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Johnson v. Walch & Walch

May 24, 2005

JUDY A. JOHNSON, RELATOR,
v.
WALCH & WALCH, INC., RESPONDENT, COMMISSIONER OF EMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, RESPONDENT.



Department of Employment and Economic Development File No. 4437 04.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

An employee's unsupported apprehension that her income at a nearby work site will be substantially less than at her current work site is not good reason to quit under unemployment compensation law.

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

Affirmed

Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Minge, Judge.

OPINION

Relator challenges the decision by the commissioner's representative that she is not entitled to unemployment benefits. Because there was substantial evidence to support the representative's decision and because relator's claim that she would suffer a substantial loss of income was speculative, we affirm.

FACTS

Relator Judy Johnson worked as a hair stylist for respondent Walch & Walch, Inc. (Walch) at its shop in Apache Plaza. She had worked in the same location since 1966. Although she was paid entirely on a commission basis and set her own hours, she was considered an employee, not an independent contractor. Johnson worked approximately 25 hours a week and her earnings averaged approximately $16 per hour.

Apache Plaza closed. As a result, Walch lost its lease and that business location. In anticipation of closing, the president of Walch visited the Apache Plaza shop and told Johnson that she could work at Walch's Brooklyn Center location. The Brooklyn Center location is about an eight-minute drive by freeway from Apache Plaza. Walch's president testified that Johnson stated she would retire after the Apache Plaza shop closed. Neither party discussed her work situation again.

Johnson testified that her customer base at Apache Plaza consisted of about 75 elderly women, that she had developed this base over 38 years, and that most of her clients lived within one mile of Apache Plaza. Based on her informal poll of a small number of these customers, Johnson concluded that most of her clientele would not travel to the Brooklyn Center location and that she would suffer a dramatic drop in income if she accepted the offer to relocate. Walch's president testified that in his experience approximately 70% of a hairstylist's clients will travel a few minutes to a new location and that there were extra customers and other duties at the Brooklyn Center shop that Johnson could pick up to offset the loss.

After Apache Plaza closed, Johnson ceased working and sought unemployment benefits. A hearing was held before an unemployment law judge (ULJ) who found that Johnson qualified for benefits because she quit her employment for good reason caused by the employer. The decision of the ULJ was appealed to the commissioner's representative. The commissioner's representative found that the evidence presented by Walch was more credible than Johnson's evidence, that in the fall of 2003 Johnson told Walch's president that she planned to retire after the Apache Mall store closed, that continuing employment was available at the Brooklyn Center location, that her claim of dramatic loss of income was speculative, and that Johnson declined the new opportunity without adequately checking the prospects. Based on these findings, the commissioner's representative concluded that Johnson quit without good cause attributable to her employer and denied unemployment benefits.

ISSUE

Does Johnson qualify for ...


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