13. Refusal of Work

Zielinski v Bay City Public Schools – 13.05

Zielinski v Bay City Public Schools

Digest No. 13.05

Cite as: Zielinski v Bay City Public Schools, unpublished opinion of the State of Michigan Employment Security Board of Review, issued October 30, 1980 (Docket No.: B79-00344- 66220).

Court: State of Michigan Employment Security Board of Review Appeal

Pending: No

Claimant: Karen Zielinski

Employer: Bay City Public Schools

Date of decision: October 30, 1980

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HOLDING: The statute does not require that the offer of work be full time, only that it be suitable work. Therefore, the work offered need not be full time but may be part time work if the claimant had previously done that same type of work in a part time category.

FACTS: The claimant was certified by the State of Michigan as an elementary school teacher, and offered the job by the employer. The claimant refused based on pay differential and the fact that the job offered was not full time. The claimant had performed the same type of work a couple years for the same employer before she refused the part-time job offer from the employer in this case. The claimant filed an appeal from a redetermination issued by the Commission which held the claimant disqualified for benefits under Section 29(l)(e) of the Act, because claimant failed without good cause to accept suitable work.

DECISION: The Employment Security Board of Review affirmed the decision of the referee and refused the application for rehearing.

RATIONALE: The referee found that if she had accepted to work part-time previously, she could not be heard later to argue that she should not have to accept the job because it was not full-time work. It did not matter that later the part time work that she accepted previously should become full time work because of the length of time that the claimant had worked. It would be similarly so should she have accepted this position. It might have blossomed into full time tenured teacher work if she had performed her work for fifty or more days. The claimant was guaranteed at least six week’s work at the time of the job offer, which was deemed to be suitable work.
Digest author: Toni Suh, Michigan Law, Class of 2020
Digest updated: January 28, 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