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

 

Bouchard v. Lavdas Enterprises, Inc. – 16.84

Bouchard v. Lavdas Enterprises, Inc.
Digest No. 16.84

Section 421.33(1)

Cite as: Bouchard v Lavdas Enterprises, Inc., unpublished opinion of the Macomb County Circuit Court, issued June 14, 2013 (Docket No. 2012-4168-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Patricia J. Bouchard
Employer: Lavdas Enterprises, Inc.
Date of decision: June 14, 2013

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HOLDING: Claimant, through her attorney, was present at the hearing for the purpose of prosecuting her appeal pursuant to MCL 421.33.

FACTS: The Unemployment Insurance Agency issued a redetermination in which it found Claimant ineligible to receive unemployment benefits and ordered Claimant to pay restitution.

Claimant appealed the redetermination and Claimant’s counsel appeared at the hearing without Claimant present. The ALJ held that Claimant was required to appear at the hearing and that her failure to do so constituted a failure to prosecute her appeal pursuant to MCL 421.33. As a result, the ALJ dismissed Claimant’s appeal. The Board of Review affirmed the ALJ’s decision.

DECISION: The decisions of the ALJ and Board of Review are reversed and the case is remanded for a re-hearing before an ALJ.

RATIONALE: Per MCR 2.117(B)(l), “an appearance by an attorney for a party is deemed an appearance by the party. Unless a particular rule indicates otherwise, an act required to be performed by a party may be performed by the attorney representing the party.” Further, MCL 421.31 provides: “any individual claiming benefits in any proceeding before the commission or a court may be represented by counsel or other duly authorized agent.”

Based upon the above-referenced authority, the Court was satisfied that Claimant’s failure to personally appear at the hearing did not constitute a failure to prosecute her appeal.

Digest author: Stephanie Marshak, Michigan Law, Class of 2016
Digest updated: October 20, 2017

Pena v. Adecco CS Inc. – 16.80

Pena v. Adecco CS Inc.
Digest No. 16.80

Section 421.33

Cite as: Pena v Adecco SC Inc, unpublished opinion of the Ottawa County Circuit Court, issued January 12, 2007 (Docket No. 06-55080-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Reyes Pena
Employer: Adecco CS Inc.
Date of decision: January 12, 2007

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HOLDING: Under MCL 421.33, a party who fails to attend an ALJ hearing waives those rights which might have been exercised at a hearing, even if a new issue that was not listed on the notice of hearing is presented during the hearing.

FACTS: Claimant did not attend the ALJ hearing against Adecco CS Inc. The notice of hearing for that ALJ hearing stated that the issue to be presented at the hearing was “temporary help firm” pursuant to MCL 421.29(1)(l). During the hearing, Adecco strayed from the listed issue by testifying and providing evidence that Claimant committed misconduct under MCL 421.29(1)(b). The notice of hearing did not inform Claimant that misconduct was an issue.

The ALJ held Claimant was disqualified from benefits for misconduct under MCL 421.29(1)(b). The Board of Review affirmed the decision of the ALJ and denied rehearing. Claimant appealed to Ottawa County Circuit Court.

DECISION: The Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Review because Claimant’s failure to participate in the hearing constitutes an act of neglect that deprives Claimant of the rights which Claimant may have exercised at the hearing.

RATIONALE: Rule 421.1206 of the Michigan Administrative Code (rescinded in 2015) requires an ALJ to grant an adjournment of a hearing in which a new issue that was not cited in the notice of hearing was raised unless both parties knowingly agree to proceed on the new issues. This rule was refined in Szypa v Kasler Electric Co, 136 Mich App 116 (1984). There, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that, when an issue is raised before an ALJ that was not placed in the notice of hearing, (a) a party is entitled to an adjournment if either party requests it and (b) no evidence may be taken on the new issue unless a knowing and informed waiver of the adjournment is obtained. Id. at 120. In Syzpa, the claimant was present at the hearing and did not waive his right to adjournment, rendering the proceedings on the new issue improper.

