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JB Construction, Inc. v. Job Service North Dakota

Supreme Court of North Dakota

February 16, 2017

JB Construction, Inc., Petitioner and Appellant
v.
Job Service North Dakota, Respondent and Appellee

         Appeal from the District Court of Emmons County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Sonna M. Anderson, Judge. AFFIRMED.

          Michael J. Geiermann, for petitioner and appellant.

          Michael T. Pitcher, Office of the Attorney General, for respondent and appellee.

          OPINION

          VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

         [¶ 1] JB Construction, Inc. appealed the district court's judgment affirming Job Service's "Notice of Determination" stating Jesse Jahner's and Vance Jahner's services constituted employment under N.D.C.C. § 52-01-01(17). On appeal, JB Construction, Inc. argues the plain language of § 52-01-01(17)(a)(1) shows new corporate officers do not need to file for an exemption if an exemption was granted to prior officers and the current officers meet all of the requirements under the statute. Because N.D.C.C. § 52-01-01(17)(a)(1) unambiguously requires corporate officers to file their own application for an exemption, we affirm.

         I.

         [¶ 2] JB Construction, Inc. ("JB") is an incorporated power-line construction company. In 2000, its corporate officers, Wesley Jahner, Harvey Jahner, and Wayne Jahner, the president, vice-president, and secretary/treasurer, respectively, applied to exempt their wages from job insurance coverage under N.D.C.C. § 52-01-01(17)(a)(1). Job Service approved JB's application. In 2009, Wesley Jahner sold his one-third share of the company to his son, Vance Jahner, who became the secretary/treasurer, and Wayne Jahner sold his one-third share to his son, Jesse Jahner, who became the vice-president; Harvey Jahner retained his one-third share and became president of JB. When the corporate officers of JB changed, JB did not file a new application to exempt Jesse Jahner's and Vance Jahner's wages from job insurance coverage.

         [¶ 3] During an audit in 2015, Job Service North Dakota discovered JB was excluding the wages for job insurance coverage for its current corporate officers, yet no application was on file for exempting Vance Jahner's and Jesse Jahner's wages. Job Services determined the services provided by Vance Jahner and Jesse Jahner were employment under N.D.C.C. § 52-01-01(17) and they had not filed the necessary application to exempt their wages. An appeals referee affirmed Job Service's decision. JB appealed to the district court, which again affirmed Job Service's determination.

         [¶ 4] On appeal, JB argues N.D.C.C. § 52-01-01(17)(a)(1) does not require Jesse Jahner and Vance Jahner to file a new application for an exemption. Rather, the exemption filed in 2000 applies to the corporate officers of JB in general, not as individuals; thus, Jesse Jahner and Vance Jahner are covered by the 2000 exemption.

         II.

         [¶ 5] The issue raised by JB is one of purely statutory interpretation and is fully reviewable by this Court on appeal. Teigen v. State, 2008 ND 88, ¶ 19, 749 N.W.2d 505. However, this Court "will give deference to an administrative agency's construction of a statute in administering the law when that interpretation does not contradict clear and unambiguous statutory language." Indus. Contractors, Inc. v. Workforce Safety & Ins., 2009 ND 157, ¶ 6, 772 N.W.2d 582. This Court's review of statutes is well established:

Words in a statute are given their plain, ordinary, and commonly understood meaning unless defined by statute or unless a contrary intention plainly appears. N.D.C.C. § 1-02-02. Statutes are construed as a whole and are harmonized to give meaning to related provisions. N.D.C.C. § 1-02-07. If the language of a statute is clear and unambiguous, the letter of the statute must not be disregarded under the pretext of pursuing its spirit. N.D.C.C. § 1-02-05. If the language of a statute is ambiguous, however, a court may resort to extrinsic aids to determine the intention of the legislation, including the object sought to be attained, the circumstances under which the legislation was enacted, and the legislative history. N.D.C.C. § 1-02-39. A statute is ambiguous if it is susceptible to different, rational meanings. State v. Meador, 2010 ND 139, ¶ 11, 785 N.W.2d 886. Rasnic v. ConocoPhillips Co., 2014 ND 181,

         ¶ 14, 854 N.W.2d 659. Additionally, we construe statutes to give effect to all of the provisions, so that no part of the statute is rendered inoperative or ...


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