Newman v River Rouge Schools – 4.39

Newman v River Rouge Schools
Digest no. 4.39

Section 31, 48(2)

Cite as: Newman v River Rouge Schools, unpublished opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued July 24, 2014 (Docket No. 314033).

Appeal pending: 
Claimant: Joel A. Newman, et al.
Employer: River Rouge Schools
Docket no.: 12-005774-AE
Date of decision: July 24, 2014

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HOLDING: A rehiring agreement that agrees to provide back pay designated to a specific date may make a claimant ineligible to receive unemployment benefits beginning on that date, and any language in the agreement requiring claimant to reimburse the UIA for benefits received as of that date may be valid notwithstanding Section 31.

FACTS: Claimant worked for Employer as a teacher. At the end of the 2008/2009 school year, Claimant was sent a reasonable assurance letter for the upcoming year, but later in the summer was laid off effective August 6, 2009. Claimant’s last pay date was August 14, 2009, and Claimant immediately filed for unemployment benefits beginning the next day. Claimant collected benefits for the weeks ending August 22 and August 30, 2009, and the first few weeks in September.

After the Claimant’s union filed an unfair labor practice charge against Employer, Employer called Claimant back to work and agreed to provide Claimant with back pay. The agreement stipulated that the Claimant must reimburse the Agency “for any unemployment benefits that [he] received after what would have been the first day that the [Claimant was] scheduled to report for work.” Disagreement as to when the 2009/2010 school year began led to a dispute as to when the Employer-provided back pay made him whole, whether there was a period of time that Claimant was eligible for benefits, and whether Claimant must reimburse unemployment benefits received.

DECISION: The decision of the Circuit Court is affirmed, finding that Claimant must reimburse UIA for unemployment benefits received beginning the week ending August 22, 2009.

RATIONALE: There is no dispute that Claimant had the lawful right to collect benefits during the time he was laid off. However, in the agreement between Employer and Claimant, the back pay provided to Claimant was designated as dating back to August 15, 2009, which is the date Claimant allegedly began his period of unemployment. Because substantial evidence shows that both parties agreed that this date was “the beginning of their contract term” and back pay was calculated based on that date, Claimant does not qualify as unemployed as of that date. Additionally, this designation is lawful under the circumstances because nothing in Section 48(2) prohibits this practice, and Claimant does not argue that this back pay was insufficient to make him whole.

Claimant further argues that the agreement was invalid under Section 31 to the extent that Claimant agreed to waive or relinquish his rights to unemployment benefits properly received during the layoff period. This Court agrees that the agreement violates Section 31 on its face and is not valid to require Claimant to relinquish unemployment benefits properly received. However, as explained above, the agreement’s other terms find Claimant to be ineligible for benefits beginning August 15, 2009, and therefore it is not improper for Claimant to be required to relinquish unemployment benefits improperly received.

Digest Author: Jack Battaglia
Digest Updated: 8/14

Brannen v Grand Rapids Public Schools – 5.19

Brannen v Grand Rapids Public Schools
Digest no. 5.19

Section 27(i)

Cite as: Brannen v Grand Rapids Pub Schools, Kent Circuit Court No. 95-5003-AE (June 14, 1996).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Malcolm E. Brannen
Employer: Grand Rapids Public Schools
Docket no.: B92-30594-R01-124781W
Date of decision: June 14, 1996

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CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: Assurance of re-employment at 50% of the preceding years’ earnings is not a reasonable assurance of re-employment.

FACTS: The claimant was employed concurrently by two educational institutions. One was the Grand Rapids Public Schools [GRPS]. The other was Grand Rapids Community College [GRCC]. Seventy percent (70%) of his total earnings were the result of his work with the GRPS. The remaining 30% were from GRCC. In July 1992 the claimant was informed his position with the GRPS was being eliminated. At the end of the 1991-1992 academic year GRCC informed him he had a “reasonable assurance” of re-employment in the fall of `92. However, his earnings would be reduced from $14,000 to $7,000 a year if he was not re-employed by the GRPS. The claimant filed a claim for benefits on July 2, 1992. On July 30, 1992 he was recalled by the GRPS. On August 12, 1992 he was offered [and later accepted] a position as a full-time employee of the GRCC at $14,000 per year.

