Knox v. Right At Home Southeastern MI Inc. – 16.90

Knox v. Right At Home Southeastern MI Inc.
Digest No. 16.90

Section 421.29; Section 421.32a; Section 421.62; Section 421.33

Cite as: Knox v Right At Home Southeastern MI Inc, unpublished opinion of the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission, issued July 29, 2016 (Docket No. 15-018792-247172W).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Teresa R. Knox
Employer: Right at Home Southeastern MI Inc.
Date of decision: July 29, 2016

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HOLDING: Under Section 421.32a, the Agency cannot reconsider a prior determination or redetermination more than one year from the date of mailing or personal service of the original determination on the disputed issue. All adjudications issued by the Agency that are contrary to this rule are void and must be set aside. All ALJ decisions made after the Agency improperly transferred over a case due to a violation of Section 421.32a are to be set aside as well.

FACTS: In February 2012, the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) issued a Notice of Determination holding the claimant disqualified from receipt of unemployment insurance benefits under Section 421.29(1)(a). In June 2014, more than two years after the February 2012 Determination was issued, the Agency, on its own motion, reconsidered the Determination and issued a June 25, 2014 Redetermination. A March 2015 Redetermination held the claimant disqualified from receipt of unemployment insurance benefits under the voluntary leaving provisions of Section 421.29(1)(a) and held the claimant subject to restitution under Section 421.62(a). A November 2015 ALJ decision affirmed the March 2015 Redetermination. The claimant timely appealed to the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) from the November 2015 ALJ decision.

DECISION: The November 2015 ALJ decision is set aside. The June 25, 2014 Redetermination and all subsequent Agency adjudications are set aside. The February 2012 Determination is a final ruling on this matter. Therefore Claimant is disqualified from receipt of benefits but Claimant is not subject to restitution.

RATIONALE:

Section 421.32a(2) provides that the Agency may, for good cause, reconsider a prior determination or redetermination after the 30 day period has expired, but that a reconsideration shall not be made unless the request is filed with the UIA, or reconsideration is initiated by the UIA with notice to the interested parties, within one year from the date of mailing or personal service of the original determination on the disputed issue.

The Michigan Supreme Court held in Roman Cleanser v Murphy, 386 Mich 698 (1972) that the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel apply to an Agency ruling that has become “final” under Section 421.32a(2). As a result, the February 2012 Determination, which did not include any ruling on restitution under Section 421.62(a), is a final ruling. Therefore the June 25, 2014 Redetermination is void and must be set aside as the Agency had no legal authority to issue that ruling. All adjudications issued by the Agency after the June 25, 2014 Redetermination are void and must be set aside.

In addition, because the June 25, 2014 Redetermination was not in accordance with Section 421.32a, under Section 421.33 (“An appeal from a redetermination issued . . . in accordance with section 32a or a matter transferred for hearing and decision in accordance with section 32a shall be referred to the Michigan administrative hearing system for assignment to an administrative law judge”), the Agency was without authority to transfer the matter for hearing and assignment to an ALJ.

Digest author: Winne Chen, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: 10/31/2017

 

UIA v. Tear – 3.09

UIA v. Tear
Digest No. 3.09

Section 421.46

Cite as: Unemployment Insurance Agency v Tear, unpublished opinion of the State of Michigan Court of Appeals, issued December 10, 2015 (Docket No. 13-001038-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Rachel Tear
Employer: N/A
Date of decision: December 10, 2015

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HOLDING: Claimant is ineligible for unemployment benefits under MCL 421.46. The Circuit Court’s decision affirming that Claimant is eligible for unemployment benefits is reversed. The case is remanded for the entry of the order upholding the Agency’s denial of Claimant’s claim for benefits.

FACTS: Claimant was discharged from her job and subsequently filed a claim for unemployment benefits. The Unemployment Insurance Agency (“Agency”) denied her claim and found that she could not establish a benefit year under MCL 421.46. At the administrative law hearing, the ALJ reversed the Agency’s finding and found that a benefit year had been established because “Claimant’s high quarter wages were $2,883.00.”

