Nichols v. Auto Club Services – 12.158

Nichols v. Auto Club Services & UIA
Digest No. 12.158

Section 421.29(1)(b)

Cite as: Nichols v Auto Club Services, Inc, Unpublished Opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals, Issued November 19, 2015 (Docket No. 14-001823-AE).

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Appeal Pending: No
Claimant: Aisha Nichols
Employer: Auto Club Services Inc.
Date of Decision: November 19, 2015

HOLDING: Absences for good cause in violation of an employer’s no-fault attendance policy do not constitute misconduct under MCL 421.29(1)(b).

FACTS: In October 2012, claimant was hired as a customer sales and service representative for Auto Club Services Incorporated (“ACS”). After working for 90 days, ACS employees earned three days off from work for every six months. ACS had a written no-fault attendance policy with no written exceptions, and exceptions were very rare in practice. Between December 3, 2012, and February 5, 2013, claimant received three written discipline notices, two of which were related to absences or tardiness.

On February 28, 2013, while driving to work, claimant’s vision blurred, and she was unable to see. Claimant had previously experienced blurred vision and believed it was caused by “having a thyroid storm.” She left a voicemail with ACS informing them the (1) the reason for her absence was personal and (2) she could explain her absence upon her return on March 1, 2013.

Upon returning on March 1, 2013, ACS discharged claimant for her absence pursuant to their no-fault attendance policy. While being discharged, claimant informed ACS she felt unwell and could not see on February 28th. She did not provide medical documentation explaining her absence on the aforementioned date but had previously warned her employer she was not feeling well.

Claimant was disqualified from unemployment benefits pursuant to MCL 421.29(1)(b). During claimant’s hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), the parties stipulated her absence was due to an illness, but there is a dispute whether the ALJ accepted that stipulation. The ALJ and subsequently, the Michigan Compensation Appellate Compensation (“MCAC”) and Wayne Circuit Court affirmed claimant’s determination of disqualified from benefits under MCL 421.29(1)(b). Claimant appeals arguing the lower tribunals’ (1) decisions were contrary to law and (2) fact finding was unsupported by competent, material, and substantial evidence.

DECISION: Claimant is not disqualified for misconduct pursuant to MCL 421.29(1)(b) because the absences were beyond her control, and thus, she had good cause for said absence.

RATIONALE: Misconduct has been defined as “conduct evincing such willful or wanton disregard of an employer’s interest as is found in deliberate violations or disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of his employee.” Carter v. Mich. Employment Security Comm., 364 Mich. 538, 541; 111 NW2d 817 (1961). However, infractions that may cause termination do not necessarily constitute misconduct under MCL 421.29(1)(b). Hagenbuch v. Plainwell Paper Co., Inc., 153 Mich. App. 834, 837-838; 396 NW2d 556 (1986). Absenteeism and tardiness for reasons not beyond a claimant’s control constitute misconduct. Id at 837. However, absenteeism and tardiness for reasons beyond a claimant’s control which are otherwise with good cause do not constitute misconduct. Washington v. Amway Grand Plaza, 135 Mich. App. 652, 658; 354 NW2d 299 (1984).

The court argued the basis of claimant’s discharge was her accumulation of absences in violation of ACS’ attendance policy, not claimant’s failure to notify ACS of her medical condition to explain her final absence. This was confirmed by an ACS senior employee who testified that claimant would have been discharged due to the absences, regardless of whether she provided an explanation. Claimant provided evidence that her absences and tardiness prior to the February 28th incident were due to one or more chronic medical conditions related to her thyroid. Thus, these absences were beyond her control and constituted good cause.

The lower tribunals’ factual findings and ACS’s offered evidence was not inconsistent with claimant’s showing of good cause for her absences. Furthermore, the lower tribunals did not determine that claimant’s absences were without good cause and thus, erred in disqualifying claimant under MCL 421.29(1)(b). The Court held claimant was wrongfully disqualified for misconduct and remanded for further proceedings.

Digest Author: Sean Higgins, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest Updated: 3/27/2016

Latham v. Comcast Cablevision Corp. – 12.157

Latham v. Comcast Cablevision Corp.
Digest No. 12.157

Section 421.29(1)(b)

Cite as: Latham v Comcast Cablevision Corp, unpublished opinion of the Wayne County Circuit Court, issued August 28, 2013 (Docket No. 13-003859-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Carmen Latham
Employer: Comcast Cablevision Corporation
Date of decision: August 28, 2013

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HOLDING: The Michigan Appellate Compensation Commission’s decision that Latham’s discharge for misconduct was contrary to law. Absent the provision of Comcast’s written policy on credit checks, there was not enough evidence to show that Latham’s actions rose to the level of misconduct.