DECISION: The claimant was not subject to the school denial period contained in Section 27(i).

RATIONALE: GRPS conceded that with respect to the GRPS there was no reasonable assurance of continued employment. However, the GRPS asserted claimant should not receive benefits for the period between academic years as he had received “reasonable assurance” from GRCC. The court found that the GRCC had only guaranteed re-employment at half his previous earnings. The court concluded that the, “reasonably assured economic terms of his continued employment would by no stretch of the imagination be reasonably similar to those in the preceding year.”

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated:
7/99

Lansing School District v Beard – 5.16

Lansing School District v Beard
Digest no. 5.16

Section 27(i)

Cite as: Lansing School Dist v Beard, unpublished per curiam Court of Appeals November 29, 1990 (No. 118334).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Dan F. Beard
Employer: Lansing School District
Docket no.: B87-16460-107488
Date of decision: November 29, 1990

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COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: Whether there is reasonable assurance is a question of fact to be determined in light of the totality of the circumstances.

FACTS: The claimant was a vocational data processing teacher. Because he was not certified as a vocational education teacher, the claimant was subject to annual authorization. On May 5, 1987, the claimant received a letter requesting that he make plans for obtaining his temporary or permanent vocational educational certification. In this letter, the claimant was informed that all jobs held by teachers who were not vocationally certified by July 1, 1987, would be posted for other applicants. On May 22, 1987, the claimant received a memorandum stating that unless specifically notified to the contrary, he had reasonable assurance of employment for the following school year.

DECISION: The claimant was not ineligible under Section 27(i).

RATIONALE: The May 22, 1987, memorandum did not constitute adequate assurance as a matter of law. Whether there was reasonable assurance was a question of fact. The ambiguity contained in the May 22, 1987, memorandum and the existence of the May 5, 1987, memorandum indicated that the claimant had not received adequate assurance of continued employment sufficient to bar his claim for benefits.

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Update:
7/99

MESC v Falkenstern – 5.15

MESC v Falkenstern
Digest no. 5.15

Section 27(i)

Cite as: MESC v Falkenstern, No. 98730 (Mich App February 23, 1988); lv den 431 Mich 911 (1988).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Ann Falkenstern, et al.
Employer: Grand Rapids Public Schools
Docket no.: B81 85301 82424
Date of decision: February 23, 1988

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COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: In order to impose a school denial period ineligibility upon school district employees who have been given an assurance of employment for the upcoming school year, such assurance must be reasonable in light of the information upon which it was based.

FACTS: In March, 1981 in anticipation of severely strained resources, the employer sent layoff notices to 625 low seniority staff. Afterwards the economic situation worsened, but in June, 1981 letters of reasonable assurance were sent to 266 teachers which stated without explanation “it is anticipated that you will be offered a teacher position for the 1981-82 school year.” In August, some, but not all, the claimants were sent another letter rescinding the earlier assurance of reemployment. Subsequently, the Board of Review held in favor of the claimants on the basis the employer did not have “sufficiently certain budgetary data to offer such assurance”.

DECISION: Claimants did not receive reasonable assurance and are not subject to the school denial period.

RATIONALE: “Although the term ‘reasonable assurance’ does not require a formal written or oral agreement to rehire (Riekse vGrand Rapids Public Schools, 144 Mich App 790, 792; 376 NW2d 194 [1985]), Section 27(i)(1) explicitly states that the assurance must be reasonable. To determine whether the assurance was reasonable, the MESC must necessarily consider the information upon which it was based. The MESC is not required to accept on blind faith any assurance given by a school district to one of its employees. If this were so, the school district could unilaterally render Section 27(i)(1) meaningless and frustrate the underlying purpose of the Michigan Employment Security Act.”

