This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).






Bonnie J. Jeffrey,





Walch & Walch, Inc.,



Department of Employment and Economic Development,



Filed ­­­January 10, 2006


Dietzen, Judge


Department of Employment and Economic Development

Agency File No. 4144 04


Benjamin L. Weiss, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc., 166 East 4th Street, Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for relator)


Walch & Walch, Inc., 230 Coronado Drive, Punta Gorda, FL 33950 (respondent employer)


Linda A. Holmes, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent department)


            Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Dietzen, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




Relator challenges the senior unemployment review judge’s (SURJ) determination that she quit her employment without good reason caused by her employer and was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.  Because we conclude that the decision of the SURJ was reasonably supported by the record, we affirm.


Relator Bonnie J. Jeffrey worked for respondent Walch & Walch, Inc. from October 1994 until January 31, 2004 as a cosmetologist/hairstylist at the Apache Plaza mall in St. Anthony, Minnesota.  She worked on a straight commission basis.  Respondent also operated beauty salons in Brooklyn Center and Fridley.  The Brooklyn Center salon is located approximately six miles from the Apache Plaza mall and is a ten minute commute; the Fridley salon is located more than six miles away, and is a 15 minute commute from Apache Plaza.  In terms of transit, both locations can be reached by use of the highway, but the drive to Brooklyn Center can also be made over public streets.

      When the Apache Plaza mall was scheduled to be demolished in early 2004, respondent decided to close its Apache Plaza location as of January 31, 2004, and so informed its employees, including relator.  In September 2003, respondent’s owner Dennis Walch came to the Apache Plaza salon and discussed the topic of closing with relator.  At that time, relator stated that she did not know what she intended to do. 

Subsequently, relator asked some of her customers whether they would be willing to travel to a different salon.  They indicated that they would not be willing to travel far to continue to use her services.  Relator testified that her customers are primarily elderly who reside in the vicinity of the Apache Plaza salon; and that she wanted to continue working with her existing customers.  Based on those discussions, relator believed that her customers would not follow her to either the Fridley or Brooklyn Center salons.  Relator stated that she looked for work at other salons in the area but was unable to find any openings. 

            In January 2004, Dennis Walch contacted relator by telephone to offer her continuing employment.  There is a dispute in the testimony as to whether Walch offered her continuing employment at the Fridley or Brooklyn Center salons.  But regardless of the location, relator declined because she concluded that her customers would not travel that far.  Walch predicted that by moving to the Fridley or Brooklyn Center salon, relator would lose some customers but gain other customers.  Relator responded that she would lose all of her customers, and that she intended to take a sabbatical.  Relator admitted that, as of the date of the telephone conversation, she had not visited either the Fridley or the Brooklyn Center salons or explored the availability of new customers at those salons.  Relator voluntarily quit her employment on January 31, 2004.

            After relator’s claim for unemployment benefits was denied by an adjudicator on the ground that she had refused suitable work, she appealed to an unemployment law judge (ULJ).  At the hearing, Walch claimed that relator would have been offered a guaranteed wage but for her lack of expressed interest in transferring.  But that offer was not communicated to relator.

            The ULJ affirmed the adjudicator’s decision to deny unemployment benefits.  He found that relator had been offered the opportunity to move to the Brooklyn Center location and that she had refused based on a purely speculative claim that there would not be sufficient business at the new location to replace the customers she might lose.  She appealed to the SURJ[1] who affirmed the ULJ’s decision.  This court granted relator’s request to remand the case based on concerns about the process that had been used in reaching the final agency decision.  Jeffrey v. Walch & Walch, Inc., No. A04-1377 (Minn. App. Feb. 8, 2005) (order op.)  The SURJ found that relator had been offered a transfer option to the Brooklyn Center location, but that she would have quit regardless of the offered location.  Relator sought certiorari review. 

            On remand, the SURJ concluded that relator was offered employment at the Fridley salon, and not the Brooklyn Center salon.  The SURJ concluded that regardless of the salon relator was offered, she would have quit on January 31, 2004.  She “only wanted to work on her exact same clientele.”  The SURJ based this conclusion on the fact that relator never visited or worked out of either the Fridley or Brooklyn Center locations before quitting, together with the other evidence that relator “only wanted to work on her exact same clientele.”  Although relator testified that she would have been willing to consider working at a new location if she had received a guaranteed wage, she did not give Walch the opportunity to go into the details of her transfer offer.  This certiorari appeal follows.



            Relator raised two issues on appeal.  First, relator contends that she had good cause to refuse Walch’s offer of continuing employment at the Fridley salon because it would have resulted in a substantial decrease in pay due to the loss of her established customers.  Therefore, relator claims she is entitled to unemployment compensation benefits. 

            In reviewing a decision on unemployment benefits, this court applies a narrow standard of review.  Markel v. City of Circle Pines, 479 N.W.2d 382, 383 (Minn. 1992).  The findings are reviewed in the light most favorable to the decision.  Schmidgall v. FilmTec Corp., 644 N.W.2d 801, 804 (Minn. 2002).  The SURJ’s decision will not be reversed if it is reasonably supported by the record.  Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995).  When reviewing questions of law, such as whether an employee had good cause to quit, this court conducts de novo review.  Peppi v. Phyllis Wheatley Cmty. Ctr., 614 N.W.2d 750, 752 (Minn. App. 2000).

