10. Voluntary Leaving

Wright v Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. – 10.111

Wright v Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., UIA

Digest No. 10.111

Section 29(1)(a)

Cite as: Wright v Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co, unpublished opinion of the Oakland County Circuit Court, issued August 18, 2005 (Docket No. 05-064329-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Sherry Wright
Employer: Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., Inc.
Date of decision: August 18, 2005

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HOLDING: When an employee resigns and takes a severance package, the separation is considered to be voluntary. “‘Voluntary’ connotes a choice between alternatives that ordinary persons find reasonable.” MacArthur v Borman’s Inc, 200 Mich App 686 (1993). An agreement between an employer and an employee that states the employer will not contest unemployment benefits is not binding on the Agency.

FACTS: Claimant worked for employer from August 19, 1986 until March 2004. In January 2004, in order to reduce its workforce, the employer offered a severance package in exchange for resignation. Part of this agreement was that the employer would not contest Claimant’s eligibility for UI benefits. Claimant was not told what would happen if she refused the offer, however she did know that she had less seniority than many other employees. Her future at the company was therefore uncertain if she did not take the severance package.

The Agency found Claimant disqualified under the voluntary leaving provision. The ALJ found that Claimant had voluntarily quit, but due to the agreement restitution was to be charged to the employer not Claimant. Board of Review and Circuit Court upheld the decision.

DECISION: The Circuit Court found that Claimant chose to take the severance package instead of continuing to work with an uncertain future. She was therefore disqualified.

RATIONALE: Claimant relied on the dissent in the Board of Review decision for her appeal. That dissent relied on unpublished opinions of the Michigan Court of Appeals and circuit court opinions. Claimant did not attach these decisions to her appeal, so the Circuit Court found them unpersuasive. Relying on MacArthur v Borman’s Inc, the Circuit Court found that Claimant could have chosen to continue to work at the employer with an uncertain future. Since Claimant, instead, chose to leave and take the severance package, she voluntarily quit.

Digest author: Andrea M. Frailey, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: November 26, 2017