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Fay v. 5 Star Field Services LLC

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 17, 2013

Michael L. Fay, Relator,
v.
5 Star Field Services LLC, Respondent, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Respondent

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Department of Employment and Economic Development File No. 29678530-3

Sarah A. Horstmann, Maslon, Edelman, Borman & Brand, LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Max Heerman, Medtronic, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for relator)

5 Star Field Services, LLC, St. Paul, Minnesota (respondent)

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

Considered and decided by Rodenberg, Presiding Judge; Larkin, Judge; and Harten, Judge.[*]

RODENBERG, Judge.

Relator challenges the decision of the unemployment law judge (ULJ) that he is ineligible for unemployment benefits because he quit without a good reason caused by the employer. We affirm.

FACTS

On November 4, 2011, relator Michael L. Fay began working part-time as a laborer for 5 Star Field Services (5 Star). On April 16, 2012, relator applied for unemployment compensation benefits after having been told that he was eligible to receive benefits if he was working less than 32 hours per week. On April 21, 5 Star's owner, Terry Hammerstrom, asked relator to sign an independent contractor agreement backdated to the date relator began employment. Relator became "hostile and refused to sign it." Hammerstrom claims that all 5 Star workers were typically asked to sign such an agreement when they began work, but that relator's contract had "slipped through the cracks."

On April 23, Hammerstrom again asked relator to sign the agreement, but relator "became extremely emotional and walked off the job site and sat in the truck a good portion of the day." Later that day, relator "[c]almed down [and] came back to work for a couple of hours." Hammerstrom offered relator a raise of one dollar per hour, but relator again refused to sign the agreement. Hammerstrom then told relator, "you need to think about it, grab your tools you're not working today, turn in your hours." Relator did not return to work the next day.

On April 25, Hammerstrom went to check up on his houseboat and found relator sleeping inside. Although relator had previously done work on the boat, he did not have permission to sleep on it. Hammerstrom had a "straight forward" conversation with relator, during which "it seemed like [relator] wanted to work, he [knew] he was good at what he did, and he knew he had a position." Hammerstrom told relator that he could continue working without signing the independent contractor agreement. Relator indicated that he felt "underpaid and not very much appreciated" and that he could find a better-paying job elsewhere. Hammerstrom testified that he thought that he had convinced relator to "turn around and give [him] some—hours and he would come [aboard]." Hammerstrom ended the conversation by telling relator, "I wish you the best."

On May 30, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) determined that relator had been a 5 Star employee and that he was eligible to receive unemployment benefits. 5 Star appealed the decision, and a de novo hearing was held before a ULJ in July 2012. Hammerstrom and relator participated in the hearing.

At the hearing, relator repeatedly denied having been on the houseboat and having talked with Hammerstrom on April 25, 2012. Hammerstrom indicated that he had photographic evidence showing that relator had been sleeping on the boat that day. At the conclusion of the hearing, relator asked to change his previous testimony and admitted that he had slept on the boat on April 25, but he continued to deny Hammerstrom's version of the conversation. Instead, relator insisted that Hammerstrom had told him that he was ...


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