Wilcox v. Bay City American Legion 18 – 16.88

Wilcox v. Bay City American Legion 18
Digest No. 16.88

Section 421.33, Admin. Rules 792.11411(10), 792.11415(5), and 792.11431

Cite as: Wilcox v Bay City American Legion 18, 2015 Mich ACO 14-015959-244230W

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Appeal pending: Yes
Claimant: Deborah E. Wilcox
Employer: Bay City American Legion 18
Tribunal: Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission
Date of decision: August 31, 2015

HOLDING: An Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) encouragement to an unrepresented Claimant, who in good faith misunderstood the scope of the hearing, caused the claimant to withdraw her appeal. The ALJ did not explain to the Claimant the ramifications of withdrawing, which constitutes good cause to reopen the appeal.

FACTS: Claimant was employed by Dore and Associates but was laid off. During this period of unemployment, claimant accepted a part-time position as a bartender with American Legion, but broke her ankle outside of work shortly after accepting the position. On doctor’s orders, Claimant withdrew from her position and was disqualified under Section 29(1)(b) of the Michigan Employment Security Act for voluntarily leaving her position with American Legion. Claimant received a hearing on September 11, 2014 with Bay City American Legion 18 as the employer for the hearing. During the hearing, the unrepresented Claimant articulated that she did not understand why or how her employment with American Legion would affect her claim, which she believed was established based on income earned from Dore and Associates. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) suggested it was unnecessary for the claimant to pursue the matter and encouraged her to withdraw her appeal. The claimant followed the ALJ’s suggestion and withdrew her appeal. The ALJ never explained the ramifications of withdrawing an appeal. After obtaining representation, Claimant filed a request to the ALJ to reopen her appeal, arguing that a good faith misunderstanding of the scope of the hearing constituted good cause for reopening as ruled in Jaeger v. Sears, Roebuck and Co., Digest No. 1620. The ALJ denied the request, and the claimant appealed the denial.

DECISION: The ALJ erred in denying claimant’s request to reopen her appeal, and thus, the appeal has been reopened. The matter is remanded to the Michigan Administrative Hearings System for a new hearing with a different ALJ.

RATIONALE: Pursuant to Administrative Rule 792.11415(5), the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) will only review an ALJ’s denial of a request for reopening if it decides there is good cause for reopening. Administrative Rule 792.11402(v) defines “good cause” as reliance on incorrect information from the agency, ALJs, the hearing system, or the MCAC. The ALJs failure to explain the ramifications of withdrawing an appeal to the claimant constitutes good cause under this rule, and thus, the appeal is reopened. If the MCAC grants a request for reopening, Administrative Rule 792.11431 requires the decision on the appeal to be decided according to the “record already made” at the initial hearing. Because the hearing featured no testimony or evidence, the claimant’s appeal must be remanded for a new hearing.

Digest Author: Sean Higgins, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest Updated: 1/6/2016

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

 

Dejarnette v HR Staffing Team, LLC– 10.124

Dejarnette v HR Staffing Team, LLC
Digest No. 10.124

Section 421.29

 

Cite as: Dejarnette v HR Staffing Team, LLC, unpublished opinion of the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission, issued August 26, 2013 (Docket No.: B2013-07161:238484).

 

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Pamela Dejarnette
Employer: HR Staffing Team, LLC
Date of decision: August 26, 2013

 

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HOLDING: Claimant is not disqualified for benefits under the voluntary leaving provision of  MCL 29(1)(a).

FACTS: Claimant worked for a staffing agency. Claimant was experiencing difficulties and notified her employer that she would no longer report to her last assignment. Claimant requested another assignment but the employer told Claimant no other assignments were currently available. After learning no other assignments were available, Claimant filed for benefits.

DECISION: The matter is referred to the Agency for determination under MCL 48(1) because Claimant left an assignment and that work remained available to her. Claimant may therefore be subject to offset under the lost remuneration provision of MCL 48(1).

RATIONALE: The Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission stated that the employer must first establish that a claimant voluntarily left employment before a matter can be addressed under MCL 29(1)(a). See Ackerberg v Grant Community Hospital, 138 Mich App 295 (1984). The court reasoned that Claimant had not voluntarily left her employment. Instead, Claimant left an assignment. Therefore, the court found MCL 29(1)(a) to be inapplicable in this case.

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

Cross v Tri-Fecta, Inc – 10.121

Cross v Tri-Fecta, Inc
Digest no. 10.121

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Cross v Tri-Fecta, Inc, Genesee Circuit Court, No. 12-98465-AE (June 27, 2013).

Appeal pending:
Claimant: Michelle H. Cross
Employer: Tri-Fecta, Inc.
Docket no.: 12-98465-AE
Date of decision: June 27, 2013

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CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: When a claimant holds a part-time job and full-time job simultaneously, then voluntarily quits the part time position only to subsequently be terminated from her full-time position in a qualifying manner is not disqualified from unemployment benefits due to the voluntary quit of the part-time job.

FACTS: Claimant held two jobs simultaneously: a full-time position at Quality Roofing, and a part-time job as a waitress at Employer Tri-Fecta, Inc. Claimant left her job with Employer on April 10, 2009, leaving her with only her full-time position at Quality Roofing. However, shortly thereafter, she was let go from that job as well in a qualifying manner. Claimant applied for benefits, and a UIA determination found in her favor.

