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Kuschel v. Consumer Directions, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

August 19, 2013

Brenda Kuschel, Relator,
v.
Consumer Directions, Inc., Respondent, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Department of Employment and Economic Development File Nos. 303231939-3, 30207787-4.

Brenda Kuschel, Holdingford, Minnesota (pro se relator).

Consumer Directions, Inc., St. Cloud, Minnesota (respondent).

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

Considered and decided by Stauber, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Schellhas, Judge.

HUDSON, Judge.

Relator challenges the determination of an unemployment-law judge (ULJ) that she was overpaid unemployment-compensation benefits through fraud, based on her failure to report income from work performed caring for her son while she was receiving benefits. Because substantial evidence supports the ULJ's determination, we affirm.

FACTS

Relator Brenda Kuschel opened an unemployment-compensation benefits account with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) in October 2011 after she separated from employment at Albany Junior High. She collected unemployment benefits of $139 per week for the weeks of December 18, 2011, through April 18, 2012.[1] While she received benefits, Kuschel was also working as a personal-care attendant for her son and was paid $12.61 per hour for that work. She worked 20 hours per week performing those services from August 21, 2006 through April 14, 2012; she also worked two hours per week from April 15, 2012, through April 28, 2012. She received a check in her name for that work every two weeks by mail. A fiscal agent, Consumer Directions, Inc., processed the payment from her submitted timesheets and issued W-2 forms. But when Kuschel requested payment of unemployment benefits for those weeks, she reported that she had not worked during those weeks.

In October 2012, DEED issued a determination of ineligibility and a fraud determination, ordering Kuschel to repay the benefits paid when she was working for her son and failed to report her wages, as well as a 40% penalty for fraud. Kuschel appealed that determination. At a hearing before a ULJ, a representative from Consumer Directions testified that Kuschel signed a rule-and-responsibility statement that emphasized that she would be receiving income as from any other job. Kuschel testified that, although she received the checks for that work, she did not believe it was considered income to her because she used it for her son's needs, including his housing and clothing. She stated that, in contrast, she always reported to DEED her pension income from a previous job at Albany Junior High. She acknowledged that she was paid based on hours worked for her son and that, when asked to report her earnings requesting benefits payments, she "made a mistake" by not reporting these hours as employment. She testified that she did not lie about reporting her earnings and that DEED should have known that she had this income because it was reported on W-2 forms. She testified that when DEED suspended her benefits for an inadequate job search earlier in the year, DEED should have then noticed any gap in her income reporting.

The ULJ issued a determination that the preponderance of the evidence supported that Kuschel was overpaid benefits due to fraud. The ULJ found that Kuschel's testimony was not credible, finding that she was responsible for reporting whether she worked and had earnings and that she had no good-faith basis for failing to report that she was working. Kuschel requested reconsideration, and the ULJ affirmed. This certiorari appeal follows.

DECISION

This court will affirm a ULJ's decision unless it derives from unlawful procedure, relies on an error of law, or is unsupported by substantial evidence. Minn. Stat. § 268.105, subd. 7(d) (2012). This court reviews the "ULJ's factual findings in the light most favorable to the decision, " Stagg v. Vintage Place Inc., 796 N.W.2d 312, 315 (Minn. 2011) (quotation omitted), and defers to the ULJ's ...


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