This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






Michael S. Richter,


Larson Manufacturing, Inc.,

Department of Employment and Economic Development,


Filed September 26, 2006


Minge, Judge


 Department of Employment and Economic Development

File No. 1107505



Michael S. Richter, 21570 Forest Road North, Forest Lake, MN 55025 (pro se relator)


Larson Manufacturing, Inc., 2333 Eastbrook Drive, Brookings, SD 57006 (respondent)


Linda A. Holmes, First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent department)


            Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge; Minge, Judge; and Forsberg, Judge.*

            U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N

MINGE, Judge

            Relator challenges the denial of his unemployment benefits, arguing that the unemployment law judge erroneously determined that he quit without a good reason caused by his employer.  Because the evidence demonstrates that relator had employment available to him with his former employer and because there is no support for the claim that the unemployment law judge was biased, we affirm the determination of the unemployment law judge that relator is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.


            On May 27, 2005, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) notified relator Michael S. Richter that his claim for unemployment benefits had been denied.  The DEED adjudicator found that Richter quit because of notice of an impending layoff, and was disqualified from receiving benefits because he had notice of the layoff and quit more than 30 days before the estimated layoff date.  In addition, the adjudicator found that Richter had not shown that he quit for a good reason caused by the employer.

            Richter appealed the adjudicator’s decision.  After an evidentiary hearing, the unemployment law judge (ULJ) concluded that Richter quit because he was dissatisfied with the separation package offered by his employer and affirmed the decision of the adjudicator.  Richter requested reconsideration of the ULJ’s determination pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 2(a) (Supp. 2005).[1]  Upon reconsideration, the ULJ modified certain factual findings but affirmed the original decision.  Richter filed an appeal by writ of certiorari.

            For approximately 19 years, Richter worked for New Cole Sewell Corporation as a facilities coordinator in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Respondent Larson Manufacturing (Larson) purchased the assets of New Cole Sewell Corporation.  Richter then became an employee of Larson.          

            In March 2005, Jeff Reif, Larson’s Chief Operating Officer, informed employees that the St. Paul office would eventually be closing.  To facilitate a smooth closing, Reif offered Larson’s St. Paul employees, including Richter, a separation package.  Richter’s separation package included a retention bonus of $17,500 if Richter signed a separation agreement and agreed to remain employed full-time until the closing of the plant or September 30, 2005, whichever came first.  The separation agreement included nondisparagement and noncompete clauses.  Richter asserts that Reif only offered him part-time employment at Larson until the closing.  Larson offered evidence showing that Richter would not receive the bonus unless he signed the separation agreement, that Richter could continue in full-time employment even if he did not accept the package, and that Richter requested to reduce his hours to pursue a small business opportunity. 

            Richter did not accept the separation package.  Richter claimed that the amount offered to him was inadequate and he requested a larger sum.  Reif denied Richter’s request.  On April 8th, 2005, Richter quit his position at Larson.  On his exit interview questionnaire, Richter stated that he left Larson because he did not believe that the separation package offered to him was “a fair compensation package for a long term employee.”  Richter now challenges the denial of benefits, arguing that he quit for a good reason caused by his employer.


            The issue in this case is whether the ULJ erred in determining that Richter quit his employment without a good reason caused by his employer.  Richter brings this certiorari appeal challenging the ULJ’s order upon reconsideration.  See Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 7(a) (Supp. 2005).  This court

may affirm the decision of the [ULJ] or remand the case for further proceedings; or it may reverse or modify the decision if substantial rights of the petitioner may have been prejudiced because the findings, inferences, conclusion, or decision are: 

            (1)  in violation of constitutional provisions;

            (2)  in excess of the statutory authority or jurisdiction                       of the department;

            (3)  made upon unlawful procedure;

            (4)  affected by other error of law;

            (5)  unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the           entire record as submitted; or

            (6)  arbitrary or capricious.


Id., subd. 7(d) (Supp. 2005).