Employer appealed Claimant’s benefits, and the ALJ found in Employer’s favor due to an erroneous interpretation of the facts believing that Employer Tri-Fecta. was Claimant’s last employer. On appeal, MCAC noted the mistaken facts but still found for Employer because of voluntary termination from Employer Tri-Fecta. Claimant appealed to the Circuit Court.

DECISION: The MCAC decision is reversed, and Claimant is entitled to unemployment benefits.

RATIONALE: The court’s reasoning in this case is short and unusual, and provided here in its entirety: “In this case the factual findings of the ALJ cannot be determined to be conclusive. They were clearly in error. The Court further finds that the MCAC decision is in error. The MCAC reviews the findings and decisions of the ALJ. The decisions of the ALJ are to be accorded deference. Who can tell what the decision of the ALJ would have been had the ALJ known the facts as they really were? The Court finds that the review process in this case is entirely flawed. This Court has not been made aware of any appellate decision in the State of Michigan that upholds the results before me. The Court further finds the rationale and reasoning of the Kent County Circuit Court case cited by claimant to be persuasive. ”

Digest Author: Jack Battaglia
Digest Updated: 8/14

Myllylahti v. Full Force Diamond Drilling – 10.109

Myllylahti v. Full Force Diamond Drilling
Digest No. 10.109

Section 421.29(1)(a)

Cite as: Myllylahti v Full Force Diamond Drilling, unpublished opinion of the Ontonagon County Circuit Court, issued February 9, 2010 (Docket No. 09-71 AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Robert J. Myllylahti
Employer: Full Force Diamond Drilling USA, Inc.
Date of decision: February 9, 2010

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HOLDING: Where the working conditions imposed on a claimant by the employer are mentally and physically challenging enough to cause a reasonable, average or otherwise qualified worker to give up his employment, the claimant’s leaving was with good cause attributable to the employer.   

FACTS: Claimant began working for the employer on October 1, 2008 as a driller’s assistant working 13 hours per day, seven days per week. Claimant’s last day of work was October 22, 2008, when Claimant quit without prior notice to employer in the middle of his shift. Claimant indicated that the work was too hard and he could no longer do it. However, Claimant did not notify his employer of any work-related problems prior to quitting.

DECISION: The ALJ found that Claimant was disqualified for benefits. The MCAC affirmed. The Circuit Court reversed. Claimant is not disqualified for benefits.  

RATIONALE: To determine whether an employee left employment due to good cause attributable to the employer, the reasonable person standard is applied. “Under that standard, ‘good cause’ compelling an employee to terminate his or her employment should 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, 396-397 (1986). The cumulative effect of 13 hours of heavy manual labor every day for twenty-two days straight, both mentally and physically, on a reasonable, average or otherwise qualified worker is born out by the record. Claimant’s physical inability to continue to do the job demanded of him by the employer, under working conditions imposed by the employer, would cause a reasonable, average or otherwise qualified worker to give up his employment, as well. This constitutes good cause attributable to the employer and not a personal reason attributable to claimant.

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

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

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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

Laque v. Tru Tech Systems, Inc., UIA – 12.144

Laque v. Tru Tech Systems, Inc., UIA
Digest No. 12.144

Section 421.29(1)(a)

Cite as: Laque v Tru Tech Systems, Inc., Macomb Circuit Court, No. 2005-4944-AE

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Michael J. Laque
Employer: Tru Tech Systems, Inc.
Docket no.: 2005-4944-AE
Date of decision: May 25, 2006

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HOLDING: When a claimant voluntarily terminates his or her employment, a withholding of wages by the employer pursuant to an IRS order constitutes good cause attributable to the employer when the employer continues such withholding long after the IRS order is resolved.

FACTS: Claimant held a traveling service job for Tru Tech, beginning January 2003 and ending in December 2004 when he quit due to withheld paychecks. In November 2004, Employer began to withhold wages earned by Claimant pursuant to a levy issued by the IRS. Claimant explained that the IRS had issued the levy by mistake and produced a release of the levy eight days after the IRS’s request for withholding. Employer continued to withhold paychecks due on December 2, 9, and 16, and on December 20, 2004, Claimant called Employer to end his employment due to the unnecessarily withheld pay. On December 18 (or earlier, based on the testimony of Employer), Claimant met with Employer to discuss changing his status to independent contractor. Employer failed to produce written record of any such discussion and claimant “vehemently disputed the employer’s testimony” that he had ever considered himself an independent contractor. When Claimant filed for unemployment benefits, his claim was denied by the Unemployment Insurance Agency. On appeal to an Administrative Law Judge, this decision was reversed and his claim was granted. On Employer’s appeal to the Michigan Employment Security Board of Review, the ALJ’s decision was at first reversed, then affirmed on reconsideration. Employer then appealed further to the District Court.

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

RATIONALE: When a justification for withholding pay, such as an IRS order, becomes ineffective (e.g., by an official rescission of the IRS order), employers immediately regain their duty to pay their employees in a timely fashion. For the relevant legal question of whether a “reasonable, average, and otherwise qualified worker” would give up her or his employment, such circumstances are essentially the same, from the worker’s perspective, as an employer withholding pay for no reason.

Digest Author: James Fahringer, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest Updated: 1/6/2016