04. Total or Partial Unemployment

Newman v River Rouge Schools – 4.39

Newman v River Rouge Schools
Digest no. 4.39

Section 31, 48(2)

Cite as: Newman v River Rouge Schools, unpublished opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued July 24, 2014 (Docket No. 314033).

Appeal pending: 
Claimant: Joel A. Newman, et al.
Employer: River Rouge Schools
Docket no.: 12-005774-AE
Date of decision: July 24, 2014

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HOLDING: A rehiring agreement that agrees to provide back pay designated to a specific date may make a claimant ineligible to receive unemployment benefits beginning on that date, and any language in the agreement requiring claimant to reimburse the UIA for benefits received as of that date may be valid notwithstanding Section 31.

FACTS: Claimant worked for Employer as a teacher. At the end of the 2008/2009 school year, Claimant was sent a reasonable assurance letter for the upcoming year, but later in the summer was laid off effective August 6, 2009. Claimant’s last pay date was August 14, 2009, and Claimant immediately filed for unemployment benefits beginning the next day. Claimant collected benefits for the weeks ending August 22 and August 30, 2009, and the first few weeks in September.

After the Claimant’s union filed an unfair labor practice charge against Employer, Employer called Claimant back to work and agreed to provide Claimant with back pay. The agreement stipulated that the Claimant must reimburse the Agency “for any unemployment benefits that [he] received after what would have been the first day that the [Claimant was] scheduled to report for work.” Disagreement as to when the 2009/2010 school year began led to a dispute as to when the Employer-provided back pay made him whole, whether there was a period of time that Claimant was eligible for benefits, and whether Claimant must reimburse unemployment benefits received.

DECISION: The decision of the Circuit Court is affirmed, finding that Claimant must reimburse UIA for unemployment benefits received beginning the week ending August 22, 2009.

RATIONALE: There is no dispute that Claimant had the lawful right to collect benefits during the time he was laid off. However, in the agreement between Employer and Claimant, the back pay provided to Claimant was designated as dating back to August 15, 2009, which is the date Claimant allegedly began his period of unemployment. Because substantial evidence shows that both parties agreed that this date was “the beginning of their contract term” and back pay was calculated based on that date, Claimant does not qualify as unemployed as of that date. Additionally, this designation is lawful under the circumstances because nothing in Section 48(2) prohibits this practice, and Claimant does not argue that this back pay was insufficient to make him whole.

Claimant further argues that the agreement was invalid under Section 31 to the extent that Claimant agreed to waive or relinquish his rights to unemployment benefits properly received during the layoff period. This Court agrees that the agreement violates Section 31 on its face and is not valid to require Claimant to relinquish unemployment benefits properly received. However, as explained above, the agreement’s other terms find Claimant to be ineligible for benefits beginning August 15, 2009, and therefore it is not improper for Claimant to be required to relinquish unemployment benefits improperly received.

Digest Author: Jack Battaglia
Digest Updated: 8/14

10. Voluntary Leaving

Jones v. Pinconning Area Schools – 10.103

Jones v. Pinconning Area Schools
Digest No. 10.103

Section 421.29(1)(a)

Cite as: Jones v Pinconning Area Schools, unpublished opinion of the Bay County Circuit Court, issued April 5, 2007 (Docket No. 187403W).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Terese G. Jones
Employer: Pinconning Area Schools
Date of decision: April 5, 2007

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HOLDING: A claimant’s decision to voluntarily leave her job following a unilateral change in her employment agreement is with good cause attributable to her employer if the claimant notifies her employer about her concerns regarding the change in her employment agreement and gives her employer the opportunity to correct her concerns prior to her resignation.  

FACTS: Claimant began work for Pinconning Area Schools on August 1, 2005 after responding to a job posting that advertised an “initial two-year contract annually renewed for future years”. Claimant was provided with a “proposed” employment contract on the first day of her employment that contained a 30 day “at-will” provision. Claimant found this objectionable since it was contrary to the two-year contract that the job posting had promised. Claimant raised these concerns with her employer and was told that they did not wish to change the contract. A second proposed contract was given to Claimant, which Claimant signed on August 10, 2005. On August 11, 2005, Claimant tendered her resignation. The ALJ found that Claimant was disqualified from receiving benefits. The MCAC reversed, finding Claimant was not disqualified.   

DECISION: The Circuit Court affirmed the decision of the MCAC. Claimant is not disqualified from receiving benefits.

RATIONALE: The employer unilaterally changed the terms of Claimant’s employment because the employer’s only offer had been set forth in its job posting, and Claimant’s acceptance of the position was predicated by the terms that were set forth in the posting.

Material changes in an employment contract may constitute good cause for quitting if: (1) a claimant provides the employer with notice and an opportunity to correct the claimant’s concerns; (2) the employer fails to correct these concerns; and (3) the claimant’s concerns are reasonable. Here, it was reasonable for Claimant to be concerned about the unilateral change in her employment contract. Additionally, Claimant did provide employer with notice of her concerns and gave the employer an opportunity to correct her concerns prior to her resignation.

