13. Refusal of Work

Gent v. Pride Ambulance Co. – 12.139

Gent v. Pride Ambulance Co.
Digest No. 12.139

Section 421.29(1)(b)

Cite as: Gent v Pride Ambulance Co, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals, issued January 12, 2006 (Docket No. 252912).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Sheri L. Gent
Employer: Pride Ambulance Company
Date of decision: January 12, 2006

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HOLDING: Claimant was eligible for benefits when she was discharged from her employment for her refusal to work because claimant’s refusal to work was based on her conscientious observance of the Sabbath.

FACTS: Claimant was employed as a paramedic by Pride Ambulance. In September 2002, claimant informed her employer that she could no longer work on Saturdays because that was her Sabbath day. Claimant was a Seventh Day Adventist. Claimant had regularly worked Saturdays but decided to discontinue the practice, and arrangements were made to accommodate her after Saturday, October 5, 2002. Pride found a replacement worker for September 28, but not for October 5. When claimant informed Pride that she would not come into work on October 5, Pride informed her that such an action would be considered job abandonment. Claimant did not come to work on Saturday, October 5, and she turned in her uniform the following Monday.

DECISION: Affirming the Circuit Court, but on different grounds, the Court of Appeals held that regardless of the existence and application of general rules protecting the free exercise of religion, the clear language of the applicable employment security rules supports an award of unemployment benefits.

RATIONALE: The court relied on a Michigan Employment Security Commission rule, promulgated to implement section 29 of the MES Act. 1985 MR 6, R 421.209 stated: “An individual who refuses to work on the Sabbath designated by his or her religion, or who is discharged from work or voluntarily leaves work, solely because of the conscientious observance of the Sabbath…shall not…be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.” Pride offered no justification for their failure to follow the established rule for resolving this benefits dispute. The court considered analyzing any First Amendment issues as unnecessary because the claimant is eligible for unemployment benefits based on the plain language of the employment security rule. Therefore, the constitutional question need not be addressed.

Digest Author: Adam Kleven, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest Updated: 1/6/2016

10. Voluntary Leaving

Meyers v Northwest OB-GYN Assoc, PC – 10.56

Meyers v Northwest OB-GYN Assoc, PC
Digest no. 10.56

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Meyers v Northwest OB-GYN Assoc, PC, unpublished opinion of the Oakland Circuit Court, issued July 22, 1986 (Docket No. 84-281749-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Patricia D. Meyers
Employer: Northwest OB-GYN Assoc., P.C.
Docket no.: B83 17579 93897W
Date of decision: July 22, 1986

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CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: Claimant did not establish good cause for voluntary leaving where she objected to the employer’s practice of performing abortions because of her religious beliefs, but continued to work for a year, and the employer attempted to accommodate her beliefs.

FACTS: Claimant was employed as a medical assistant. At the time of hire abortions were performed at another employer location and claimant expressed a willingness to assist. By the time that procedure was started at claimant’s work location she had experienced a change in religious committment, and when asked if she would assist, she declined for religious reasons. In order to avoid conflicts with claimant’s beliefs the employer attempted to work around the situation. Those efforts included bringing in another employee on an ad hoc basis to assist, as well as adjusting patient schedules and other staff schedules. On three occasions claimant did assist with abortions when no one else was available. After a year of this arrangement the claimant apprised the employer the situation was “not working out”. A separation followed, though the parties disputed how the departure date was determined.

DECISION: Claimant is disqualified for voluntary leaving.

RATIONALE: The circuit court affirmed a split (5-2) decision by the full Board of Review. The court found the employer could employ the claimant in a way that did not conflict with her religious beliefs and in fact took “extreme measures” including adjustment of employee schedules to accommodate those beliefs. Claimant worked for a year under those circumstances and, in light of the disputed separation date, was willing to work longer. As a result the court concluded claimant’s “religious beliefs were not in such conflict with her employment duties that she was forced to resign.”

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

12. Misconduct

Key State Bank v Adams – 12.09

Key State Bank v Adams
Digest no. 12.09

Section 29(1)(b)

Cite as: Key State Bank v Adams, 138 Mich App 607 (1984); lv den 422 Mich 871 (1985).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Georganne Adams
Employer: Key State Bank
Docket No: B82 08965 RO1 85084W
Date of decision: November 5, 1984

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COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: ” … the Free Exercise Clause of the

First Amendment, US Const, Am I, prevents the state from withholding benefits when the reason for termination of employment is based upon conversion to a religious faith.”

FACTS: The claimant was employed in a position requiring Saturday work. “Subsequent to commencing her employment, and, after working on Saturdays for a period of several months, [claimant] underwent conversion to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and refused to work on Saturdays any longer.” The employer discharged claimant after attempting in good faith, but without success, to accommodate her religious beliefs.

DECISION: The claimant is not disqualified for misconduct discharge.

RATIONALE: The Court cited Sherbert v Vernier, 374 US 398 (1963) and Thomas v Review Board of the Indiana Employment Security Div, et al, 450 US 707 (1981) as controlling precedents on the issue herein.

In both Sherbert and Thomas “the termination flowed from the fact that the employment once acceptable, became religiously objectionable because of changed conditions … the focus of the Court in Thomas, supra, and Sherbert was not on the conduct of the employers, but on the State’s conditioning receipt of an important benefit upon conduct prescribed by a religious faith or [denial of] such benefit because of conduct mandated by religious belief.”

“The only factual difference between this case and the Supreme Court precedents is that the claimant herein adopted her religious beliefs after gaining employment. We do not accept the view that the First Amendment protects the right to adhere to religious beliefs, but not the right to adopt such beliefs in the first instance or convert from one faith to another.”

“The State may not constitutionally apply the eligibility provision to deny” claimant benefits.

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