Three cases involving unpublished unemployment decisions were released today.  Two were affirmed and the third was actually reversed. The first one involves a case where it is an undisputed fact that the Relator quit her job. However, the Relator challenges the ULJ’s conclusion that none of the exceptions in Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1 apply to her case. In the second case, the Relator was found to be ineligible to receive unemployment benefits because he was neither available for nor actively seeking employment. The appellate court reversed the ULJ’s decision in the third case, granting the Relator’s request to reverse, but only based upon one of her three arguments -- that she had good reason to quit due to a consultant’s nonsexual and sexual harassment and her employer’s failure to address the Relator’s complaint when given the opportunity to do so. 

A14-1320   Terrylou Cripe-Scherek, Relator vs. MNKase LLC, Respondent, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Respondent.

Summary:  Relator Terrylou Cripe-Scherek appeals the decision of an unemployment-law judge (ULJ) that she was ineligible to receive unemployment benefits after quitting her employment. Because Cripe-Scherek did not request an accommodation prior to quitting her employment, we affirm.

Relator was employed at Fantastic Sam’s and was responsible for all of the day-to-day operations of the salon, including hiring and firing employees. Approximately six weeks before quitting, Relator Cripe-Scherek was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition causing a blood clot to form in her leg.  Relator and her assistant manager discussed the fact that she could not continue performing her job—or any other job at Fantastic Sams—if she had to be seated 90 percent of the day.

 When Relator Cripe-Scherek quit, she told the owner that she was quitting because “her doctor put her on restrictions and she wasn’t able to work.” Relator Cripe-Scherek never asked the owner for additional leave or any other accommodation, which was one of the major reasons the appellate court affirmed the ULJ’s decision and also because she did not meet the statutory requirements for any of the exceptions under Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1.

The general rule is that an applicant is ineligible for unemployment benefits if that applicant quit employment without meeting a statutory exception.  In this case, Relator's appeal was based on the statutory exception that it was medically necessary for her to quit.  However, Relator did not ask her employer to make a reasonable accommodation for her condition prior to quitting.  As such, the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of benefits. 

A14-0471  Keith Travis, Relator, vs. Wal-Mart Associates, Inc., Respondent, Department of  Employment and Economic Development, Respondent.

Summary: Relator challenges an unemployment-law judge’s decision that he is ineligible to receive unemployment benefits because he was discharged for employment misconduct and because he was neither available for nor actively seeking employment.

Because of a hand injury, Travis was asked to provide Wal-Mart with medical certification several times.  Travis failed to provide one, even after he was informed that such certification was required and given nearly a month to provide it. The ULJ further found that Wal-Mart discharged Travis because he failed either to return to work after leaving to acquire the certificate. Record evidence supports these facts and is not disputed by Travis on appeal.

During the hearing, the Relator told the ULJ that his hand was still bothering him, therefore, he was not actively seeking employment and the Relator’s wife testified that because of his hand injury, he couldn’t do anything. Therefore, the Court upheld the ULJ’s decision that Travis is ineligible to receive benefits due to his unavailability for and failure to actively seek suitable employment.

Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial.

A14-0287  Jami Sternquist, Relator, vs. PAL Management, Inc., Respondent, Department  of Employment and Economic Development, Respondent.

 Summary:  In this certiorari appeal, relator requests reversal of the decision of an unemployment-law judge (ULJ) that she is ineligible for unemployment benefits because she did not quit her employment due to a good reason caused by the employer. Relator argues that she had good reason to quit because (1) she was paid less due to her gender; (2) she was harassed by a consultant who acted in a supervisory role; and (3) she was uncomfortable managing her regional manager’s wife.

The ULJ determined that Sternquist was eligible for unemployment benefits from September 6 through September 14 because she was discharged from employment for reasons other thanemployment misconduct. But the ULJ determined that Sternquist was ineligible for unemployment benefits beginning September 15 because Sternquist notified Pawn America that she planned to quit her job as of September 19, and she quit for reasons other than a good reason caused by the employer. Sternquist requested reconsideration,and the ULJ affirmed her decision.

The Court of Appeals determined that the consultant’s nonsexual and sexual harassment, coupled with Pawn America’s failure to address Sternquist’s complaints when given a reasonable opportunity to do so, would compel an average, reasonable employee to quit and become unemployed.  Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the ULJ erred by determining that Sternquist did not have a good reason to quit caused by her employer.  Because the case was reversed based on the alleged sexual harassment and failure of the employer to respond, the Court of Appeals did not address Relator's other arguments.

If you are denied unemployment benefits, or are an employer who wants to challenge a former employee's eligibility for benefits, your best bet is to meet with an attorney who handles unemployment appeals to discuss your options.  To that end, I represent both applicants and employers in unemployment appeals.  Please call (763) 450-9494 today to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.

WARNING: The information contained in this blog post does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  Also, Tim is licensed only in state and federal courts in Minnesota.  As such, any information provided in this blog post pertains only to those jurisdictions.  Further, you should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation. 



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