This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






James S. Larimer,





J. C. Penney Company, Inc.,



Commissioner of Employment and

Economic Development,



Filed January 27, 2004


Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge


Department of Employment and Economic Development

File No. 13035



Katherine L. MacKinnon, 3744 Huntington Avenue, St. Louis Park, MN 55416-4918 (for relator)


J. C. Penney Company, Inc., Detroit Lakes Location #748, Post Office Box 650486, Dallas, Texas 75265-0486 (respondent)


Lee B. Nelson, Philip B. Byrne, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent commissioner)



Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Toussaint, Chief Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N



Relator James Larimer challenges the commissioner’s representative’s determination that he quit without good reason caused by his employer.  Larimer argues that the “cumulative effect” of 11 “adverse conditions” he experienced as an employee qualifies him to receive unemployment benefits.  Because relator did not have good reason to quit that was attributable to his employer, we affirm.


Relator James Larimer was employed as a jewelry department customer-service representative for respondent-employer J. C. Penney Company, Inc. from October 1998 through June 2002.  Larimer states he experienced 11 different adverse conditions as an employee during this time.  On June 28, 2002, Larimer quit before the final reported incident was investigated and resolved.  Ultimately, the commissioner’s representative determined Larimer was not qualified for receiving benefits because he quit his employment without good reason caused by his employer.  This appeal followed.


            Larimer argues that the “cumulative effect” of eleven adverse conditions experienced during his employment establishes that he quit his employment for a good reason caused by his employer, thus he is entitled to unemployment benefits.  This court’s scope of review in unemployment benefit cases is limited to determining whether the record reasonably supports the commissioner’s representative’s decision.  Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995).  Decisions of the commissioner’s representative are accorded particular deference.  Id.  The commissioner’s representative’s factual findings are viewed in the light most favorable to the decision and will not be disturbed if evidence in the record reasonably tends to sustain them.  Lolling v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 377 (Minn. 1996).  When witness credibility and conflicting evidence are at issue, we defer to the commissioner’s representative’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). 

When an employee quits, he is disqualified from receiving benefits unless he quits for “a good reason caused by the employer.”  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (2002).  “A good reason caused by the employer for quitting is a reason (1) that is directly related to the employment and for which the employer is responsible; and (2) that is significant and would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed rather than remaining in the employment.”  Id., subd. 3 (2002).  Here, Larimer acknowledges that he quit.  Thus, the issue is whether the record sustains the findings and reasonably supports the commissioner’s representative’s decision that the no good-cause exception applies. 

The record sustains the commissioner’s representative’s findings that state:

“Larimer felt he and his family members were being exposed to an unsafe environment while the store was being remodeled.  The remodeling was completed before Larimer quit his employment. 


In early 2001, Larimer complained to the employer he was being subjected to sexual harassment.  The employer investigated and took action to resolve the situation. 


In January 2002, Larimer’s hours were reduced to less than full-time.   Larimer continued working in spite of the reduced hours. 


In March 2002, Larimer became upset when he discovered his attendance record reflected a large number of no show absences.  Larimer had been absent due to family members’ illness.  Larimer was told how to avoid having future absences labeled as a no-show absence.  In May 2002, Larimer felt he was unjustly blamed for an incident in which he and a coworker had to work late because no one from management or another department would help them close out the registers, count and store the diamonds in a secured location. 


On June 23, 2002, Larimer became ill at work.  Larimer[’s] attempts to notify the manager on duty and operator that he had to leave his work area in the jewelry department were unsuccessful.  Larimer left his work area and went to the restroom.  Larimer was verbally reprimanded by the manager on duty for leaving the jewelry department unattended.  Larimer told the manager he was ill and had to go home.  The manager told him he was not allowed to leave.  Larimer became upset, signed out as ill, and left the premises. 


On June 28, 2002, Larimer informed his manager of the June 23, 2002 incident and stated he didn’t think it was in his best interest to continue working for the employer.  Larimer quit without allowing time for the incident to be investigated and resolved.


The commissioner’s representative concluded

[t]he employer provided persuasive testimony [that] the concerns Larimer brought to its attention were addressed in an appropriate manner.  While Larimer may have been concerned about the security of his employment with the company and he felt he was subjected to an adverse working environment, we are not persuaded the average reasonable worker would quit under similar circumstances.


Larimer argues that the “cumulative effect” of the incidents supports a good reason to quit.  See, e.g., Hawthorne v. Universal Studios, Inc., 432 N.W.2d 759, 761 (Minn. App. 1988) (holding that good cause to quit may be proven based upon a multiplicity of adverse circumstances).  But when an employee is subjected to adverse working conditions, the employee must complain to the employer and give the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the adverse working conditions before they may be considered a good reason to quit caused by the employer.  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1)(b) (2002).  For a cumulative-effect argument to succeed under Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1)(b), an employee needs to complain to the employer of adverse conditions, give the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the adverse working conditions, and the employer must fail to respond.  Here, the employer properly responded to all adverse conditions that Larimer reported.  Other adverse conditions were unreported by Larimer and were not, by his own admission, circumstances that caused him to quit.  Thus, Larimer’s claim that he quit for good reason caused by the employer based on the cumulative effect of adverse conditions is insufficient under the law to qualify him for benefits. 

Because the evidence in the record reasonably tends to sustain the findings and the record supports the commissioner’s representative’s decision, Larimer did not carry his burden to establish the existence of a good reason caused by the employer for quitting.