This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).






Justin R. Peirce,


Wright Utility Construction,
Commissioner of Economic Security,


Filed April 22, 2003


Stoneburner, Judge


Commissioner of Economic Security

File No. 266302


Justin R. Peirce, 75798 250th Avenue, Sargent, MN 55973-2028 (pro se relator)


Wright Utility Construction, 604 Seventh Avenue Southwest, Waseca, MN 56093 (respondent employer)


M. Kate Chaffee, Lee B. Nelson, Department of Economic Security, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Commissioner)


            Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N



            Relator Justin R. Peirce appeals by writ of certiorari the decision of the commissioner’s representative denying his application for unemployment benefits.  Peirce claims that he was terminated by Wright Utility Construction, or in the alternative, that he quit for good cause.  Because there is evidence that supports the finding of the commissioner’s representative that Peirce quit his job, and because there is no evidence supporting Peirce’s argument that he quit for good cause attributed to his employer, we affirm.


            Relator Justin R. Peirce began working for Wright Utility Construction in July 2001 as a foreman of a crew installing underground utility lines.  In December 2001, the owner of Wright Utility Construction, Bradley Wright, informed Peirce that there would be less work available in the winter months and asked if Peirce would accept work in the company’s shop area at a lower rate.  Peirce testified that he declined the offer, but Wright testified that Peirce accepted the offer.

            Both Wright and Peirce agree that Peirce performed no labor on behalf of Wright Utility after December 24, 2001.  Wright testified that Peirce was given a list of tasks to perform in the shop area and that he failed to perform any of them.  Peirce acknowledged that he was given the list of tasks but claims that he was told by Wright that Wright did not have the money to pay Peirce for the work.  Peirce also testified that he continued to arrive at Wright Construction, and merely socialized and played video games, because  (1) Wright had not told him what to do; (2) he didn’t believe Wright had the money to pay him; and (3) he was waiting for his final paycheck.

            Peirce testified that he was fired on January 11, 2001.  Wright testified that when Peirce stopped coming to work and would not return messages left for him on the company-supplied cell phone, Wright assumed that Peirce had found other employment.

            Peirce’s claim for unemployment benefits was denied because the Minnesota Department of Economic Security determined that Peirce had quit his job without good cause attributed to his employer.  Peirce appealed, and the department’s unemployment law judge concluded, after a hearing, that Peirce had quit without good cause.  Peirce appealed to the commissioner and a representative of the Commissioner of Economic Security arrived at the same conclusion.  This review followed.


            Decisions of the commissioner’s representative are accorded particular deference.  Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995).  This court reviews findings of fact in the light most favorable to the decision of the commissioner’s representative and will not disturb those findings as long as there is evidence in the record that reasonably tends to sustain them.  Ress v. Abbott N.W. Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989).  Whether an employee has voluntarily quit is a question of fact for the commissioner.  Shanahan v. District Memorial Hosp., 495 N.W.2d 894, 896 (Minn. App. 1993) (citing Larson v. Pelican Lake Nursing Home, 353 N.W.2d 647, 648 (Minn. App. 1984)).

            Peirce argues that his employment was terminated by Wright in December 2001 when Wright informed him that there was no additional work for him as a foreman and offered him work in the company’s shop area.  Peirce characterizes the conversation as an attempt to modify their employment contract, a modification that he refused.[1]  Wright testified that Peirce accepted the offer to perform work in the company’s shop and to be paid at the lower rate.  A paycheck dated December 28, 2001, supports Wright’s position because it shows that Peirce performed, and was paid for, work in the new position.  The commissioner’s representative implicitly found that Peirce accepted the position and expressly found that Peirce performed work in the new position and that Peirce quit the position without good cause.

When the parties have presented conflicting evidence on the record, this court must defer to the commissioner's ability to weigh the evidence and may not weigh that evidence on review.  Cary v. Custom Coach, Inc., 349 N.W.2d 331, 332 (Minn. App. 1984).  Because there is evidence that supports the findings of the commissioner’s representative that Peirce accepted and performed work in the shop and that Peirce quit his job, we will not disturb those findings.

Peirce argues in the alternative that he quit his job with Wright Construction Company for good cause based on a decrease in pay.  Whether an employee had “good cause” to quit employment is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo.  Kehoe v. Minn. Dep’t of Econ. Sec., 568 N.W.2d 889, 890 (Minn. App. 1997).  Generally a “substantial pay reduction or unreasonable change in terms of employment” will give an employee good cause to quit.  Rutten v. Rockie Int'l, Inc., 349 N.W.2d 334, 336 (Minn. App. 1984).  In Foy v. J.E.K. Indus., this court noted that a wage cut of between 21 and 26 percent may constitute good cause for an employee to quit their job.  Foy v. J.E.K. Indus., 352 N.W.2d 123, 124 (Minn. App. 1984).

While Peirce’s pay cut from $13 to $10 per hour could constitute good-cause shown for quitting his job, there is no evidence in the record showing that was the basis for his leaving the position.  It is only on appeal that Peirce raises the issue of his quitting because of the lower pay rate.  Peirce testified that he stopped working because Wright told him that he would not be paid.  Because there is no evidence in the record showing that Peirce quit his job because of the decrease in pay, and there is evidence in the record to support the finding that Peirce accepted employment at the lower rate, we conclude that Peirce did not quit his employment because of the reduction in pay or any other good cause.



[1] Peirce cites to several provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code’s Article 2 to support his contract theory.  But Article 2 does not apply to employment contracts; it applies only to the sale of goods.  See UCC § 2-102 (“Unless the context otherwise requires, this Article applies to transactions in goods”).