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Neloms v. Paul

Minnesota Court of Appeals
Jul 17, 2007
No. A06-1191 (Minn. Ct. App. Jul. 17, 2007)


No. A06-1191.

Filed: July 17, 2007.

Appeal from the Department of Employment and Economic Development, File No. 2937 06.

James C. Snyder, Sr., Snyder Law Office, P.A., (for relator).

John J. Choi, St. Paul City Attorney, Gail L. Langfield-Seiberlich, Assistant City Attorney, (for respondent City).

Lee B. Nelson, Linda A. Holmes, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, First National Bank Building, (for respondent Department).

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

This opinion will be unpublished and may not be cited except as provided by Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).


In this certiorari appeal from an unemployment-law judge's decision disqualifying relator Ray A. Neloms from receiving unemployment benefits, relator argues that he quit for a good reason caused by his employer, respondent City of St. Paul. Because the record shows that relator quit for personal reasons not attributable to his employer, we affirm. Respondent Department of Employment and Economic Development's (DEED) motion to strike relator's reply brief is granted.


The City of St. Paul employed relator as a sewer-service worker. Relator wanted to be promoted to crew leader. To become a crew leader, relator needed to (1) pass a crew-leader exam, (2) complete waste-water training, and (3) pass a waste-water certification exam.

Those who pass the crew-leader exam are placed on a waiting list for employer-sponsored waste-water training in the order in which they scored. At the time he terminated his employment, relator was seventh or eighth on the list.

The city's policy is to send to waste-water training those employees who are either (1) licensed waste-water operators needing continuing education credits, or (2) high enough on the waiting list such that they are considered "potential crew leaders." At the time he terminated his employment, relator was not a licensed waste-water operator, nor was he high enough on the waiting list to be considered a potential crew leader.

However, any employee who has passed the crew-leader exam may take the waste-water certification exam if he or she has sufficient vacation time. The city reimburses the vacation time if the employee passes the exam. At the time he terminated his employment, relator did not have sufficient vacation time to take the exam.

On February 10, 2006, relator quit his employment and established a benefit account on February 16, 2006. On his benefit application, relator stated that he quit his employment because his employer denied him an opportunity to advance his career by prohibiting him from attending the most recent waste-water training.

A department adjudicator determined that relator was disqualified from receiving benefits because he quit without a good reason caused by his employer. The adjudicator found that relator quit his employment "when his employer would not allow him to attend training classes." Relator appealed.

During the evidentiary hearing, relator testified that he quit because he believed that his employer's decision not to send him to waste-water training amounted to harassment. Relator testified that he assumed that his employer was retaliating against him for a discrimination complaint he had filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2004. Relator testified that his employer's actions almost caused him to experience a "mental breakdown."

After the evidentiary hearing, the ULJ concluded that relator "quit employment, and is disqualified." The ULJ concluded that relator's reason for quitting was not a good reason caused by the employer. Relator requested reconsideration; the ULJ affirmed the prior decision. This certiorari appeal follows.

Respondent DEED moved to strike relator's reply brief; that motion was referred to this panel for consideration.


When reviewing an unemployment-benefits decision, this court may affirm the decision, remand the case for further proceedings, or reverse or modify the decision if the substantial rights of the petitioner may have been prejudiced because the decision is affected by error of law, is unsupported by substantial evidence, or is arbitrary and capricious. Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 7(d) (2006). We view the unemployment-law judge's (ULJ's) findings of fact in the light most favorable to the decision. Skarhus v. Davanni's, Inc., 721 N.W.2d 340, 344 (Minn.App. 2006). We will not disturb factual findings that are reasonably supported by the record. Ress v. Abbott Nw. Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989). Whether an employee is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo. Peppi v. Phyllis Wheatley Cmty. Ctr., 614 N.W.2d 750, 752 (Minn.App. 2000).

An employee who quits cannot collect unemployment benefits unless the employee quits for a good reason caused by the employer. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 1(1) (Supp. 2005). An employee quits when, at the time his or her employment ended, it was the employee's decision to end the employment. Id., subd. 2(a) (2004).

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; (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 "reasonable worker" standard is objective and is applied to the average person rather than the ultra-sensitive. Ferguson v. Dep't of Employment Servs., 311 Minn. 34, 44 n. 5, 247 N.W.2d 895, 900 n. 5 (1976).

A good personal reason does not necessarily equal a good cause to quit. Kehoe v. Minn. Dep't of Econ. Sec., 568 N.W.2d 889, 891 (Minn.App. 1997). Nor does a situation where an employee experiences irreconcilable differences with others at work or is simply frustrated or dissatisfied with his or her working conditions constitute good cause. Portz v. Pipestone Skelgas, 397 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Minn.App. 1986). But racial discrimination constitutes good cause to quit. Marz v. Dep't of Employment Servs., 256 N.W.2d 287, 289 (Minn. 1977) (remanding for further findings on claim of racial discrimination).

Because it is undisputed that relator quit, the only issue we must decide is whether the ULJ's finding that relator did not quit for a good reason caused by his employer was supported by the record. The record shows that the city had established objective criteria for determining who to send to waste-water training. Even though relator did not possess the necessary qualifications to receive employer-sponsored training, he nonetheless argues that his employer was retaliating against him for a discrimination complaint he filed with the EEOC in 2004. He claims that his employer's harassment and discrimination caused him severe mental trauma, and he cites to Marz in support of his claim that he quit for good cause.

However, relator testified that his belief that respondent was retaliating against him was just an assumption, and he has not presented any corroborating evidence. In addition, this case is distinguishable from Marz because relator has not presented any evidence that he suffered mental trauma; that his employer showed preference to less qualified or less experienced employees; or that his employer deviated from its established policy by denying him training. See id. at 289 (stating that the employee must show good cause attributable to the employer for leaving the employment). In addition, the record does not contain any evidence that the EEOC required the city to take any corrective action that could be considered a potential motive for retaliation. As such, we conclude that relator's disappointment with his prospects for career advancement — although arguably a good personal reason to quit — does not equate to a good reason to quit caused by his employer.


Respondent DEED moved this court to strike relator's reply brief. A reply brief "must be confined to the new matter raised in the brief of the respondent." Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 128.02, subd. 3. Relator's reply brief reiterates his initial argument but asks for different relief. Because relator did not confine his reply brief to new matters raised in respondent's brief, we grant respondent's motion to strike.

Affirmed; motion granted.

Summaries of

Neloms v. Paul

Minnesota Court of Appeals
Jul 17, 2007
No. A06-1191 (Minn. Ct. App. Jul. 17, 2007)
Case details for

Neloms v. Paul

Case Details

Full title:Ray A. Neloms, Relator, v. City of St. Paul, Respondent, Department of…

Court:Minnesota Court of Appeals

Date published: Jul 17, 2007


No. A06-1191 (Minn. Ct. App. Jul. 17, 2007)

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