13. Refusal of Work

Lasher v Mueller Brass Co – 13.18

Lasher v Mueller Brass Co
Digest No. 13.18
Section 421.29(1)(e)

Cite as: Lasher v. Mueller Brass Co., 62 Mich. App. 171, 233 N.W.2d 513 (1975)

Court: Court of Appeals of Michigan
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Lasher
Employer: Mueller Brass Co.
Date of decision: June 23, 1975

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HOLDING: The determination of the suitability of the work offered must be made in the context of the time at which the offer was made. The court must first determine whether the new position offered is suitable before determining whether claimant had good cause to reject the position.

FACTS: Appellant claimant challenged an order of the St. Clair County Circuit Court (Michigan), which affirmed an appeal board’s denial of unemployment benefits in favor of appellee employer. The claimant was laid-off from a position as a “center list grinder, set-up service and operator,” which paid $3.54 per hour. During this lay-off, he was offered a job as a janitor, which paid a lower wage. He declined such offer. Later, he wrote a letter to the employer stating that he would take any work available. On such facts, the appeal board deemed the claimant disqualified for unemployment benefits under MCL § 421.29(1)(e) in that he failed without good cause to accept suitable work when offered him. Specifically, on the basis of the written letter, the appeal board deemed the janitorial job offered to be “suitable.” However, the court held that the plain meaning of the statute required the determination as to whether the work offered was suitable to be confined to the time at which the offer was made. As such, reliance on the claimant’s later letter was erroneous. Further, the court iterated that the reversal was not based on a question of fact but on one of law, as the appeal board applied an improper standard in determining suitability. On remand, the appeal board was instructed to first determine if the work offered was suitable and then to determine the question of good cause, if necessary.

DECISION: The court reversed the circuit court’s judgment and remanded the matter to the appeal board.

RATIONALE: The board must necessarily first determine the suitability of the work before addressing the question of whether claimant had good cause. The latter will not be necessary if the new position is not deemed suitable.

Digest author: Toni Suh, Michigan Law, Class of 2020
Digest updated: January 29, 2021

13. Refusal of Work

Gilliam v. Chrysler Corp. – 13.03

Gilliam v. Chrysler Corp.
Digest No. 13.03
Section 421.29(1)(d) & 421.29(6)

Cite as: Gilliam v. Chrysler Corp., 72 Mich. App. 538, 250 N.W.2d 123 (1976)
Court: Court of Appeals of Michigan
Appeal pending: No
Claimants: James Gilliam and William Lake
Employer: Chrysler Corporation
Date of decision: December 2, 1976

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HOLDING: In determining suitability of a work, the distance factor should be considered based not solely on mileage, but also the statutory factors of each individual case, such as the age and health of the employee, the hours of travel, traffic conditions, the availability and reliability of transportation, the prospects for securing local work, and other factors under MCLA § 421.29(6).

FACTS: Defendant employer appealed a judgment of the Monroe County Circuit Court, which found that plaintiff employees were eligible for unemployment benefits and reversed the decisions of the Employment Security Appeal Board that had denied benefits to each employee. Both employees had been laid off and were offered interviews to work at plants located approximately 40 miles from their homes. One employee turned around before reaching the interview because it was too far of a distance. The other employee refused the offer of employment because his vehicle was not apt for the commute. The employees would also have lost their recall rights to return to local work at the plants near their residences. The Appeal Board held that the employees did not establish good cause to refuse the “available suitable work” under § 421.29 of the Michigan Employment Security Act (MESA), and thus, were ineligible for continued unemployment benefits. The circuit court reversed.

DECISION: The court affirmed the circuit court’s judgment.

RATIONALE: Although it may be that loss of recall rights is not good cause by itself for refusing suitable work, Losada v Chrysler Corp, 24 Mich App 656; 180 NW2d 844 (1970), it is, nevertheless, a fact which, like many other facts, may have bearing upon one or more of the § 29(6) factors for determining suitability in the first instance. Offered employment which is otherwise suitable may be unsuitable if it jeopardizes good prospects for recall to local work in an individual’s customary occupation. Furthermore, loss of recall may have a bearing on the distance factor, because the harshness of an individual travel for work depends on whether it is a temporary or permanent requirement.

