Mendoza v. Aerotek, Inc. – 12.159

Mendoza v. Aerotek, Inc.
Digest No. 12.159

Section 421.29(1)(m)

Cite as: Mendoza v Aerotek, Inc, unpublished opinion of the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission, issued August 18, 2017 (Docket No. 17-004211-252718W).

Court: Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Pedro Mendoza
Employer: Aerotek Incorporated
Date of decision: August 18, 2017

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HOLDING: The Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) reversed an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) order finding Claimant disqualified for benefits under the “testing positive for drug use” provision of Section 29(1)(m).  The Commission held that under Ashford v Unemployment Compensation Commission, 328 Mich 428, 433 (1950), the employer did not meet its burden of proof where it failed to appear, and thus no prima facie case was established to prove the misconduct.  Therefore, the Commission reversed the order and found Claimant eligible for benefits.

FACTS:  The Agency found Claimant disqualified for benefits under the misconduct provision of MES 421.29.  Here, Claimant tested positive for drug use on an employer-administered drug test and thus was found ineligible under the illicit drug use provision of Section 29(1)(m).  At the hearing, the only participants present were Claimant’s attorneys and the judge.  Despite the employer’s lack of appearance, the judge affirmed the Agency’s finding of disqualification and held Claimant ineligible for benefits.  The MCAC reversed on appeal.

DECISION: The Commission reversed the ALJ order and found Claimant not disqualified for benefits under Section 29(1)(m).

RATIONALE: The Commission found that because the employer had the burden of proof to establish misconduct, its failure to appear at Claimant’s hearing and present evidence to support a finding of misconduct failed to meet the burden of proof.  Because no prima facie showing of misconduct could be established without the employer’s presence, the Commission held that the ALJ erred in affirming the Agency’s finding of misconduct.  Further, Claimant had no burden of proof in this case, and had only the obligation to prosecute his appeal under Ashford.  Because the employer failed to meet its burden of proof by not appearing at the hearing, and because Claimant had no burden of proof under Section 29(1)(m), the order was reversed and the Commission found Claimant not disqualified for benefits.

Digest author: Laura Page, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: January 2, 2018

 

Proulx v. Horiba Subsidiary, Inc. – 18.21

Proulx v. Horiba Subsidiary, Inc.
Digest No. 18.21

Sections 421.27, 421.33(1), 421.54(b), and 421.62(a)

Cite as: Proulx v Horiba Subsidiary, Inc, unpublished opinion of the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission, issued October 1, 2014 (Docket No. 14-00680-241108).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Brian D. Proulx
Employer: Horiba Subsidiary, Inc.
Docket no.: 14-00680-241108
Date of decision: October 1, 2014

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HOLDING: Redetermination by the UIA requires fact finding in support of the agency’s decision. When the Agency merely makes a conclusory statement in support of its ruling, such a decision is procedurally deficient and will not be upheld on appeal. Secondly, when a claimant fails to appear at an appeal by the Agency, the ALJ has jurisdiction both to dismiss the proceedings and to “take other action considered advisable”. Thus, the ALJ has “broad discretion to address the matter.” Finally, the notice for the hearing, delivered to the claimant, was required to include ”the issues and penalties involved”. (This requirement has been altered by Michigan Administrative Code (MAC) Rule 792.11407. This rule requires a “short and plain statement of the issues involved”, while related rules require a 20 notice, compared to the usual 7, and a witness list and copy of all documentary evidence related to fraud.)

FACTS: After being discharged by Horiba Subsidiary, Claimant applied for and received benefits under Section 27. A rehearing, on March 28, 2014, by the Unemployment Insurance Agency accused Claimant of fraud or misrepresentation, found him ineligible for Section 27 benefits, and subject to restitution under Section 62(a). A separate rehearing on the same day assessed penalties under Section 54(b). Claimant then failed to appear at an ALJ hearing of this matter on July 10, 2014. The notice of this hearing provided to Claimant read “SECTION 27(c) & 48 – WHETHER OR NOT CLAIMANT IS ELIGIBLE FOR BENEFITS UNDER THE REMUNERATION, EARNINGS OFFSET PROVISION. CLAIMANT MUST PAY RESTITUTION/DAMAGES TO AGENCY UNDER SECTION 54(b)-INTENTIONAL MISREPRESENTATION. SECTIONS THAT MAY APPLY ARE: 62(a), 62(b), 20(a).” This notice did not include the penalties involved as required by the Michigan Administrative Code (MAC) Rule 421.1110(1). (Note that this rule has since been superseded and altered by Rule 792.11407.)

