Bechill v. Benzie County Government Center – 10.98

Bechill v. Benzie County Government Center
Digest No. 10.98

Section 421.29(1)(a)

Cite as: Bechill v Benzie Co. Gov’t Ctr, Benzie Circuit Court, No. B 2007-21980-RM2-201487W (August 21, 2009).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Richard J. Bechill
Employer: Benzie County Government Center
Docket no.: 201487wh
Date of decision: August 21, 2009

View/download the full decision

HOLDING: When a claimant voluntarily terminates his or her employment, a significant reduction in wages (via a reduction in work hours) constitutes good cause attributable to the employer as a matter of public policy.

FACTS: Claimant was a dispatcher at the Benzie County Sheriff’s Office. For the first five months of his employment, Claimant was working an average of 40 hours per week. Over the summer, as a result of a myriad of factors, Claimant voluntarily worked an average of 18.25 hours per week. When Claimant saw that he was only scheduled for 3 days of work (16-20 hours) for the entirety of the next month (which he has not requested), Claimant voluntarily terminated his employment.

Claimant applied for unemployment benefits but was denied. He subsequently appealed this decision and the Board of Review upheld the denial of benefits due to the fact that (1) Claimant could not show proof that he was guaranteed a certain number of hours per week and (2) Claimant failed to show that a reasonable person would have quit instead of filing a grievance under the collective bargaining agreement that governed Claimant’s employment. Claimant then submitted a request a rehearing which was denied.

DECISION: The Board of Review decision is reversed and Claimant is entitled to unemployment benefits.

RATIONALE: As a matter of public policy, a non-voluntary, significant reduction in wages constitutes good cause attributable to the employer. If the court did not allow this to constitute good cause, this could allow employers to reduce wages near benefit level instead of releasing an employee. This would compel the employee’s resignation while simultaneously making them ineligible for benefits. Robertson v. Brown, 139 So. 2d 226, 229, 100 ALR 2d 1052 (La. Ct. App. 1962). This could make reducing hours a weapon of control for employers to make employees comply with their demands. Bunny’s Waffle Shop, Inc. v. Cal. Emp’t Comm’n, 151 P.2d 224, 227-28, 24 Cal. 2d 735, 741-43 (1944).

Digest Author: Cydney Warburton, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest Updated: 1/6/2016

Jones v. Pinconning Area Schools – 10.103

Jones v. Pinconning Area Schools
Digest No. 10.103

Section 421.29(1)(a)

Cite as: Jones v Pinconning Area Schools, unpublished opinion of the Bay County Circuit Court, issued April 5, 2007 (Docket No. 187403W).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Terese G. Jones
Employer: Pinconning Area Schools
Date of decision: April 5, 2007

View/download the full decision

HOLDING: A claimant’s decision to voluntarily leave her job following a unilateral change in her employment agreement is with good cause attributable to her employer if the claimant notifies her employer about her concerns regarding the change in her employment agreement and gives her employer the opportunity to correct her concerns prior to her resignation.  

FACTS: Claimant began work for Pinconning Area Schools on August 1, 2005 after responding to a job posting that advertised an “initial two-year contract annually renewed for future years”. Claimant was provided with a “proposed” employment contract on the first day of her employment that contained a 30 day “at-will” provision. Claimant found this objectionable since it was contrary to the two-year contract that the job posting had promised. Claimant raised these concerns with her employer and was told that they did not wish to change the contract. A second proposed contract was given to Claimant, which Claimant signed on August 10, 2005. On August 11, 2005, Claimant tendered her resignation. The ALJ found that Claimant was disqualified from receiving benefits. The MCAC reversed, finding Claimant was not disqualified.   

DECISION: The Circuit Court affirmed the decision of the MCAC. Claimant is not disqualified from receiving benefits.

RATIONALE: The employer unilaterally changed the terms of Claimant’s employment because the employer’s only offer had been set forth in its job posting, and Claimant’s acceptance of the position was predicated by the terms that were set forth in the posting.

Material changes in an employment contract may constitute good cause for quitting if: (1) a claimant provides the employer with notice and an opportunity to correct the claimant’s concerns; (2) the employer fails to correct these concerns; and (3) the claimant’s concerns are reasonable. Here, it was reasonable for Claimant to be concerned about the unilateral change in her employment contract. Additionally, Claimant did provide employer with notice of her concerns and gave the employer an opportunity to correct her concerns prior to her resignation.

Digest author: Cydney Warburton, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: 10/31/2017

 

Cooper v Mount Clemens Schools – 10.89

Cooper v Mount Clemens Schools
Digest no. 10.89

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Cooper v Mount Clemens Schools, unpublished opinion of the Barry Circuit Court, issued December 29, 1998 (Docket No. 98-194-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Cyntheal Cooper
Employer: Mount Clemens Schools
Docket no.: B97-12037-146470
Date of decision: December 29, 1998

View/download the full decision

CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: A person who “resigns” after losing their job to a layoff has not voluntarily terminated their employment.

FACTS: On April 24, 1997 the claimant received a notice she would be laid off at the end of the contract year. On April 28, 1998 the claimant submitted a letter to the employer that indicated the claimant would not return to work for the employer in the next school year.

DECISION: The claimant is not disqualified for voluntary leaving.

RATIONALE: The Board of Review erred by finding the claimant left her position voluntarily. Claimant could not leave a job she already lost. “A person who `resigns’ after losing their job to a layoff has not voluntarily terminated their employment.”

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

Rosewarne, d/b/a Crossroads Imports v Dyktor – 10.42

Rosewarne, d/b/a Crossroads Imports v Dyktor
Digest no. 10.42

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Rosewarne v Dyktor, unpublished opinion of the Ingham County Circuit Court, issued February 26, 1985 (Docket No. 82-28690 AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Denise R. Dyktor
Employer: Mary Anne Rosewarne, d/b/a Crossroads Imports
Docket no.: B81 01118 76258
Date of decision: February 26, 1985

View/download the full decision

CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: (1) An employee who gives notice of an intent to quit should not be penalized with a loss of wages by termination prior to the intended date of separation. (2) Since Claimant was the party seeking review and the one unemployed, it was not an abuse of discretion to deny the employer’s request for an adjournment.

FACTS: The employer discharged Claimant in anticipation of Claimant’s projected departure.

DECISION: Claimant is not disqualified for voluntary leaving.

RATIONALE: The court, agreeing with Miller v Visiting Nurses Association, unpublished opinion of the Michigan Employment Security Board of Review, issued July 27, 1978 (Docket No. 1978 BR 54326), stated that notice of an employee’s intention to quit is a benefit to the employer. Thus, it makes no sense to discourage this practice by allowing the employer the prerogative of deciding the employee’s last date. “This court is merely acknowledging notions of fundamental fairness … The giving of notice … is appropriate behavior by an employee. Such behavior should not be penalized with a loss of expected wages.”

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

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

View/download the full decision

 

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