Filed August 14, 2007.
Appeal from the Department of Employment and Economic Development, File No. 10012 06.
Kevin Edwards, St. Paul, MN, (pro se relator).
MOAC Mall Holdings LLC, Bloomington, MN, (respondent).
Lee B. Nelson, Linda A. Holmes, Department of Employment and Economic Development, St. Paul, MN, (for respondent Department).
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge; Toussaint, Chief Judge; and Willis, Judge.
This opinion will be unpublished and may not be cited except as provided by Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
Relator Kevin Edwards challenges a decision by an unemployment law judge (ULJ), who determined that relator is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because he quit his job without good reason caused by his employer, respondent MOAC Mall Holdings, LLC. Relator quit his employment as a facility custodian in order to care for his two children, who were living on the streets of Chicago with their crack-cocaine addicted mother.
Because the ULJ failed to consider whether relator could meet the statutory exception provided to an employee whose decision to quit is "necessitated" by "domestic abuse of the [employee] or the [employee's] minor child," Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(8) (Supp. 2005), we reverse and remand.
This court may reverse or modify a ULJ's decision if the employee's substantial rights have been prejudiced because the ULJ's findings, inferences, conclusion, or decision are affected by error of law or unsupported by substantial evidence. Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 7(d) (2006). We review the ULJ's findings to determine whether they are supported by substantial evidence, and we defer to the ULJ's credibility determinations. Id., subd. 7(d)(5) (defining substantial evidence standard); Nichols v. Reliant Eng'g Mfg., Inc., 720 N.W.2d 590, 594 (Minn.App. 2006) (stating that credibility determinations are resolved by ULJ and that this court will defer to those determinations on appeal).
Here, the parties agree that relator quit his job in December 2005, after receiving information that his two sons, who were 10 and 14 years old, were living on the streets of Chicago with their mother, who was addicted to crack cocaine and was in "bad shape." One son was sick, and the other son "wasn't doing well." Relator decided that he had to go to Chicago to take care of his sons. Relator remained there for four months and was able to place his children with relatives. He testified that he intends to send for his sons when he "get[s] back on [his] feet."
An applicant who quits his employment is disqualified from receiving benefits unless one of eight enumerated exceptions applies. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1 (Supp. 2005). One of those exceptions is shown when an employee quits because of a good reason caused by the employer. Id., subd. 1(1). Although relator's reason for quitting was "adverse" and "would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed," his reason was not "directly related to [his] employment and for which [his] employer [was] responsible." Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 3(a) (2004) (definition of "good reason" caused by employer).
As the ULJ concluded, while relator "had very good personal reasons for quitting the employment, these reasons were unrelated to his employment . . . and therefore, it cannot be said that he quit with good reason caused by this employer." See Kehoe v. Minn. Dep't of Econ. Sec., 568 N.W.2d 889, 891 (Minn.App. 1997) (stating that "good personal reason does not equate with good cause" to quit). The ULJ thus did not err in its determination that relator failed to show he had good reason to quit that was caused by his employer. See Nichols, 720 N.W.2d at 594 ("The determination that an employee quit without good reason [caused by] the employer is a legal conclusion, but [that] conclusion must be based on findings that have the requisite evidentiary support.").
But the unemployment statute provides another exception that was not considered by the ULJ and that may apply here. That exception provides that an employee who quits is not disqualified if the quit is "necessitated" by "domestic abuse of the [employee] or the [employee's] minor child." Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(8) (Supp. 2005). The department concedes, and we assume for purposes of this case, that "minor children living on the streets of Chicago is `domestic abuse' generally." But the department insists that relator has failed to provide the documentation necessary to meet this exception.
This court has determined that domestic abuse is not proven merely by evidence that a mother has neglected a child's hygiene and medical care, has left the child unattended, and was chemically dependent while caring for the child. Chosa ex rel. Chosa v. Tagliente, 693 N.W.2d 487, 490 (Minn.App. 2005) (reversing order for protection issued against mother when evidence showed neglect but not domestic abuse). Domestic abuse requires a showing of "physical harm, bodily harm, or assault" or the "infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily harm, bodily injury, or assault" that is committed by one family member against another. Minn. Stat. § 518B.01, subd. 2 (a)(1), (2) (2006).
In particular, the exception requires that domestic abuse to be documented by one or more of the following:
(i) a district court order for protection or other documentation of equitable relief issued by a court;
(ii) a police record documenting the domestic abuse;
(iii) documentation that the perpetrator of the domestic abuse has been convicted of the offense of domestic abuse;
(iv) medical documentation of domestic abuse; or
(v) written statement that the [employee] or the [employee's] minor child is a victim of domestic abuse, provided by a social worker, member of the clergy, shelter worker, attorney at law, or other professional who has assisted the [employee] in dealing with the domestic abuse.
Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(8) (Supp. 2005). Unfortunately, the ULJ here did not inquire whether relator, who appeared pro se at the hearing and continues to appear pro se in this certiorari appeal, could produce any documentation to satisfy this exception. The ULJ has a duty to assist unrepresented parties and to "ensure that all relevant facts are clearly and fully developed." Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 1(b) (Supp. 2005); Minn. R. 3310.2921 (2005). We therefore reverse the ULJ's decision and remand the matter in order to give relator an opportunity to present the documentation required in order to meet the domestic abuse exception set out above.