This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).


Ronald Ficek,


Victor Valley College,

Department of Economic Security,

Filed April 6, 1999
Amundson, Judge

Department of Economic Security
Agency File No. 5252 UC 98

Ronald Ficek, 16950 Jasmine, #114, Victorville, CA 92392 (pro se relator)

Victor Valley College, 601 North E Street, San Beradino, CA 92410 (pro se respondent); and

Earl Wilson, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner of Economic Security)

Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N


Relator employee argues that the commissioner's representative improperly determined that he was on a voluntary leave of absence and therefore ineligible to receive benefits. We reverse.


Ronald Ficek was employed at Victor Valley College as a full-time counselor. Ficek was having problems with a supervisor and his physician recommended, or ordered, that he take a leave of absence. Ficek brought the physician's release to his employer and was placed on a leave of absence. The employer later ordered Ficek to see their psychiatrist, who determined that Ficek should continue to stay off the job. According to Ficek, he was involuntarily removed from his job by order of his physician.

Ficek filed for reemployment insurance and was denied benefits because his leave was "voluntary." Ficek then appealed the adjudicator's decision to the commissioner's representative, but was again denied reemployment benefits.


Whether an employee is eligible to receive reemployment insurance benefits is a determination that we will not overturn unless it is not reasonably supported by the evidence. Decker v. City Pages, Inc., 540 N.W.2d 544, 548 (Minn. App. 1995). This narrow standard of review requires that findings be viewed in the light most favorable to the commissioner's decision, if there is evidence reasonably tending to sustain them, they will not be disturbed. White v. Metropolitan Med. Ctr., 332 N.W.2d 25, 26 (Minn. 1983). The employee has the burden of proving his or her eligibility for benefits. Decker, 540 N.W.2d at 547. But a reviewing court is not bound and need not give deference to an agency's decision on purely legal issues. Frost-Benco Elec. Ass'n v. Minnesota Pub. Utils. Comm'n, 358 .W.2d 639, 642 (Minn. 1984).

A claimant shall not be eligible to receive benefits for any week in which the claimant is on a "voluntary leave of absence." Minn. Stat. § 268.08, subd. 2(4) (Supp. 1997). The commissioner's representative determined that Ficek was on voluntary leave because he could return to work after he obtained a physician's release, and he neither quit nor was he discharged from his position. The commissioner's representative determined that Ficek's leave was voluntary because (1) he continues to enjoy the benefits of employment and (2) he chose not to quit his employment.

We disagree. Ficek was not given a choice. The physician ordered his leave of absence that was further extended by his employer's own psychiatrist. The commissioner's representative determined that Ficek could return to work after he obtained a physician's release. Ficek did not have the choice simply to come back to work. When both the employee's and his employer's respective physicians' order a leave of absence, the leave of absence is not voluntary as a matter of law. Because Ficek's leave was not voluntary, he is not disqualified from receiving benefits under Minn. Stat. § 268.08, subd. 2(4).