Saylor v. C.L. Rieckhoff Co. – 16.95

Saylor v. C.L. Rieckhoff Co.
Digest No. 16.95

Section 421.62

Cite as: Saylor v C L Rieckhoff Co, unpublished opinion of the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission, issued August 2, 2017 (Docket No. 16-029832-252337W).

Court: Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Brian Saylor
Employer: C.L. Rieckhoff Co.
Date of decision: August 2, 2017

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HOLDING: The Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission held that the Agency must have an employer protest and a determination of eligibility before it can initiate a fraud investigation. Further, the Commission held that a benefit check determination of eligibility under 32(f) is not a sufficient predicate determination to issue a 62(a) fraud determination.

FACTS: Claimant had received benefits and the Agency issued him redeterminations accusing him of committing fraud. He was required to repay the amount received in benefits plus penalty. The Agency did not receive an employer protest, but rather issued the redetermination on its own motion.

The Agency argued that the benefit check determinations under 32(f) of the Act were sufficient to allow it to issue redeterminations. The Commission disagreed.

DECISION: The Commission’s decision rested on procedural due process. It decided that the method employed by the Agency in issuing the redetermination violated Claimant’s due process rights.

RATIONALE: The Commission’s decision stemmed from both a statutory construction of the MESA, due process, and the Michigan Administrative Procedures Act. The Commission found that 32(f) did not provide the basis for redeterminations finding fraud; rather, a separate determination of ineligibility needed to occur before a 62(a) redetermination of fraud could be found. Further, because there was no initial determination to serve as the foundation for the redetermination, the issuance of the redeterminations were procedurally deficient. The Commission reasoned that the MAPA required it to set aside the redeterminations regardless of whether Claimant timely appealed, as they were issued erroneously.

The Commission further noted that the Agency did not have the ability to issue redeterminations without an employer protest outside of the time frame prescribed by section 32a of the Act.

Digest author: Travis R. Miller, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: January 2, 2018

 

Lawrence v Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency – 16.96

Lawrence v Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency
Digest No. 16.96

Section 421.33

Cite as: Lawrence v Mich Unemployment Ins Agency, 320 Mich App 422 (2017).

Court: Court of Appeals
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Suzanne Lawrence
Employer: Bloomfield Hills Country Club
Docket No.: 332398
Date of decision: July 11, 2017

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COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: The claimant does not have the burden to prove that she did not receive benefit checks.

FACTS: Claimant worked for a country club and was laid off for the winter season. Claimant  was paid vacation time for the first weeks of the lay off. The Agency alleged that Claimant received benefits during those weeks and is required to pay restitution ($158). Claimant denied receiving benefits during those weeks. Claimant appealed the lower decisions as misconstruing the case: the lower decisions referred to eligibility, but Claimant argued that the case is about whether she received any payment during the ineligible weeks.

DECISION: Reversed. The courts focused on the wrong issue: it was not whether Claimant was eligible but rather whether she received payment on the ineligible weeks; and there was error in affirming MCAC and in its factual determinations, misapplying the substantial evidence test.

RATIONALE: The ALJ “bewilderingly” focused consideration on eligibility during the weeks Claimant “conceded she was ineligible.” (Emphasis in original.) The ALJ decision lacks legal grounds because eligibility was not at issue. MCAC “completely missed the mark” by not overturning because the issue on appeal was whether the ALJ addressed the appropriate issue.

The circuit court erred when when it determined that MCAC’s decision was supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence. The notices of restitution and the determination were “not proof that the MUIA issued an overpayment, in any amount, to [Claimant], and to accept them as such would defy common sense.” Without a scintilla of evidence to support the payments, the circuit court erred by affirming MCAC’s decision as supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence. Claimant did not have the burden to establish that she did not receive benefits as alleged. Claimant would need to rebut evidence by the Agency, but it is not her burden in the first instance. This avoids Hodge because the circuit court did not need to substitute its judgment on credibility for the ALJ’s; the ALJ simply did not make a contrary factual finding.

Digest author: Benjamin Tigay, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: January 2, 2018

 

Cotton v. Express Employment Professionals – 16.93

Cotton v. Express Employment Professionals
Digest No. 16.93

Section 421.62

Cite as: Cotton v Express Employment Professionals, unpublished opinion of the Maycomb County Circuit Court, issued June 5, 2017 (Docket No. 2016 -4047-AE).

