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Janice Karen Kovala v. Chs

April 8, 2013


Department of Employment and Economic Development File No. 29741151-3

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

This opinion will be unpublished and may not be cited except as provided by Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2012).


Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Larkin, Judge; and Rodenberg, Judge.



Relator Janice Kovala appeals from an unemployment-law judge's (ULJ) determination that she is ineligible for unemployment benefits because she quit her employment without a good reason caused by her employer. Because the ULJ's determination that relator quit is supported by substantial evidence, and because relator does not meet any of the exceptions to ineligibility following a quit, we affirm.


Relator began employment at CHS, Inc. in September 2009 working as a marketing manager and earning $91,500 per year. In April 2011, Greg McAfee became relator's new manager. Seven months later, relator received a negative review from McAfee, who informed her that he intended to rewrite her position description. Two months later, relator had not seen a rewrite of her position description and approached McAfee to discuss the situation. McAfee told relator that he had started the rewrite, but then realized he no longer wanted the position to change-he wanted a person to do the job as it was written. McAfee told relator that instead of rewriting her position description, he was creating a 90-day improvement plan for her. McAfee told relator that he had not made progress drafting the improvement plan because he was having difficulty figuring out how to measure the development of certain skills, such as "creative process thinking." McAfee then directed relator to speak with Michael Chanaka, the human-resources representative.

Chanaka told relator that she had three options: (1) quit, (2) continue working and be placed on a 90-day improvement plan, or (3) agree on a separation date, in which case CHS would not contest relator's eligibility for unemployment. Relator eventually opted to agree on a separation date, and one month later, it was agreed that relator's last day would be April 25, 2012.

Following her separation from CHS, relator applied to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for unemployment benefits. In late May 2012, a DEED clerk issued a determination of ineligibility. The DEED clerk found that relator quit her employment due to a personality conflict with a co-worker and that the conflict had no substantial adverse impact on relator and would not have caused the average employee to quit and become unemployed.

Relator appealed this determination, arguing that the conflict with McAfee did have a substantial adverse effect on her employment that would have resulted in a "certain demotion or an implementation of a 90-day improvement plan with ultimate termination." She also argued that, as a part of the "general release" agreement she negotiated with CHS, the company had agreed it would not challenge her claim for unemployment, and that if the release is not "acceptable" to DEED, then she had been misled by CHS "on the matter of qualifying for unemployment benefits by agreeing to separate from my position."

A ULJ held a de novo hearing on relator's appeal. CHS did not appear at the hearing, and relator represented herself. Relator testified that she had chosen the separation-date option out of the three presented to her because her manager "didn't want me. It's not that I didn't want to work there." When asked by the ULJ why she did not take the 90-day improvement plan option, she said that she was "under the belief that if [she] amicably split that [she] would qualify for unemployment" because Chanaka told her so. When asked what it was about her job that made her decide that it was not worth it to stay, relator explained that, after she had received the bad review, things were "getting very stressful" and she felt unable to "satisfy" McAfee. She went on to explain that she had never received a bad review and that receiving one was "disappointing" and left her with the impression that McAfee wanted to bring in his own team.

The ULJ issued his findings of fact and decision that relator was ineligible for benefits. The ULJ found that relator chose to separate from her employment at CHS and that she therefore quit. The ULJ found that relator did not quit for good reason caused by her employer even though she felt McAfee wanted to replace her, and even though relator was concerned that she would inevitably be demoted or fired regardless of what she chose to do. The ULJ noted that CHS's statements, which led relator to believe that she would be eligible for unemployment benefits if she separated amicably, were not adverse to relator and did not alter the determination ...

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