            If an employee quits employment because of “a good reason caused by the employer,” the employee is not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1), (3) (2004).  “A good reason caused by the employer” is defined as 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 remain in the employment.”  Id., subd. 3(a).  Additionally, “[a] 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[.]”  Id., subd. 3(c).  For example, this court has held that a substantial wage reduction, a loss of hours, and change in schedule provided a good reason to quit.  Rootes v. Wal-Mart Assocs., Inc., 669 N.W.2d 416, 419 (Minn. App. 2003).  Also, good reason to quit was found where a unilaterally imposed pay reduction of 21-26% created “unreasonably onerous” employment terms.  Sunstar Foods, Inc. v. Uhlendorf, 310 N.W.2d 80, 84-85 (Minn. 1981).

            Respondent argues that the record supports the SURJ’s conclusion that relator did not have a good reason to voluntarily quit because she did not investigate the new location before rejecting it.  Respondent argues that relator was unwilling to work anywhere her existing customers would not go, and did not discuss with Walch in detail how many new customers she could expect to obtain at the Fridley salon.  Respondent’s arguments have merit.

The record supports the conclusion that the only thing relator investigated was whether her existing clients would have gone to the Fridley salon and not whether she would have obtained new clients.  Relator’s contention that she would have suffered a 30% reduction in income is not supported in the record.  Walch testified that as a rule of thumb, relator could expect about 70% of her existing customers would follow her to the new location and that she would gain extra customers at the new location.  The SURJ’s conclusion that a reasonable worker “would have gone to the new location and made a good faith effort to continue employment before reasonably concluding whether the new situation was viable” is sufficiently supported in the record.

            Relator also contends that her situation is similar to Rootes.  But Rootes is factually distinguishable.  In Rootes, supra, the claimant’s supervisor required her to decide by the end of her shift whether she would resign or accept a lesser position.  669 N.W.2d at 418.  Although the claimant did not inquire into the details, it was undisputed that she would be demoted from a grocer department manager to either a stocking or cashier position, her pay would be reduced, and she would be required to work a different shift, and work weekends.  Id.  Consequently, we held that the employee had a good reason to quit existed even though she did not inquire about the precise nature of the adverse change in employment.  Rootes, 669 N.W.2d at 418-19.  Here, relator did not investigate the transfer option and merely speculates about her potential loss of clientele.  Moreover, the new location did not involve a demotion, a change in shift, or that she work weekends.

Relator’s case is almost identical to the claim brought by relator’s co-worker, Johnson, against respondent.  Johnson v. Walch & Walch, Inc., 696 N.W.2d 799 (Minn. App. 2005).  In Johnson, the claimant refused to transfer to Brooklyn Center when the Apache Plaza location closed on the basis that her elderly customers would not follow her to the new location.  Id. at 800.  On those facts, we concluded that refusing the employer’s offer to relocate due to her apprehension of losing income did not constitute a good reason to quit.  Id. at 802.  We concluded that before quitting, Johnson should have sought more information from the employer about the replacement position or tried to work at the alternative location.  Id.  Like Johnson, relator failed to obtain the basic information about the new location before quitting. 

Relator also argues that Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(3) is not applicable.  Under that section, an individual may accept employment and quit “within 30 calendar days of beginning the employment because the employment was unsuitable for the applicant” without being barred from receiving unemployment benefits.  Id. Thus, to demonstrate substantial adverse change in wages, hours, or other terms of employment, the statute gives an employee 30 days to investigate a new employment option.  But subdivision 1(3) applies because relator could have tried working at the new location for up to 30 days without being disqualified for unemployment benefits.  Instead, relator chose to become unemployed.


Relator also contends that the SURJ’s decision is not supported by substantial evidence in the record.  Relator contends that the commissioner’s finding that she “only wanted to work on her exact same clientele” was not supported in the record.  Relator’s argument lacks merit.

Substantial evidence is defined as “1.  Such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion; 2.  More than a scintilla of evidence; 3.  More than some evidence; 4.  More than any evidence; and 5.  Evidence considered in its entirety.”  White v. Minn. Dep’t of Natural Res., 567 N.W.2d 724, 730 (Minn. App. 1997).  Under the substantial evidence test, a reviewing court evaluates “the evidence relied upon by the agency in view of the entire record as submitted.”  Cable Commc’ns Bd. v. Nor-west Cable Commc’ns P’ship., 356 N.W.2d 658, 668 (Minn. 1984).  If an agency’s decision was reached by reasoned decisionmaking, then a reviewing court will affirm, even though its conclusion may have been different had it been the factfinder.  Id. at 669.     

            Over the course of the hearing, relator made it clear that her intention was to work with her existing customers.  Here, there is evidence on the record that supports the commissioner’s findings.  When asked whether she would go to Brooklyn Center, relator stated, “Well, no, because my customers would not go to either, and he offered nothing more.”  Regarding the distance required to travel to the new location, relator stated, “I never said it was too far for me . . . .  It was my customers, my clients.”  Again when asked whether she looked into the Brooklyn Center salon, she stated, “No, because that would be commission, straight commission also, and my customers would not go there.” 

            Based on our review of the record, we conclude that the SURJ’s conclusion that relator only wanted to work with her exact same clientele, and that she quit her employment without good cause was sufficiently supported in the record.


[1] A 2004 legislative amendment changed the decision-maker to the SURJ.  2004 Minn. Laws ch. 183, § 71, subd. 2, 305.