Because of Claimant’s failure to appear, the ALJ dismissed Claimant’s appeal of the Section 27, and Section 62(a) rehearings, but remanded the Section 54(b) rehearing to the Agency because their accusations in that rehearing were merely conclusory and didn’t provide supporting fact-finding. The Unemployment Insurance Agency appealed this remand decision to the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission, and the Commission reviewed both of the orders of the ALJ.

DECISION: The ALJ’s dismissal of Claimant’s appeal is set aside and remanded for a full hearing. The ALJ’s remand of the Agency’s 54(b) ruling is affirmed.

RATIONALE: An ALJ does not lack jurisdiction over an appealed UIA hearing simply because the appellant failed to appear at the appeal. Section 33(1) provides that “If the appellant fails to appear or prosecute the appeal, the administrative law judge may dismiss the proceedings or take other action considered advisable.” Since the ALJ may “take other action considered advisable”, a dismissal based on the appellant’s failure to appear is an error of law. A second reason for setting aside the ALJ’s dismissal of the appeal is the insufficiency of the notice provided to Claimant. Michigan Administrative Code (MAC) Rule 431.1110(1) required the notice to include a description of the penalties involved. Since the notice form provided to Claimant lacked this information, it was not sufficient and his failure to appear can’t be held against him.

Secondly, and Agency determination of fraud or misrepresentation on the part of a claimant can’t be sustained without fact-finding on the record to back up that determination. Merely supplying conclusory statements as to Claimant’s alleged fraud does not meet this burden. Therefore, when the Agency fails to provide appropriate factual backing for its findings, it must reconsider its determination.

Digest author: James Fahringer, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: 3/30/2016

 

Gordon v. Miller Apple – 16.82

Gordon v. Miller Apple
Digest No. 16.82

Section 421.54

Cite as: Gordon v Miller Apple, unpublished opinion of the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission, issued October 3, 2012 (Docket No. B2011-11754-RM9-228743W).

Court: Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Thomas Gordon
Employer: Miller Apple, LP
Date of decision: October 3, 2012

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HOLDING: The Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) 1) reversed an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) order denying rehearing, and 2) found the claimant had not committed fraud under Section 54(b).  

FACTS:  The Agency found Claimant disqualified for benefits and liable for penalties under the fraud provision of Section 54(b).  Claimant did not contest his ineligibility, but did deny that he had committed fraud under the statute.  Because both cases involve similar facts and points of law, they were docketed together for a hearing pursuant to Administrative Rule R421.1205.  Because the ALJ was unavailable, those hearings were cancelled and rescheduled for a subsequent date at 11:00am and 12:00 pm respectively.  Claimant’s attorney received only one of these notices of hearing, and thus told Claimant to arrive at noon on the day of the hearing.  When Claimant failed to appear for his 11:00 am hearing, he found the claim had been dismissed.  The ALJ subsequently found no good cause for Claimant’s failure to appear and denied his request for rehearing.  On the question of fraud, Claimant testified that while he did not contest his ineligibility, he did not commit fraud under Section 54(b).  Claimant had not reported his irregular part time earnings, but immediately began reporting them when informed of this requirement.

DECISION: The Commission made two holdings: on the question of Claimant’s request for rehearing, the Commission found good cause for Claimant’s failure to appear and set aside the ALJ order denying rehearing.  On the question of fraud, the Commission reversed the Agency determination finding fraud under Section 54(b), finding that Claimant did not intentionally misrepresent a material fact to obtain benefits to which he was not entitled.

RATIONALE: On the question of Claimant’s request for rehearing, the Commission found that the attorney’s failure to receive both notices of hearing established good cause for Claimant’s failure to appear at his first scheduled hearing.  On the question of fraud, the Commission found Claimant’s testimony credible in showing he did not intentionally misrepresent a material fact to the Agency to obtain benefits he was not entitled to, and thus did not commit fraud within the meaning of Section 54(b).  Here, Claimant incorrectly reported irregular part-time income to the Agency, but called the Agency to determine if and how to report these earnings.  As soon as Claimant discovered his error, he began reporting his earnings.  The Commission thus found that while he remained ineligible for benefits, he did not commit fraud under Section 54(b).

Digest author: Laura Page, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: December 27, 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