04. Total or Partial Unemployment

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Cite as: Newman v River Rouge Schools, unpublished opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued July 24, 2014 (Docket No. 314033).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

20. Miscellaneous

Oak Park Education Association, MEA/NEA v Oak Park Board of Education – 20.02

Oak Park Education Association, MEA/NEA v Oak Park Board of Education
Digest no. 20.02

Section 30 and 31

Cite as: Oak Park Ed Ass’n, MEA/NEA v Oak Park Board of Ed, 132 Mich App 680 (1984).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: N/A
Employer: Oak Park Board of Education
Docket no.: N/A
Date of decision: March 6, 1984

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COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: The Public Employment Relations Act is the dominant law regulating public employee labor relations and where there is a conflict between it and another statute the Public Employment Relations Act prevails diminishing the conflicting statute pro tanto.

FACTS: Oak Park Education Association and Oak Park School District negotiated a labor contract containing a salary provision which provided that the salary of a teacher recalled from summer layoff would be offset by the amount of unemployment benefits received during the summer layoff. When the district sought to enforce this provision, the Association sought to have the provision excised from the contract asserting that it was in violation of Section 30 of the MES Act which makes unemployment benefits inalienable by any assignment and Section 31 of the Act which makes invalid any agreement to waive, release, or commute an individual’s right to benefits.

DECISION: The trial court’s summary judgment for the District was affirmed.

RATIONALE: The Public Employment Relations Act requires parties to those contracts within its preview to bargain collectively with respect to wages. The provision in question concerns wages and was the subject of bargaining between the parties. The teachers were allowed to collect benefits when unemployed. The provision provides for a partial waiver of salary rather than a waiver of unemployment benefits. It did not require the teachers to waive, or in any way restrict, their rights under the MES Act.

Digest Author:  Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated: 12/91