Court: Macomb County Circuit Court
Appeal pending: Yes
Claimant: Yvette Cotton
Employer: Express Employment Professionals
Date of decision: June 5, 2017

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HOLDING: The court found that the Agency lacked jurisdiction to issue a redetermination of the claimant’s “benefit check determinations” under 32a(2), which holds that the Agency must have good cause to reconsider a prior determination or redetermination after the 30-day period has expired and must re-open within a year of the previous determination. The court therefore found it unnecessary to address the timeliness of the claimant’s subsequent protests.

FACTS: Claimant had received benefits and the Agency issued her redeterminations accusing her of committing fraud. She was required to repay the amount received in benefits plus penalty. The Agency did not receive a timely employer protest, and the employer did not show good cause for issuing a late protest.

The Agency argued that the benefit check determinations under 32(f) of the Act were sufficient to allow it to issue redeterminations. The Court disagreed.

DECISION: The Court’s decision rested on procedural due process. It decided that the method employed by the Agency in issuing the redetermination violated claimant’s due process rights. The court remanded for further proceedings to determine the basis for the determinations, but noted it did not need to reach Claimant’s good cause for late appeal, as the redeterminations were issued erroneously.

RATIONALE: The court’s decision stemmed from both a statutory construction of the MESA and due process. The court demurred the Agency’s contention that section 62 of the Act gave it authority to issue determinations and redeterminations. Rather, the court reasoned, MESA gives the Agency authority under 32a. This means that the Agency does not have broad, sweeping authority, over the course of three years, to make determinations and redeterminations. They must do so within the parameters of 32a and 32.

The court made clear that the deficiencies in the Agency’s process meant the court did not need to address Claimant’s good cause for reopening.

Digest author: Travis R. Miller, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: January 2, 2018

 

Sanderson v. UIA – 16.94

Sanderson v. UIA
Digest No. 16.94

Section 421.32a & Section 421.62

Cite as: Sanderson v Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, unpublished decision of the Court of Claims, issued June 5, 2017 (Case No. 16-000083-MM).

Court: Court of Claims
Appeal pending: Yes
Plaintiff: Judy Sanderson, Albert Morris, Antonyal Louis, and Madeline Browne
Defendant: Unemployment Insurance Agency
Date of decision: June 5, 2017

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HOLDING: The Court granted the defendant’s motion for summary disposition because plaintiffs failed to satisfy the requirements of MCL 600.6431.

FACTS: Claimant Sanderson began receiving unemployment benefits in June 2009. The UIA issued redeterminations on September 26, 27, and 28, 2011 determining that Claimant was not entitled to benefits because she made intentional misrepresentations. The UIA gives three years from the date of the last redetermination to initiate administrative action or court action to recover improperly paid benefits. The UIA began collection efforts against Claimant in May 2014. Interception of her tax refund occurred on or about April 9, 2015.

DECISION: Plaintiffs failed to comply with the notice requirements found in MCL 600.6431. Claimant Sanderson’s complaint was filed on April 11, 2016, far more than six months after the first instance of wrongful garnishment.

The Court denied the plaintiffs’ request to amend the complaint and rejects the claim that summary disposition is premature because discovery has not yet begun.

RATIONALE: Plaintiffs’ claims do no meet the timing requirements of MCL 600.6431. This applies a six month notice deadline to file a complaint. The Court assumed without deciding that Plaintiffs’ interpretation of Section 421.62 is correct, which sets a three year period for collecting a debt. However, plaintiffs’ complaints were filed on April 11, 2016 and in order for them to satisfy the requirements under MCL 600.6431, the wrongs need to occur within six months of the filing date. None of the claims asserted fit the timeframe.

The Court denied leave to amend because there is no manner in which they could amend the complaint so that it complies with the requirements under MCL 600.6431.

The Court also determined that plaintiffs’ assertions were not enough to demonstrate that discovery is warranted in this matter.

