10. Voluntary Leaving

Warren v Caro Community Hospital – 10.80

Warren v Caro Community Hospital
Digest no. 10.80

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Warren v Caro Community Hosp, 457 Mich 361 (1998).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Cindy Warren
Employer: Caro Community Hospital
Docket no.: B91-00630-118357
Date of decision: May 19, 1998

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SUPREME COURT HOLDING: When a claimant is willing to continue working but is advised by a doctor not to work because of a temporary or short-term, self-limited medical condition properly documented by the treating physician, the claimant did not voluntarily leave work by following the doctor’s advice. If an employer refuses to allow the employee to return as soon as medically possible, the employee is entitled to unemployment compensation.

FACTS: As she neared the end of her pregnancy, claimant submitted a request for a medical leave. The request was denied as under the collective bargaining agreement it was the employer’s policy to refuse leaves to employees who had not been employed a year. Shortly thereafter, the claimant gave birth and consequently failed to report to work. When released by her physician, she sought to return to work at the hospital. but was refused. She did not seek unemployment benefits for the period that she was medically unable to work. Rather, she only sought to return to work following her pregnancy.

DECISION: Claimant is not disqualified for voluntary leaving.

RATIONALE: “[W]e continue to hold that whether a person is entitled to unemployment benefits is a two-part inquiry. Under the first prong, we must determine whether plaintiff voluntarily left her position. If we find that she left her position involuntarily, the inquiry ends and she is entitled to unemployment compensation. … However, if the court finds that plaintiff left her position voluntarily, we must advance to prong two to determine whether her leaving was `without good cause attributable to the employer.'” The claimant was advised by her doctor not to work beyond a certain date. Fault should not be ascribed to the claimant simply because a medical condition rendered her temporarily unable to work. Because she received medical advice not to work, she did not voluntarily leave, and thus is entitled to unemployment benefits for the period she was medically able to work, but her employer refused to allow her to return. Note the Court distinguished this case factually from Watson v Murdock’s Food, 148 Mich App 802 (1986) on the basis Ms. Watson had no intention of returning to work and was seeking benefits for the period when medically unable to work.

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

07. Eligibility - Able & Available

Buczek v Meijer Thrifty Acres – 7.22

Buczek v Meijer Thrifty Acres
Digest no. 7.22

Section 28 (1)(c)

Cite as: Buczek v Meijer Thrifty Acres, No. 79 928 311 AE, unpublished opinion of the Wayne Circuit Court (December 21, 1979).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Catherine Buczek
Employer: Meijer Thrifty Acres
Docket no.: B76 19230 55251
Date of decision: December 21, 1979

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CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: Where a pregnant woman is medically restricted from heavy lifting, and only one of her several assignments is affected, but the employer unilaterally places the claimant on leave, the claimant is unemployed and available for work.

FACTS: The claimant did not request maternity leave, but did submit a doctor’s note restricting her from heavy lifting during her pregnancy. Only one of the claimant’s several assignments required heavy lifting. The employer put the claimant on leave unilaterally.

DECISION: The claimant was unemployed and available for work during the unilateral leave.

RATIONALE: “[W]here an employer decides to place an employee on a maternity leave of absence for a reason other than one contained in MCLA 421.48, the employee, though on an employer imposed leave of absence, is not on a Section 48 leave of absence for purposes of determining her employment status under the Act.”

“She was available for suitable work for which she was qualified except for the heavy lifting limitation. This limitation affected only a portion of one job duty, i.e., lifting groceries into the shopping cart, and neither would have detracted from her ability to perform her other job duties at Meijer nor the office work she was qualified to perform by past experience or training as these jobs did not require heavy lifting within the doctor’s restriction.”

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