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Dow Chemical Co v Curtis 15.32

Section 29(8), 32(d)

LABOR DISPUTE, Termination of disqualification, Statutory construction, Retroactivity of amendment

CITE AS: Dow Chemical Co. v Curtis, 431 Mich 471 (1988).

Appeal pending: No

Claimant: Irvin Curtis, et al

Employer: Dow Chemical Co.

Docket No: B74 5287 63858

SUPREME COURT HOLDING: An amendment to Section 29(8) of the MES Act is not effective retroactively. The amended eligibility requirements do apply to benefit weeks after the effective date of the amendment.

FACTS: From March 18 - September 9, 1974, the 486 claimants involved in this matter engaged in a strike against the employer. The involved claimants were held disqualified for benefits by the MESC under the labor dispute provision of the MES Act. In accordance with Section 29(8) as then worded, and as construed in Great Lakes Steel Corp v ESC, 381 Mich 249 (1968), claimants "requalified" by securing short term interim employment with other employers. This interim employment lasted less than two days, and each claimant's earnings were nominal. While the strike was in progress the legislative enacted an amendment to Section 29(8), effective June 9, 1974. The amendment provided that in order to terminate disqualification under Section 29(8) a claimant had to perform services with an employer in at least two consecutive weeks and earn wages in each of those weeks in an amount at least equal to his weekly benefit rate.

DECISION: The MESC properly charged employer's account for benefit weeks prior to the effective date of amendment. Employer's account is not to be charged for subsequent weeks. Claimants are not required to make restitution because of a three year statutory bar.

RATIONALE: "In the absence of any clear indication from the legislature that retrospective operation was intended ... we conclude that the MESC properly charged Dow's rating account ... with respect to benefit weeks prior to the effective date of the amendment." However, as eligibility is determined on a weekly basis and Dow timely protested, "[C]laims made for benefit weeks after June 9, 1974, were controlled by the new criteria set forth in the amendment."

"The MESA is so structured that if the law changes or if facts change, an interested party has the right to demand that eligibility or qualification, or both, be determined anew."


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