Digest author: Sara Posner, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: December 26, 2017

 

DiGregorio v J C Concrete Inc. – 16.92

DiGregorio v J C Concrete Inc.
Digest No. 16.92

Section 421.32a

Cite as: DiGregorio v J C Concrete Inc, unpublished decision of the Michigan Administrative Hearing System, issued September 8, 2016 (Case No. 15-060623).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Daniel DiGregorio
Employer: J C Concrete Inc.
Date of decision: September 8, 2016

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HOLDING: Claimant had good cause for his late appeal because he could not understand the conflicting decisions of the Agency with his ADD. Restitution is cancelled because of deficient notice and the Agency’s failure to collect within the statutory period.

FACTS: On September 1, 2015, the Agency issued a redetermination seeking restitution. Claimant did not appeal this until October 29, 2015. Claimant received “over twenty” adjudications from the Agency and was confused because he felt they were conflicting. Claimant concluded that he did not owe anything, so he did not appeal. He did not appeal until he received a bill from the Agency. Claimant also alleges that his ADD and anxiety, for which he sees a doctor and takes medication, affected his ability to comprehend things.

DECISION: Claimant had good cause for the late appeal. Fraud penalties reversed and Claimant does not owe any restitution.

RATIONALE: On good cause, Claimant was confronted at once with many decisions with “conflicting results [that] would be confusing to all but the most seasoned claimant.” In light of this and Claimant’s comprehension limitations, he had good cause for the late appeal.

The Agency violated due process with its fraud redeterminations. Due process requires that the party has notice that is “reasonably calculated, under the circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them the opportunity to present their objections.” Brooks Williamson & Associates, Inc v Mayflower Const Co, 308 Mich App 18, 35; (2014) citing Mullane v Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co  “A bare demand for payment of fraud penalties does not establish or give notice of the basis for the demand.”

As for restitution, the Agency issued the fraud claim after three years, so the claim for restitution is time barred under Section 62(a). Further, the Agency failed to issue a determination in this case, and a “redetermination without a determination is void as a matter of law.” Fisk v Prostaff Employment Solutions LLC, 15-057282-248256W and 15-057299-238257W MCAC (May 23, 2016).

Digest author: Benjamin Tigay, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: January 26, 2018

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

View/download the full decision

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

 

Article: Legally Insufficient Notice and UIA Determinations

Legally Insufficient Notice and Unemployment Insurance Agency Determinations
By: Leila McClure, Marina Hunt, and Steve Gray
University of Michigan Law School Unemployment Insurance Clinic
April 2016

Sections: 421.32a, 421.33

Download a PDF version of this article

Frequently, unemployment insurance claimants and employers must rely only on short letter determinations and redeterminations (notices) they receive from the Agency that provide little or no information about why the Agency has taken the action of which it is notifying the party. This confuses most parties and can often prevent them from adequately responding to a negative action taken against them by the Agency. The sparse or confusing notices prevent them from either making, effective protest and appeal decisions, or unable to prepare for hearings. The following article discusses the circumstances in which Agency  notices are legally insufficient and what effect that should have on administrative proceedings.

Agency Required to Comply with US Department of Labor Standards
In the administration of its duties enumerated in the Michigan Employment Security Act, the State of Michigan must “cooperate with the appropriate agency of the United States under the Social Security Act.” M.C.L. 421.11(a). Per this requirement, the Unemployment Insurance agency is statutorily required to comply with relevant regulations promulgated by the Department of Labor.

Relevant Department of Labor Notice Standard
Section 6013 of Appendix A to Part 602 of the Employment Security Manual requires the State of Michigan to include “in written notices of determination furnished to claimants sufficient information to enable them to understand the determinations, the reasons therefor, and their rights to protest, request reconsideration, or appeal.” 20 CFR § 602 App. A, 6013(C)(2)

With regards to disqualification from benefits, the Department of Labor provides that: “If a disqualification is imposed, or if the claimant is declared ineligible for one or more weeks, he must be given not only a statement of the period of disqualification or ineligibility and the amount of wage-credit reductions, if any, but also an explanation of the reason for the ineligibility or disqualification. This explanation must be sufficiently detailed so that he will understand why he is ineligible or why he has been disqualified, and what he must do in order to requalify for benefits or purge the disqualification. The statement must be individualized to indicate the facts upon which the determination was based, e.g., state, “It is found that you left your work with Blank Company because you were tired of working; the separation was voluntary, and the reason does not constitute good cause,” rather than merely the phrase “voluntary quit.” Checking a box as to the reason for the disqualification is not a sufficiently detailed explanation. However, this statement of the reason for the disqualification need not be a restatement of all facts considered in arriving at the determination.” 20 CFR § 602 App. A, 6013(C)(2)(h) (2012) (Emphasis Added).

