White v. Meritain Health, Inc. – 10.123

White v. Meritain Health, Inc.
Digest No. 10.123

Section 421.29

Cite as: White v Meritain Health, Inc, unpublished opinion of the Ingham County Circuit Court, issued July 17, 2015 (Case No. 14-1432-AA).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Amy White
Employer: Meritain Health, Inc.
Date of decision: July 17, 2015

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HOLDING: Whether a claimant voluntarily quit his/her job is a two-pronged analysis according to MCL 421.29(1)(a). The test was further clarified by the Michigan Supreme Court in Warren v Caro Community Hospital, 457 Mich 361 (1998). The ALJ failed to apply the two-pronged voluntary leaving test in this case.

FACTS: Claimant felt threatened by her ex-husband, who had a history of abusive behavior towards her. Claimant obtained a Personal Protection Order against her ex-husband and took steps to hide her home and work addresses from him. Claimant’s ex-husband showed up at her work (Meritain Health) one day and parked at a neighboring lot. Claimant felt threatened and informed her direct supervisor, who did not offer any help but told Claimant that she “needed to deal with her personal issues on her own time.” The employer’s protocol prevented Claimant from bringing the issue to any other supervisor. Claimant’s ex-husband returned to the parking lot next to her job a second time. Having no supervisor to turn to, Claimant submitted her two weeks’ notice of quitting because she did not feel safe on the premises anymore.

DECISION: The ALJ acted contrary to law when he failed to address whether Claimant’s separation from her job was voluntary. The case was remanded to the ALJ to apply the Warren v. Caro Community Hospital test and find whether the Claimant’s employment separation was voluntary.

RATIONALE: The Court reasoned that MCL 421.29(1)(a) clearly states there are two factors to analyze: (1) whether an individual left work voluntarily and, if so, (2) whether the voluntary leaving was with good cause attributable to the employer. Thus, the Court found the ALJ did err when he failed to conclude whether Claimant’s separation from her job was voluntary.

The term “voluntary” in this context “connotes a choice between alternatives which ordinary persons would find reasonable. Clark v North Detroit General Hospital, 179 Mich App 511, 515-16 (1989) aft’d 437 Mich 280 (1991). This reasonableness standard was part of the ALJ’s assessment of the standard for good cause attributable to the employer. This is evident by the ALJ’s statement that good cause would be found “where the employer’s actions would cause a reasonable, average, or otherwise qualified worker to give up his or her employment.” Carswell v Share House, Inc, 151 Mich App 392, 396-97 (1986) (quoting).

Digest author: Rita Samaan, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: 10/31/2017