Department of Employment and Economic Development File No. 29680465-3
Gwen Peltier, Stillwater, Minnesota (pro se relator) Regions Hospital, St. Paul, Minnesota (respondent)
Lee B. Nelson, Colleen Timmer, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent Department of Employment and Economic Development)
Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Bjorkman, Judge; and Kirk, Judge.
Relator challenges the determination of the unemployment-law judge (ULJ) that she is ineligible for benefits, arguing that (1) the ULJ erred by concluding that she quit without good cause attributable to her employer, (2) the record is incomplete, and (3) the proceedings before the ULJ were unfair in several respects. We affirm.
Relator Gwen Peltier was employed by respondent Regions Hospital as a surgical-care assistant. In March 2011, Peltier experienced a mental-health crisis while at work and agreed to be admitted to the hospital's behavioral-health unit. She was released several days later but suffered a hamstring injury that prevented her from working for several months. Before she could return to work, the hospital required Peltier to undergo a return-to-work evaluation. Licensed psychologist John Hung, Ph.D., conducted the evaluation. Dr. Hung concluded that Peltier was fit to work, provided she undergo psychiatric evaluation every six months and attend monthly counseling sessions to verify her ongoing fitness for work; the hospital required Peltier to comply as part of a return-to-work plan. Peltier felt the evaluation and the counseling requirements were unnecessary, but she agreed to the plan and returned to work in late August.
In December, nurse manager Mary Wagner met with Peltier to address staff complaints about Peltier's behavior. Peltier subsequently e-mailed Wagner's supervisor, expressing concern about Wagner's behavior during the meeting and indicating she had recorded the conversation. Based on Peltier's e-mail and another nurse's report that Peltier said she was recording other conversations at work, the hospital believed patient privacy may be compromised. Wagner and human-resources representative Martha Boemker met with Peltier to discuss these concerns. Peltier denied recording the conversation with Wagner but made other statements that caused Wagner and Boemker concern about Peltier's mental health and fitness for work. The hospital placed Peltier on leave and required her to undergo another return-to-work evaluation with Dr. Hung. Peltier did not believe the evaluation was necessary and contacted her union representative to ask about filing a grievance. The union representative encouraged Peltier to cooperate with the evaluation, so she did. Dr. Hung once again declared Peltier provisionally fit to work. Peltier disagreed with some of Dr. Hung's recommendations but ultimately signed a return-to-work plan that slightly modified the original plan. She returned to work in January 2012.
On April 10, a charge nurse criticized Peltier for stopping to drink a glass of water rather than immediately complying with a fellow surgical-care assistant's request for help cleaning rooms. Peltier felt the charge nurse was disrespectful and declared that she quit.
Peltier applied for unemployment benefits. Respondent Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) determined that Peltier is ineligible to receive benefits because she quit without good cause attributable to her employer. Peltier appealed. During a two-day evidentiary hearing, the ULJ received 30 exhibits and heard testimony from Peltier, Wagner, Boemker, and Margaret Nielsen, the hospital's lead nurse for employee health and wellness. The ULJ concluded that Peltier did not quit for a good reason attributable to the hospital and therefore is not entitled to unemployment benefits. Peltier requested reconsideration, and the ULJ affirmed. This certiorari appeal follows.
We review a ULJ's order to determine whether it is "(1) in violation of constitutional provisions; (2) in excess of the statutory authority or jurisdiction of the department; (3) made upon unlawful procedure; (4) affected by other error of law; (5)unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record as submitted; or ...