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Fritze v. Home Depot USA, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

May 28, 2013

Larry Fritze, Relator,
v.
Home Depot USA, Inc., Respondent, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Department of Employment and Economic Development File No. 29644320-3

Gerald T. Laurie, Ian S. Laurie, Leanne R. Fuith, Laurie & Laurie, P.A., St. Louis Park, Minnesota (for relator)

Home Depot USA, Inc., St. Louis, Missouri (respondent)

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

Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Bjorkman, Judge; and Kirk, Judge.

KIRK, Judge

Relator Larry Fritze challenges the conclusion of an unemployment-law judge (ULJ) that his actions amounted to employment misconduct that disqualifies him for unemployment benefits. He also challenges the ULJ's refusal to accept additional posthearing evidence. We affirm.

FACTS

Fritze was discharged from his position as a master trade specialist at respondent Home Depot USA, Inc. Home Depot concluded that Fritze had solicited personal business from a Home Depot customer in the store, on the clock, while wearing a Home Depot apron, in violation of the company's conflict-of-interest policy.

Fritze began working in the plumbing department at Home Depot in April 2008 after spending 28 years as a self-employed plumbing contractor. When he started work at Home Depot, Fritze signed an acknowledgment of his training on store policies, which included a discussion of Home Depot's policy against conflicts of interest.

In late-March 2012, a Home Depot customer came to the store to return a number of plumbing parts she bought. When explaining to a store employee why she was returning the items, the customer disclosed that Fritze had offered to come to the customer's home and provide an estimate for completing the plumbing project for her. Home Depot offers plumbing installation and repair services. Fritze did not do plumbing installation and repair for the company. Later that day, the store manager spoke with the customer, who revealed that Fritze had in fact visited her home with the intention of providing a bid for his own personal plumbing services.

After conducting an investigation, Home Depot discharged Fritze for violating Home Depot's policy against soliciting personal business in the store. Fritze applied for unemployment benefits and respondent Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development issued a determination of eligibility. Home Depot appealed, and the ULJ held a hearing.

At the hearing, Fritze denied that he was soliciting personal business and he claimed that his former manager had sanctioned his home visits to customers in the past. The ULJ concluded that, because of potential liability risks, it was illogical and implausible that Fritze's former manager would permit him to visit customers' homes to advise them on plumbing solutions. The ULJ instead credited Home Depot's witnesses' testimony that Fritze was not authorized to solicit customers or to visit their homes on his spare time to advise them on their plumbing projects. She concluded ...


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