White v. Meritain Health, Inc. – 10.123

White v. Meritain Health, Inc.
Digest No. 10.123

Section 421.29

Cite as: White v Meritain Health, Inc, unpublished opinion of the Ingham County Circuit Court, issued July 17, 2015 (Case No. 14-1432-AA).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Amy White
Employer: Meritain Health, Inc.
Date of decision: July 17, 2015

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HOLDING: Whether a claimant voluntarily quit his/her job is a two-pronged analysis according to MCL 421.29(1)(a). The test was further clarified by the Michigan Supreme Court in Warren v Caro Community Hospital, 457 Mich 361 (1998). The ALJ failed to apply the two-pronged voluntary leaving test in this case.

FACTS: Claimant felt threatened by her ex-husband, who had a history of abusive behavior towards her. Claimant obtained a Personal Protection Order against her ex-husband and took steps to hide her home and work addresses from him. Claimant’s ex-husband showed up at her work (Meritain Health) one day and parked at a neighboring lot. Claimant felt threatened and informed her direct supervisor, who did not offer any help but told Claimant that she “needed to deal with her personal issues on her own time.” The employer’s protocol prevented Claimant from bringing the issue to any other supervisor. Claimant’s ex-husband returned to the parking lot next to her job a second time. Having no supervisor to turn to, Claimant submitted her two weeks’ notice of quitting because she did not feel safe on the premises anymore.

DECISION: The ALJ acted contrary to law when he failed to address whether Claimant’s separation from her job was voluntary. The case was remanded to the ALJ to apply the Warren v. Caro Community Hospital test and find whether the Claimant’s employment separation was voluntary.

RATIONALE: The Court reasoned that MCL 421.29(1)(a) clearly states there are two factors to analyze: (1) whether an individual left work voluntarily and, if so, (2) whether the voluntary leaving was with good cause attributable to the employer. Thus, the Court found the ALJ did err when he failed to conclude whether Claimant’s separation from her job was voluntary.

The term “voluntary” in this context “connotes a choice between alternatives which ordinary persons would find reasonable. Clark v North Detroit General Hospital, 179 Mich App 511, 515-16 (1989) aft’d 437 Mich 280 (1991). This reasonableness standard was part of the ALJ’s assessment of the standard for good cause attributable to the employer. This is evident by the ALJ’s statement that good cause would be found “where the employer’s actions would cause a reasonable, average, or otherwise qualified worker to give up his or her employment.” Carswell v Share House, Inc, 151 Mich App 392, 396-97 (1986) (quoting).

Digest author: Rita Samaan, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: 10/31/2017


Warren v Caro Community Hospital – 10.80

Warren v Caro Community Hospital
Digest no. 10.80

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Warren v Caro Community Hosp, 457 Mich 361 (1998).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Cindy Warren
Employer: Caro Community Hospital
Docket no.: B91-00630-118357
Date of decision: May 19, 1998

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SUPREME COURT HOLDING: When a claimant is willing to continue working but is advised by a doctor not to work because of a temporary or short-term, self-limited medical condition properly documented by the treating physician, the claimant did not voluntarily leave work by following the doctor’s advice. If an employer refuses to allow the employee to return as soon as medically possible, the employee is entitled to unemployment compensation.

FACTS: As she neared the end of her pregnancy, claimant submitted a request for a medical leave. The request was denied as under the collective bargaining agreement it was the employer’s policy to refuse leaves to employees who had not been employed a year. Shortly thereafter, the claimant gave birth and consequently failed to report to work. When released by her physician, she sought to return to work at the hospital. but was refused. She did not seek unemployment benefits for the period that she was medically unable to work. Rather, she only sought to return to work following her pregnancy.

DECISION: Claimant is not disqualified for voluntary leaving.

RATIONALE: “[W]e continue to hold that whether a person is entitled to unemployment benefits is a two-part inquiry. Under the first prong, we must determine whether plaintiff voluntarily left her position. If we find that she left her position involuntarily, the inquiry ends and she is entitled to unemployment compensation. … However, if the court finds that plaintiff left her position voluntarily, we must advance to prong two to determine whether her leaving was `without good cause attributable to the employer.'” The claimant was advised by her doctor not to work beyond a certain date. Fault should not be ascribed to the claimant simply because a medical condition rendered her temporarily unable to work. Because she received medical advice not to work, she did not voluntarily leave, and thus is entitled to unemployment benefits for the period she was medically able to work, but her employer refused to allow her to return. Note the Court distinguished this case factually from Watson v Murdock’s Food, 148 Mich App 802 (1986) on the basis Ms. Watson had no intention of returning to work and was seeking benefits for the period when medically unable to work.

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated: 

Haynes v Flint Painting, Stripping & Derusting – 10.83

Haynes v Flint Painting, Stripping & Derusting
Digest no. 10.83

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Haynes v Flint Painting, Stripping & Derusting, unpublished opinion of the Genesee County Circuit Court, issued August 16, 1995 (No. 94-32420-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Maggie M. Haynes
Employer: Flint Painting, Stripping and Derusting
Docket no.: B93-13254-128491
Date of decision: August 16, 1995

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CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: “When an individual is caught between a rock (leaving her employment) and a hard place (risking her health), the decision to act one way rather than the other is not a voluntary leaving.”