DECISION: The ALJ’s finding that Claimant was paid $2,883.00 in a completed quarter is not supported by substantial and competent evidence. The Circuit Court’s conclusion that Claimant was paid more than $2,871.00 in a completed quarter is clearly erroneous.

RATIONALE: The court referred to the definition of “benefit year” in MCL 421.46(c), the definition of a “base period” in MCL 421.45, and the definition of “calendar quarter” in MCL 421.47 to determine Claimant’s eligibility for unemployment benefits.

Under those provisions, Claimant was required to have been paid at least $2,871.00 in at least one completed calendar quarter in the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before filing her claim. Claimant would need to meet that requirement to establish a benefit year. In this case, Claimant only made $1,958.30 for the entire calendar year.

Although MCL 421.45 provides an alternative base period if a claimant cannot meet the above requirement, Claimant in this case still did not earn enough to establish a base period under MCL 421.45.

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

 

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

 

Hodge v. US Security Associates, Inc. – 16.91

Hodge v. US Security Associates, Inc.
Digest No. 16.91

Section 421.29; Section 421.38

Cite as: Hodge v US Security Associates, Inc., unpublished opinion of the Mich. Sup. Ct., issued February 6, 2015 (Docket No. 149984).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Carnice Hodge
Employer: U.S. Security Associates, Inc.
Date of decision: February 6, 2015

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HOLDING: A reviewing court is not at liberty to substitute its own judgment for a decision of MCAC that is supported with substantial evidence.

FACTS: Claimant was a security guard at an airport. Claimant was fired for accessing publicly available flight departure information on a computer at the request of a traveler in violation of the employer’s policy regarding the unauthorized use of computer equipment. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) disqualified claimant from unemployment benefits for committing misconduct under Section 421.29. The Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) affirmed, holding that the decision was made in conformity with the facts as developed at the hearing and properly applied the law to the facts. The Wayne Circuit Court reversed, concluding that claimant’s conduct did not warrant a denial of benefits because claimant was violating the employer’s policy in order to help a customer, and the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the Wayne Circuit Court’s reversal.

DECISION: The Court of Appeals judgment is reversed and the MCAC judgment is reinstated.

RATIONALE: The Wayne Circuit Court and the Court of Appeals applied an incorrect standard of review by substituting their own assessment of the relative severity of claimant’s violation of her employer’s rules for the assessment of MCAC. A reviewing court is not at liberty to substitute its own judgment for a decision of MCAC that is supported with substantial evidence. A circuit court must affirm a decision of the ALJ and MCAC if it conforms to law and if competent, material, and substantial evidence supports it. The ALJ was the only adjudicator who actually heard testimony and observed the demeanor of the witnesses while testifying, reviewed all the evidence in the record, and made findings of fact based on credibility of witnesses and weight of the evidence. MCAC’s assessment of claimant’s conduct was made within the correct legal framework and was therefore authorized by law and not contrary to law, so the courts below improperly reweighed the evidence in order to reach a different assessment in violation of Section 421.38 and Const. 1963, art 6, § 28.

Digest author: Winnie Chen, Michigan Law, Class of 2017

Digest updated: 11/19/2017

Carter v. MLP MFG, Inc. – 16.75

Carter v. MLP MFG, Inc.
Digest No. 16.75

Section 421.38, Section 421.29

Cite as: Carter v MLP MFG, IncMuskegon Circuit Court, No. 02-41720-AE (February 18, 2003).
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: David Carter
Employer: MLP MFG, Inc.
Date of decision: February 18, 2003

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HOLDING: When both an agent and an attorney have filed an appearance, an order must be served to both of them to fulfill Section 421.1101 (now rescinded).