FACTS: From April 3, 2006 until May 11, 2012, when she was discharged for misconduct, Latham worked for Comcast as an inbound sales executive. In March 2012, Comcast audited Latham’s work because she had not run credit checks on several accounts. On May 11, 2012 Latham was discharged. She then filed a claim for unemployment, but was ruled disqualified under the misconduct provisions of the act. According to the testimony of the employer at the ALJ hearing, credit checks are mandatory and the company’s policy does not allow employees discretion on whether to perform them. Latham was also found to have set up an account without Comcast’s permission, but believed she was following an appropriate course of action.

DECISION: The circuit court reversed the decision of the Michigan Appellate Compensation Commission and ruled that the claimant was not disqualified for benefits because of misconduct under Section 29(1)(b) of the act.

RATIONALE: Latham argued that under MRE 1002, the best evidence rule, Comcast was required to provide the written policy on credit checks rather than using testimonies of employees to demonstrate its contents. The circuit court agreed and stated that without this policy, it only had the statements of Comcast representatives to rely on to decide how much discretion Comcast employees are allowed. Without the written policy clearly defining Latham’s responsibilities, the circuit court found that her conduct amounted only to poor performance and not misconduct.

Digest Author: Alisa Hand, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest Updated: 3/27/2016

Winfied Machine Service LLC v. UIA – 14.19

Winfied Machine Service LLC v. UIA
Digest No. 14.19

Section 429.21(1)(i)

Cite as: Winfied Machine Services, LLC v Havens, unpublished opinion of the Macomb Circuit Court, issued July 13, 2009 (Docket No. 2009-­0342-­AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Dennis Havens
Employer: Winfied Machine Services LLC
Date of decision: July 13, 2009

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HOLDING: Because the Michigan Employment Security Act does not define “theft” for the purposes of MCL 429.21(1)(i), a claimant cannot be disqualified from receiving benefits when “theft” is interpreted as requiring felonious intent and the employer fails to establish that the claimant acted with felonious intent.

FACTS: Claimant was fired after his employer discovered that he had sold a hydraulic pump allegedly stolen from the employer. Testimony on behalf of the Claimant suggested that a third party had given Claimant the pump, and that Claimant was unaware of any prior owners.  Neither the ALJ nor the Michigan Employment Security Board of Review could determine true ownership of the pump. Since ownership of the pump was unclear, the Board found that the employer failed to meet its burden of demonstrating Claimant’s felonious intent to deprive the employer of its alleged property.

DECISION: The court declined to reverse the decision of the Michigan Employment Security Board of Review because it was supported by “competent, material and substantial evidence on the whole record, and clearly conformed to the law.”

RATIONALE: Because the Michigan Employment Security Act does not define “theft,” it is not contrary to the law to determine that an element of theft is felonious intent.  Under such an interpretation, a claimant cannot be disqualified from receiving benefits under MCL 429.21(1)(i) when the Employer fails to establish felonious intent.

Digest author: James Mestichelli, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: 3/29/2016

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

Andrews v. COD Food Services, Inc. – 14.15

Andrews v. COD Food Services, Inc.
Digest No. 14.15

Section 421.29

Cite as: Andrews v COD Food Services, Inc, unpublished opinion of the Wayne County Circuit Court, issued August 29, 2008 (Docket No. 08-103679AE)

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: James R. Andrews
Employer: COD Food Services, Inc.
Date of decision: August 29, 2008

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HOLDING: While there must be a causal connection between the alleged theft and discharge of employment, the MESA 421.29(1)(i) does not require that the discharge occur within a specific period of time.

FACTS: On June 3, 2007, Employer learned $150 was missing from the counting room. When confronted about it, Claimant admitted to stealing the money. Claimant returned his set of keys to the counting room, and no longer had access to it after that date. However, Claimant was not fired for the theft until nearly two months later on August 2, 2007. Employer testified that he did not discharge Claimant immediately because he was “extremely short handed.” Claimant indicated that he was never given a reason for his discharge. Claimant filed for and received benefits. Employer protested. At hearing, ALJ ruled in favor of Claimant, but the Board of Review reversed. Claimant appealed.

DECISION: Evidence supporting the Board of Review’s finding that Claimant was discharged for theft was sufficiently substantial; the Board’s decision is upheld.

RATIONALE: Employer did not “condone” Claimant’s behavior by keeping him on for two more months after the theft. Furthermore, just because Claimant offered to return the key to the counting room does not mean Claimant was not reprimanded for the theft. Claimant was stripped of his counting room privileges, and removed from his position as closing supervisor, which shows he was punished for his actions. Employer stated a legitimate economic interest in keeping Claimant on until August. The statute does not mandate a specific timeframe for discharge because of theft. Though the causal connection between the two events weakens with time, there was no evidence here “that Claimant was discharged for a reason other than theft.” Pursuant to 421.29(1)(i) (disqualification for theft), Claimant may be disqualified for benefits.

