Tonks v Bank One Columbus – 10.110

Tonks v Bank One Columbus
Digest no. 10.110

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Tonks v Bank One Columbus, Unpublished Opinion of the Oakland County Circuit Court, Issued February 28, 2006 (Docket No. 05-067816-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Lillian M. Tonks
Employer: Bank One Columbus, N.A.
Docket no.: 05-067816-AE
Date of decision: February 28, 2006

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HOLDING: The standard for determining whether a Claimant’s is disqualified from benefits after her voluntary quit is not based on whether the Employer provided “reasonable accommodation” to meet the needs of Claimant’s disability, but whether the Claimant’s “good cause” for leaving her job was “attributable to the employer.”

FACTS: Claimant was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes in 1991, and worked for employer from 1996 until 2004. Claimant’s diabetes became more severe, and eventually she was required to closely monitor her blood sugar levels and eat snacks accordingly. Claimant requested accommodation to take breaks of unlimited duration, but Employer refused, pointing out that employees could have snacks at their workstations. After Claimant received gastric bypass surgery following failed lap band surgery, she had to eat very slowly to avoid vomiting. Employer attempted to accommodate her condition by breaking her two 15-minute breaks into hourly breaks of five minutes each, but Claimant had an issue finishing her food within five minutes because of the gastric bypass. Because of this, Claimant exceeded her break time twice, but was not disciplined or reprimanded in any way.

On October 18, 2004, Claimant did not report to work, but contacted Employer to seek additional accommodations. She was supported by a number of doctors that provided that she needed a great deal of time to eat, and eating was necessary because of her condition. However, she missed two weeks while disputing accommodations with Employer and was docked vacation and sick days because of it. Claimant claimed that she had been denied accommodation for her medical issue, and her 15-minute break had been taken away as a result of her adjusted schedule.

Employer wrote Claimant on November 3 stating that the breaks provided were reasonable accommodations, and if Claimant did not return to work by November 8, Employer would consider her to have abandoned her position. Claimant did nothing, and was deemed to have voluntarily resigned on November 9. Upon applying for benefits, UIA determined that Claimant was ineligible due to misconduct, but the ALJ reversed, finding that the “employer refused to make any meaningful accommodation,” and therefore Claimant “was intentionally pushed into a corner where she had no alternative but to give up her employment.” Employer appealed the ALJ decision, and the Board of Review reversed, finding that she left voluntarily and without good cause attributable to her employer. Claimant appealed, arguing that she did not voluntarily leave work, as the employer failed to accommodate her medical condition and she was left with no choice but to leave.

DECISION: The Circuit Court upheld the Board of Review decision that Claimant is disqualified from benefits.

RATIONALE: Claimant left voluntarily and without good cause attributable to her employer. Importantly, on the two occasions that Claimant did exceed her allotted time to eat for a hypoglycemic episode, there were no warnings or repercussions, and Employer did not threaten to discharge her or take other adverse employment action. Instead, Claimant chose not to return to work following the second episode. The facts on the record support a finding that Claimant’s voluntary quit was not due to good cause attributable to the employer.

Claimant’s argument that Employer failed to provide reasonable accommodation in light of her disability is not supported by authority. The “reasonable accommodation” standard of disability law is inappropriate in the context of an unemployment case and does not provide the proper analysis to determine if a claimant is entitled to benefits.

Digest Author: Nick Phillips
Digest Updated: 8/14