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Sowe v. Park Nicollet Clinic

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

November 25, 2013

Danella Sowe, Relator,
v.
Park Nicollet Clinic, Respondent, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Department of Employment and Economic Development File No. 30093014-4.

Danella Sowe, Shakopee, Minnesota (pro se relator)

Brian Thomas Benkstein, Felhaber, Larson, Fenlon & Vogt, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent Park Nicollet Clinic)

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

Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Ross, Judge.

PETERSON, Judge

In this certiorari appeal from an unemployment-law judge's decision that relator is ineligible for unemployment benefits because she quit her employment without good reason caused by the employer, relator argues that (1) she did not voluntarily resign to attend classes as her resignation statement says and (2) she was forced to resign in retaliation for reporting that her supervisor and others had engaged in misconduct against her. We affirm.

FACTS

Relator Danella Sowe was employed as a phlebotomist by respondent Park Nicollet Clinic from December 2010 through August 8, 2012. Until June 2012, relator, who was attending school to obtain a nursing degree, worked five morning shifts a week, which fit with her class schedule. In April 2012, following a workforce assessment of all of the employer's clinics, Park Nicollet told its part-time employees that they would be required to work eight-hour shifts from 7:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., which coincided with the clinics' hours of operation and worked better for Park Nicollet when scheduling laboratory staff. Beginning in June 2012, relator was scheduled to work from 7:45 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Relator was scheduled for morning and afternoon classes in the fall of 2012, which conflicted with her work schedule.

After the schedule change was announced in April, relator talked to laboratory supervisor Ramona Gorter and laboratory manger Rebecca Sefton about changing to a casual position when classes started in August, and they said that they would look into it. On July 22, relator applied for three positions. On July 26, Gorter met with relator and gave her a written warning for misidentifying a patient on a lab specimen, which violated Park Nicollet's policy. The policy provided for a written warning for a first violation, and, as a result of the warning, relator became ineligible to transfer to another position within Park Nicollet for six months. During the July 26 meeting, Gorter asked relator whether she would be able to work her scheduled hours when school started on August 27, and relator said that she would not. Gorter told relator that if she could not work her scheduled hours, she would be placed on a performance-management plan and discharged. Gorter suggested that relator resign before the school year started so that she could maintain her eligibility for rehire.

Relator believed that the written warning was unfair and talked to Sefton about it and also brought up some concerns about Gorter's leadership. On August 8, Sefton and lab director Nicole Khoury met with relator to discuss her concerns. Sefton agreed to look into relator's complaint and then asked whether relator would be able to work her scheduled shifts when fall classes began. Relator said that she would not. Khoury suggested that it might be best for relator to resign to maintain her eligibility for rehire, and relator agreed that it might be best. Relator wrote a resignation letter stating that August 8 would be her last day of work, citing distress and unspecified situations that had occurred in the lab.

Relator applied for unemployment benefits, and respondent Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) issued a determination of ineligibility. Relator appealed, and a hearing was conducted before an unemployment-law judge (ULJ). The ULJ determined that relator was ineligible for unemployment benefits because she quit employment without a good ...


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