FACTS: Claimant worked for the employer for two years before learning she had breast cancer. Claimant’s job involved heavy lifting and extensive manual labor. Claimant requested an alternate position because of the strain that type of work would have on her health. The employer informed Claimant that no alternative position was available and her request could not be accommodated. Claimant also requested a medical leave of absence for surgery and chemotherapy. The employer denied the request stating company policy did not provide for medical leaves of absence. The employer informed Claimant could return to work after completing therapy. Claimant did not return to work and filed a claim for unemployment benefits.

DECISION: Claimant is not disqualified from receiving benefits under Section 29(1)(a).

RATIONALE: In light of the totality of circumstances, Claimant acted reasonably when she chose to leave rather than endanger her health. She was not in the position of exercising any reasonable alternatives. Laya v Cebar Construction, 101 Mich App 26 (1980). The court found this matter distinguishable from Watson v Murdock’s Food and Wet Goods, 148 Mich App 802 (1986), because Claimant approached the employer and requested alternative work, unlike the claimant in Watson who intended to leave her employment due to complications with her pregnancy. The claimant in the present matter left work after learning that alternative work would not be available. Claimant was “forced from a position that her health would not allow her to perform, and employment which her employer did not take steps to continue.”

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated:

Mercy Memorial Hospital Corp v Tompkins – 10.74

Mercy Memorial Hospital Corp v Tompkins
Digest no. 10.74

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Mercy Mem Hosp Corp v Tompkins, unpublished opinion of the Monroe Circuit Court, issued May 4, 1995 (Docket No. 94-2923-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Rhonda L. Tompkins
Employer: Mercy Memorial Hospital Corp.
Docket no.: B93-00829-126935
Date of decision: May 4, 1995

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CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: An involuntary separation due to serious health problems and hospitalization is not a voluntary leaving and the disqualification provision of Section 29(1)(a) is inapplicable.

FACTS: The claimant began working for the employer on December 13, 1991. On June 22, 1992, she was hospitalized for hypermesis relating to her pregnancy. The claimant maintained contact with her employer and provided medical documentation regarding her illness. On July 15, 1992, the employer terminated the claimant, retroactive to June 15, 1992. The employer terminated the claimant because, as a probationary employee, she was not entitled to a medical leave of absence. The employer contended the claimant quit, the claimant contended she was involuntarily terminated. The claimant’s physician precluded her from doing any work until August 1, 1992, when the restrictions were lifted.

DECISION: The claimant is not disqualified for benefits.

RATIONALE: The burden of establishing the separation was involuntary or voluntary with good cause attributable to the employer rests with the claimant. Cooper v University of Michigan, 100 Mich App 99 (1980). The court distinguished Watson v Murdock’s Food and Wet Goods, 148 Mich App 802 (1986), and Leeseberg v Smith-Jamieson, 149 Mich App 463 (1986). In the present matter the court noted the record did not indicate the claimant intended to leave work after her baby was born, unlike the claimant in Watson who did not intend to return. The court distinguished Leeseberg since the claimant in the present matter was herself ill. In Leeseberg,claimant’s spouse was ill. The claimant “involuntarily left work due to her serious heath problems and hospitalization.” Section 29(1)(a) is inapplicable. The employer did not discharge the claimant for misconduct pursuant to Washington v Amway Grand Plaza, 135 Mich App 652 (1984).

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated: 

Butler v City of Newaygo – 10.125

Butler v City of Newaygo
Digest No. 10.125

Section 421.29


Cite as: Butler v City of Newaygo, 115 Mich App 445 (1982).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Neil Butler
Employer: City of Newaygo
Date of decision: April 21, 1982

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HOLDING: There was ample evidentiary support for the administrative decision that the claimant was ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits under MCL 421.29(1)(a).

FACTS: Claimant was superintendent of sewers, superintendent of water, and superintendent for public works for the City of Newaygo. The city manager relieved Claimant of his duties as superintendent of public works. However, he retained his other positions, and his salary remained unchanged. Claimant did not oppose this change.

One day, the city manager reprimanded Claimant for providing municipal equipment to a private contractor without having first secured the proper authorization from the city manager. In that same month, someone broke into a city pump house and ruined the engine. Everyone, including Claimant, who had keys to the pump house was asked to take a lie detector test regarding this incident. However, the test was not administered. Claimant then resigned, alleging that he was forced to do so.

DECISION: The circuit court order affirming the ALJ’s denial of the requested benefits is affirmed. Regarding Claimant’s second issue on appeal about transcript fees, the court found that Claimant is entitled to immediate return of any money advanced by him for circuit court transcripts.

RATIONALE: The court reasoned that although the city manager removed Claimant from the public works superintendent position without following the proper procedures by securing a city council resolution on it, the removal without a council resolution did not constitute good cause to quit. In addition, the reprimand was not without basis in city policy, which is uncontested by Claimant. Thus, the reprimand did not constitute good cause to quit either.

Further, Claimant’s feeling that he was personally affronted by the request to take a lie detector test does not constitute good cause to quit. The test was not required, and refusal to take the test was not met with threats for disciplinary action. Claimant objected to the lie detector test only because he felt unjustly accused for the pump’s damage, which is not good cause for quitting.

The court also rejected Claimant’s assertion that he was “‘compelled’ by the ‘iron hand of the tyrant [i.e., his employer]’” to resign, because it was not supported by the record. Awarding the Claimant unemployment insurance benefits would have undermined the legislative policy to combat the burden of involuntary employment under MCL 421.29(1)(a).

Digest author: Rita Samaan, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: October 25, 2017