Sheppard v Meijer Great Lakes Limited – 10.119

Sheppard v Meijer Great Lakes Limited
Digest no. 10.119

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Sheppard v Meijer Great Lakes Limited, Unpublished Opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals, Issued Dec. 20, 2012 (Docket No. 300681).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Linda M. Sheppard
Employer: Meijer Great Lakes Limited
Docket no.: 10-000383-AE
Date of decision: December 20, 2012

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HOLDING: Claimant did not leave voluntarily for the purposes of Section 29(1)(a) when she attempted to take a leave of absence, failed to follow the correct procedures, and was subsequently discharged by the Employer.

FACTS: Claimant worked for Employer and attempted to take a two-month leave of absence. She notified her supervisor that she would be doing so, and her supervisor testified that he informed her that she would need written approval from the store director before she could take such a leave. There was a miscommunication regarding the approval, with both parties believing the other had obtained the necessary authorization. Claimant left without authorization and was subsequently terminated from her employment.

Claimant applied for and began receiving unemployment benefits. Employer protested her claim, arguing that Claimant had voluntarily resigned. The UIA issued a redetermination stating that Claimant was not qualified for benefits due to misconduct. On appeal, the ALJ affirmed the decision, stating that because Sheppard did not receive approval to take the leave of absence before she left work, she was not qualified because of misconduct. Claimant appealed to the Board of Review, which affirmed the ALJ on the grounds that she abandoned her employment, and was disqualified based on Section 29(1)(a), the voluntary leaving provision, not the misconduct provision. Sheppard appealed to the Circuit Court, which did not determine whether Sheppard abandoned her employment, but affirmed the Board of Review decision. Finally, Sheppard applied for leave to appeal, which was denied by the Court of Appeals but subsequently granted by the Michigan Supreme Court.

DECISION: The Circuit Court erred when it affirmed the Board of Review’s determination that Claimant voluntarily quit. The Circuit Court’s decision is vacated and Claimant is not disqualified from benefits.

RATIONALE: In determining whether a claimant is disqualified from benefits under 29(1)(a), the Court must first determine whether she voluntarily left her job, or was discharged. If it is found the claimant did not voluntarily quit, “the inquiry ends” and the claimant “is entitled to unemployment compensation.”

The Court of Appeals has previously held that “when an employee requests a leave of absence, and the employer actually terminates the employee’s employment, that employee has not voluntarily quit.” A voluntary quit must be an intentional act, but here, the act to end employment was conducted by the employer. Since there was no evidence that Claimant voluntarily quit or did not report for work on a day that Meijer expected her to work, the Circuit Court erred as a matter of law in upholding the Board of Review determination that Claimant voluntarily quit.

Digest author: Nick Phillips
Digest updated: 8/14