Digest author: Jacob Harris, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: 3/30/2016

Ciaravino v. Ford Motor Co. – 14.16

Ciaravino v. Ford Motor Co.
Digest No. 14.16

Section 421.29(1)(m)

Cite as: Ciaravino v Ford Motor Co, unpublished opinion of the Macomb County Circuit Court, issued December 19, 2007 (Docket No. 2007-2858-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Robert Ciaravino
Employer: Ford Motor Company
Docket no.: 189730H
Date of decision: December 19, 2007

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Holding: The Board’s decision that Ciaravino should be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits was not contrary to law and was supported by substantial evidence. Ford’s evidence was sufficient to show that Ciaravino’s positive drug test for marijuana, a controlled substance, disqualified him from receiving benefits.

Facts: Robert Ciaravino worked as an employee for Ford Motor Company from October 1994 until October 7, 2005. After he tested positive for marijuana during a random urinalysis, he was discharged. Ciaravino’s specimen was taken by Beverley Tukis, a Ford full-time nurse, and the positive drug results were received by Sally Gruca, another Ford full-time nurse.

Decision: The circuit court affirmed the Board of Review’s decision, which found the claimant to be disqualified from receiving benefits for misconduct under Section 29(1)(m) of the MES Act.

Rationale: Though Ciaravino denied using marijuana and said he had been taking Vicodin for a knee injury, there was no evidence that Vicodin would produce a false positive for marijuana or that the test was erroneous. Ciaravino had also signed a Reinstatement Waiver on April 4, 2005 in which he agreed to submit to random drug and alcohol testing as a condition of employment at Ford. The discharge of an individual due to ingestion of marijuana, which is considered a “controlled substance” pursuant to MCL 333.7104, 7201 and 7212, disqualifies the individual from receiving benefits. Ford also provided sufficient evidence to establish an adequate chain of custody from which a positive specimen result could be inferred.

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

Barbee v. J.C. Penney – 16.73

Barbee v. J.C. Penney
Digest No. 16.73

Section 421.29(b), 421.33, 421.34, 421.38

Cite as: Barbee v JC Penney Corp, Inc, Unpublished Opinion of the Circuit Court for the County of Oakland, Issued January 26, 2006 (Docket No. 177083W).

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Appeal Pending: No
Claimant: Della M. Barbee
Employer: J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc.
Tribunal: Circuit Court for the County of Oakland
Date of Decision: January 26, 2006

HOLDING: The State of Michigan Employment Security Board of Review’s (“Board”) lacks jurisdiction to review untimely appeals.

FACTS: Claimant was employed by J.C. Penney as a Customer Service Associate until she was discharged for misconduct. Her alleged misconduct included obtaining fraudulent refunds, discount abuse, and unauthorized price adjustments. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) disqualified the claimant from benefits due to her misconduct under MCL 421.29(b).

Claimant appealed the ALJ’s decision to the State of Michigan Employment Security Board of Review (“Board”). The deadline to appeal was September 24, 2004, but claimant did not file her appeal until October 6, 2004. Pursuant to MCL 421.33, the Board dismissed the late appeal due to lack of jurisdiction.

Claimant did not seek rehearing or to reopen the case with the Board for good cause but instead, appealed to the Circuit Court (“Court”) for de novo review of the Board’s (1) arbitrary Appeal deadline and (2) the underlying determination in finding the Plaintiff guilty of misconduct.

DECISION: The Board’s deadlines cannot be challenged as arbitrary because they were set by the legislature and codified as MCL 421.33(2) and MCL 421.34. Additionally, the Circuit Court cannot de novo review claimant’s underlying determination because she appealed the Board’s decision. Finally, the Board’s order dismissing claimant’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction was proper.

RATIONALE: The Circuit Court ruled that the appeal deadlines were not arbitrary because they were established by the legislature through MCL 421.33(2) and MCL 421.34.

The Court also denied claimant’s appeal for de novo review of her underlying determination as guilty of misconduct. The Court noted that a claimant can appeal a referee’s (ALJ’s) decision to the Circuit Court directly under MCL 421.38(2). However, because the claimant appealed the Board’s decision and said decision did not include a review of claimant’s determination as guilty of misconduct, the Circuit Court lacks authority to de novo review the claimant’s guilty determination.

The Circuit Court reviewed the whole record to determine if claimant’s appeal was untimely. Pursuant to MCL 421.38(1), the standard for finding an appeal untimely is support by competent, material, and substantial evidence. After finding that the appeal was untimely under the standard, the Court affirmed the Board’s decision dismissing claimant’s untimely appeal for lack of jurisdiction under MCL 421.33.

Digest Author: Sean Higgins, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest Updated: 3/27/2016