In the Department of Labor Advisory, Unemployment Insurance Program Letter, No. 01-16 concerning “Federal Requirements to Protect Individual Rights in State Unemployment Compensation Overpayment Prevention and Recovery Procedures, the Department of Labor specifically instructed on what qualifies as sufficient notice for fraud determinations. To satisfy federal law, the individual accused of fraud must “be provided with a written determination which provides sufficient information to understand the basis for the determination and how/when an appeal must be filed and must also include the facts on which the determination is based, the reason for allowing or denying benefits, the legal basis for the determination, and potential penalties or consequences.” USDOL Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 1-16, page 2 (emphasis added). The Letter also provides a description of the information that must be included in a written determination:

  1. A summary statement of the material facts on which the determination is based;
  2. The reason for allowing or denying benefits; and
  3. The conclusion of the decision based on the state’s law

Relevant Michigan Law
In Snyder v. RAM Broadcasting, No. 82 23718 AE, Washtenaw Circuit Court (April 26, 1983) (Digest No. 16.39), the Circuit Court held that a “Notice of Hearing which [does] not give a plain statement that claimant’s eligibility pursuant to Section 28(1)(a)… might be raised was not an adequate notice of the issue when it merely used the words ‘Ability/Availability/Seeking Work/Eligibility.’” The reasoning the court used in deciding this notice was inadequate was that it was “not a plain statement of the matters asserted,” meaning that “words and phrases divided by slashes and followed by a string citation to given sections of the Act do not provide a reasonably understandable notification that an issue will be considered, especially where the notification is intended for a lay person.”

Recently in Proulx v. Horiba Subsidiary Inc., 14-006880-241108 (Oct. 2, 2014) (Digest No. 18.21), an unpublished decision by the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC), the body held in part that the agency’s fraud redetermination was insufficient because “it merely provide[d] a conclusory statement with no fact-finding to support it.”

Agency Practice
The Unemployment Agency’s practice of sending conclusory statements of disqualification or findings of misrepresentation violates both the mandatory Department of Labor standards and existing Michigan law. Examples of insufficient notice under the Department of Labor standard include:

  • “Your actions indicate you intentionally misled and/or concealed information to obtain benefits you were not entitled to receive”
  • “You quit your job with COMPANY on DATE due to other personal reasons”
  • Redeterminations including only the underlying issue and relevant statute number, such as: “Ability 28(1)(c)”

Good Cause to Re-Open
Pursuant to UIA Rule 270(1)(e), ““fail[ure] to receive a reasonable and timely notice” is good cause for reconsideration and reopening. Section 32(a) of the MESA provides that “the claimant and other interested parties shall be promptly notified of the determination and the reasons for the determination.” Based on the failure to comply with Department of Labor standards and existing Michigan law, any agency determination or redetermination is void if it does not include:

  • An explanation of the reason for the ineligibility or disqualification that is sufficiently detailed so that the claimant knows why he or she is ineligible
  • Information about what the claimant must do to appeal or requalify for benefits
  • Individualized facts to indicate how the decision was reached

Effect of Insufficient Notice

Void ab initio
Insufficient notice of an agency decision makes that decision null and can be treated as void ab initio. The Michigan Court of Appeals has held that a failure to give proper notice as required by the applicable statute “is a jurisdictional defect that renders the subsequent proceedings void.” Kanouse v Montcalm County Drain Comm’r, unpublished opinion per curium of the Court of Appeals, issued March 19, 2002 (Docket No. 236285), p 2. Likewise, the Court of Appeals held in a workers’ compensation case that improper notice renders a subsequent judgment potentially voidable. Abbott v Howard, 182 Mich App 243 (1990).