Here, Claimant did not participate in the hearing. MCL 421.33 states that “if the appellant fails to appear or prosecute the appeal, the referee may dismiss the proceedings or take other actions considered available.” One such of these “other actions” is taking evidence on an issue that was not discussed in the notice of hearing.

An absent party cannot request an adjournment or provide a knowing and informed waiver. Courts have referred to parties’ failure to appear for a hearing as “extravagant and indefensible neglect.” See Radke v Nelson Mill Co, 37 Mich App 104 (1971). Failure to attend a properly noticed hearing is an act of neglect, and the party who neglects to attend the hearing waives the right to request an adjournment or provide knowing and informed consent to waiving an adjournment. Because Claimant failed to participate in the ALJ hearing, he waived his rights to an adjournment on the unannounced misconduct issue.

Digest author: Sean Higgins, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: November 4, 2017

Snyder v RAM Broadcasting – 16.34

Snyder v RAM Broadcasting
Digest No. 16.34

Section 29

Cite as: Snyder v RAM Broadcasting, unpublished opinion of the Washtenaw County Circuit Court, issued April 26, 1983 (Docket No. 8223718AE).

Court: Washtenaw Circuit Court
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Ann Snyder
Employer: RAM Broadcasting
Date of decision: April 26, 1983

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HOLDING: The court held that a hearing notice was deficient under the Administrative Procedures Act and the due process clause of the Michigan and United States Constitutions where (1)  it was not a plain statement  of the matters asserted and (2) even if understandable, was not listed in the notice of hearing as an issue which would be presented before the referee.

FACTS:  Claimant filed a timely appeal after the Agency disqualified her from benefits under the Voluntary Quit provision of Section 29(1)(a).  During her hearing, testimony was taken regarding her availability to work and efforts to obtain a job during the period in which she claimed benefits. As a result, she was found disqualified for benefits under Section 29(1)(a) and the seeking work provision of Section 28.  On appeal, the claimant sought reversal of the of the judge’s finding on the “seeking work” issue.  She alleged that she did actively seek employment and was denied a fair hearing on this issue in violation of the Michigan Employment Security Act and the due process clause of the state and federal constitutions.

DECISION: The court held that the hearing notice was deficient under the Administrative Procedures Act and the due process clauses of the Michigan and United States Constitutions. In addition, the referee’s failure to inform the claimant of all issues he planned to decide during the hearing, along with the consequences of failing to meet her burden of proof violated the fairness requirement of Section 33 of the Michigan Employment Security Act.

RATIONALE: The court found that the hearing notice violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) provision requiring “a short and plain statement of the matters asserted.”  Here, the court found that “words and phrases divided by slashes and followed by a string citation . . . do not provide a reasonably understandable notification that an issue will be considered, especially when the notification is intended for a lay person.”  

In discussing the due process requirements under the state and federal constitutions, the court cited Hanson v State Board of Registration, 253 Mich 601, 607 (1931), holding that unless the right is waived, a party before a state agency is “at least entitled to a reasonably definite statement of the charge or charges preferred against the accused.”  Here, the court found that the notice of hearing was not reasonably calculated to inform the claimant of the pendency of the seeking work issue: “Whatever the purpose of this convoluted array of words and slashes, it was not to intelligibly notify the plaintiff that her entire benefits package prior to the hearing date was in jeopardy if she did not affirmatively prove her efforts in search of employment.” Thus, the hearing notice was deficient under the APA and the Michigan and United States constitutions.

The court further held that Ms. Snyder was denied a fair hearing where she was not apprised of all the issues the referee intended to decide, along with the consequences of the plaintiff’s failure to carry her burden of proof.  As a result, Ms. Snyder’s hearing violated the fairness requirement of Section 33 of the Act.

Digest author: Laura Page, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: December 1, 2017