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated:
11/90

Paynes v Detroit Board of Education – 5.11

Paynes v Detroit Board of Education
Digest no. 5.11

Section 27(i)

Cite as: Paynes v Detroit Board of Ed, 150 Mich App 358 (1986).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Linda Paynes & Valerie Whalen
Employer: Detroit Board of Education & School Dist-City of Detroit
Docket no.: B82 18913 86673 & B81 22828 81799
Date of decision: April 7, 1986

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COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: “Thus, we hold that to be denied unemployment benefits pursuant to MCL 421.27(i)(1)(a); MSA 17.529(i)(1)(a), the school denial period provision, a teacher must be (1) reasonably assured of reemployment the following year in an instructional, research or principal administrative capacity, and (2) the economic terms and conditions of the employment for the following year must be reasonably similar to those in the preceding year.”

FACTS: During the 81-82 school year claimants Whalen and Paynes were both Regular Contract Teachers. Due to economic conditions both were notified they would not be regular teachers the following year. However, applications were provided for regular emergency substitute teacher (RES) positions. An RES is guaranteed employment every day school is open, however, the benefits and wages are substantially less than for contract teachers.

DECISION: Claimant Paynes did not receive reasonable assurance and is not subject to the school denial period. Remanded for additional fact-finding regarding claimant Whalen.

RATIONALE: The court specifically declined to incorporate the “suitability” criteria contained in Section 29(6) and (7) of the MES Act into the school denial provision of Section 27(i). However, the court said, “We agree with the MESC that wage disparity should be considered before denying a teacher unemployment benefits when a contract or reasonable assurance of employment in a instructional, research or principal administrative capacity is proffered for the successive academic year. We also agree … that, for purposes of the school denial period provision, an offer or reasonable assurance to an employee previously employed in either an instructional, research or principal administrative capacity of reemployment for the following academic year in any of these three capacities is adequate with respect to the type of employment. Employment in any of these capacities is legislatively-deemed to be appropriate with respect to the type of proffered employment.”

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated:
11/90

Riekse v Grand Rapids Public Schools – 5.04

Riekse v Grand Rapids Public Schools
Digest no. 5.04

Section 27(i)

Cite as: Riekse v Grand Rapids Pub Schools, 144 Mich App 790 (1985).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Nancy Riekse
Employer: Grand Rapids Public Schools
Docket no.: B83 16325 93580W
Date of decision: August 6, 1985

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COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: If a teacher had a reasonable expectation of re-employment during the next academic year, unemployment compensation may be properly denied.

FACTS: Claimant had been a substitute teacher for the past seven years in the employer’s school system. During the ending school year, claimant had taught 125 days. Claimant received a letter from the employer indicating that, “based upon the best financial data available and a comprehensive analysis of projected staffing needs,” she could be reasonably assured that she would be offered a substitute teaching position during the incoming school year. Claimant returned an application for employment as a substitute and attended an in service meeting for teachers on September 6, 1983.

DECISION: Claimant is ineligible for unemployment benefits.

RATIONALE: Claimant had substantial and reasonable assurance that she would be re-employed. She had been employed as a substitute teacher for seven preceding years. The letter expressly stated claimant was reasonably assured of employment. Claimant had attended in service training. The term reasonable assurance does not require a formal written or oral agreement to rehire.

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated:
11/90

Wisniewski v Bay City Board of Education – 5.09

Wisniewski v Bay City Board of Education
Digest no. 5.09

Section 27(i)

Cite as: Wisniewski v Bay City Board of Ed, No. 82-3591, Bay Circuit Court (June 25, 1984).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Debra A. Wisniewski
Employer: Bay City Board of Education
Docket no.: B81 13659 79554
Date of decision: June 25, 1984

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CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: Reasonable assurance means that the chances ought to be fairly strong that the employee will come back to work.

FACTS: Claimant was informed that during the school year 1981-82, Claimant would perform services for the school district “as needed and when called.” During the school year 1980-81, Claimant had performed “long term subbing” for the school district.

DECISION: Claimant is not subject to the school denial period.

RATIONALE: The school board could have set up a priorities list so that Claimants could have reasonable assurance that they would likely work, especially if the school board adds a statement as to its normal attrition rate or history. “All the employee got was a letter saying she had something which the letter did not provide to her … she had nothing else to go on.” The notice did not give the employee any reasonable assurance.

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated:
11/90