Unemployment law judges (ULJ) who work for the Department of Employment & Economic Development (DEED) and adjudicate unemployment compensation claims are required to assist unrepresented parties in presenting their cases. Their failure to do so can lead to reconsideration and reversal of their initial rulings. That feature of the unemployment compensation laws was the focal point of a recent ruling of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which upheld reconsideration and reversal of a ULJ’s initial determination, based upon the ULJ’s determination that he failed to properly assist an unrepresented party. Vasseei v. Schmitty & Sons School Buses, Inc., 793 N.W.2d 747 (Minn. App. 2010). The ULJ ruled in favor of the applicant, a school bus driver, but then reconsidered his decision and reversed it after being furnished with a copy of an accident report that showed the driver was at fault. The ULJ felt that he had not complied with Minn. Rule 3310.2921, which requires assistance for unrepresented parties at administrative proceedings. Oddly, the rule, which usually is invoked by individuals, was applied in favor of the employer, which had not submitted the critical report during the hearing, even though it was available. The appellate court affirmed, holding that a new hearing was appropriate under Minn. Stat. §266.185, subd. 2(c), which allows reconsideration when there is “good cause.” Participants in the unemployment compensation process should be aware of these provisions and, upon appeal, counsel for unrepresented parties may invoke this principle in seeking relief from an initial adverse determination.
Marshall H. Tanick
Mansfield, Tanick & Cohen, PA