16. Procedures/Appeals

Lawrence v Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency – 16.96

Lawrence v Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency
Digest No. 16.96

Section 421.33

Cite as: Lawrence v Mich Unemployment Ins Agency, 320 Mich App 422 (2017).

Court: Court of Appeals
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Suzanne Lawrence
Employer: Bloomfield Hills Country Club
Docket No.: 332398
Date of decision: July 11, 2017

View/download the full decision

COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: The claimant does not have the burden to prove that she did not receive benefit checks.

FACTS: Claimant worked for a country club and was laid off for the winter season. Claimant  was paid vacation time for the first weeks of the lay off. The Agency alleged that Claimant received benefits during those weeks and is required to pay restitution ($158). Claimant denied receiving benefits during those weeks. Claimant appealed the lower decisions as misconstruing the case: the lower decisions referred to eligibility, but Claimant argued that the case is about whether she received any payment during the ineligible weeks.

DECISION: Reversed. The courts focused on the wrong issue: it was not whether Claimant was eligible but rather whether she received payment on the ineligible weeks; and there was error in affirming MCAC and in its factual determinations, misapplying the substantial evidence test.

RATIONALE: The ALJ “bewilderingly” focused consideration on eligibility during the weeks Claimant “conceded she was ineligible.” (Emphasis in original.) The ALJ decision lacks legal grounds because eligibility was not at issue. MCAC “completely missed the mark” by not overturning because the issue on appeal was whether the ALJ addressed the appropriate issue.

The circuit court erred when when it determined that MCAC’s decision was supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence. The notices of restitution and the determination were “not proof that the MUIA issued an overpayment, in any amount, to [Claimant], and to accept them as such would defy common sense.” Without a scintilla of evidence to support the payments, the circuit court erred by affirming MCAC’s decision as supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence. Claimant did not have the burden to establish that she did not receive benefits as alleged. Claimant would need to rebut evidence by the Agency, but it is not her burden in the first instance. This avoids Hodge because the circuit court did not need to substitute its judgment on credibility for the ALJ’s; the ALJ simply did not make a contrary factual finding.

Digest author: Benjamin Tigay, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: January 2, 2018

16. Procedures/Appeals

Wilcox v. Bay City American Legion 18 – 16.88

Wilcox v. Bay City American Legion 18
Digest No. 16.88

Section 421.33, Admin. Rules 792.11411(10), 792.11415(5), and 792.11431

Cite as: Wilcox v Bay City American Legion 18, 2015 Mich ACO 14-015959-244230W

View/download full decision

Appeal pending: Yes
Claimant: Deborah E. Wilcox
Employer: Bay City American Legion 18
Tribunal: Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission
Date of decision: August 31, 2015

HOLDING: An Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) encouragement to an unrepresented Claimant, who in good faith misunderstood the scope of the hearing, caused the claimant to withdraw her appeal. The ALJ did not explain to the Claimant the ramifications of withdrawing, which constitutes good cause to reopen the appeal.

FACTS: Claimant was employed by Dore and Associates but was laid off. During this period of unemployment, claimant accepted a part-time position as a bartender with American Legion, but broke her ankle outside of work shortly after accepting the position. On doctor’s orders, Claimant withdrew from her position and was disqualified under Section 29(1)(b) of the Michigan Employment Security Act for voluntarily leaving her position with American Legion. Claimant received a hearing on September 11, 2014 with Bay City American Legion 18 as the employer for the hearing. During the hearing, the unrepresented Claimant articulated that she did not understand why or how her employment with American Legion would affect her claim, which she believed was established based on income earned from Dore and Associates. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) suggested it was unnecessary for the claimant to pursue the matter and encouraged her to withdraw her appeal. The claimant followed the ALJ’s suggestion and withdrew her appeal. The ALJ never explained the ramifications of withdrawing an appeal. After obtaining representation, Claimant filed a request to the ALJ to reopen her appeal, arguing that a good faith misunderstanding of the scope of the hearing constituted good cause for reopening as ruled in Jaeger v. Sears, Roebuck and Co., Digest No. 1620. The ALJ denied the request, and the claimant appealed the denial.

DECISION: The ALJ erred in denying claimant’s request to reopen her appeal, and thus, the appeal has been reopened. The matter is remanded to the Michigan Administrative Hearings System for a new hearing with a different ALJ.

