Washington v. Michigan Training Unit, Department of Corrections – 12.151

Washington v. Michigan Training Unit, Department of Corrections

Digest No. 12.151
Section 29(1)(b)

Cite as: Washington v Michigan Training Unit, unpublished opinion of the Ingham County Circuit Court, issued March 27, 2007 (Docket No. 06-869-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Shawonna Washington
Employer: Michigan Training Unit, Department of Corrections
Date of decision: March 27, 2007

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HOLDING: None of the following constitute misconduct under Section 421.29(1)(b): (1) absence for illness supported by a doctor’s note, (2) pre-authorized absence to attend a funeral, and (3) absence for inability to drive a long distance due to lack of gas money.

FACTS: Claimant’s employer required her to subscribe to a “last chance agreement” to address her job performance. The employer later deemed she violated it for: (1) absence for illness supported by a doctor’s note, (2) pre-authorized absence to attend a funeral, and (3) absence for inability to drive a long distance due to lack of gas money. Claimant was then disqualified from benefits by the UIA based on a determination of work-related misconduct. The ALJ and Board of Review affirmed.

DECISION: The alleged violations did not rise to misconduct under Section 421.29(1)(b).

RATIONALE: The lower decisions erred by failing to properly apply the Michigan Supreme Court’s “carelessness or negligence principle,” Carter v Employment Security Comm., 364 Mich 538 (1961), to the claimant’s conduct. This principle requires behavior to be more culpable than ordinary negligence or inadvertence—which was all the claimant’s behavior was—to be misconduct. The court found nothing in the record to support a finding of willful disregard of the employer’s interest by Claimant. At most, Claimant was unable to understand what was expected of her, made a good-faith error, or was inadvertently remiss. None of these failings rises to misconduct. Furthermore, even had Claimant violated the agreement, this would not have necessarily constituted misconduct. And in any case, as a matter of law such a violation would not be connected with the work because it was a rule of selection and not one of conduct. Reed v Employment Security Comm, 364 Mich 395 (1961).

Digest author: Austin L. Webbert, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: November 26, 2017