Tomei v General Motors Corp – 10.78

Tomei v General Motors Corp
Digest no. 10.78

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Tomei v General Motors Corp, 194 Mich App 180 (1992).

Appeal pending: No
Date of decision: May 4, 1992

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COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: In plant closing cases, the burden of proof for demonstrating the voluntariness of a claimant’s decision to leave or retire falls first on the employer. The employer must show that the choices it offered were reasonable, viable and clearly communicated.

FACTS: In 1985, GMC announced closure of it’s BOC Flint body assembly plant. Claimant had 17 years seniority and was 64 years old. He understood he could transfer to a Buick plant in Flint, wait and transfer at a later time, or stay where he was. Claimant believed he lacked seniority and was too old to retain a job if he transferred, so he stayed put. Two years later (December 1987) when the plant closed, he was involuntarily retired. It turned out that claimant could have held a job if he’d gone to Buick. Also he could have elected to take a layoff for up to two years when his plant closed, during which time he could have collected sub-pay benefits. He could then have retired at the end of two years instead of retiring when the Flint plant closed.

DECISION: Claimant is not disqualified for voluntary leaving.

RATIONALE: Claimant was forced to rely on information provided by employer in making his employment decision. The information necessary for claimant to make an informed choice lay within the knowledge and control of the employer. Therefore, it is up to the employer to show that the options offered are not unreasonable, untenable or illusory. In this case, claimant’s decision to retire when his plant closed rather than accept a two year layoff with uncertain prospects for recall and an uncertain impact on future retirement rights, was not a voluntary severance of employment. Claimant “was forced to choose between untenable options in the face of an indeterminate future. While employment decisions are difficult under the best of circumstances, the mystery and confusion surrounding the decisions plaintiff had to make rendered it nearly impossible to make an informed, sensible choice.”

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated:
7/99