This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Barbara P. Hanegraaf,
McDonough Truck Line, Inc.,
Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development,
Filed April 20, 2004
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 886 03
Barbara P. Hanegraaf, 23985 Canby Avenue, Faribault, MN 55021-8401 (pro se relator)
McDonough Truck Line, Inc., Attn: John Kastner, 3115 Industrial Drive, Faribault, MN 55021-1700 (respondent)
Lee B. Nelson, Philip B. Byrne, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, 390 North Robert Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (respondent commissioner)
Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge; Stoneburner, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.
G. BARRY ANDERSON, Judge
Relator Barbara Hanegraaf challenges the decision of the commissioner’s representative that she quit without good cause attributable to her employer, arguing that she had a good reason to quit due to her employer’s behavior in screaming, swearing, and pointing at paperwork, all within a foot of her face. We affirm.
Hanegraaf worked for McDonough Truck Line Inc. (“McDonough”) as an office clerk from September 1998 to November 2002. Hanegraaf claims she quit because of the manner in which Kathy Kastner, McDonough’s office manager, and David McDonough, a company official, treated her.
In the summer of 2000, Hanegraaf was absent from work for an extended period of time because of complications resulting from surgery. The day before Hanegraaf was scheduled to return to work, Hanegraaf called Kastner to report that she would need to extend her absence for an additional two weeks. Kastner was upset about the short notice and Hanegraaf’s initial failure to provide medical documentation to justify the continued absence. Kastner lost her temper and swore at Hanegraaf. After the incident, Kastner apologized to Hanegraaf for her inappropriate behavior.
The next relevant incident occurred approximately two years later. In October 2002, Hanegraaf was at a meeting during which David McDonough became upset with a dock employee and yelled at him. While the comments were directed at another employee, Hanegraaf was still offended.
Then, in November 2002, Kastner met with Hanegraaf to discuss a billing error. Kastner contends Hanegraaf did not listen to her when she attempted to give Hanegraaf instructions. Kastner lost her temper and swore at Hanegraaf. Hanegraaf claims Kastner was screaming, swearing, and using hand gestures pointing at the paperwork, all within a foot of her face. While Kastner claims Hanegraaf was not listening and was talking back to her, Hanegraaf claims the incident caused her to feel humiliated and prompted her submission of her three-week notice of resignation. Before Hanegraaf left for the day, Char McDonough, part owner of McDonough, told Hanegraaf that she was a valuable employee and that there was no reason for Kastner to take her anger out on Hanegraaf. Three days later, Kastner also called Hanegraaf to apologize for her unprofessional behavior.
Hanegraaf requested a meeting with Kastner, Char McDonough, and others, to let them know how she was affected by the incident and to attempt to resolve their differences. There, Kastner again apologized for her behavior. Hanegraaf suggested an employee improvement plan; specifically, she suggested the officers of the company take anger management courses. McDonough disagreed, and they were unable to agree on a course of action that was acceptable to Hanegraaf.
Hanegraaf chose not to work during her notice period and established a benefit account with the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development effective November 17, 2002. In December 2002, the department disqualified Hanegraaf from receiving unemployment benefits because Hanegraaf had quit her employment without a good reason caused by the employer. Hanegraaf appealed and a department unemployment law judge reversed the initial determination. McDonough then appealed. In May 2003, the agency issued its final decision concluding that Hanegraaf did not quit because of a good reason caused by McDonough. This appeal followed.
An employee who quits employment is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless “the applicant quit the employment because of a good reason caused by the employer.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (2002). Hanegraaf argues she should not be disqualified from unemployment benefits because she did have a good reason to quit caused by the employer. On appeal, this court reviews the decision by the commissioner’s representative rather than the decision by the unemployment law judge, and decisions of the commissioner’s representative are accorded particular deference. Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995). We review the commissioner’s representative’s factual findings in the light most favorable to the decision and will not disturb them if the record reasonably tends to sustain them. Lolling v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 377 (Minn. 1996). Further, we defer to the commissioner’s representative’s ability to weigh conflicting evidence. Whitehead v. Moonlight Nursing Care, Inc., 529 N.W.2d 350, 352 (Minn. App. 1995). “The issue of whether an employee has good reason to quit is a question of law reviewed de novo.” Peppi v. Phyllis Wheatley Cmty. Ctr., 614 N.W.2d 750, 752 (Minn. App. 2000).
“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.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(a). If an employee is subjected to adverse working conditions, the employee must complain to the employer and give the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct those conditions before there is good reason to quit. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(b).
Hanegraaf contends that she quit her job for good reason due to her employer’s behavior in screaming, swearing, and pointing at paperwork, all within a foot of her face. While Kastner did swear and yell at Hanegraaf, this conduct only happened twice in Hanegraaf’s four years of employment at McDonough. “The standard of what constitutes good cause is the standard of reasonableness as applied to the average man or woman, and not to the supersensitive.” Ferguson v. Dep’t of Employment Servs., 311 Minn. 34, 44 n.5, 247 N.W.2d 895, 900 n.5 (1976) (quotation omitted). Here, it appears Hanegraaf has a special sensitivity to one or more swear words. It also appears that Hanegraaf was frustrated or dissatisfied with her working conditions during the isolated situations at issue. Such frustration does not equate to a “good cause attributable to the employer.” See Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Minn. App. 1986) (“The phrase good cause attributable to the employer does not encompass situations . . . where the employee is simply frustrated or dissatisfied with his working conditions.”) (quotation omitted). No business can avoid error, conflict, or occasional unpleasantries. We conclude an average, reasonable person employed in the night office of a trucking firm would not be compelled to quit and become unemployed because of an aggressive approach to work related issues by the employer.
In addition, if Hanegraaf believed she was subjected to adverse working conditions, she had the duty to complain to McDonough and give McDonough a reasonable opportunity to correct the conditions before those conditions would constitute good reason to quit. See Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(b). Here, Kastner apologized after the first incident in 2000 and Hanegraaf reported no further incidents of swearing or yelling after this apology until November 2002. Then, after the second incident, Hanegraaf informed McDonough of Kastner’s inappropriate behavior, and Char McDonough and Kastner both apologized and set up a meeting to discuss the issue with Hanegraaf. Based on this record, McDonough took appropriate action that was effective in stopping the inappropriate behavior after the first incident, and McDonough was in the process of taking appropriate action in November 2002.
Because the record reflects that Hanegraaf quit her employment without good reason caused by the employer, her actions constitute disqualifying conduct.