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Cite as: Myllylahti v Full Force Diamond Drilling, unpublished opinion of the Ontonagon County Circuit Court, issued February 9, 2010 (Docket No. 09-71 AE).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

10. Voluntary Leaving

Wynne v Michigan Department of Social Services – 10.53

Wynne v Michigan Department of Social Services
Digest no. 10.53

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Wynne v Michigan Dep’t of Social Services, unpublished opinion of the Michigan Employment Security Board of Review, issued September 1, 1988 (Docket No. B86-07148).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Ruth M. Wynne
Employer: Michigan Department of Social Services
Docket no.: B86 07148 103153W
Date of decision: September 1, 1988

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BOARD OF REVIEW HOLDING: A leaving due to established illness which is at the direction of a physician is involuntary and does not subject the claimant to disqualification under Section 29(1)(a).

FACTS: The claimant found her work stressful and suffered from hypertension, tension headaches and colitis. She unsuccessfully sought a transfer. She left her employment on the advice of her doctor.

DECISION: The claimant’s leaving was involuntary and therefore not disqualifying under Section 29(1)(a). Decided by entire Board.

RATIONALE: The majority analyzed the construction of Section 29(1)(a) as well as former decisions dealing with involuntary leaving, i.e. Lyons v Employment Security Comm, 363 Mich 201 (1961), Larson v Employment Security Commission, 2 Mich App 540 (1966), and Laya v Cebar Construction, 101 Mich App 26 (1980). It concluded the Referee’s application of Watson v Murdock’s Food and Wet Goods, 148 Mich App 802 (1989) was erroneous as the claimant’s leaving, due to illness and at the direction of her physician, was involuntary.

A minority of the Board noted Watson was distinct precedent on Section 29(1)(a) and concluded in order for a separation, voluntary or involuntary, to be non-disqualifying, the separation must be with good cause attributable to the employer. But, a claimant who leaves work for health reasons may avoid disqualification if it is established (1) the medical problem arose out of the work environment, (2) the claimant approached the employer to alleviate the condition causing the problem, or to find a way of retaining employment despite the problem, (3) the employer created the condition or, having knowledge of the condition, was unable or unwilling to alleviate it or to provide alternative employment and, (4) the claimant was still able to perform work within the medical restriction if the conditions in the work environment causing or aggravating the medical problem were abated.

These Members concluded the claimant’s separation was with good cause attributable to the employer and not disqualifying.

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

10. Voluntary Leaving

Watson v Murdock’s Food & Wet Goods – 10.35

Watson v Murdock’s Food & Wet Goods
Digest no. 10.35

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Watson v Murdock’s Food & Wet Goods, 148 Mich App 802 (1986).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Michelle Watson
Employer: Murdock’s Food and Wet Goods
Docket no.: B83 13107 92389W
Date of decision: February 4, 1986

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COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: A separation due to a disabling medical condition attributable only to a claimant’s circumstances is a voluntary leaving without good cause attributable to the employer.

FACTS: Claimant, a waitress, became pregnant and was diagnosed as suffering from a separation of the pubic bone. Her physician restricted her from work involving lifting or bending. When she presented the restrictions to the employer, he read the note and walked away and the claimant left. She assumed he understood she could no longer work. She had no intention of returning after giving birth.

DECISION: The claimant is disqualified.

RATIONALE: The court stated the MES Act “was intended to provide relief to those persons ‘able and available’ to perform work but who are prevented from doing so by economic forces beyond their control” and “not intended to provide a form of mandatory health or disability insurance at the expense of the employers who fund the system.” The court interpreted the statutory term “voluntary” as follows:

“The question presented here can be posed more specifically as whether Section 29(1)(a) is applicable, i.e., has plaintiff ‘left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the employer. …’ Obviously, the word ‘voluntary’, taken alone, is capable of two meanings under these facts. In a sense, plaintiff’s separation from employment was involuntary since she did not choose to suffer from a medical condition which requires that she avoid the bending and lifting required in her job. On the other hand, the absence can be construed as a voluntary and wise decision based upon the advice of her doctor. The question, then, is which meaning was intended by the Legislature. We believe that the answer can be derived from the modifying phrase “without good causeattributable to the employer.’ In the case before us, it certainly cannot be denied that plaintiff left with good cause. Her own health and that of her baby were at stake. Thus, if the modifying phrase did not include the portion emphasized above, Section 29(1)(a) would be clearly inapplicable. However, when the emphasized portion is included, it becomes clear that plaintiff was intended to be disqualified by this section. Although her termination was for good cause, it can be attributed only to her own circumstances, and not to her employer.”

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