Procedural Due Process
The notion that insufficient notice renders a subsequent decision void also comes from a two-step analysis:

(1) Inadequate notice is a violation of procedural due process rights, and

(2) Decisions that relied on a lack of due process cannot be sustained.

Under step (1), it is clear from U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence that proper notice is fundamental to due process. See, e.g., Mullane v Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 US 306 (1950). In a case specifically about the rights of welfare recipients, the U.S. Supreme Court said that due process requires “timely and adequate notice detailing the reasons for” an agency decision, and“[t]hese rights are important in cases such as those before us, where recipients have challenged proposed terminations.” Goldberg v Kelly, 397 US 254 (1970). See also Cosby v Ward, 843 F2d 967 (CA 7, 1988) (failure to provide adequate written notice of issues to be raised at unemployment compensation hearing violated fair hearing requirement).

Under step (2), courts have voided judgments that were founded on violations of procedural due process. Often these cases fall under procedural rules such as FRCP 60(b)(4) and MRCP 2.612(c)(1)(d), which allow courts to provide relief from judgments that are void. Courts have interpreted those rules as applying to judgments that arose from inadequate process. See, e.g., In re Ruehle, 307 BR 28 (Bankr CA 6, 2004) (upholding a lower court’s decision to vacate an order where one party was denied due process of law).

Lack of Jurisdiction

An ALJ’s Authority
Where there is an occurrence of insufficient notice or a void determination, an Administrative Law Judge has the authority to dismiss or adjourn a hearing based on lack of jurisdiction over the matter. An ALJ’s authority to return jurisdiction can be inferred from both the Michigan Employment Security Act and the MAHS hearing rules issued by LARA. Section 33 of the Act authorizes MAHS to accept cases on appeal and then give them to Administrative Law Judges so long as they deal with redeterminations issued by the agency in accordance with Section 32a. MESA 421.33(1). Section 32a(1) details the agency’s decision-making process, by which a determination or redetermination is issued at each step, followed by “a hearing on the redetermination before an administrative law judge.” MESA 421.32a(1). According to these rules, the ability to have a hearing with an ALJ is contingent upon the existence of an agency decision. Without a valid determination or redetermination, the judge does not have jurisdiction over the case under MESA.

Also, it is standard practice for an ALJ to return a matter to the Agency when they can’t find an Agency determination to support it. ALJs commonly return matters to the Agency when no determination can be found in their system or in the hearing file.  Legally insufficient notice is akin to that situation.

The administrative hearing rules, issued by LARA for MAHS, support the principle that the ALJ has broad discretion in deciding how to handle a case, including issues that arise before or after hearings and questions of jurisdiction. For example, Rule 106 contains a lengthy list of powers that the ALJ has, including the power to, “on an administrative law judge’s own initiative, adjourn hearings.” Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Michigan Administrative Hearing System Administrative Hearing Rules (eff. January 15, 2015), R 792.10106(1)(o). In addition, Rule 110 allows the ALJ to decline to consider a document that was not properly served on all parties, which is another form of inadequate notice. Id. R 792.10110(8).

Application to Good Cause
The fact that a claimant or employer received insufficient notice in the determinations provides her with good cause for filing a late appeal. The Agency’s administrative code provides that ‘good cause’ for reconsideration under MCL 421.32a includes among other things failure “to receive a reasonable and timely notice, order, or decision.” Mich Admin Code R 421.270(1)(e). Where a determination is legally insufficient on its face, it does not provide reasonable notice as required by 270(1)(e). On that basis, there is good cause for reopening, rehearing, or late appeals.

Appropriate Remedies
There are two possible appropriate remedies when the UIA has provided notice that does not meet the Department of Labor standards. First, a notice could be deemed unreasonable on its face. With a finding of unreasonable notice, the notice can be voided and jurisdiction should return to the Agency to issue a notice that complies with the above-mentioned standards. Alternatively, the unreasonable notice could form the basis for good cause for reopening or late appeal. Under a finding for good cause for reopening or late appeal, a case would then proceed on the underlying merits of the unemployment claim.

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About the Authors

– Leila McClure, University of Michigan Law School, Class of 2016

– Marina Hunt, University of Michigan Law School Class of 2017

– Steve Gray, Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of the University of Michigan Law School Unemployment Insurance Clinic