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Watson v Murdock's Food and Wet Goods 10.35

Section 29(1)(a)

VOLUNTARY LEAVING, Health or physical condition, Pregnancy

CITE AS: Watson v Murdock's Food and Wet Goods, 148 Mich App 802 (1986).

Appeal pending: No

Claimant: Michelle Watson

Employer: Murdock's Food and Wet Goods

Docket No: B83 13107 92389W

COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: A separation due to a disabling medical condition attributable only to a claimant's circumstances is a voluntary leaving without good cause attributable to the employer.

FACTS: Claimant, a waitress, became pregnant and was diagnosed as suffering from a separation of the pubic bone. Her physician restricted her from work involving lifting or bending. When she presented the restrictions to the employer, he read the note and walked away and the claimant left. She assumed he understood she could no longer work. She had no intention of returning after giving birth.

DECISION: The claimant is disqualified.

RATIONALE: The court stated the MES Act "was intended to provide relief to those persons 'able and available' to perform work but who are prevented from doing so by economic forces beyond their control" and "not intended to provide a form of mandatory health or disability insurance at the expense of the employers who fund the system." The court interpreted the statutory term "voluntary" as follows:

"The question presented here can be posed more specifically as whether Section 29(1)(a) is applicable, i.e., has plaintiff 'left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the employer. ...' Obviously, the word 'voluntary', taken alone, is capable of two meanings under these facts. In a sense, plaintiff's separation from employment was involuntary since she did not choose to suffer from a medical condition which requires that she avoid the bending and lifting required in her job. On the other hand, the absence can be construed as a voluntary and wise decision based upon the advice of her doctor. The question, then, is which meaning was intended by the Legislature. We believe that the answer can be derived from the modifying phrase "without good cause attributable to the employer.' In the case before us, it certainly cannot be denied that plaintiff left with good cause. Her own health and that of her baby were at stake. Thus, if the modifying phrase did not include the portion emphasized above, Section 29(1)(a) would be clearly inapplicable. However, when the emphasized portion is included, it becomes clear that plaintiff was intended to be disqualified by this section. Although her termination was for good cause, it can be attributed only to her own circumstances, and not to her employer."


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