This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Deborah S. Renard,
Bay Home Furnishings, Inc.,
Commissioner of Economic Security,
Filed July 30, 2002
Department of Economic Security
File No. 910501
Deborah S. Renard, 1185 Tonkawa Road, Orono, MN 55356-9241 (relator pro se)
John Chenoweth, Bay Home Furnishings, Inc., 3850 So. Shoreline Drive, Wayzata, MN 55391 (respondent employer pro se)
Philip B. Byrne, Linda Holmes, Department of Economic Security, 390 N. Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent commissioner)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
Pro se relator Deborah S. Renard challenges a decision by the respondent Commissioner of Economic Security disqualifying her from receiving unemployment insurance benefits. Because the evidence reasonably supports the commissioner’s decision that Renard was discharged by respondent Bay Home Furnishings, Inc., for intentionally violating standards that the employer had a right to expect of her, we affirm.
Our scope of review in unemployment insurance cases is limited to determining whether the record reasonably supports the decision of the commissioner or his representative. Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995). When witness credibility is at issue, this court must defer to the commissioner’s ability to weigh the evidence and make those determinations. Whitehead v. Moonlight Nursing Care, Inc., 529 N.W.2d 350, 352 (Minn. App. 1995).
An employee who is discharged for employment misconduct is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (2000). Employment misconduct is defined as “intentional conduct” by an employee that “disregards the standards of behavior that an employer has the right to expect * * * or disregards the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(a)(1) (2000).
The supreme court has recently interpreted this statutory definition of employment misconduct to require record evidence that
the employee not only engaged in intentional conduct, but also intended to, or engaged in[,] conduct that evinced an intent to * * * ignore or pay no attention to his or her duties and obligations or the standards of behavior the employer has a right to expect.
Houston v. Int’l Data Transfer Corp., 645 N.W.2d 144, 150 (Minn. 2002). The supreme court concluded that this interpretation is “consistent with the remedial nature of employment compensation and the declared public policy that unemployment benefits are for those who are ‘unemployed through no fault of their own.’” Id. (quoting Minn. Stat. § 268.03, subd. 1 (2000)).
Here, Renard was employed by Bay Home Furnishings, a retail home furnishings store, as a sales associate. The owner of Bay Home, John Chenoweth, testified at the hearing before the unemployment insurance judge that while he was on vacation in Florida in July 2001, he expected Renard to be the manager of the business. She was provided a cell phone, had the use of a business vehicle, and was paid slightly more than the only other employee of the business, Kristen Page. Chenoweth testified that he had previously told both employees that his insurance would be in jeopardy if another accident occurred involving the company vehicle.
On July 9, 2001, while running a personal errand using the vehicle, Page ran into a parked car. Page reported the accident to Bay Home’s insurance agent, who told her that she should tell Chenoweth. Page and Renard discussed the situation and decided not to tell Chenoweth, who kept in touch via telephone while he was in Florida.
When Chenoweth returned on July 16, Renard was in the store but did not tell him about the accident. On July 17, Chenoweth learned about the accident from his insurance agent. Chenoweth tried but was unable to reach Renard and testified that he believed she did not want to discuss the matter with him.
Chenoweth called a meeting with Renard and Page for the evening of July 17. When he again asked for details of the accident, Renard refused to accept responsibility for Page’s use of the vehicle and for the failure to inform him of the accident. Renard eventually began to yell and scream at Chenoweth, who testified that Renard was so out of control that he called the police to remove her from the store. Chenoweth discharged both Renard and Page for failing to inform him of the accident.
By the time Chenoweth learned of the accident, it had already been paid by his insurer, who then cancelled his insurance. Chenoweth claims that had he been informed of the accident, which did not result in any damage to the business vehicle and only minor damage to the parked car, he would have considered paying the $1,000 claim out- of-pocket, rather than filing a claim with his insurer.
Renard argues that she did not commit employment misconduct because she had no obligation to notify Chenoweth of the accident and because she and Page were acting responsibly by reporting the accident to the insurance company. She insists that Chenoweth left them in charge of the business while he was gone, that he had no written policies requiring her to notify him of accidents with the vehicle, and that she did not have supervisory responsibility over Page. She further claims that she did not tell Chenoweth about the accident because he had been under stress and she did not want to spoil his vacation.
The issue of whether a “particular act constitutes disqualifying misconduct is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo.” Schmidgall v. FilmTec Corp., 644 N.W.2d 801, 804 (Minn. 2002) (citation omitted). “As a general rule, refusing to abide by an employer’s reasonable policies and requests amounts to disqualifying misconduct.” Id. (citation omitted). In addition, a “single incident can constitute misconduct when an employee deliberately chooses a course of conduct that is adverse to the employer.” Id. at 806 (citation omitted).
Here, we agree with the commissioner that Chenoweth had a substantial interest in being notified of any incidents at the business while he was on vacation, including accidents involving the company vehicle, particularly after he had discussed the issue with Renard and Page. Renard’s deliberate decision not to inform Chenoweth of the accident when it occurred and her failure to immediately inform him of the accident after he returned from vacation evidenced a deliberate disregard of his interest in maintaining control over his business. While Renard offers a different explanation for her conduct, the commissioner chose to reject that explanation. Renard’s intentional decision not to inform Chenoweth of an incident that could potentially have an adverse effect on his business, even after being directly confronted by Chenoweth and being asked about the incident, constituted a violation of the standards of behavior Chenoweth had a right to expect of his employees. We therefore agree that Renard committed employment misconduct and affirm the decision disqualifying her from receiving benefits.