This opinion will be unpublished and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


Geraldine E. Blaeser,


Gammello & Sandelin, PA,

Commissioner of Economic Security,

Filed June 29, 1999
Willis, Judge

Department of Economic Security
File No. 6382UC98

Geraldine E. Blaeser, HC 2 Box 213A, Pequot Lakes, MN 56472 (pro se relator)

Steven R. Qualley, Gammello & Sandelin, P.A., 308 First Street, P.O. Box 298, Pequot Lakes, MN 56472 (for respondent Gammello & Sandelin)

Kent E. Todd, Minnesota Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner)

Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Willis, Judge, and Norton, Judge.[*]

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Pro se appellant Geraldine E. Blaeser challenges the decision of the commissioner's representative that she committed misconduct that disqualifies her from receiving reemployment insurance benefits. We affirm.


In August 1997, Gammello & Sandelin, P.A. (G & S), a law firm with an office in Brainerd, hired Blaeser as its bookkeeper and office manager. Several months later, Christine Peterson, a co-employee, told Blaeser that Michael Mahoney, a Minneapolis attorney, was interested in starting a business in Brainerd. Blaeser and Peterson met with Mahoney, who told them that he might purchase a business in the Brainerd area.

Another co-employee told Paul Sandelin and Steven Qualley, G & S supervisors, that Blaeser and Peterson had met with Mahoney to discuss starting a firm that would compete with Sandelin's work as a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee. Sandelin and Qualley first questioned Blaeser, who denied that she knew or had spoken with Mahoney. Sandelin then questioned Peterson, who admitted that she and Blaeser had talked to Mahoney about starting a business but stated that there were no specific plans. Blaeser was discharged for her "disregard for the best interests of the Law office" and for lying.

When Blaeser applied for reemployment insurance benefits, an adjudicator from the Minnesota Department of Economic Security determined that she qualified for benefits. A reemployment insurance judge reversed, concluding that Blaeser had been discharged for misconduct and was not entitled to receive benefits. The commissioner's representative affirmed the denial of benefits. This appeal follows.


An appellate court reviews the findings of the commissioner's representative in the light most favorable to the decision. Group Health Plan, Inc. v. Lopez, 341 N.W.2d 294, 296 (Minn. App. 1983). If there is evidence reasonably tending to sustain the findings, they will not be disturbed. Id. A reviewing court exercises its independent judgment concerning a question of law. Smith v. Employers' Overload Co., 314 N.W.2d 220, 221 (Minn. 1981). The determination that an employee committed disqualifying misconduct is a mixed question of fact and law. Colburn v. Pine Portage Madden Bros., 346 N.W.2d 159, 161 (Minn. 1984).

The reemployment insurance judge found that Blaeser had not attempted to start a competing business. But he also found that Blaeser lied to Sandelin & Qualley concerning whether she knew Mahoney and that G & S has the right to expect honesty from its employees when they answer questions reasonably related to G & S's business.

Blaeser argues that she was truthful because, although she met Mahoney when he interviewed her, she does not "know" him. Alternatively, she claims that G & S cannot expect honesty from its employees. We are unpersuaded by Blaeser's argument and disagree with her contention that employees need not be honest with their employers when answering job-related questions.

An employee who is discharged for misconduct that interferes with or adversely affects her employment is disqualified from receiving reemployment insurance benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (1998).

Misconduct is intentional conduct showing a disregard of:

(1) the employer's interest;
(2) the standards of behavior that an employer has the right to expect of the employee; or
(3) the employee's duties and obligations to the employer.

Misconduct also includes negligent conduct by an employee demonstrating a substantial lack of concern for the employment. Inefficiency, inadvertence, simple unsatisfactory conduct, or poor performance as a result of inability or incapacity are not misconduct.

Id., subd. 6 (1998). The employer has the burden of proving disqualifying misconduct. Marz v. Department of Employment Servs., 256 N.W.2d 287, 289 (Minn. 1977).

It is not misconduct to seek other work. See Hendricks & Lamers, Ltd. v. Vadnais, 389 N.W.2d 262, 264 (Minn. App. 1986) (holding that employee who gave notice, as required by employer's policy, that she was searching for another job was involuntarily discharged for reasons other than misconduct and was, therefore, entitled to benefits). But an employee's dishonesty in responding to an employer's questions during an investigation is misconduct that disqualifies her from receiving benefits. Cherveny v. 10,000 Auto Parts, 353 N.W.2d 685, 687 (Minn. App. 1984) (stating that employee may refuse to answer employer's questions during investigation but, having undertaken to answer questions, employee has duty to give honest answers and failure to do so is disqualifying misconduct).

Blaeser's testimony at the evidentiary hearing directly contradicts her position on appeal that, when she denied to Sandelin that she knew Mahoney, she did not equate "knowing" him with "having met" him. The reemployment insurance judge asked Blaeser, "Did you know Mike Mahoney?" Blaeser responded, "Yes, I did, I had met him once." Further, Blaeser admitted to the reemployment judge that she lied to Sandelin. Because Blaeser decided to answer Sandelin's questions relating to the firm's investigation, she was required to give him honest answers. The evidence reasonably supports the commissioner's representative's finding that Blaeser was dishonest in her answers and, therefore, the conclusion that she committed misconduct that disqualifies her from receiving reemployment insurance benefits.


[*] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.