Digest author: Toni Suh, Michigan Law, Class of 2020
Digest updated: January 29, 2021

13. Refusal of Work

Dueweke v Morang Drive Greenhouses – 13.02

Dueweke v Morang Drive Greenhouses
Digest No. 13.02
Section 421.29(1)(a), 421.29(1)(e), & 421.29(6)

Cite as: Dueweke v. Morang Drive Greenhouses, 411 Mich. 670, 311 N.W.2d 712 (1981)
Court: Supreme Court of Michigan
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Eric Dueweke
Employer: Morang Drive Greenhouses
Date of decision: November 2, 1981.

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HOLDING: The court held that an offer of work involving conditions that were illegal rendered the work unsuitable. The court held that once the employee was disqualified and then re-qualified, the employee was not automatically disqualified for refusing to return to the same work.

FACTS: The employee quit his job with the employer and then filed a claim for unemployment benefits. The Michigan Employment Security Commission (“MESC”) denied the claim and imposed a disqualification under § 421.29 of the Michigan Employment Security Act (“MESA”), finding that the employee left his job without good cause. The employee served a six-week requalification period and then refiled his claim for benefits. When the employee returned to the employer, the employee was offered a job, but the employee refused contending that the overtime payment procedure violated the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 207(a)(1).

Plaintiff employee appealed a decision from the Michigan appellate court reversing a decision awarding him unemployment benefits on the grounds that he was disqualified under § 29(1)(e) of the MESA. The employee’s action was initiated against defendant, MESC.

DECISION: The court reversed the decision denying the employee’s claim for unemployment benefits and remanded for further proceedings.

RATIONALE: The court found that MESC failed to consider whether the offered job was suitable under § 29(6) of the MESA.

Digest author: Toni Suh, Michigan Law, Class of 2020
Digest updated: January 29, 2021

13. Refusal of Work

Eyre v. Saginaw Correctional Facility – 13.29

Eyre v. Saginaw Correctional Facility
Digest No. 13.29

Section 421.29(1)(e)

Cite as: Eyre v Saginaw Correctional Facility, 274 Mich App 382 (2007).

Appeal pending: No
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals
Date of decision: February 27, 2007

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HOLDING: “The employer initially bears the burden of establishing that a suitable offer of work had been made, but, once the employer has met this burden, it shifts to the claimant to establish that there was good cause for refusal.”

FACTS: Claimant was laid off by her employer, Saginaw Correctional Facility. Later, Standish Maximum Correctional Facility offered her a similar position. She did not accept this offer, however, due to health concerns and the longer commuting distance. The Department of Labor initially approved her benefits, concluding that her refusal of the offer had good cause. After the employer’s objection, the Department of Labor reversed its conclusion, finding that she had turned down suitable employment without good cause. The hearing referee, the review board, and the circuit court each upheld this determination. Claimant then appealed to the Fourth District Court of Appeals  of Michigan.

DECISION: The Circuit Court decision is reversed and the case is remanded to the hearing referee for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

RATIONALE: The provision that establishes the disqualification for refusing a suitable offer of employment without good cause, MCL 421.29(1)(e), does not establish which party should bear the burden of proof in a dispute under that rule. The court also hadn’t established binding precedent on the matter. In prior cases, however, the court dealt with the issue of disqualification more generally. Lasher v. Mueller Brass Co. held that the burden of proving disqualification fell on the employer, while Tomei v. General Motors Corp. held that this burden doesn’t always fall on the employer. The guiding principle in these cases on who should have the burden of proof is “which party is better able to provide the information needed to answer the relevant inquiries”.

The court drew from its reasoning in Tomei, which involved a plant closure and an offer to continue working at a different facility. Tomei held that the initial burden should fall on the employer to demonstrate that it had communicated a viable offer of reasonable employment, but that if an employer met this burden, it switched to the claimant to show that the decision to leave work was not voluntary. Likewise, in the present case, the court found that the initial burden should rest on the employer to show that a suitable offer of employment had been made. As above, if the employer carries this burden, the claimant must then show that her refusal was supported by good cause. The court reasoned that the employer is in better position to determine whether the employee can discharge the responsibilities of the new position, whereas the claimant will inevitably have a better understanding of personal circumstances that would provide a good cause reason to turn down an offer.

