Mowatt v. Village of Birch Run – 12.146

Mowatt v. Village of Birch Run
Digest no. 12.146

Section 421.29(1)(b)

Cite as: Mowatt v Village of Birch Run, Saginaw County Circuit Court, No. 08-000001-AE-2 (August 20, 2008).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Robert Mowatt, Jr.
Employer: Village of Birch Run
Docket no.: 190282H
Date of decision: August 20, 2008

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HOLDING: Claimant’s failure to sign an Improvement Plan aimed at advancing his job performance was conduct related to his work and constituted a deliberate and willful act against his employer’s interests. Thus, claimant’s failure to sign the plan amounted to disqualifying misconduct to bar claimant from unemployment benefits.

FACTS: On January 23, 2006, Robert Mowatt was fired from his position as Chief of Police by the Village of Birch Run. Mowatt failed to sign and acknowledge a performance improvement plan crafted by his employer to improve his job performance. Mowatt was first asked to sign the plan at a December 5, 2005 Village Council meeting. The Board of Review determined that failure to sign the improvement plan rose to the level of disqualifying misconduct.

DECISION: The circuit court affirmed the Board of Review’s decision, which found that claimant’s failure to sign the plan rose to the level of disqualifying misconduct under section 29(1)(b) of the MES Act.

RATIONALE: Claimant argued that the review of the Board’s record did not show that he refused to sign the plan, but rather that he simply needed clarification and could not sign the document as written. However, evidence showed that claimant had multiple opportunities to discuss the plan and address his concerns with the Village. Moreover, the Village decided that the improvement plan was in their best interest to advance claimant’s job performance. That claimant disagreed with the necessity of the plan is irrelevant to whether he acted deliberately against the interests of his employer. Thus, the court agreed that claimant’s outright refusal to sign the plan showed a willful disregard of his employer’s interests. Because the plan was directly aimed to improve claimant’s performance, his failure to sign the plan was related to his work. Further, a single incident of misconduct may satisfy the statutory meaning of misconduct under section 29(1)(b) of the MES Act. Tuck v. Ashcrafi’s Market Inc., Mich.App. 579, 589 (1986). Therefore, the court found that claimant’s insubordination amounted to disqualifying misconduct and the Board’s decision to deny him benefits was not contrary to law.

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