Snyder v RAM Broadcasting – 16.34

Snyder v RAM Broadcasting
Digest No. 16.34

Section 29

Cite as: Snyder v RAM Broadcasting, unpublished opinion of the Washtenaw County Circuit Court, issued April 26, 1983 (Docket No. 8223718AE).

Court: Washtenaw Circuit Court
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Ann Snyder
Employer: RAM Broadcasting
Date of decision: April 26, 1983

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HOLDING: The court held that a hearing notice was deficient under the Administrative Procedures Act and the due process clause of the Michigan and United States Constitutions where (1)  it was not a plain statement  of the matters asserted and (2) even if understandable, was not listed in the notice of hearing as an issue which would be presented before the referee.

FACTS:  Claimant filed a timely appeal after the Agency disqualified her from benefits under the Voluntary Quit provision of Section 29(1)(a).  During her hearing, testimony was taken regarding her availability to work and efforts to obtain a job during the period in which she claimed benefits. As a result, she was found disqualified for benefits under Section 29(1)(a) and the seeking work provision of Section 28.  On appeal, the claimant sought reversal of the of the judge’s finding on the “seeking work” issue.  She alleged that she did actively seek employment and was denied a fair hearing on this issue in violation of the Michigan Employment Security Act and the due process clause of the state and federal constitutions.

DECISION: The court held that the hearing notice was deficient under the Administrative Procedures Act and the due process clauses of the Michigan and United States Constitutions. In addition, the referee’s failure to inform the claimant of all issues he planned to decide during the hearing, along with the consequences of failing to meet her burden of proof violated the fairness requirement of Section 33 of the Michigan Employment Security Act.

RATIONALE: The court found that the hearing notice violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) provision requiring “a short and plain statement of the matters asserted.”  Here, the court found that “words and phrases divided by slashes and followed by a string citation . . . do not provide a reasonably understandable notification that an issue will be considered, especially when the notification is intended for a lay person.”  

In discussing the due process requirements under the state and federal constitutions, the court cited Hanson v State Board of Registration, 253 Mich 601, 607 (1931), holding that unless the right is waived, a party before a state agency is “at least entitled to a reasonably definite statement of the charge or charges preferred against the accused.”  Here, the court found that the notice of hearing was not reasonably calculated to inform the claimant of the pendency of the seeking work issue: “Whatever the purpose of this convoluted array of words and slashes, it was not to intelligibly notify the plaintiff that her entire benefits package prior to the hearing date was in jeopardy if she did not affirmatively prove her efforts in search of employment.” Thus, the hearing notice was deficient under the APA and the Michigan and United States constitutions.

The court further held that Ms. Snyder was denied a fair hearing where she was not apprised of all the issues the referee intended to decide, along with the consequences of the plaintiff’s failure to carry her burden of proof.  As a result, Ms. Snyder’s hearing violated the fairness requirement of Section 33 of the Act.

Digest author: Laura Page, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: December 1, 2017