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Harris v Ford Motor Company 14.05

Section 29(1)(h)

ASSAULT & BATTERY, Name calling, Provocation, Connected with work

CITE AS: Harris v Ford Motor Company, No. 89184 (Mich App April 29, 1987).

Appeal pending: No

Claimant: Roy S. Harris

Employer: Ford Motor Company

Docket No: B83 09343 90901

COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: Mere words, no matter how offensive, do not justify an assault. Further, a fight over union affairs between two employees, one of whom is off-duty can be work connected and disqualifying if it negatively affects the employer's interests.

FACTS: While an off-duty worker was soliciting signatures for a union matter the claimant, himself a union member, got involved in a dispute with the individual. This took place inside an employer plant. During the discussion the other person called claimant a "lying ass". Claimant responded by hitting him in the face. Both employees were terminated.

DECISION: Claimant is disqualified for benefits under Section 29(1)(h).

RATIONALE: "Mere words, however, do not justify an assault or constitute a defense to liability for assault, and it is the general rule that, apart from statute, no provocative acts, conduct, former insults, threats, or words, unless accompanied by an overt act of hostility, will justify an assault, no matter how offensive or exasperating, nor how much they may be calculated to excite or irritate."

In Banks v Ford Motor Company, 123 Mich App 250 (1983) "... this court focused on the location of the assault and its potential to harm the employer's interests.

More recently, this court has held that an employee's misconduct need not arise from his or her official work duties to disqualify him or her from unemployment compensation benefits, so long as the misconduct negatively affects the employer's interests. Bowns v Port Huron, 146 Mich App 69, 76; 379 NW2d 469 (1985), lv den, 424 Mich 898 (1986) . ... This case offers an even stronger example of a work-related assault than the Banks case, because the assault and battery occurred inside defendant's plant, as opposed to its parking lot. Therefore, plaintiff's assault and battery created a greater potential for disruption of defendant's interests than the assault in Banks. Also, as the circuit court pointed out, the dispute in the instant case was not entirely a personal matter between plaintiff and Jackson. It arose out of their affiliation with the union which represented defendant's employees."


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