RATIONALE: Pursuant to Administrative Rule 792.11415(5), the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) will only review an ALJ’s denial of a request for reopening if it decides there is good cause for reopening. Administrative Rule 792.11402(v) defines “good cause” as reliance on incorrect information from the agency, ALJs, the hearing system, or the MCAC. The ALJs failure to explain the ramifications of withdrawing an appeal to the claimant constitutes good cause under this rule, and thus, the appeal is reopened. If the MCAC grants a request for reopening, Administrative Rule 792.11431 requires the decision on the appeal to be decided according to the “record already made” at the initial hearing. Because the hearing featured no testimony or evidence, the claimant’s appeal must be remanded for a new hearing.

Digest Author: Sean Higgins, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest Updated: 1/6/2016

18. Restitution, Waiver, Fraud

Proulx v. Horiba Subsidiary, Inc. – 18.21

Proulx v. Horiba Subsidiary, Inc.
Digest No. 18.21

Sections 421.27, 421.33(1), 421.54(b), and 421.62(a)

Cite as: Proulx v Horiba Subsidiary, Inc, unpublished opinion of the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission, issued October 1, 2014 (Docket No. 14-00680-241108).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Brian D. Proulx
Employer: Horiba Subsidiary, Inc.
Docket no.: 14-00680-241108
Date of decision: October 1, 2014

View/download the full decision

HOLDING: Redetermination by the UIA requires fact finding in support of the agency’s decision. When the Agency merely makes a conclusory statement in support of its ruling, such a decision is procedurally deficient and will not be upheld on appeal. Secondly, when a claimant fails to appear at an appeal by the Agency, the ALJ has jurisdiction both to dismiss the proceedings and to “take other action considered advisable”. Thus, the ALJ has “broad discretion to address the matter.” Finally, the notice for the hearing, delivered to the claimant, was required to include ”the issues and penalties involved”. (This requirement has been altered by Michigan Administrative Code (MAC) Rule 792.11407. This rule requires a “short and plain statement of the issues involved”, while related rules require a 20 notice, compared to the usual 7, and a witness list and copy of all documentary evidence related to fraud.)

FACTS: After being discharged by Horiba Subsidiary, Claimant applied for and received benefits under Section 27. A rehearing, on March 28, 2014, by the Unemployment Insurance Agency accused Claimant of fraud or misrepresentation, found him ineligible for Section 27 benefits, and subject to restitution under Section 62(a). A separate rehearing on the same day assessed penalties under Section 54(b). Claimant then failed to appear at an ALJ hearing of this matter on July 10, 2014. The notice of this hearing provided to Claimant read “SECTION 27(c) & 48 – WHETHER OR NOT CLAIMANT IS ELIGIBLE FOR BENEFITS UNDER THE REMUNERATION, EARNINGS OFFSET PROVISION. CLAIMANT MUST PAY RESTITUTION/DAMAGES TO AGENCY UNDER SECTION 54(b)-INTENTIONAL MISREPRESENTATION. SECTIONS THAT MAY APPLY ARE: 62(a), 62(b), 20(a).” This notice did not include the penalties involved as required by the Michigan Administrative Code (MAC) Rule 421.1110(1). (Note that this rule has since been superseded and altered by Rule 792.11407.)

Because of Claimant’s failure to appear, the ALJ dismissed Claimant’s appeal of the Section 27, and Section 62(a) rehearings, but remanded the Section 54(b) rehearing to the Agency because their accusations in that rehearing were merely conclusory and didn’t provide supporting fact-finding. The Unemployment Insurance Agency appealed this remand decision to the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission, and the Commission reviewed both of the orders of the ALJ.

DECISION: The ALJ’s dismissal of Claimant’s appeal is set aside and remanded for a full hearing. The ALJ’s remand of the Agency’s 54(b) ruling is affirmed.

