Is a reduction of hours a good reason to quit?

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled today that employees whose hours are reduced by employers do not have to complain about the reductions in order to qualify for unemployment benefits when they quit.

The Court reversed a decision by an unemployment law judge that Shouna Thao could not collect unemployment because she failed to give her employer an opportunity to return her to full-time status.

In Minnesota, people who quit are generally not eligible for unemployment benefits, but an exception is made for “adverse working conditions” if the employee calls the conditions to the attention of the employer.

But the Court of Appeals said the “terms” of someone’s employment and the “conditions” of employment are not the same thing.

As usual in these sorts of cases, the decision came down to trying to understand what the Legislature intended. In 2004, the Legislature removed “a substantial adverse change in the wages, hours, or other terms of employment by the employer” in the definition of good reasons to quit and replaced it with “a reason for quitting employment shall not be considered a good reason caused by the employer for quitting if the reason for quitting occurred because of the applicant’s employment misconduct.”

But the court said the Legislature never intended to remove a loss of hours from the reasons to quit that would qualify for unemployment benefits.

It sent the case back to the unemployment law judge for a decision, and invited the Legislature to revisit the issue.

Here’s the decision.