of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
E. Gaertner, Richard C. Landon, Amanda M. Sicoli, Gray,
Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennett, P.A., Minneapolis,
Minnesota, for appellant.
Nelson, Anne B. Froelich, Minnesota Department of Employment
and Economic Development, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for
H-2A and J-1 visa workers perform agricultural services that
constitute "covered agricultural employment" under
Minn. Stat. § 268.035, subd. 11(a) (2018), the wages a
farm paid to H-2A and J-1 visa workers performing those
services are subject to unemployment-insurance taxation.
GILDEA, Chief Justice.
question presented in this case is whether appellant Svihel
Vegetable Farm, Inc. must pay unemployment-insurance taxes on
the wages it paid to workers who hold H-2A and J-1 visas. The
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
determined that the wages Svihel Farm pays to these workers
are subject to unemployment-insurance taxation. An
unemployment-law judge agreed with the Department's
determination, and the court of appeals affirmed. We granted
Svihel Farm's petition for review. Because the court of
appeals correctly concluded that Svihel Farm owes the taxes,
Farm grows and sells fruits and vegetables. In 2010, the farm
began hiring H-2A and J-1 nonimmigrant visa holders
(collectively, visa workers). H-2A and J-1 visas are temporary
nonimmigrant visas issued to foreign nationals who have
sponsors in the United States that allow the foreign
nationals to engage in certain types of work, and in the case
of J-1 visa workers, certain other activities. Richard D. Steel,
Steel on Immigration Law §§ 3:15, 3:18
(2018-2019 ed. 2018). The visa workers Svihel Farm sponsors
help with planting and harvesting crops as well as selling
products at farmers' markets.
2016, the Department of Employment and Economic Development
(DEED) conducted an audit of Svihel Farm's records and
determined that the farm owed $154, 726 in unpaid
unemployment-insurance taxes, mostly on the wages of the H-2A
and J-1 visa workers that the Farm employed from 2012 to
2015. Svihel Farm appealed DEED's
determination, contending that the visa workers' wages
are not subject to unemployment-insurance taxation under
Minnesota law. An unemployment-law judge conducted a hearing
in March and April 2017 and ruled in favor of DEED.
Farm appealed to the court of appeals, and that court
affirmed the decision of the unemployment-law judge.
Svihel Vegetable Farm, Inc. v. Dep't of Emp't
& Econ. Dev., 915 N.W.2d 501, 502 (Minn.App. 2018).
Specifically, the court of appeals concluded that, because
the visa workers performed "agricultural labor"
under the relevant federal laws, their work fell within the
Minnesota unemployment-insurance tax statute's definition
of "agricultural employment." Id. at 503.
Accordingly, the court of appeals held that Svihel Farm must
pay unemployment-insurance taxes on the wages Svihel Farm
paid to its visa workers. Id. at 505. We granted
Svihel Farm's petition for review.
appeal, Svihel Farm argues that the court of appeals
erroneously interpreted state and federal statutes that
govern the payment of unemployment-insurance taxes. Statutory
interpretation presents a question of law that we review de
novo. Engfer v. Gen. Dynamics Advanced Info. Sys.,
Inc., 869 N.W.2d 295, 300 (Minn. 2015). The goal of
statutory interpretation "is to ascertain and effectuate
the intention of the legislature." Minn. Stat. §
turning to the specifics of the parties' arguments, we
begin with a discussion of the provisions in state and
federal law that are at issue in this case. Federal law is
relevant because Minnesota statutes governing