FACTS: The administrative law judge issued an opinion dated July 20, 2001, which affirmed an agency determination denying the claimant unemployment benefits because of misconduct. The claimant’s agent appealed this opinion. The Board of Review affirmed the decision with an opinion dated November 9, 2001. On December 10, 2001, the claimant’s counsel filed his appearance and a timely request for a rehearing of the November 9, 2001 decision. The Board issued an order denying the application for rehearing on January 24, 2002. This January 24, 2002 order was not sent to the claimant’s attorney. Consequently, on April 29, 2002, the claimant’s attorney moved the Board to reopen the matter so that the claimant could file a timely appeal with the circuit court. In an order dated June 28, 2002, the Board denied the application for reopening, but acknowledged sending a copy of the January 24, 2002 order to the claimant and the claimant’s agent, but not the claimant’s attorney. On July 2, 2002, the claimant filed this appeal to the circuit court.

DECISION: The Board of Review erred in failing to send the claimant’s counsel a copy of the January 24, 2002 order.  When both an agent and an attorney have filed an appearance, an order must be served to both of them to fulfill Section 421.1101 (now rescinded), which is to be read in a manner that does not produce an unjust result, even if the literal language of the rule suggests otherwise. Therefore the July 2, 2002 filing of this appeal was timely, and this Court will adjudicate the appeal on the merits. This Court finds that the ALJ’s decision was not contrary to law and therefore affirms the previous decision disqualifying the claimant for benefits.

RATIONALE: In construing administrative rules, courts apply principles of statutory construction. However, there is an exception “when a literal reading of the statutory language would produce an absurd and obviously unjust result and would be clearly inconsistent with the purposes and policies of the act in question.” AG v LS Wood Preserving, Inc, 199 Mich App 149, 155 (1993). Reading Section 421.1101(1) literally (“A decision, notice, or order shall be served on each party and on the agent or attorney of record of each party . . .” (emphasis added)) would provide an unjust result in this case, as the purpose and policy of the rule is to provide notice. Thus the Board of Review needed to send the January 24, 2002 order to both the claimant’s agent and the claimant’s counsel, even though the rule uses the word “or.” Hence, the 30-day appeal period of Section 421.38(1) was tolled until the Board of Review issued its final order on June 28, 2002, and the July 2, 2002 filing of appeal was timely. Nevertheless, this Court finds that the ALJ’s decision was not contrary to law and was supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence on the whole record. The ALJ found the testimony of the cliamant’s supervisor to be credible. In doing so, he found that the claimant had engaged in three “no-call, no-show” absences which constitutes misconduct within the meaning of Section 421.29.

Digest author: Winne Chen, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: 11/19/2017

Decess v. Central State Community Service – 12.137

Decess v. Central State Community Service
Digest No. 12.137

Section 421.29(1)(b)

Cite as: Decess v Central State Community Service, unpublished opinion of the Ingham County Circuit Court, issued December 14, 2010 (Docket No. 10-664-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Tiffany L. Decess
Employer: Central State Community Service
Date of decision: December 14, 2010

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HOLDING: The Carter v Employment Security Comm, 364 Mich 538 (1961) requirement of “carelessness or negligence of such degree or recurrence as to manifest equal culpability, wrongful intent or evil design, or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer’s interests” requires more than mere negligent or inadvertent behavior.

FACTS: Claimant was employed by Central State Community Service as a direct caregiver to six developmentally disabled residents from December 6, 2006 until she was fired on November 3, 2008. She was fired for allegedly leaving a resident unattended in a running van for 3-5 minutes while she went inside the home. Claimant testified that the resident was never out of her sight.

The ALJ found Claimant disqualified for misconduct. This decision was affirmed by the Board of Review.

DECISION: The Circuit Court reversed the Board of Review decision because it was contrary to law and not supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence on the whole record.

RATIONALE: There was uncontradicted Claimant testimony in the record that Claimant followed the practices that she had been trained on. The employer offered no evidence to the contrary. There was no evidence produced by the employer that could prove statutory misconduct, whether deliberate or negligent.

