Smith v. DoC, MESC – 12.150

Smith v. DoC, MESC
Digest No. 12.150

Section 421.29(1)(b)

Cite as: Smith v Dep’t of Corrections, Kent Circuit Court, No. 95-1797-AE (April 1, 1996).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Wayne E. Smith
Employer: Michigan Department of Corrections
Docket no.: 95-1797-AE
Date of decision: April 1, 1996

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HOLDING: The claimant’s sleeping on the job and insubordination, by themselves, given the claimant’s position as a prison guard, are enough evidence to support a finding of misconduct disqualifying the claimant from benefits.

FACTS: The claimant worked for the employer as a prison guard. The claimant had a history of disciplinary counseling under the employer’s progressive disciplinary policy. The claimant was eventually discharged based on two instances of alleged misconduct, which included sleeping on the job and an incident of insubordination of a supervisor that involved the slamming of a door. The claimant was later reinstated.

DECISION: The circuit court affirmed the Board of Review’s decisions, which found the claimant to be disqualified for benefits due to misconduct under section 29(1)(b) of the MES Act and Carter v MESC, 364 Mich 538; 111 NW2d 817 (1961).

RATIONALE: Sleeping on the job does not always constitute misconduct in some employment environments. However, the circuit court stated that the claimant’s position as a prison guard charged with supervising a large number of prisoners put him in a position of “unusual responsibility.” See Bell v. Employment Security Comm 359 Mich 649 (1960) (a fireman in a boiler room was deemed to have a position of unusual responsibility and his sleeping on the job constituted disqualifying misconduct). Given the nature of the claimant’s responsibility, his sleeping on the job and insubordination by themselves constituted disqualifying misconduct. Further, the claimant did not fall under the conditional language of  section 29(1)(b) that provided an employee whose discharge was later reduced is not disqualified for benefits, as that conditional language only applied to discharges for intoxication and not general misconduct.

Digest Author: Adam Kleven, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest Updated: 1/6/2016