19. Federal Court Decisions & TRA

Brown v Johnson Controls Battery – 19.15

Brown v Johnson Controls Battery
Digest No. 19.15

Trade Act of 1974 (19 USC 2319(2))

Cite as: Brown v Johnson Controls Battery, unpublished opinion of the Shiawassee County Circuit Court, issued May 21, 1998 (Docket No. 97-1252-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Darlton Brown
Employer: Johnson Controls Battery
Date of decision: May 21, 1998

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HOLDING: A claimant who was promised an opportunity to return to work after being terminated without cause constitutes an “adversely affected worker” under 19 USC 2319(2), even if the claimant’s employer goes out of business prior to the claimant’s return to work.

FACTS: Claimant was terminated by Johnson Controls on August 2, 1994 for alleged misconduct. Claimant filed two grievances against his termination. Claimant and Johnson Controls reached a grievance settlement that stipulated that Claimant was fired without cause. The settlement agreement enabled Claimant to return to work for Johnson Controls in mid-December, but Claimant was unable to return to work because the Johnson Controls’ plant closed.

Claimant filed for Trade Readjustment Assistance benefits under the Trade Act of 1974. A referee denied the requested benefits on November 1, 1995. The MESC Board of Review affirmed the referee’s denial. Claimant appealed the Board’s decision to Shiawassee County Circuit Court.

DECISION: The Court overturned the Board’s decision and remanded to determine if Claimant meets the other eligibility requirements for Trade Readjustment Assistance benefits.

RATIONALE: To qualify for Trade Readjustment Assistance benefits, a claimant must qualify as an “adversely affected worker.” Pursuant to 19 USC 2319(2), an “adversely affected worker” is defined as an “individual who, because of lack of work in adversely affected employment, has been totally or partially separated from such employment.”

The referee and Board found that Claimant was not an adversely affected worker because he was not separated for lack of work but instead, for alleged misconduct. Since Claimant never actually resumed work after his settlement, they argued the settlement never altered his original date of separation, or reason for separation.

The Court rejected this argument and found Claimant to be an “adversely affected worker” per  19 USC 2319(2). The settlement constituted a concession by Johnson Controls that the separation was not for just cause. Since Claimant did not merit discharge, Claimant should be treated as if the discharge never occurred. His separation should be considered to have occurred on the date that would have been his last day of work if the plant had not closed. Therefore, Claimant was an adversely affected worker since his separation was due to a lack of work.

Digest author: Sean Higgins, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: October 13, 2017