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Cite as: Ayala v Shaw Systems & Integration Inc., unpublished opinion of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Appeals Commission, issued December 30, 2019 (Docket No.: 19-014484-259989W).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