19. Federal Court Decisions & TRA

LARA v. Khan – 19.16

LARA v. Khan
Digest No. 19.16

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

Cite as: LARA v Khan, 311 Mich App 66 (2015).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Khan
Employer: Technicolor
Date of decision: June 11, 2015

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HOLDING: Requests to waive the training required to receive TRA unemployment benefits are not subject to the deadline applicable to enrollments in training.

FACTS: On October 22, 2009, Claimant and his co-workers at Technicolor were certified for eligibility for Trade Readjustment Allowance (“TRA”) unemployment benefits. Claimant separated from Technicolor on January 4, 2010 due to lack of work. On March 24, 2010, Claimant signed a document acknowledging that, to obtain TRA benefits, he had 26 weeks from the date of his separation to enroll in classroom training, or to contact a Michigan Works! office to request a waiver from training. After the 26 week period had expired, Claimant requested, and was granted, an untimely waiver from training on September 7, 2011.

The TRA program is a federal program established by the Trade Act of 1974. The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (“UIA”) administers the TRA program utilizing federal funds. Because Claimant failed to comply with the 26 week deadline, UIA exercised its authority and denied Claimant’s request for TRA benefits. An ALJ reversed the UIA’s determination and found Claimant eligible for TRA benefits. The Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (“MCAC”) affirmed the ALJ’s decision. UIA appealed.

DECISION: The Court of Appeals affirmed MCAC’s decision, Claimant is eligible for TRA benefits.  

RATIONALE: In 2009, Congress amended the Trade Act of 1974 to change the deadline for enrolling in training under 19 USC 2291(a)(5)(A)(ii) to 26 weeks after separation. Congress did not amend or include a deadline for, 19 USC 2291(a)(5)(C), the statutory provision dealing with a waiver from training.

In a 2004 guidance letter, (Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, Training and Employment Guidance Letter No 11-02, Change 1, 69 Fed Reg 60903 (October 13, 2004)) the United States Department of Labor announced that the deadlines for training extended to waivers. Interpreting the 2002 versions of the aforementioned statutes, the Court of Appeals refused to defer to this guidance letter in Dep’t of Labor & Economic Growth v Dykstra, 283 Mich App 212, 215 (2009). The Dykstra Court argued that the letter conflicted with the intent of Congress to not impose deadlines on waivers as evident through the text of 19 USC 2291(a)(5)(C), which omits deadlines entirely.

Here, the question that the Court faced was whether the 26 week deadline in the 2009 version of 19 USC 2291(a)(5)(A)(ii) also applied to individuals seeking waiver. The Court refused to extend the deadline to waivers for two reasons.

First, the statutory waiver provision at 19 USC 2291(a)(5)(C) of the Trade Act of 1974 does not mention deadlines. Thus, the clear intent of Congress must have been to restrict the deadlines only to the training provision at 19 USC 2291(a)(5)(A)(ii), which explicitly mentions deadlines.

Second, when Congress revised the Trade Act of 1974 in 2009, it was aware of the Dykstra decision that refused to extend the training deadlines to the waiver provision. If Congress sought to overturn Dykstra, it could have amended the text of 19 USC 2291(a)(5)(C) in 2009 to include waiver deadlines. Because it did not, it must be that the training deadlines in 19 USC 2291(a)(5)(A)(ii) do not extend to the waiver provision at 19 USC 2291(a)(5)(C).

Since there isn’t deadline to obtain a waiver, Claimant is eligible for TRA benefits.

Digest author: Sean Higgins, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: November 1, 2017


19. Federal Court Decisions & TRA

UIA v Dykstra – 19.09

UIA v Dykstra
Digest no. 19.09

Cite as: Dep’t of Labor & Econ Growth, Unemployment Ins Agency v Dykstra, 283 Mich App 212 (2009).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Tracey Dykstra
Employer: N/A
Docket no.: 05-011956-AE
Date of decision: April 07, 2009

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HOLDING: The statutory time limit set forth in Section 2291(a)(5)(A)(ii) does not apply to submission of the form requesting waiver of the TRA training requirement under Section 2291(a)(5)(A)(i).

FACTS: Claimant lost her job due to the closure of her facility caused by foreign competition. In order to receive TRA benefits, Claimant filled out and timely submitted all the forms about which she had been informed and of which she had been provided blank copies from a Michigan Works! agent. Despite doing all she had been told to do, Claimant heard nothing back from UIA. Claimant was later informed of the need to fill out Form 802 by former co-workers, after learning this she immediately filled out the proper paperwork. This form was a request for waiver of the TRA training requirement.

Unfortunately for Claimant, the deadline for applying for TRA benefits had lapsed by the time she submitted form 802, and the UIA subsequently denied her benefits. Claimant appealed and was given a positive ruling from an Administrative Law Judge, who found that the agency error of Michigan Works! employees, who had the duty of informing her about the proper forms to file, was good cause for her failure to timely file her 802 form. This was later sustained by the Board of Review.

On request of the U.S. Dep’t of Labor, the UIA appealed the Board of Review’s decision arguing that the pertinent TRA provisions do not allow for a “good cause exception to late filings.” The Circuit Court held that Claimant was not disqualified from TRA benefits, as the doctrine of estoppel should be applied to this case, the Supreme Court had not set an absolute bar to the use of estoppel against government agencies, and equity requires that it should be permitted in this instance. The Michigan Court of Appeals initially denied the UIA’s request to appeal for lack of merit, but the Michigan Supreme Court in turn remanded the case back to the Court of Appeals for consideration as on leave granted, and it was subsequently consolidated with another claim.

DECISION: The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Circuit Court.

RATIONALE: Rather than relying on the estoppel rationale of the Circuit Court, the Court of Appeals held that while executive departments may require deference regarding the interpretation of a federal law when the law is ambiguous, there is no such deference required when the law is clear on its face. Here, through statutory interpretation, the Court of Appeals found that the strict deadline provisions were only intended to apply to the provisions under Section 2291(a)(5)(A)(ii), the retraining section, and not to (a)(5)(A)(i), which is the retraining waiver section. Accordingly, the Department of Labor determination did not require deference, and the strict deadline did not apply to Claimant.

Digest Author: A. Kaled
Digest Updated:

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

View/download the full decision

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