Following the Carter standard, the Circuit Court found that even if Claimant had been negligent, Carter requires the violation be more than negligent or inadvertent. There was no evidence in the record to support a finding that Claimant had acted with carelessness amounting to a disregard of her employer’s interests.

Finally, the Circuit Court relied on Razmus v Kirkhof Transformer, 137 Mich App 311 (1984) and Linski v Employment Security Commission, 358 Mich 239; 99 NW2d 795 (1966) to find that violating an employer’s rules is not, per se, misconduct within the meaning of the statute.

Digest author: Andrea M. Frailey, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: 10/31/2017

Myllylahti v. Full Force Diamond Drilling – 10.109

Myllylahti v. Full Force Diamond Drilling
Digest No. 10.109

Section 421.29(1)(a)

Cite as: Myllylahti v Full Force Diamond Drilling, unpublished opinion of the Ontonagon County Circuit Court, issued February 9, 2010 (Docket No. 09-71 AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Robert J. Myllylahti
Employer: Full Force Diamond Drilling USA, Inc.
Date of decision: February 9, 2010

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HOLDING: Where the working conditions imposed on a claimant by the employer are mentally and physically challenging enough to cause a reasonable, average or otherwise qualified worker to give up his employment, the claimant’s leaving was with good cause attributable to the employer.   

FACTS: Claimant began working for the employer on October 1, 2008 as a driller’s assistant working 13 hours per day, seven days per week. Claimant’s last day of work was October 22, 2008, when Claimant quit without prior notice to employer in the middle of his shift. Claimant indicated that the work was too hard and he could no longer do it. However, Claimant did not notify his employer of any work-related problems prior to quitting.

DECISION: The ALJ found that Claimant was disqualified for benefits. The MCAC affirmed. The Circuit Court reversed. Claimant is not disqualified for benefits.  

RATIONALE: To determine whether an employee left employment due to good cause attributable to the employer, the reasonable person standard is applied. “Under that standard, ‘good cause’ compelling an employee to terminate his or her employment should 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, 396-397 (1986). The cumulative effect of 13 hours of heavy manual labor every day for twenty-two days straight, both mentally and physically, on a reasonable, average or otherwise qualified worker is born out by the record. Claimant’s physical inability to continue to do the job demanded of him by the employer, under working conditions imposed by the employer, would cause a reasonable, average or otherwise qualified worker to give up his employment, as well. This constitutes good cause attributable to the employer and not a personal reason attributable to claimant.

Digest author: Cydney Warburton, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: 10/31/2017

Physicians Health Plan of Mid Michigan v. Chapman – 12.149

Physicians Health Plan of Mid Michigan v. Chapman
Digest No. 12.149

Section 421.29(1)(b)

Cite as: Physicians Health Plan v Chapman, unpublished opinion of the Ingham County Circuit Court, issued December 16, 2008 (Docket No. 08-628-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Shanika Chapman
Employer: Physicians Health Plan of Mid Michigan
Date of decision: December 16, 2008

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HOLDING: It is misconduct as a matter of law when an insurance company employee committs insurance fraud in violation of her employer’s human resources manual.

FACTS: Claimant worked in customer service for the employer insurance company; her job duties included assessing claims and administering customers’ financial obligations. Claimant was fired after she revealed to her employer that she committed criminal fraud by filing a false claim against her car insurance company.

At the ALJ hearing, the employer cited its H.R. policy manual as permitting employee firings for criminal activity, which could harm the employer’s public image. But, the ALJ decided Claimant was still not disqualified from receiving benefits for misconduct. The Board of Review affirmed, citing the mandate to interpret the meaning of misconduct narrowly to avoid disqualification.

DECISION: Reversed. The Circuit Court determined that claimant’s conduct constituted misconduct connected with her work, disqualifying her from benefits.

