MN court: Employees can’t ‘unintentionally quit’

Reversing an unemployment law judge’s determination, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled that if a person takes time off from work to address her family’s homelessness, she hasn’t quit her job.

Nita Posey, who worked for Securitas Security Services doing data entry for U.S. Bank, was denied unemployment benefits because Securitas said she quit her job and the law judge said there were no exceptions.

Posey, who is the mother of two children with chronic asthma and allergies, asked for and was given time off when one of the children was taken to the emergency room and then ordered quarantined for 24 hours.

On March 9, 2015, she was evicted from her home and when she called her boss at the bank, the boss didn’t answer. She sent a text message to her telling her she had a family emergency and would be out of work. The supervisor responded with a text message that said, “Okay.”

The bank told Securitas it needed her to be at work but a day later Posey texted that she was“overwhelmed” trying to address her family’s housing situation, care for her children, and comply with U.S. Bank’s attendance requirement at her job.

A week later she got a letter saying she was out of a job and a month later, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development denied Posey’s application for unemployment benefits on the grounds that she had been discharged for employment misconduct. The unemployment law judge upheld the determination on the grounds that she had quit.

Writing for a three-judge panel, however, Judge Jim Randall rejected DEED’s assertion that a 1997 amendment abrogated the long-standing “free-will choice” test which defines when an employee quits.

Posey argues that when she asked for time off to take care of her family’s health problems and homelessness, she wasn’t quitting.

Posey testified, “I don’t feel I was given a chance to go to another site or get on my feet and better my situation as far as they were concerned,” and indicated that she believed that Securitas “could have worked with [her] due to [her] unforeseen circumstances instead of letting [her] go.”

There is evidence in the record that Posey highly valued her job. For example, McGuire testified that Posey stressed “how important her job was” to her during their conversation on March 9. Posey consistently communicated with Securitas and U.S. Bank whenever she needed to take time off for medical reasons.

DEED argues that Posey’s admissions that she quit from the U.S. Bank site provide “the requisite support for the ULJ’s factual finding that Posey quit” and contends that “the terms of [Posey’s] contract of employment were for Posey to work as a security guard at the US Bank Location.” The ULJ’s decision affirming her original determination relied on similar reasoning.

We disagree. Posey did not “quit” employment at U.S. Bank in the statutory sense of the word. She was never “employed” by U.S. Bank. Posey was an employee of Securitas. She did not quit employment at Securitas under Minn. Stat.§ 268.095, subd. 2(a) by attempting to leave her job assignment at U.S. Bank.

“An employee cannot quit under Minn. Stat. § 268.095, subd. 2(a), unless the employee makes the decision to end the employment. An employee cannot ‘unintentionally’ quit employment,” Judge Randall wrote in today’s decision.

  • Sue

    Wow – how harsh of a system we have that a person can have a family emergency and end up losing their housing, and ultimately their job and there is no compassion from the employer (or society).
    Just sad really.

    • As I read the court decision today, I was also thinking of a poster I saw in a window in Hudson on Saturday about a guy who is putting up a fight against cancer.

  • Kathy

    The lead paragraph here seems to say the opposite of what you mean to say and what the headline says. It sounds like the unemployment law judge ruled that the woman quit her job, and the appeals court overruled that determination. Shouldn’t that sentence read “she has quit her job” rather than “she hasn’t”?

  • DavidG

    “…was denied unemployment benefits because Securitas said she quit her job and the law judge said there were no exceptions.”

    On that, the judge is simply wrong. Not that it necessarily applies to this case, but there is a “good cause” exception.

  • lindblomeagles

    Although this story really isn’t about the homeless, it really identified the challenges of being homeless while raising children. You have to take care of that (homeless kids) first because shelters are difficult (and sometimes unsafe) places to raise kids. The Court of Appeals made the right decision here, as did Bob for sharing this story with us, the bloggers.