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Crouse v. State, Department of Labor

Supreme Court of Montana

October 17, 2017

JOYCE CROUSE, Petitioner and Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MONTANA, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, AND MADISON COUNTY, MONTANA, Respondents and Appellees.

          Submitted on Briefs: September 20, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, In and For the County of Madison, Cause No. DV-29-2016-21 Honorable Luke Berger, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellant: Brian K. Gallik, Gallik, Bremer & Molloy, P.C., Bozeman, Montana.

          For Appellee Madison County: Maureen H. Lennon, Mitchell A. Young, MACo Defense Services, Helena, Montana.

          OPINION

          MIKE McGRATH JUDGE.

         ¶1 This is an appeal from a decision by the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board (Board), and affirmed by the Fifth Judicial District Court, denying Joyce Crouse's (Crouse) claim for unemployment compensation benefits. We affirm.

         ¶2 We restate the issue on appeal as follows:

         Whether the District Court erred when it affirmed the Board's conclusion that Crouse was disqualified for unemployment benefits because her voluntary termination did not constitute "good cause" pursuant to § 39-51-2302, MCA.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 Crouse was hired as Madison County Sanitarian in December 2013.[1] Her job duties included inspecting establishments for compliance with sanitation requirements and issuing septic permits to contractors. During her employment Crouse experienced a number of issues, including problems with contractors and co-workers.

         ¶4 On numerous occasions, contractors complained about how Crouse performed her job. Crouse attributes the contractor complaints to her being less flexible in approving septic permits and being more strict than her predecessor. Crouse also found an email from her secretary to Crouse's mentor, calling Crouse "clueless" and claiming other co-workers "dislike[d] her very much and would love to see her gone." This caused Crouse to frequently close herself off in her office.

         ¶5 Crouse expressed her concerns about her working environment to the Madison County Commissioners (Commissioners). One Commissioner told her to "hang in there." Crouse's secretary was suspended and later let go by the Commissioners.

         ¶6 On August 6, 2014, the Commissioners sent Crouse her first written warning, which stated that she could expect disciplinary action if she failed to change her behavior regarding missed appointments, scheduling problems, and lack of communication. Many of the complaints received from contractors and customers concerned Crouse's timeliness in making it to appointments as well as the amount of time it took for Crouse to process applications. The Commissioners also expressed concern with Crouse double-booking appointments due to lack of communication with her secretary.

         ¶7 In April 2015, the Commissioners issued a second written warning to Crouse for being late to two more appointments. The Commissioners informed Crouse that she must call contractors when she was running late.

         ¶8 Crouse performed many inspections during the summer of 2015. Crouse denied three permits because the soil did not support the septic systems the contractors installed. A soil scientist agreed with Crouse's evaluations. One contractor went to Crouse's office and expressed his frustration with her denial of his permit. Other contractors contacted Commissioner James ...


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