This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Department of Employment and Economic Development
File No. 2399 04
Elvira J. Morris,
Leif E. Rasmussen, Steffens & Rasmussen, 300 Southdale Place, 3400 West 66th Street, Edina, MN 55435 (for respondent employer)
Linda A. Holmes, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Suite E200, First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-1351 (for respondent commissioner)
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Stoneburner, Judge; and Dietzen, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Relator Elvira Morris challenges the decision of the senior unemployment review judge (SURJ) that she is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because she voluntarily quit her employment without good cause attributable to her employer. Because the record supports the decision, we affirm.
Relator quit her employment as human-resources director for the Prairie’s Edge Casino Resort, f/k/a Firefly Creek Casino (the casino). Relator was initially granted unemployment benefits based on a determination that she left employment for good cause attributable to her employer because the casino failed to conduct a timely 90-day employment review. The casino appealed, claiming that relator quit due to the casino’s termination of relator’s nephew’s employment the day before relator quit.
At a telephone hearing conducted by an unemployment law judge, relator gave a number of reasons for leaving her employment. She stated that she was discriminated against because some employees received a 90-day review but she did not, and some managers had received moving expenses for relocating to a new facility but she had not. Relator explained at the hearing that the discrimination she complained of was not due to her membership in a protected class. Relator also complained that the new general manager had a condescending attitude toward her and her HR experience and did not consult her when he fired her nephew. She also complained about management’s failure to adopt the new personnel-policy manual she had been working on and urging the board of trustees to adopt. Relator also stated that after her nephew was fired she could no longer afford to remain at the casino because she and her nephew combined their income to meet expenses.
The ULJ held that relator is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because she quit her job for other than a good reason caused by employer. The SURJ affirmed, and this appeal by writ of certiorari followed.
This court reviews the record to determine whether it
reasonably supports the decision of the SURJ. Tuff v.
Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (
An employee is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits if the employee quits, unless the employee quits for “a good reason caused by the employer.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (2002). “Good reason” to quit is a reason “directly related to the employment . . . for which the employer is responsible” and “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)(1), (2) (2002). See also Dachel v. Ortho Met, Inc., 528 N.W.2d 268, 271 (Minn. App. 1995) (holding that an employee lacks good cause to quit when the “average, reasonable person, when faced with a similar choice, would have chosen to remain employed”). Additionally, if “an applicant was subjected to adverse working conditions by the employer, the applicant must complain to the employer and give the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the adverse working conditions before that may be considered a good reason caused by the employer for quitting.” Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(b).
An employee may quit for good cause when an employer
substantially changes the conditions of the employment. See,
e.g., Rootes v. Wal-Mart Assocs., Inc., 669 N.W.2d 416, 418-19 (Minn. App.
2003) (explaining that the statutory language providing that “substantial
adverse change in the wages, hours, or other terms of employment by the
employer shall be considered a good
reason caused by the employer for quitting unless the change occurred because
of the applicant’s employment misconduct” is unambiguous) (alteration in
original). Additionally, this court has
held that when an employer breaches a term of an employment agreement, good
reason to quit exists. See, e.g., Hayes v. K-Mart Corp., 665
N.W.2d 550, 552-53 (Minn. App. 2003) (concluding employer’s breach of
promise to give employee raise constituted good cause to quit), review denied (
The SURJ considered the multiple reasons relator asserted for terminating her employment with the casino, including relator’s dissatisfaction with her employer, how her employer applied policies and procedures, and the issue of relator’s nephew’s termination. The SURJ found by a preponderance of the evidence that relator was dissatisfied with her employment. The record reasonably supports this determination. The SURJ found that relator was not included in the decision-making regarding termination of her nephew’s employment because of the relationship between relator and her nephew, which relator conceded was a possible reason for her exclusion from the process. Relator quit the morning after her nephew was fired without giving employer a chance to address her problems with the general manager’s handling of the termination.
Relator was charged with updating the handbook, and the tribal chairman met with relator to discuss updates to the handbook. But the chairman explained at the hearing that rewriting the handbook customarily took time. The SURJ found that the board of trustees’ failure to adopt the new handbook did not constitute a good cause for relator to terminate her employment.
The SURJ found that relator’s complaint that she could have received an increase in salary if she had received a 90-day evaluation did not have merit. The SURJ noted that relator’s employment letter indicated a salary of $40,000 and that she was not promised a review, a raise, or relocation expenses. The handbook in effect stated that all employees undergo a 90-day evaluation period before they are considered regular employees. But the handbook further stated that such reviews are “periodic,” and it did not ensure that a review or a salary increase must occur at the end of 90 days. Relator acknowledged at the hearing that not all employees got a review on a regular basis and that she was never promised or told she would get a raise. She asked one of her general managers about a review, but he declined to perform a review on the basis that he was a “lame duck and on his way out of the business.” Relator complains that this person nonetheless performed reviews for some other employees, but relator acknowledged that she did not speak with the chairman about a review, and there is no evidence that she asked the new general manager about a 90-day review.
An agreement between the employer and the employee can be breached even if the agreement is not written. Hayes, 665 N.W.2d at 553. Relator contends that practices of the casino required her to have a review. But the record does not contain evidence that supports a promise to relator, oral or written, of a 90-day review. Further, as the SURJ pointed out, the evaluations and the relocation expenses paid to other employees are irrelevant because relator quit due to her nephew’s firing. Relator acknowledged that the loss of her nephew’s job made “the world fall out” from under her, and her cost of living was unmanageable without his income. Although relator may have had good cause to terminate her employment, that cause was not attributable to the employer.
Under recent legislative amendments, the
decision is now made by a senior unemployment review judge, rather than the
commissioner’s representative. See 2004