Digest author: James Fahringer, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: 3/27/2016

13. Refusal of Work

Dombeck v. Special Mold Engineering, Inc. – 13.26

Dombeck v. Special Mold Engineering, Inc.
Digest No. 13.26

Section 421.29(1)(e)

Cite as: Dombeck v Special Mold Engineering, Inc, unpublished opinion of the Maycomb County Circuit Court, issued April 14, 2005 (Docket No. 2005-000 1-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Max T. Dombeck
Employer: Special Mold Engineering, Inc.
Docket no.: 2005-000 1-AE
Date of decision: April 14, 2005

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HOLDING: When a claimant is offered the same position with identical pay, benefits, and work hours from an employer he previously worked for 7 months prior, after being laid off from his most recent employer, that offered position constitutes an offer of suitable employment. Further, not having adequate time to pursue alternate job options does not constitute good cause for refusal of suitable employment.

FACTS: Claimant was employed as a metal mold builder with Special Mold Engineering (SME). Claimant left SME to accept employment at another company because the new job provided day shift work, it was closer to home, it paid more money and would offer him opportunities for advancement. Claimant was laid off from employment on June 11, 2003 due to circumstances beyond his control. Claimant applied for unemployment benefits on June 12, 2003. On July 15, 2003, SME offered claimant his old job back, at the same rate of pay, with the same benefits, and with sufficient work hours. Claimant ultimately turned down the job offer because be felt “it was too soon for me to come back without being able to seek further employment with the, the new skill that I’ve learned.” Claimant was subsequently denied unemployment benefits under the refusal of suitable employment provision, MCL 421.29(1)(e)

DECISION: The MES Board’s decision was not contrary to the great weight of the evidence, finding that claimant was disqualified for unemployment benefits under MCL 421.29(1)(e).

RATIONALE: Claimant was offered suitable employment: a full-time job for which he was qualified at the same rate of pay he had been earning when he had left employment some 7 months prior, vacation pay and health benefits. Further, good cause for refusing to accept the offer of employment has not deem demonstrated. Although claimant stated he had not had enough time to find other employment, there is nothing to say that he could not have sought other employment while being employed. Claimant expressed some doubt about SME’s stability insofar as it had laid off some 20 employees and had cut hours shortly before he quit, but it is reasonable to assume that because they wanted to rehire him in July, the economic climate had changed for the better for SME, whereas, the new company had to lay off claimant due to an economic downturn, and there was no guarantee that claimant would be rehired.

Digest Author: Cydney Warburton, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest Updated: 3/27/2016

07. Eligibility - Able & Available

Spohn v MESC – 7.26

Spohn v MESC
Digest no. 7.26

Section 28(1)(c)

Cite as: Spohn v MESC, 342 Mich 432 (1955).

Appeal pending:
Claimant: James N. Spohn
Employer: J.A. Utley Company
Docket no.: B53 1530 15235
Date of decision: June 6, 1955

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HOLDING: Claimant is able and available to perform full time work if the non-union work he rejects would entail the acceptance of substandard wages and conditions.

FACTS: After being laid off, claimant only applied for work at his union hall and the employment security office. Employer’s position was that claimant restricted his availability and was ineligible. There was non-union work advertised. Claimant did not apply if job was non-union. Claimant’s business agent told him he could not take non-union work. The advertisements referred to by the employer required several carpenters to bid on a job and assume the risk that they would earn substandard rates. Claimant’s previous employment had been for fixed wages.

DECISION: Eligibility affirmed.

RATIONALE: The issue was not claimant’s refusal to accept non-union work, but the suitability of the work offered in the ads. The type of commission work offered was unsuitable i.e. “the remuneration … or other conditions … are substantially less favorable to the individual than those prevailing for similar work in the locality.”

Digest Author: Board of Review (view original digest here)
Digest Updated: June 1991