Eyre v. Saginaw Correctional Facility – 13.29

Eyre v. Saginaw Correctional Facility
Digest No. 13.29

Section 421.29(1)(e)

Cite as: Eyre v Saginaw Correctional Facility, 274 Mich App 382 (2007).

Appeal pending: No
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals
Date of decision: February 27, 2007

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HOLDING: “The employer initially bears the burden of establishing that a suitable offer of work had been made, but, once the employer has met this burden, it shifts to the claimant to establish that there was good cause for refusal.”

FACTS: Claimant was laid off by her employer, Saginaw Correctional Facility. Later, Standish Maximum Correctional Facility offered her a similar position. She did not accept this offer, however, due to health concerns and the longer commuting distance. The Department of Labor initially approved her benefits, concluding that her refusal of the offer had good cause. After the employer’s objection, the Department of Labor reversed its conclusion, finding that she had turned down suitable employment without good cause. The hearing referee, the review board, and the circuit court each upheld this determination. Claimant then appealed to the Fourth District Court of Appeals  of Michigan.

DECISION: The Circuit Court decision is reversed and the case is remanded to the hearing referee for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

RATIONALE: The provision that establishes the disqualification for refusing a suitable offer of employment without good cause, MCL 421.29(1)(e), does not establish which party should bear the burden of proof in a dispute under that rule. The court also hadn’t established binding precedent on the matter. In prior cases, however, the court dealt with the issue of disqualification more generally. Lasher v. Mueller Brass Co. held that the burden of proving disqualification fell on the employer, while Tomei v. General Motors Corp. held that this burden doesn’t always fall on the employer. The guiding principle in these cases on who should have the burden of proof is “which party is better able to provide the information needed to answer the relevant inquiries”.

The court drew from its reasoning in Tomei, which involved a plant closure and an offer to continue working at a different facility. Tomei held that the initial burden should fall on the employer to demonstrate that it had communicated a viable offer of reasonable employment, but that if an employer met this burden, it switched to the claimant to show that the decision to leave work was not voluntary. Likewise, in the present case, the court found that the initial burden should rest on the employer to show that a suitable offer of employment had been made. As above, if the employer carries this burden, the claimant must then show that her refusal was supported by good cause. The court reasoned that the employer is in better position to determine whether the employee can discharge the responsibilities of the new position, whereas the claimant will inevitably have a better understanding of personal circumstances that would provide a good cause reason to turn down an offer.

Digest author: James Fahringer, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: 3/27/2016

Gent v. Pride Ambulance Co. – 12.139

Gent v. Pride Ambulance Co.
Digest No. 12.139

Section 421.29(1)(b)

Cite as: Gent v Pride Ambulance Co, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals, issued January 12, 2006 (Docket No. 252912).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Sheri L. Gent
Employer: Pride Ambulance Company
Date of decision: January 12, 2006

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HOLDING: Claimant was eligible for benefits when she was discharged from her employment for her refusal to work because claimant’s refusal to work was based on her conscientious observance of the Sabbath.

FACTS: Claimant was employed as a paramedic by Pride Ambulance. In September 2002, claimant informed her employer that she could no longer work on Saturdays because that was her Sabbath day. Claimant was a Seventh Day Adventist. Claimant had regularly worked Saturdays but decided to discontinue the practice, and arrangements were made to accommodate her after Saturday, October 5, 2002. Pride found a replacement worker for September 28, but not for October 5. When claimant informed Pride that she would not come into work on October 5, Pride informed her that such an action would be considered job abandonment. Claimant did not come to work on Saturday, October 5, and she turned in her uniform the following Monday.

DECISION: Affirming the Circuit Court, but on different grounds, the Court of Appeals held that regardless of the existence and application of general rules protecting the free exercise of religion, the clear language of the applicable employment security rules supports an award of unemployment benefits.

RATIONALE: The court relied on a Michigan Employment Security Commission rule, promulgated to implement section 29 of the MES Act. 1985 MR 6, R 421.209 stated: “An individual who refuses to work on the Sabbath designated by his or her religion, or who is discharged from work or voluntarily leaves work, solely because of the conscientious observance of the Sabbath…shall not…be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.” Pride offered no justification for their failure to follow the established rule for resolving this benefits dispute. The court considered analyzing any First Amendment issues as unnecessary because the claimant is eligible for unemployment benefits based on the plain language of the employment security rule. Therefore, the constitutional question need not be addressed.

