may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Mitalia F. Troche,
Jeane Thorne, Inc.,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed April 27, 1999
Department of Economic Security
Agency File No. 5332UC98
Mitalia F. Troche, 635 Eden Prairie Center Drive, Suite 310, Eden Prairie, MN 55344 (pro se relator)
Jeane Thorne, Inc., 336 North Robert Street, Suite 151, St. Paul, MN 55101 (pro se respondent)
Kent E. Todd, Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner of Economic Security)
Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Foley, Judge.[*]
Relator Mitalia F. Troche challenges the commissioner's representative's determination that she is ineligible to receive reemployment insurance benefits because she failed to accept suitable employment without good cause. We affirm.
Jeane Thorne called Troche at a designated phone number several times after May 1 and left messages requesting that Troche call regarding new work assignments. Troche did not call, and on May 8, Jeane Thorne mailed her a written offer for an administrative assistant position. The written offer did not state the name or location of the client. Instead, the offer listed the address of Jeane Thorne's office in Eagan as the employer's address and stated that the employee was to report to Denny Ball. Ball is a supervisor for a Jeane Thorne client located in Bloomington.
On May 6, Troche traveled to St. Louis. Upon returning to Minneapolis on May 17, Troche received Jeane Thorne's written offer. She never contacted Jeane Thorne to accept or apply for the administrative assistant position because she mistakenly believed that the offer was for an assignment with a client in Eagan. Troche testified that at that time, she was living in Victoria and had no transportation from her residence to Eagan.
Troche sought reemployment insurance benefits, which were denied by a department claims representative. Troche appealed that determination to a reemployment insurance judge who reinstated Troche's benefits after determining that Troche did not fail to accept suitable employment when she rejected work that was inaccessible. Jeane Thorne appealed to the commissioner's representative, who determined that Troche was ineligible to receive reemployment benefits because she "avoided or failed to apply for or accept suitable employment without good cause."
"On appeal, this court reviews the decision of the Commissioner's representative, not the decision of the reemployment insurance judge." Fujan v. Ruffridge-Johnson Equip., 535 N.W.2d 393, 395 (Minn. App. 1995) (citing Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995)). The factual findings of the commissioner's representative must be viewed "in the light most favorable to the decision" and where there is evidence that reasonably tends to sustain the findings, they will not be disturbed on appeal. Lolling v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 377 (Minn. 1996). Whether an employee was properly disqualified from receiving benefits, however, is a question of law to be independently reviewed by this court. Id.
A claimant is disqualified from receiving reemployment insurance benefits if the claimant, without good cause:
(1) failed to apply for available, suitable employment of which the claimant was advised by the commissioner or an employer;
(2) failed to accept suitable employment when offered; or
(3) avoided an offer of suitable employment.
Minn. Stat. § 268.09, subd. 14(a) (Supp. 1997).
The burden is on the employer to prove that it made a suitable offer of employment to an employee. Gonsior v. Alternative Staffing, Inc., 390 N.W.2d 801, 806 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. Aug. 27, 1986); LaSalle Cartage Co. v. Hampton, 362 N.W.2d 337, 341 (Minn. App. 1985). "Suitable employment is employment in the claimant's labor market area that is reasonably related to the claimant's qualifications." Minn. Stat. § 268.09, subd. 15(a) (Supp. 1997).
To determine suitability in terms of distance, all factors must be considered, including distance, proximity to transportation, cost of transportation, type of transportation, transportation schedules, and time required for transportation. This determination is made not only in comparison to the claimant's most recent job but also in relation to that which is customary in the claimant's occupation.
Minn. R. 3305.0800, subpt. 11 (1997).
The commissioner's representative is vested with wide discretion in making a determination as to whether offered work is suitable reemployment. Di Re v. Central Livestock Order Buying Co., 246 Minn. 279, 288, 74 N.W.2d 518, 525-26 (1956); Mastley v. Commissioner of Econ. Sec., 347 N.W.2d 515, 518 (Minn. App. 1984). Whether an offer of reemployment is "suitable" is a factual question for the commissioner's representative. Hogenson v. Brian Knox Builders, 340 N.W.2d 360, 363 (Minn. App. 1983).
The record demonstrates that Jeane Thorne's offer of employment to Troche was suitable because it involved the same basic terms and conditions as Troche's prior assignment with National Car Rental, including a similar location, hours, pay, and job duties.
When the employer has established that an offer has been made, the burden shifts to the employee to show good cause for failing to accept the offer. Lewis v. Minneapolis Moline, Inc., 288 Minn. 432, 435-36, 181 N.W.2d 701, 704 (1970); Mastley, 347 N.W.2d at 518-19.
"Failure to accept" consists of a direct statement of refusal by the claimant or the claimant's failure to take reasonable steps to accept suitable work after it has been offered.
Minn. R. 3305.0800, subpt. 4 (1997).
Troche argues that she should not be disqualified from receiving benefits because the commissioner's representative erred in concluding that she avoided or failed to accept suitable employment without good cause. She contends that she did everything that she was supposed to do to get another assignment from Jeane Thorne, but Jeane Thorne never made her a suitable job offer.
"Good cause" for refusing offers of suitable employment requires
some necessitous and compelling reason for refusal. Good cause for refusing a job may, but need not, be attributable to the employer. Good cause reasons for refusal are usually personal to the claimant and extraneous to the employment, and are usually of a temporary and emergency nature so as not to detach the claimant from the labor market.
Minn. R. 3305.0800, subpt. 18 (1997).
The record supports the commissioner's representative's determination that Troche failed to establish "good cause" for failing to accept Jeane Thorne's offer of employment. Troche testified that she received the written job offer from Jeane Thorne when she returned from St. Louis, but did not contact Jeane Thorne because she felt the listed position was not a solid job offer. Troche testified that she believed that the offer was for a part-time assignment in Eagan, with a salary that was less than she had been paid at National. Troche further testified that she could not work in Eagan because she had no transportation to Eagan from her residence in Victoria. However, Troche testified that she could have made arrangements for transportation from her residence to the assignment in Bloomington because it was not very far from National Car Rental.
Troche's assumption that the offer was for a job assignment in Eagan was not a "necessitous and compelling reason" for Troche to refuse the offer of employment. If Troche had called Jeane Thorne, she would have been informed that the job offer was for an assignment in Bloomington. Moreover, the record indicates that Jeane Thorne had informed Troche that she would only be offered assignments in areas she designated on her application as areas where she wanted to work. By not calling Jeane Thorne to inquire about the administrative assistant position, Troche failed to take reasonable steps to accept suitable work that was offered to her.
[*] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by apointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.