Fired Administrator Ineligible for Unemployment, Minn. Court Rules

October 28, 2010

A senior administrator who was fired when a new president took over at her Minnesota university was ineligible for unemployment benefits because her job was a "major policy-making or advisory position" in the unclassified portion of the state's work force, a state appeals court has ruled. The Court of Appeals of Minnesota overturned a lower court's ruling that Cathleen Brannen qualified for unemployment benefits when she was fired as vice president for administration and finance at Metropolitan State University in 2009, because the institution's new president wanted her own person in the job. In concluding that Brannen did not have a policy making or advisory authority, as required by state law to qualify for unemployment, the lower court erroneously examined whether she had such a role in the entire Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, of which Metro State is a part, the appeals court said. At Metro State itself, "[s]he reported directly to the president.... The new president of the university chose to terminate Brannen without cause solely for the purpose of hiring a person with whom the president might enjoy a better working relationship. That fact alone suggests that giving trustworthy advice to the president was a significant part of Brannen's former position."

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