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Hagel v. TCR Corp.

April 20, 2004

THOMAS M. HAGEL, RELATOR,
v.
TCR CORPORATION, RESPONDENT, COMMISSIONER OF EMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, RESPONDENT.



Considered and decided by Kalitowski , Presiding Judge; Shumaker , Judge; and Minge , Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Minge, Judge

Reversed and remanded

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Relator appeals the determination of the commissioner's representative that he was discharged for misconduct and disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Because the commissioner's representative did not apply the statutory definition for employment misconduct in effect at the date of relator's discharge, we reverse and remand. Because it appears that the record is incomplete and that the interests of justice would be served, we direct that on remand the commissioner's representative consider whether a further evidentiary hearing is appropriate.

DECISION

Relator Thomas Hagel, a machinist employed by TCR Corporation, was terminated on April 11, 2003, for refusing to sign an amendment to an action plan designed to address his status as a problem employee. At the August 5, 2003, hearing, the commissioner's representative applied a revised definition of employment misconduct that had become effective August 1, 2003. See 2003 Minn. Laws 1st Spec. Sess. ch. 3, art. 2, §§ 13, 20(g); see Minn. Stat. § 645.02 (2002) (establishing an effective date of August 1 for all laws unless otherwise provided by the legislation). Using this revised definition, the commissioner's representative found that relator's failure to sign the amendment constituted employment misconduct and disqualified relator from unemployment benefits.

Decisions of the commissioner's representative are accorded particular deference. Tuff v. Knitcraft Corp., 526 N.W.2d 50, 51 (Minn. 1995). Whether an employee has engaged in conduct that disqualifies him from unemployment benefits is a mixed question of fact and law. Schmidgall v. FilmTec Corp., 644 N.W.2d 801, 804 (Minn. 2002). A determination of the commissioner's representative regarding the reasons for an employee's separation is a factual determination that is to be reviewed in the light most favorable to the decision and may not be disturbed if there is evidence reasonably tending to sustain the finding. Markel v. City of Circle Pines, 479 N.W.2d 382, 383-84 (Minn. 1992). But whether the acts constitute misconduct is a question of law that we review de novo. Ress v. Abbott Northwestern Hosp., Inc., 448 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. 1989). The interpretation of a statute is also a question of law that this court reviews de novo. Homart Dev. Co. v. County of Hennepin, 538 N.W.2d 907, 911 (Minn. 1995). Therefore, we review de novo the decision of the commissioner's representative to use the amended statutory language to determine whether there was misconduct that justified a discharge occurring prior to the effective date of the statute. See In re Welfare of B.C.G., 537 N.W.2d 489, 490 (Minn. App. 1995).

I.

An employee discharged for employment misconduct is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 4(1) (2002). In 2002, the definition of employment misconduct was as follows:

(a) Employment misconduct means:

(1) any intentional conduct, on the job or off the job, that disregards the standards of behavior that an employer has the right to expect of the employee or disregards the employee's duties and obligations to the employer; or

(2) negligent or indifferent conduct, on the job or off the job, that demonstrates a substantial lack of concern for the employment.

(b) Inefficiency, inadvertence, simple unsatisfactory conduct, poor performance because of inability or incapacity, or absence because of illness or injury with proper notice to the employer, are not employment misconduct.

Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. (6)(a), (b) (2002) (amended 2003). The definition was amended effective on August 1, 2003. 2003 Minn. Laws 1st Spec. Sess. ch. 3, art. 2, §§ 13, 20(g); see Minn. Stat. § ...


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