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10. Voluntary Leaving

Ayala v Shaw Systems & Integration Inc. – 10.128

Ayala v Shaw Systems & Integration Inc.
Digest No. 10-128
Section 421.28

Cite as: Ayala v Shaw Systems & Integration Inc., unpublished opinion of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Appeals Commission, issued December 30, 2019 (Docket No.: 19-014484-259989W).

Court: UIAC
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Bethany A. Ayala
Employer: Shaw Systems & Integration Inc.
Date of decision: December 30, 2019

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HOLDING: The Unemployment Insurance Appeals Commission (the “Commission”) held that under Section 421.29(1)(a), the employer’s failure to address the Claimant’s well-founded health and safety concerns, such as the existence of asbestos and a lack of safety measures, are good cause attributable to the employer to quit.

FACTS: The Claimant began her project at a hospital for the employer in December of 2018. At that time, her employer told her that all the asbestos had previously been removed from the site. To the contrary, after returning to the site for a different project, Claimant discovered that an asbestos abatement crew was removing asbestos from the area and realized that there was asbestos throughout the hospital on March 11, 2019. The employer never offered the Claimant safety equipment and did not test the air or materials before assigning employees to work in an area. Ultimately, Claimant did not feel comfortable with the situation and did not return to work.

DECISION: The Commission reversed the ALJ’s decision and found that the Claimant is not disqualified for benefits under the voluntary leaving provision of the Act, Section 421.29(1)(a). The Commission affirmed the ALJ’s decision order denying rehearing of the case, as there has been no abuse of discretion.

RATIONALE: The employer has the burden of proof to establish that the Claimant was disqualified under the Act. Ackerberg v Grant Community Hospital, 138 Mich App 295 (1984). Good cause exists when the circumstance which prompted the Claimant’s leaving would have caused a reasonable, average, and otherwise qualified employee to leave. Carswell v Share House, Inc., 151 Mich App 392 (1986). In this case, the employer failed to establish that the Claimant was disqualified. Even if the Claimant’s separation from work could be characterized as a quit, the Claimant had good cause to leave the employer. She was not given proper notice regarding the risks of exposure to asbestos, and the employer failed to provide safety measures to mitigate the situation, despite relocating her to another worksite. She also discovered during a safety meeting that employees were exposed to asbestos at another work site, which prompted her not to be willing to be sent to another location without being informed as to how employees could be protected from being exposed to asbestos. Therefore, the Claimant is not disqualified.

Digest author: Toni Suh, Michigan Law, Class of 2020
Digest updated: January 29, 2021

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10. Voluntary Leaving

Haynes v. Collabera, Inc. – 10.127

Haynes v. Collabera, Inc.
Digest No. 10.127
Section 421.29

Cite as: Haynes v. Collabera, Inc., Unpublished Opinion of the Court of Appeals of Michigan, Issued February 8, 2018 (Docket no. 336372).

Court: Court of Appeals of Michigan
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Jim Haynes
Employer: Collabera, Inc.
Date of decision: February 8, 2018

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HOLDING: The Circuit Court misapplied the substantial evidence test by holding that there is substantial evidence on the record showing that both IBM and Collabera approved Claimant’s raise despite the ALJ’s conclusion that there was no such evidence. The Circuit Court instead was required to assess whether substantial evidence supported MCAC’s decision. Hodge v. U.S. Security Assoc., Inc., 497 Mich. 189, 193–194; 859 N.W.2d 683 (2015). MCAC’s conclusion that Claimant was not promised a wage was supported by substantial evidence and not contrary to the law, and therefore, the Circuit Court should have affirmed that decision rather than substituting its own judgment.

FACTS: Claimant was aware that he had continuing work under a renewed contract, but he wished for a pay increase as part of that renewed contract. Claimant was told on January 6, 2015, by a representative at IBM that Claimant’s raise was “in the works” and contingent on his contract being extended, but the representative also told Claimant that he was uncertain of when the increase would occur. Rather than waiting on the contract’s approval, or even inquiring as to a date that he could expect the increase, Claimant tendered his letter of resignation on February 2, 2015.

DECISION: The case was reversed and remanded for entry of an order affirming MCAC’s decision that found, in accordance with the law and supported by substantial evidence, that Claimant did not meet his burden of proving he left his employment for good cause attributable to the employer.
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RATIONALE: The Court reasoned that under MCL 421.29(1)(a), two factors must be analyzed: (1) whether an individual left work voluntarily and, if so, (2) whether the voluntary leaving was with good cause attributable to the employer.