RATIONALE: The Circuit Court surveyed various cases regarding whether off-duty conduct may be sufficiently connected to a claimant’s work to constitute misconduct. Ultimately, it concluded that, as a matter of law, the filing of a false insurance claim constituted a wanton disregard of the employer’s interests and standards of behavior. This behavior clouded Claimant’s ability to fulfill her job duties, particularly given her unique financial responsibilities; sufficiently involved the employer’s interests; and adversely affected the employer’s behavioral expectations of employees.

Digest author: Austin L. Webbert, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: 10-31-2017

Parker v. TNT Logistics North America, Inc. – 7.36

Parker v. TNT Logistics North America, Inc.
Digest No. 7.36

Section 421.28(1)(c)

Cite as: Parker v TNT Logistics North America, Inc, unpublished opinion of the Wayne County Circuit Court, issued December 27, 2007 (Docket No. 07-717651-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Karen F. Parker
Employer: TNT Logistics North America, Inc.
Date of decision: December 27, 2007

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HOLDING: A claimant is not ineligible for benefits under Section 421.28(1)(c) if she leaves her job due to physical impairment if she seeks job placement help to return to the work force.

FACTS: Claimant left her factory job due to arthritis and other physical impairment. The UIA deemed her ineligible for benefits under Section 421.28(1)(c), finding her unable to perform suitable full-time work. At an ALJ hearing, Claimant admitted her condition likely precluded her from returning to her previous kinds of employment. But, she testified she had sought job placement help with the Michigan Rehabilitative Services to return to the work force.

The ALJ and Board of Review both affirmed the UIA’s determination of ineligibility.

DECISION: The Circuit Court reversed Board of Review. Claimant is not ineligible for benefits.

RATIONALE: Following McKentry v MESC, 99 Mich App 277 (1980), the court noted that a “claimant is not ineligible for benefits under the ability provision when seeking a different type of employment than his or her last job.” And, under Bolles v MESC, 361 Mich 378 (1960), “registering for and seeking work were indicia that a claimant was able and available for work, and therefore remained attached to the labor market.”

Here, Claimant had previously performed clerical work and was seeking further job training to potentially return to such employment. Therefore, Claimant maintained a sufficient connection to the workforce to preserve benefits eligibility.

Digest author: Austin L. Webbert, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: 10/31/2017

Elliott’s Amusements, LLC v. Garrison – 17.23

Elliott’s Amusements, LLC v. Garrison
Digest No. 17.23

Section 421.44

Cite as: Elliott’s Amusements, LLC v Garrison, unpublished opinion of the Ingham County Circuit Court, issued October 1, 2007 (Docket No. 07-251-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Ronald L. Garrison
Employer: Elliott’s Amusements, LLC
Date of decision: October 1, 2007

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HOLDING: Certain per diem payments made by the employer to the claimant were remuneration when not for the “convenience of the employer” and the claimant had the ability to choose how to spend the money.

FACTS: The ALJ decided that per diem amounts the employer paid to the claimant were remuneration under Section 44(1). The Board of Review affirmed and incorporated the ALJ’s decision. As the Board explained, the claimant worked six months per year for the employer, while also living in the employer’s trailer and paying rent and food money. The claimant received a per diem payment from the employer, plus reimbursements for some expenses. Citing Seligman v MESC, 164 Mich App 507 (1988) as controlling, the Board endorsed the ALJ’s view that the per diem payments amounted to wages because the employer did not require the claimant to live at the work site, the lodging was not free, and the claimant’s use of the per diem payments were not controlled by the employer.  The claimant choice to use the employer-provided lodging was based on his own convenience, distinguishing his situation from the mandatory on-site lodging provided for the “convenience of the employer” in Seligman.

DECISION: The court upheld the determination that certain per diem payments made by the employer to the claimant were remuneration.

RATIONALE: Per diem payments for on-site lodging and food are considered remuneration if the employer did not control the claimant’s use of the per diem monies and the claimant could have spent the money in other ways.

Digest author: Austin L. Webbert, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: 10/25/2017