Department of Employment and Economic Development File No. 29094553-6
Lennis Bentrud, Minneapolis, Minnesota (pro se relator)
Robin Drug Corp., New Brighton, Minnesota (respondent)
Lee B. Nelson, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent department)
Considered and decided by Larkin, Presiding Judge; Rodenberg, Judge; and Chutich, Judge.
In this certiorari appeal, relator challenges an unemployment-law judge's (ULJ) determination that she is ineligible for unemployment benefits because she did not quit her job for a good reason caused by her employer. Because the ULJ did not make findings of fact necessary to that determination and the ULJ's credibility determination is inadequate, we reverse and remand for the ULJ to make the necessary findings and to determine relator's eligibility in light of those findings.
Relator Lennis Bentrud's employment as a respiratory therapist at respondent Robin Drug Corp. ended when she quit on December 16, 2011. Bentrud established an unemployment-benefits account with respondent Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). DEED determined that Bentrud was ineligible for unemployment benefits because Bentrud's reason for quitting would not cause an average reasonable worker to quit.
Bentrud appealed DEED's ineligibility determination, arguing that she quit "because [she] felt threatened and harassed" after her "supervisor falsified [her] time card and physically came at [her] when [she] asked him about it." The ULJ held a hearing and determined that Bentrud was ineligible for unemployment benefits. Bentrud requested reconsideration, and the ULJ affirmed his initial decision. Bentrud appealed to this court. DEED moved this court to remand because it had discovered the ULJ lacked statutory authority to conduct the hearing and issue the orders because his license to practice law had been suspended. By order opinion, we granted DEED's motion, reversed, and remanded "for an additional evidentiary hearing, to be conducted by an unemployment law judge who is licensed to practice law." Bentrud v. Robin Drug Corp., No. A12-1092 (Minn.App. Nov. 1, 2012).
DEED assigned another ULJ to the case, and he held an evidentiary hearing. Bentrud testified at the hearing. Two representatives from Robin Drug's human resources department, Nancy Finke and Cindy Mollet, also testified. Additionally, the ULJ received exhibits, including a letter from Bentrud containing "a summary of the experiences that led to [her] separation" from Robin Drug. Bentrud alleged that on December 16, 2011, her supervisor, Paul Joy, charged at [her] with his hands reaching toward [her] throat as if he was going to strangle [her]. [Joy] opened his palms when he neared [her] face as if he was going to slap [her] then abruptly stopped and placed both palms directly in front of [her] face taunting that he could do whatever he wanted to [her].
In her letter, Bentrud further alleged that (1) on December 16, Joy "falsified [her] time card and bragged about it"; (2) Joy erroneously accused one of Bentrud's coworkers of reporting him to the board of medical practice after Bentrud had reported him for "working as [an] unlicensed therapist"; (3) Joy favored male employees and was "disrespectful" and "mean" in his "attitude and actions toward [her]"; (4) "there was blatant and persistent sexual innuendo and inappropriate behavior in the office and at staff meetings, " including dirty jokes; and (5) she "was required to work with full knowledge that other employees were working without credentials" after unlicensed therapists were instructed to continue working despite a requirement from a client hospital that all therapists be licensed.
After the hearing, the ULJ issued written findings of fact and a decision. The ULJ found that Bentrud "became frustrated with her supervisor, Paul Joy, " and "would voice concerns to her coworkers indicating that she felt Joy did not treat her appropriately." The ULJ also found that "Bentrud would also voice frustrations to a supervisor, Brenda Parsons, about a joke that was pulled up on her computer, that Joy would ignore her, and about concerns with time off." But the ULJ found that "Bentrud did not indicate to Parsons that she wanted help resolving her issues with Joy or . . . that she wanted Parsons to take action to resolve the issues" and that "Bentrud did not voice concerns to human resources or Joy's supervisors and request that the issues be resolved."
Regarding the incidents on December 16, the ULJ found that "Bentrud realized that she had been paid for vacation that she intended to take as unpaid vacation." Bentrud "confronted Joy about the issue" and "Joy indicated he changed [her] timesheet and that he could do what he wanted." The ULJ found that "Joy called human resources with Bentrud in the room and there was a discussion that Bentrud must use her paid vacation before taking unpaid leave." The ULJ found that Bentrud "expressed concerns about Joy regarding her paycheck issue" to Andrea Samuelson, a human resources representative, but that "Bentrud did not express concerns about the other issues she was experiencing with [Joy] outside of the December 16, 2011 incident." And regarding the December 16 incident, the ULJ found: "the evidence shows that Bentrud did not express concerns about anything other than her paycheck issues to Samuelson." The ULJ further found that "[a]fter expressing concerns, Bentrud indicated she was going to quit because of the paycheck issue, " tendered a written resignation ...