RATIONALE: An ALJ does not lack jurisdiction over an appealed UIA hearing simply because the appellant failed to appear at the appeal. Section 33(1) provides that “If the appellant fails to appear or prosecute the appeal, the administrative law judge may dismiss the proceedings or take other action considered advisable.” Since the ALJ may “take other action considered advisable”, a dismissal based on the appellant’s failure to appear is an error of law. A second reason for setting aside the ALJ’s dismissal of the appeal is the insufficiency of the notice provided to Claimant. Michigan Administrative Code (MAC) Rule 431.1110(1) required the notice to include a description of the penalties involved. Since the notice form provided to Claimant lacked this information, it was not sufficient and his failure to appear can’t be held against him.

Secondly, and Agency determination of fraud or misrepresentation on the part of a claimant can’t be sustained without fact-finding on the record to back up that determination. Merely supplying conclusory statements as to Claimant’s alleged fraud does not meet this burden. Therefore, when the Agency fails to provide appropriate factual backing for its findings, it must reconsider its determination.

Digest author: James Fahringer, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: 3/30/2016

16. Procedures/Appeals

Bouchard v. Lavdas Enterprises, Inc. – 16.84

Bouchard v. Lavdas Enterprises, Inc.
Digest No. 16.84

Section 421.33(1)

Cite as: Bouchard v Lavdas Enterprises, Inc., unpublished opinion of the Macomb County Circuit Court, issued June 14, 2013 (Docket No. 2012-4168-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Patricia J. Bouchard
Employer: Lavdas Enterprises, Inc.
Date of decision: June 14, 2013

View/download the full decision

HOLDING: Claimant, through her attorney, was present at the hearing for the purpose of prosecuting her appeal pursuant to MCL 421.33.

FACTS: The Unemployment Insurance Agency issued a redetermination in which it found Claimant ineligible to receive unemployment benefits and ordered Claimant to pay restitution.

Claimant appealed the redetermination and Claimant’s counsel appeared at the hearing without Claimant present. The ALJ held that Claimant was required to appear at the hearing and that her failure to do so constituted a failure to prosecute her appeal pursuant to MCL 421.33. As a result, the ALJ dismissed Claimant’s appeal. The Board of Review affirmed the ALJ’s decision.

DECISION: The decisions of the ALJ and Board of Review are reversed and the case is remanded for a re-hearing before an ALJ.

RATIONALE: Per MCR 2.117(B)(l), “an appearance by an attorney for a party is deemed an appearance by the party. Unless a particular rule indicates otherwise, an act required to be performed by a party may be performed by the attorney representing the party.” Further, MCL 421.31 provides: “any individual claiming benefits in any proceeding before the commission or a court may be represented by counsel or other duly authorized agent.”

Based upon the above-referenced authority, the Court was satisfied that Claimant’s failure to personally appear at the hearing did not constitute a failure to prosecute her appeal.

Digest author: Stephanie Marshak, Michigan Law, Class of 2016
Digest updated: October 20, 2017

16. Procedures/Appeals

Barbee v. J.C. Penney – 16.73

Barbee v. J.C. Penney
Digest No. 16.73

Section 421.29(b), 421.33, 421.34, 421.38

Cite as: Barbee v JC Penney Corp, Inc, Unpublished Opinion of the Circuit Court for the County of Oakland, Issued January 26, 2006 (Docket No. 177083W).

View/download full decision

Appeal Pending: No
Claimant: Della M. Barbee
Employer: J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc.
Tribunal: Circuit Court for the County of Oakland
Date of Decision: January 26, 2006

HOLDING: The State of Michigan Employment Security Board of Review’s (“Board”) lacks jurisdiction to review untimely appeals.

FACTS: Claimant was employed by J.C. Penney as a Customer Service Associate until she was discharged for misconduct. Her alleged misconduct included obtaining fraudulent refunds, discount abuse, and unauthorized price adjustments. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) disqualified the claimant from benefits due to her misconduct under MCL 421.29(b).

Claimant appealed the ALJ’s decision to the State of Michigan Employment Security Board of Review (“Board”). The deadline to appeal was September 24, 2004, but claimant did not file her appeal until October 6, 2004. Pursuant to MCL 421.33, the Board dismissed the late appeal due to lack of jurisdiction.

Claimant did not seek rehearing or to reopen the case with the Board for good cause but instead, appealed to the Circuit Court (“Court”) for de novo review of the Board’s (1) arbitrary Appeal deadline and (2) the underlying determination in finding the Plaintiff guilty of misconduct.