Digest author: Cydney Warburton, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: 10/31/2017

10. Voluntary Leaving

Imlay City Community Schools v Merillat – 10.70

Imlay City Community Schools v Merillat
Digest no. 10.70

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Imlay City Community Schools v Merillat, unpublished opinion of the Lapeer Circuit Court, issued August 22, 1988 (Docket No. 86-011243 AE(B)).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Calvin Merillat
Employer: Imlay City Community Schools
Docket no.: B85-05959-99964
Date of decision: August 22, 1988

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CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: Where claimant, a non-tenured teacher, initiates his resignation after receiving an unfavorable, but grievable, evaluation, he is disqualified for voluntary leaving.

FACTS: The claimant was employed as a probationary teacher for one school year. Because of his probationary status, the claimant did not have rights under the Teacher Tenure Act. The high school principal evaluated the claimant’s performance. The evaluation indicated the claimant’s performance was unsatisfactory and recommended that the Board of Education not renew the claimant’s contract for the following school year. Upon reviewing his evaluation, the claimant resigned rather than let the evaluation and recommendation be forwarded to the School Board. There was a grievance procedure in place which would have allowed the claimant to contest the unfavorable evaluation or a decision by the School Board not to renew his contract.

DECISION: Claimant is disqualified for benefits under the voluntary leaving provision.

RATIONALE: The Board of Review found that since the principal had recommended the claimant’s contract not be renewed, the claimant had in effect been discharged. The court found this ruling to be erroneous as the claimant initiated the idea of resignation. The court observed that not only was the evaluation contestable through a grievance procedure, but the principal had no authority to discharge the claimant. Moreover, the School Board could have refused to follow the principal’s recommendation, or, if they had not renewed his contract, that decision itself could have been subject to grievance.

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

05. Denial Periods

Gillette v Jackson Public Schools – 5.08

Gillette v Jackson Public Schools
Digest no. 5.08

Section 27(i)

Cite as: Gillette v Jackson Pub Schools, unpublished opinion of the Jackson County Circuit Court, issued July 14, 1980 (Docket No. 79 017594).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Kathleen A. Gillette, et al.
Employer: Jackson Public Schools
Docket no.: B76 19061 54930
Date of decision: July 14, 1980

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CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: Where Labor Day is the first day of a school district’s academic year, the week of the holiday is a compensable week.

FACTS: These appeals involved 10 teachers and a school bus driver.

“Claimant’s applications for Unemployment benefits for the week containing Labor Day were denied by the Michigan Unemployment Security Commission under Section 27(i)(2) and (4) of the Michigan Employment Security Act (MSA 17.529)(i)(2) and (4).”

DECISION: The week ending September 11, 1976 is a compensable week for the claimants.

RATIONALE: “Appellees base their position on Section 50(a) of the Act (MSA 17.554(a)) which provides: ‘Week’ means calendar week, ending at midnight Saturday … ‘”

“And Appellees argue that pursuant to Section 50(a) and then existing commission procedures, compensable weeks for unemployment benefits ran from Sunday through Saturday and if an individual was disqualified for one day of the week, he was disqualified for the entire week.”

“Appellees’ narrow interpretation of the Statute does not carry out the Declaration of Policy of the Act … ”

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

07. Eligibility - Able & Available

Meader v Spencer, Smith & Forsythe – 7.14

Meader v Spencer, Smith & Forsythe
Digest no. 7.14

Section 28(1)(c)

Cite as: Meader v Spence, Smith & Forsythe, unpublished opinion of the Saginaw Circuit Court, issued November 7, 1978 (Docket No. 74-02745-AE-3).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Carol A. Meader
Employer: Spence, Smith and Forsythe
Docket no.: B73 9562 45322
Date of decision: November 7, 1978

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CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: Where a claimant’s occupations are teacher and secretary, the claimant is not required to be available for work at night or on Saturday and Sunday.

FACTS: The claimant held a teaching certificate and had worked as a secretary. She actively sought full-time teaching and secretarial work, but limited her availability to daytime hours for personal reasons. She also ruled out Saturdays and Sundays, “Because jobs in my class are not encountered those days, either teaching or secretarial work, unless it happened to be, you know, some special circumstance.”

DECISION: The claimant was available for full-time work.

RATIONALE: “Clearly, the courts today appear to be departing from the traditional belief that ‘availability’ must be of 24 hour duration. This trend is evidenced by the recent case of UAW v Governor, 50 Mich App 116 (1973), on remand from the Supreme Court of Michigan, 388 Mich 578. In that case, the Court of Appeals was called upon to define the ‘fulltime’ requirement of members of the Appeal Board of the Michigan Employment Security Commission.”

“The decision in UAW v Governor “. . . requires appeal board members to perform their duties during ordinary office hours ‘which constitutes an 8 hour day, Monday through Friday, falling within the period of 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.'” The Court concluded that the claimant cannot be held to a standard of availability for full-time work which is more stringent than the one covering Appeal Board members.

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