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Two former Nowthen city employees who quit their jobs claiming they were bullied, harassed and intimidated by the mayor and a City Council member will not be able to collect unemployment benefits.

An unemployment law judge rejected claims from former City Clerk and Treasurer Lori Streich and former Deputy Clerk Ellen Lendt, stating neither left their jobs last fall because of a good reason caused by their employer.

The rulings from Minnesota Unemployment Insurance came after a judge previously denied Lendt's claim for $12,000 and she appealed. Streich was originally approved for $20,000 in unemployment benefits, but the city appealed. Judges recently resolved both cases in favor of the city in northwestern Anoka County.

"There were heavy accusations, and that was taken seriously," said interim City Manager Frank Boyles.

Both women voluntarily resigned their positions last fall alleging Mayor Jeff Pilon and City Council member Mary Rainville created a hostile and toxic work environment.

Streich served as deputy clerk from July 2016 to November 2017, and returned as city clerk and treasurer from April 2019 to Oct. 31 last year. She was paid $83,200 a year.

Streich received a positive performance evaluation from the City Council in August 2020. But there was conflict between her and Pilon and Rainville, the judge's opinion based on 20 hours of testimony and 500 pages of exhibits said.

In her resignation letter, Streich said Pilon asked her to use "weasel words" when speaking to residents. At other times, Streich said she felt "degraded" when Rainville made comments about staff at City Council meeting about tasks that "should have been done," the judge wrote.

Streich found it stressful to work for Pilon and Rainville and considers their treatment amounted to "harassment, bullying, belittlement" and that she felt "out of the loop," "undermined" and did not have a voice, the ruling states.

Streich also said she felt "anxious" about work, lost weight and had trouble sleeping, but she never filed a grievance or went to the city attorney, and did not seek medical help, the judge's ruling said.

While there was tension and distrust between the three of them, and that Streich's employment was stressful and less pleasant as a result, "they were not so inappropriate to compel an average person to quit and become unemployed," the judge wrote in his March 10 ruling.

Lendt quit because she believed her work environment was "toxic" and that things would get worse after Streich left. Lendt claimed Pilon and Rainville attacked her character, but "their criticism was not for the sake of being mean or harassing," the judge wrote.

Lendt also said she quit because of medical concerns. But the judge found undisputed evidence that Lendt never reported her conditions to the city nor did she ask for accommodations for her medical concerns, the decision said.

State statues say an employee who quits does not qualify for unemployment benefits unless there is a good reason directly related to employment and the employer is responsible, and that it would compel an average reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed. The employer also must be given time to correct the adverse working conditions.

In cases of medical issues, exceptions to state statues apply only if an employee informs the employer, requests the employer to provide an accommodation and no accommodation is reasonably made.

Lendt has until Wednesday to ask a judge to reconsider her case. Streich has until March 30.