DECISION: The Board’s deadlines cannot be challenged as arbitrary because they were set by the legislature and codified as MCL 421.33(2) and MCL 421.34. Additionally, the Circuit Court cannot de novo review claimant’s underlying determination because she appealed the Board’s decision. Finally, the Board’s order dismissing claimant’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction was proper.

RATIONALE: The Circuit Court ruled that the appeal deadlines were not arbitrary because they were established by the legislature through MCL 421.33(2) and MCL 421.34.

The Court also denied claimant’s appeal for de novo review of her underlying determination as guilty of misconduct. The Court noted that a claimant can appeal a referee’s (ALJ’s) decision to the Circuit Court directly under MCL 421.38(2). However, because the claimant appealed the Board’s decision and said decision did not include a review of claimant’s determination as guilty of misconduct, the Circuit Court lacks authority to de novo review the claimant’s guilty determination.

The Circuit Court reviewed the whole record to determine if claimant’s appeal was untimely. Pursuant to MCL 421.38(1), the standard for finding an appeal untimely is support by competent, material, and substantial evidence. After finding that the appeal was untimely under the standard, the Court affirmed the Board’s decision dismissing claimant’s untimely appeal for lack of jurisdiction under MCL 421.33.

Digest Author: Sean Higgins, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest Updated: 3/27/2016

16. Procedures/Appeals

Snyder v RAM Broadcasting – 16.34

Snyder v RAM Broadcasting
Digest No. 16.34

Section 29

Cite as: Snyder v RAM Broadcasting, unpublished opinion of the Washtenaw County Circuit Court, issued April 26, 1983 (Docket No. 8223718AE).

Court: Washtenaw Circuit Court
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Ann Snyder
Employer: RAM Broadcasting
Date of decision: April 26, 1983

View/download the full decision

HOLDING: The court held that a hearing notice was deficient under the Administrative Procedures Act and the due process clause of the Michigan and United States Constitutions where (1)  it was not a plain statement  of the matters asserted and (2) even if understandable, was not listed in the notice of hearing as an issue which would be presented before the referee.

FACTS:  Claimant filed a timely appeal after the Agency disqualified her from benefits under the Voluntary Quit provision of Section 29(1)(a).  During her hearing, testimony was taken regarding her availability to work and efforts to obtain a job during the period in which she claimed benefits. As a result, she was found disqualified for benefits under Section 29(1)(a) and the seeking work provision of Section 28.  On appeal, the claimant sought reversal of the of the judge’s finding on the “seeking work” issue.  She alleged that she did actively seek employment and was denied a fair hearing on this issue in violation of the Michigan Employment Security Act and the due process clause of the state and federal constitutions.

DECISION: The court held that the hearing notice was deficient under the Administrative Procedures Act and the due process clauses of the Michigan and United States Constitutions. In addition, the referee’s failure to inform the claimant of all issues he planned to decide during the hearing, along with the consequences of failing to meet her burden of proof violated the fairness requirement of Section 33 of the Michigan Employment Security Act.

RATIONALE: The court found that the hearing notice violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) provision requiring “a short and plain statement of the matters asserted.”  Here, the court found that “words and phrases divided by slashes and followed by a string citation . . . do not provide a reasonably understandable notification that an issue will be considered, especially when the notification is intended for a lay person.”  

In discussing the due process requirements under the state and federal constitutions, the court cited Hanson v State Board of Registration, 253 Mich 601, 607 (1931), holding that unless the right is waived, a party before a state agency is “at least entitled to a reasonably definite statement of the charge or charges preferred against the accused.”  Here, the court found that the notice of hearing was not reasonably calculated to inform the claimant of the pendency of the seeking work issue: “Whatever the purpose of this convoluted array of words and slashes, it was not to intelligibly notify the plaintiff that her entire benefits package prior to the hearing date was in jeopardy if she did not affirmatively prove her efforts in search of employment.” Thus, the hearing notice was deficient under the APA and the Michigan and United States constitutions.

The court further held that Ms. Snyder was denied a fair hearing where she was not apprised of all the issues the referee intended to decide, along with the consequences of the plaintiff’s failure to carry her burden of proof.  As a result, Ms. Snyder’s hearing violated the fairness requirement of Section 33 of the Act.

Digest author: Laura Page, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: December 1, 2017