may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Sheryl K. Pavelka,
Dowco Valve Co., Inc.,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed December 15, 1998
Department of Economic Security
File No. 1040UC98
Sheryl K. Pavelka, 512 12th Street West, Hastings, MN 55033-2328 (pro se relator)
Dowco Valve Co., Inc., 700 Spiral Blvd., Hastings, MN 55033 (pro se respondent/employer)
Kent E. Todd, Minnesota Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (respondent-commissioner)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.
Relator Sheryl K. Pavelka challenges the decision by a representative of the respondent commissioner of economic security disqualifying her from receiving reemployment insurance benefits after she voluntarily quit her job with respondent Dowco Valve Company, Inc. We affirm.
Relator performed accounting and secretarial duties as respondent's administrative manager from March 1989 until she resigned on December 17, 1997. Relator complains that respondent harassed her and caused her stress by excluding her from meetings; hiring a new office worker to replace her without informing her; paying a new employee a higher bonus than the bonus paid to her; changing the office locks; and failing to discuss her resignation letter with her.
Relator contends that these circumstances caused her to experience stress, sleeplessness and a sick stomach, all of which interfered with her job performance. Although she asserts she quit her job "due to stress and harassment caused by my employers," relator never sought medical assistance for her conditions nor did she ever inform respondent of any of her complaints. The commissioner's representative disqualified her from reemployment benefits and she appealed.
The reemployment insurance system is intended to benefit individuals who become unemployed through no fault of their own. Minn. Stat. § 268.03 (1996). An employee who quits employment without good reason attributable to the employer is disqualified from receiving reemployment insurance benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.09, subd. 1(a)(1) (Supp. 1997) (changing language of statute from "good cause" to "good reason"). Where a claimant admittedly resigns his position, he has the burden of establishing that he discontinued his employment for good cause attributable to the employer. Zepp v. Arthur Treacher Fish & Chips, Inc., 272 N.W.2d 262, 263 (Minn. 1978) (interpreting prior statutory language "good cause").
"Good cause" is defined as "a reason which is compelling - not imaginary, trifling or capricious - must be substantial/reasonable - no fault of the employee's own." Ferguson v. Department of Employment Servs., 311 Minn. 34, 44 n.5, 247 N.W.2d 895, 900 n.5 (1976). Personality conflicts or mere dissatisfaction with working conditions do not constitute good cause to quit. Ryks v. Nieuwsma Livestock Equip., 410 N.W.2d 380, 382 (Minn. App. 1987). "The standard of what constitutes good cause is the standard of reasonableness as applied to the average man or woman, and not to the supersensitive * * *." Ferguson, 311 Minn. at 44 n.5, 247 N.W.2d at 900 n.5.
Whether an employee had good reason to quit is a question of law. Porrazzo v. Nabisco, Inc., 360 N.W.2d 662, 664 (Minn. App. 1985). This court need not defer to the commissioner's legal determinations. Geo. A. Hormel & Co. v. Asper, 428 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1988). The findings of the commissioner must be reviewed in the light most favorable to the decision and are not to be disturbed if there is evidence reasonably tending to support them. White v. Metropolitan Medical Center, 332 N.W.2d 25, 26 (Minn. 1983). Because relator admits that she quit her job, the only issue to be resolved is whether she had good cause to do so.
Before quitting, an employee ordinarily must notify her employer of her objections to repugnant conduct encouraged by her employer. Burtman v. Dealers Discount Supply, 347 N.W.2d 292, 294 (Minn. App. 1984), review denied (Minn. July 26, 1984). An employee who does not report offensive work conditions to the employer before quitting forecloses a finding of good cause attributable to the employer. Id. (citing Larson v. Department of Economic Sec., 281 N.W.2d 667 (Minn. 1979)).
Relator contends that her employer's alleged harassing actions gave her good reason to quit her job. However, the record does not support a finding of good reason attributable to respondent because the decisions from which relator felt excluded were solely management decisions. Dowco testified that it excluded relator only from meetings at which bonuses were discussed; relator did not argue that she had ever been included in such meetings or that she had a right to attend such meetings. Dowco did hire a new employee. However, the new employee was not hired to take relator's job but to work on customer service issues. Furthermore, relator's duties were not changed in any way because of the new hire. In addition, the record reflects that relator had often asked Dowco to hire another office worker. As for her bonus, relator did not provide any evidence that she was entitled to a bonus or a specific bonus amount or that respondent had a legal obligation to discuss bonus decisions with relator. Absent such proof, the decision to award bonuses and the amount of the bonus lies in the discretion of the employer. Finally, Dowco testified that relator had walked off the job before it could discuss with relator her resignation.
While it is obvious that relator was dissatisfied working for Dowco, courts have held that personality conflicts or mere dissatisfaction with working conditions do not constitute good cause to quit. See Ryks, 410 N.W.2d at 382. There is no evidence in the record that establishes arbitrary treatment of relator or treatment of relator that violated the employment agreement. Nor does the evidence show that relator afforded the respondent an opportunity to respond to her concerns. Thus, we find the record supports the commissioner's finding that relator quit her employment without a good reason attributable to her employer.