Thomas E. Charley, Relator,
Northern States Power Company Minnesota, Respondent, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Respondent.
Department of Employment and Economic Development File No. 29910721-4
Thomas E. Charley, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota (pro se relator)
Northern States Power Company Minnesota, RSM Enterprises, Inc., Denver, Colorado (respondent)
Lee B. Nelson, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent department)
Considered and decided by Rodenberg, Presiding Judge; Stone burner, Judge; and Connolly, Judge.
In a certiorari appeal from an unemployment-law judge's (ULJ) decision that relator is ineligible for unemployment benefits because he quit employment without good reason caused by the employer, relator argues that (1) he did not quit but was forced to retire under duress; and (2) the hearing was unfair because the ULJ admitted hearsay testimony and, during a period in which his phone had stopped working, testimony continued to be taken from the employer's witness. Because relator quit his employment, not under duress, and received a fair hearing, we affirm.
Relator Thomas Charley worked for respondent-employer Northern States Power Company Minnesota (NSP) for 36 years. He serviced gas lines and was a member of the electrical workers union. Unlike other employees in the construction area who used company cars for work, relator used his own car due to back problems and received mileage reimbursement from the company.
In August 2011, Gary Witzany took over management of the construction area at NSP. He discovered that in 2011, relator had claimed mileage reimbursement on ten occasions when he had taken vacation days and one day when he had called in sick. On March 13, 2012, Witzany held a meeting with relator, a human resources (HR) representative, and the union steward to discuss his findings. Relator's response to the information was that he had been trained to never record more than 80 miles in a day, so he recorded mileage on days he didn't work to get full reimbursement for days when he drove more than 80 miles.
After the meeting, Witzany investigated further, and found that relator had recorded more than 80 miles in a day 42 times in 2010 and 12 times since Witzany began managing the construction group in August 2011. Witzany reported this information to the HR department for their investigation. After conducting their own inquiry, relator's union representatives informed him that "basically what it come[s] down to is [NSP] is going to fire you." The union representative suggested that relator preemptively retire: "before they fire you . . . I would just retire because you're going to lose $160, 000 in your severance package." Relator then filled out the paperwork to retire.
On March 22, 2012, Witzany called relator to schedule a meeting with him and HR. Relator told Witzany that he had retired and a union representative confirmed relator's retirement later that same day. Relator was allowed to use his accumulated unused vacation from March 22 through June 8. Relator subsequently applied for unemployment benefits.
An employee from respondent, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), initially determined that relator was discharged from his employment and was eligible for unemployment benefits. NSP appealed the determination, and a ULJ conducted a de novo evidentiary hearing. The ULJ found that relator quit his employment and did not meet any statutory exceptions for doing so, and was therefore ineligible for benefits. Relator requested reconsideration and the ULJ affirmed his decision. Before the ULJ's order became final, the Chief ULJ ordered the decision set aside and ordered the matter reconsidered by a different ULJ. The second ULJ issued a decision on reconsideration ...