            This review presents a mixed question of law and fact.  To the extent Richter does not deny that he quit, certain facts are undisputed, there is a question of law, and our review is de novo.  See id., subd. 7(d)(4); see also Peppi v. Phyllis Wheatley Cmty. Ctr., 614 N.W.2d 750, 752 (Minn. App. 2000) (noting that whether an employee has good reason to quit is a question of law reviewed de novo).  However, to the extent Richter claims he had good reason to quit, the ULJ needed to resolve conflicting testimony.  This court defers to the credibility determinations of the ULJ.  Munro Holding, LLC v. Cook, 695 N.W.2d 379, 384 (Minn. App. 2005).  We uphold factual findings that are substantially supported by the record.  Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 7(d)(5). 

            An applicant has quit his employment, for statutory purposes, when the decision to leave his job was his own.  Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(a) (2004).  An applicant who leaves his job after learning that he will be discharged in the future is still considered to have quit his employment, if the employment remains available to him in the interim.  Id., subd. 2(b) (2004).  Upon quitting, an applicant is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless he can prove that he quit for a good reason caused by his employer.  Id., subd. 1(1) (2004).  A good reason is one “(1) that is directly related to the employment and for which the employer is responsible; (2) that is adverse to the worker; and (3) that would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed rather than remaining in the employment.”  Id., subd. 3(a) (2004).  The analysis is conducted on the specific facts of each case.  Id., subd. 3(b) (2004).

            “[W]hether there was good cause attributable to the employer for the termination is whether the reason for quitting is compelling, real and not imaginary, substantial and not trifling, reasonable and not whimsical and capricious.”  Shanahan v. Dist. Mem. Hosp., 495 N.W.2d 894, 897 (Minn. App. 1993).  Here, Richter argues that both Larson’s alleged reduction of his working hours from 40 to 20 hours per week and the inadequate amount of money offered to him in the separation package are good reasons for him to quit that were caused by his employer.  But, these are disputed questions of fact.

            The ULJ found that the evidence did not support Richter’s assertion that he was to reduce his hours.  Larson maintained that Richter could have stayed on full-time until the plant closed or September 30, whichever came first, without accepting the separation package, and the record shows that in fact Richter worked full-time until his last day.  Also, the record does not require a finding that the severance package would lead an average long-term employee to quit.  The record indicates that each employee at Larson was offered a separation package based on, among other factors, years of service and that only one other Larson employee declined the package.  Finally, the ULJ questioned Richter’s credibility because he failed to report his earnings from self-employment to DEED. 

            In reviewing the record, we conclude that with respect to the factual dispute, the ULJ’s credibility determinations were within her discretion, the record does not support a finding that the ULJ abused her discretion, and there is substantial evidence supporting the ULJ’s decision.  Based on this factual determination, we further conclude that the ULJ did not err in determining that Richter quit without a good reason caused by the employer and that he is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.

            We also address Richter’s additional claims that the ULJ was biased against him.  First, he argues that the ULJ was biased because she delayed the hearing at Reif’s request, even though Reif ultimately did not appear at the rescheduled hearing.  It is within the ULJ’s discretion to reschedule hearings, and Richter has not shown that the ULJ abused her discretion.  See Goodwin v. BPS Guard Servs., Inc., 524 N.W.2d 28, 30 (Minn. App. 1994) (applying an abuse of discretion standard to uphold the commissioner’s refusal to grant a rehearing).  Next, Richter contends that the ULJ was biased because in the earlier hearing, the ULJ directed Larson to submit documents related to ownership and successorship and Larson failed to do so, and that consequently, it failed to show he was an employee.  These documents are relevant to the issue of whether Larson would succeed to the experience rating of New Cole Sewell Corporation and do not concern relator’s issue of whether he was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.  Finally, Richter challenges Reif’s failure to appear at the hearing and the submission of Reif’s written documents.  The ULJ may consider “[a]ll competent, relevant, and material evidence, including records and documents in the possession of the parties.”  Minn. R. 3310.2922 (2005).  There was no requirement that Larson’s evidence be presented through testimony by Reif. 

            In conclusion, the ULJ’s decision is reasonable, not arbitrary and capricious, and supported by the record, and we affirm the ULJ’s decision that relator is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.


* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] Effective June 25, 2005, decisions of the ULJ are subject to reconsideration by the same ULJ, rather than review by a senior unemployment review judge.  See 2005 Minn. Laws ch. 112, art. 2, § 34.  Compare Minn. Stat. § 268.105 (2004), with id., subd. 2 (Supp. 2005).