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Hadfield v. North Memorial Health Care

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

May 13, 2013

Nancy L. Hadfield, Relator,
v.
North Memorial Health Care, Respondent, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Department of Employment and Economic Development File No. 29804321-3

Lindsay Webb Davis, St. Paul, Minnesota (for relator)

North Memorial Health Care, Robbinsdale, Minnesota (respondent)

Lee B. Nelson, Colleen Timmer, Department of Employment and Economic Development, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent department)

Considered and decided by Cleary, Presiding Judge; Johnson, Chief Judge; and Hooten, Judge.

CLEARY, Judge

Relator brings a certiorari appeal of the decision determining that she is ineligible to receive unemployment benefits, arguing that the unemployment-law judge (ULJ) erred when she determined that relator was discharged for misconduct and that the absence due to illness or injury with proper notice to the employer exception to misconduct under Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 6(b)(7), does not extend to tardiness. We affirm.

FACTS

Relator Nancy Hadfield began working for North Memorial Health Care (North Memorial) as an operating room staff nurse in 1985. She worked 72 hours every two weeks, which is one shift short of full-time. Relator suffered from several health problems including chronic tonsillitis and allergies. She also suffered from a skin condition that caused severe itching, and she had open wounds on her arms and legs from scratching. Relator's supervisors were aware of her medical conditions and that she was seeing doctors for treatment.

In 2011, relator's health problems began to affect her attendance and timeliness at work. Relator was given a verbal warning in December 2011 regarding her tardiness. Relator requested that she be allowed to start her shift at a later time, and North Memorial adjusted her starting time from 6:45 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Despite this adjustment, relator was still often tardy to work. She received a written warning in February 2012, which stated that she was expected to be ready for her shift at 9:30 a.m. and that she was to check in with the charge nurse upon her arrival. The warning also noted that going forward relator would need to anticipate her needs to arrive on time, and that if she failed to comply with North Memorial's expectations she faced further discipline up to and including discharge. In March 2012, North Memorial again informed relator that her frequent tardiness exceeded North Memorial's guidelines. For the three preceding pay periods, relator had been late 19 times. As a result, relator was suspended for three days. From April 10–28, 2012, relator was late 9 times. On May 2, 2012, relator arrived 27 minutes late for her shift without informing North Memorial. Relator was called into a meeting and given the option to resign or be discharged. Relator chose to resign and signed a letter to that effect.

Relator applied for unemployment benefits, and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) issued a determination of ineligibility. Relator appealed the determination, and a telephone hearing was held before a ULJ on July 31, 2012. During the hearing, relator was represented by an attorney, and North Memorial elected not to appear.

Relator testified during the hearing that the "majority" of her tardiness was attributable to her health problems. Relator stated that during the time in question she had been experiencing fatigue, that she found herself "oversleeping quite a bit, " and that her doctor "thought it was either from the chronic tonsil infections, the allergies that were undiagnosed, or both." She also stated that her tardiness was partially attributable to the distance that she had to walk from the locker room, where she changed into her uniform, to the time clock. She explained:

At one time we had a time clock outside of our locker room which was in the lower level and that was installed for the purpose of the surgery department[]. We had to change into scrub clothes before we could start our shift. During the course of the last couple years they had also kind of changed the rules I guess as it were. We could no longer use the time clock downstairs and punch in before we changed. We had to arrive, change our clothes, walk up the stairs, walk ...

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