for personal reasons that had nothing to do with the job. Later in his testimony, Judge admitted that he made these comments and conceded that he did not make it clear that he was having trouble with the drivers. Finally, although Judge testified that he quit on January 4, 1998, solely due to the harassment, his personnel file makes no mention of harassment but contains a note which states that he left early on January 4 to pay his respects to a friend who died.
We conclude the decision of the commissioner's representative that Judge quit for reasons other than harassment by the drivers is reasonably supported by the record and that the commissioner's representative did not err when he found that Judge did not quit his job for good cause.