14. Disqualifications - Other

Braska v. Challenge Mfg. Co. – 14.20

Braska v. Challenge Mfg. Co.
Kemp v. Hayes Green Memorial Hospital
Kudzia v. Avasi Services

Digest no. 14.20

Section 29(1)(m)

Cite as: Braska v Challenge Mfg Co, Unpublished Opinion of the Court of Appeals of Michigan, Issued October 23, 2014
(Docket Nos. 313932, 315441, 318344).

Appeal Pending: No. On November 4, 2015, Michigan Supreme Court denied the Agency’s Application for Leave to Appeal.
Claimants: Rick Braska, Jenine Kemp, Stephen Kudzia (3 separate claimants consolidated on appeal)
Employer: Challenge Manufacturing Company, Hayes Green Memorial Hospital, Avasi Services
Docket nos. 313932, 315441, 318344
Date of decision: October 23, 2014

View/download the full decision

Holding: Claimants tested positive for marijuana and would ordinarily be disqualified for unemployment benefits under section 29(1)(m); however, because there was no evidence to suggest that the positive drug tests were caused by anything other than claimants’ use of medical marijuana in accordance with the terms of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA), the denial of the benefits constituted an improper penalty for the medical use of marijuana under MCL 333.26424(a).

Facts: The claimants each possessed medical marijuana cards. Each of them failed an employee drug test and was subsequently discharged even though there was no evidence of impairment at work.

Braska applied for and received benefits following his termination. The ALJ upheld the UIA’s determination. The MCAC reversed. The circuit court reversed hold that the MCAC’s decision that Braska was disqualified from receiving benefits was not supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence.

After termination, Kemp applied and received benefits. The ALJ affirmed. The MCAC reversed. The circuit court reversed the MCAC’s decision, holding “an employee, who uses medical marijuana but is not intoxicated at work, is not disqualified from receiving benefits under § 29(1)(m).”

Kudzia applied for and received benefits after termination. The ALJ held that Kudzia was disqualified from receiving benefits under § 29(1)(b). Kudzia appealed, and the MCAC affirmed the ALJ’s decision on different grounds. The circuit court reverserd, holding “to the extent that provisions of the MMMA and the MESA conflicted, the MMMA controlled” and that “although the MMMA does not impose restrictions on private employers, the MMMA applied to state action and the MCAC’s decision to deny Kudzia benefits was an action by the state.”

Decision: Following various procedural outcomes, The MCAC found claimants disqualified for benefits under § 29(1)(m). The respective circuit courts reversed. The Court of Appeals of Michigan consolidated the cases, and affirmed the decisions of the circuit courts.

Rationale: Claimants were nevertheless entitled to unemployment benefits pursuant to the MMMA. MCL 333.26424(a) provides broad immunity. It prohibits the imposition of certain consequences, including any penalty, upon individuals who use medical marijuana in accordance with the MMMA. Denial of unemployment benefits under § 29(1)(m) constitutes a “penalty” under the MMMA that was imposed upon claimants for their medical use of marijuana. Because the MMMA preempts the MESA, the MCAC erred in denying claimants unemployment benefits.

Digest author: James C. Robinson
Digest updated: 12/15