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Loud v. Transit Team, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

November 25, 2013

Michael Loud, Relator,
v.
Transit Team, Inc., Respondent, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Department of Employment and Economic Development File No. 30257015-3

Peter B. Knapp, James Ortmann, Certified Student Attorney, St. Paul, Minnesota (for relator)

Transit Team, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota (respondent employer)

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

Considered and decided by Hooten, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Stauber, Judge.

HOOTEN, Judge

Relator, who was discharged from employment as a road supervisor for using a Metro Mobility vehicle in a manner prohibited by his employer's contract with the Metropolitan Council, challenges the conclusion of an unemployment law judge (ULJ) that he was discharged for employment misconduct and therefore was ineligible for unemployment benefits. Because the record substantially sustains the ULJ's finding that relator's conduct amounted to a serious violation of the standards of behavior that his employer had the right to reasonably expect, we affirm.

FACTS

Relator Michael Loud began employment for respondent Transit Team, Inc. (Transit Team) in January 2001 and worked full-time as a road supervisor until his discharge on September 24, 2012. Pursuant to contract, Transit Team operates the Metro Mobility program for the west half of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area for the Metropolitan Council. Transit Team's contract with the Metropolitan Council constitutes 90% of its business. The Metropolitan Council owns Metro Mobility vehicles and leases these vehicles to Transit Team for an amount that "is nothing in comparison to the value of the vehicles." Thus, a provision of the Transit Team handbook entitled "Company Vehicles" provides that "Metro Mobility vehicles are . . . never [used] for any personal errands of any kind. We do not own the Metro Mobility vehicles; therefore, any unauthorized use of a Metro Mobility vehicle . . . can result in a $5, 000 fine to the Company and is grounds for immediate termination." A separate provision of the handbook entitled "Use of Company Property and Facilities" establishes that "[u]se of [company assets, including vehicles, ] for personal business is strongly discouraged." This provision also states that "[i]nappropriate use of company property or assets will be considered theft" and that "[v]iolation of this policy will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment."

Another provision of the handbook provides that drivers are permitted to travel "up to three miles from their last drop-off or three miles near their next pick-up to take their lunch break." This provision, entitled "Excessive Driving During Breaks, " provides:

Drivers that have gaps in their manifest for lunch or gaps caused by routing, number of rides or cancellations shall be limited to an additional three miles beyond what would normally occur between the last passenger drop-off prior to the gap in the manifest and the next passenger pick-up following the gap in the manifest.

Drivers may return to the Transit Team base to eat lunch, but only if the base is within three miles of their last drop-off location or within three miles of their next pick-up location.

On the morning of September 24, 2012, the Metropolitan Council's operations manager sent Michael Richter, Transit Team president, an e-mail alerting him to an anonymous e-mail received by the Metropolitan Council from a transit worker explaining that a road supervisor and driver manipulated a particular route on August 30, 2012, so the driver could stop at a restaurant in St. Paul and bring food back to the Transit Team ...

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