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

UIA v. JDM & Associates v. Yordy – 13.28

UIA v. JDM & Associates v Yordy
Digest No. 13.28

Section 421.29(1)(e)

Cite as: JDM & Assoc v Yordy, Muskegon County Circuit Court, issued August 30, 2005 (Docket No. 05-43773-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Sara B. Yordy
Employer: JDM & Associates
Docket no.: 176914W
Date of decision: August 30, 2005

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HOLDING: The Board’s decision to grant Yordy unemployment benefits was contrary to law. Yordy was not eligible for unemployment benefits because she failed without good cause to accept alternative suitable work offered to her by JDM.

FACTS: JDM & Associates had placed Yordy as an employee doing industrial work  at Hillite International from August 2002 to June 2003. When that job ended, JDM offered her other full-time employment doing industrial work at Whitehall Products on July 15, 2003. Yordy refused this offer because she wanted to work the second shift and the job was for the first shift. JDM gave her several other job offers which she also declined because of her desire to work second shift.

DECISION: The circuit court reversed the Board’s decision, which had found the claimant was not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits under Section 29(1)(e).

RATIONALE: The purpose of the Act is to provide benefits to workers who are involuntarily unemployed. If the Board’s decision that Yordy was eligible for benefits were to stand, it would allow employees who were offered suitable work to turn it down and still receive benefits. Alternatively, the Board would have to preemptively decide what constitutes suitable work each time an employer offered a substitute job, which the legislature could not have intended.

Digest Author: Alisa Hand, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest Updated: 3/1/2016

Dombeck v. Special Mold Engineering, Inc. – 13.26

Dombeck v. Special Mold Engineering, Inc.
Digest No. 13.26

Section 421.29(1)(e)

Cite as: Dombeck v Special Mold Engineering, Inc, unpublished opinion of the Maycomb County Circuit Court, issued April 14, 2005 (Docket No. 2005-000 1-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Max T. Dombeck
Employer: Special Mold Engineering, Inc.
Docket no.: 2005-000 1-AE
Date of decision: April 14, 2005

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HOLDING: When a claimant is offered the same position with identical pay, benefits, and work hours from an employer he previously worked for 7 months prior, after being laid off from his most recent employer, that offered position constitutes an offer of suitable employment. Further, not having adequate time to pursue alternate job options does not constitute good cause for refusal of suitable employment.

FACTS: Claimant was employed as a metal mold builder with Special Mold Engineering (SME). Claimant left SME to accept employment at another company because the new job provided day shift work, it was closer to home, it paid more money and would offer him opportunities for advancement. Claimant was laid off from employment on June 11, 2003 due to circumstances beyond his control. Claimant applied for unemployment benefits on June 12, 2003. On July 15, 2003, SME offered claimant his old job back, at the same rate of pay, with the same benefits, and with sufficient work hours. Claimant ultimately turned down the job offer because be felt “it was too soon for me to come back without being able to seek further employment with the, the new skill that I’ve learned.” Claimant was subsequently denied unemployment benefits under the refusal of suitable employment provision, MCL 421.29(1)(e)

DECISION: The MES Board’s decision was not contrary to the great weight of the evidence, finding that claimant was disqualified for unemployment benefits under MCL 421.29(1)(e).

RATIONALE: Claimant was offered suitable employment: a full-time job for which he was qualified at the same rate of pay he had been earning when he had left employment some 7 months prior, vacation pay and health benefits. Further, good cause for refusing to accept the offer of employment has not deem demonstrated. Although claimant stated he had not had enough time to find other employment, there is nothing to say that he could not have sought other employment while being employed. Claimant expressed some doubt about SME’s stability insofar as it had laid off some 20 employees and had cut hours shortly before he quit, but it is reasonable to assume that because they wanted to rehire him in July, the economic climate had changed for the better for SME, whereas, the new company had to lay off claimant due to an economic downturn, and there was no guarantee that claimant would be rehired.

Digest Author: Cydney Warburton, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest Updated: 3/27/2016