Fowler v Marubeni Metal Blanking – 14.17

Fowler v Marubeni Metal Blanking
Digest No. 14.17

Section 421.29(1)(m)

Cite as: Fowler v Marubeni Metal Blanking, unpublished opinion of the Shiawassee County Circuit Court, issued December 15, 2006 (Docket No. 06-4352-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: David L. Fowler
Employer: Marubeni Metal Blanking
Date of decision: December 15, 2006

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HOLDING: A claimant cannot be disqualified from receiving benefits for a discharge resulting from the claimant’s refusal to submit to a drug test where the drug test was not administered in an impartial and objective manner.

FACTS: The employer decided to drug test the entire workforce due to a number of unusual occurrences, and because the employer was informed employees were using prescription drugs prescribed to other persons. The employees, including Claimant, were told that if they had a valid prescription and tested positive for that drug they would be okay.

When informed of the employer’s intent to test all employees, Claimant asked to speak with the plant manager. Claimant disclosed that he had taken Vicodin over the weekend from an earlier prescription and didn’t know if the prescription was “valid”. He asked to use his phone because he wanted to call his doctor and see if the prescription was “valid”. His request was denied because the employer was concerned that he might give the later shifts advance notice of the drug testing. No one from the employer was able to clarify what constituted a “valid” prescription. Claimant refused to take the test and was fired.

An ALJ found that Claimant was not disqualified for benefits under Section 29(1)(m)(ii) of the Act. The Board of Review reversed.   

DECISION: The Board of Review’s decision is reversed. Claimant is not disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits under Section 29(1)(m)(ii) of the Act.

RATIONALE: For a claimant to be disqualified under Section 29(1)(m)(ii), he must refuse “to submit to a drug test that was required to be administered in a nondiscriminatory manner”. A claimant’s refusal to submit to a drug test cannot be adjudicated without first determining whether the test was administered in a nondiscriminatory manner. Under Section 29(1)(m)(ii)(C), for a drug test to be administered in a “nondiscriminatory manner”, it must be “administered impartially and objectively.”

Here, Claimant is not disqualified for benefits under Section 29(1)(m)(ii) because the drug test was not administered in a non-discriminatory manner because it was administered subjectively and based on improper information. Claimant made an appropriate request for clarification, and when the employer chose to give unclear and incorrect information, the risk of confusing a worker causing that worker to make a wrong decision was foreseeable. Further, the employer’s explanation to Claimant did not include the fact that Claimant would have the right to dispute the result of the testing.

Digest author: Stephanie Marshak, Michigan Law, Class of 2016
Digest updated: October 29, 2017