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Samuelson v. Prudential Real Estate

May 31, 2005

DAVID D. SAMUELSON, RELATOR,
v.
PRUDENTIAL REAL ESTATE, RESPONDENT,
COMMISSIONER OF EMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, RESPONDENT.



Department of Employment and Economic Development File No. 17196 03.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

For purposes of establishing an unemployment benefits account, an insurance salesperson who is compensated by both a commission and an employer-provided benefits package is not compensated "solely" by commission, and therefore is not engaged in non-covered employment under Minn. Stat. § 268.035, subd. 20(26) (2002).

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

Reversed and remanded

Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge.

OPINION

Relator David Samuelson challenges the decision by the commissioner's representative that he was a non-covered employee and therefore not entitled to establish an unemployment benefits account.

FACTS

Relator, an insurance salesperson, was employed by respondent Prudential Real Estate from March 1984 through August 20, 2003, when he was terminated. Relator applied for unemployment benefits and the department determined he was disqualified because he had been discharged for employment misconduct. He appealed to the unemployment law judge (ULJ), who affirmed. Relator appealed to the commissioner's representative, who remanded to the ULJ for a new evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether the employment relator performed constituted "non-covered employment" under Minn. Stat. § 268.035, subd. 20(26) (2002).

At the hearing before the ULJ, relator testified that his pay rate was based primarily on commission, but that: (1) his employer provided health, short-term disability, and dental insurance, as well as workers' compensation insurance, for a benefits package worth approximately $8,000; and (2) his employer considered relator to be a common-law employee and paid unemployment taxes. The ULJ determined that relator's employment as an insurance salesperson was non-covered employment because he was paid solely by commission. Relator appealed to the commissioner's representative, who affirmed. This certiorari appeal followed. Respondent commissioner did not file a brief, but instead advised this court by letter that respondent's position on the issue had changed and respondent did not object to a reversal.

ISSUE

Was relator's employment non-covered employment under Minn. Stat. § 268.035, subd. 20(26) (2002)?

ANALYSIS

Statutory interpretation is a question of law reviewed de novo. Harms v. Oak Meadows, 619 N.W.2d 201, 202 (Minn. 2000). The object of statutory interpretation "is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the legislature." Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (2004); Central Specialties, Inc. v. Comm'r of Econ. Sec., 622 N.W.2d 833, 835 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. May 15, 2001). "When the words of a law in their application to an existing situation are clear and free from all ambiguity, the letter of the law shall not be disregarded under pretext of pursuing the spirit." Minn. Stat. ยง 645.16. Words are to be construed ...


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