The Court reasoned that under the given circumstances, a reasonable, average worker would not give up his employment. McArthur v. Borman’s, Inc., 200 Mich. App. 686, 693; 505 N.W.2d 32 (1993). Claimant resigned after less than one month from when he was told that his rate increase was “in the works.” MCAC found no evidence that a pay raise had been promised; rather, it had been discussed. Accordingly, MCAC properly concluded that Claimant failed to establish good cause, and therefore was not entitled to unemployment benefits.

It is not the function of the Circuit Court “to resolve conflicts in the evidence.” Vanzandt v. State Employees Ret. Sys., 266 Mich. App. 579, 593; 701 N.W.2d 214 (2005). It was not permitted to “set aside findings merely because alternative findings also could have been supported by substantial evidence on the record.” Edw. C. Levy. Co., 293 Mich. App. at 341.

Digest author: Toni Suh, Michigan Law, Class of 2020

Digest updated: January 29, 2021

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10. Voluntary Leaving

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

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10. Voluntary Leaving

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

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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

Categories
10. Voluntary Leaving

DCA Food Industries, Inc v Karr – 10.58

DCA Food Industries, Inc v Karr
Digest no. 10.58

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: DCA Food Industries, Inc v Karr, unpublished opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued January 24, 1986 (Docket No. 81665).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: John L. Karr
Employer: DCA Food Industries, Inc.
Docket no.: B81 03019 77378
Date of decision: January 24, 1986

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COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: “Because of the phrase attributable to the employer, ‘good cause’ cannot be found for purely personal reasons under Section 29(1)(a).”

FACTS: Claimant worked for the employer and also was a volunteer fire fighter. He reported for work exhausted after fighting a fire and asked his group leader if he could leave work early. Later, claimant and his union representative met with his supervisor and the personnel supervisor. The employer expressed concerns about the fire fighting duties interfering with claimant’s work and asked claimant if his job at the fire department was more important. Claimant became angry and expressed an intention to quit. Several times the employer asked him to reconsider. Claimant then signed a “voluntary quit” statement. Later, he requested his job back, but the employer refused to rehire him except as a new employee.

DECISION: The claimant is disqualified for voluntarily leaving his work without good cause attributable to the employer.

RATIONALE: The claimant made a choice between working and not working for the employer. He did not acquiesce in a result beyond his control and therefore his leaving was voluntary. Laya v Cebar Construction Co, 101 Mich App 26 (1980).

The claimant may have believed that the choice presented by the employer was between voluntary fire fighting, on which he placed great importance, and employment. While his leaving may have been for “good cause” for personal reasons, Section 29(1)(a) requires that the “good cause” be attributable to the employer. Dueweke v Morang Drive Greenhouses, 411 Mich 670 (1981) (adopting Judge Levin’s dissent in Keith v Chrysler Corp, 41 Mich App 708 (1972).

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

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10. Voluntary Leaving

Payne v Colony Bar – 10.12

Payne v Colony Bar
Digest no. 10.12

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Payne v Colony Bar, unpublished opinion of the St. Clair Circuit Court, issued September 27, 1984 (Docket No. B83 17556 93994W).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Mary L. Payne
Employer: Colony Bar
Docket no.: B83 17556 93994W
Date of decision: September 27, 1984

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CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: Good cause for voluntary leaving exists where there has been a substantial change in the working conditions.

FACTS: Claimant voluntarily left her employment with the Colony Bar after approximately nineteen years. She left because of a substantial change in working conditions, i.e., the introduction of loud, rock-type music which changed the very nature of the establishment and its clientele.

DECISION: The claimant is not disqualified for voluntary leaving.

RATIONALE: The Court adopted the standard set forth by McGinnis v Moreau, 149 So2d 188 (1963).

“Mere dissatisfaction with working conditions does not constitute “good cause” for quitting the employment unless the dissatisfaction is based upon discriminatory or unfair or arbitrary treatment, or is based upon a substantial change in working conditions from those in force at the time the claimant’s employment in his position commenced, so as to render the work unsuitable to the claimant, considering the worker’s physical fitness, qualifications, earning ability, and the like.

“‘Good cause’ compelling an employee to terminate his employment should be found where an employer’s actions would cause a reasonable, average and otherwise qualified worker to give up his or her employment. Schultz v Grede Foundries, Inc, No. 79-391, (Mich App. September 11, 1979).

“The separation from employment here was not considered in the light of the foregoing standard. An aging, long-time employee (who might also be reasonable, average and otherwise qualified per Schultz) was entitled to a careful assessment of the physical and emotional impact of the employer’s substantial change of musical format, clientele and the general ambience of the place of employment.”

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

Categories
10. Voluntary Leaving

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

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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