Employment & Labor Law

This summary also appears under Administrative Law

 

Issues: Unemployment benefits; The Michigan Employment Security Act (MESA)(MCL 421.1 et seq.); The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA)(MCL 333.26421 et seq.); Whether an employee who has a registration identification card under the MMMA is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits after being terminated for failing to pass a drug test; Threshold requirements in MCL 421.28; Disqualification from receiving benefits under MCL 421.29; § 29(1)(m); The MMMA's immunity¬†clause (MCL 333.26424(a)); Whether the denial of unemployment benefits constitutes imposition of a "penalty"; Ter Beek v. Wyoming; MMMA preemption of the MESA; MCL 333.26427(e); Applicability of MCL 333.26427(c)(2) where there was no evidence the claimants ingested marijuana in the workplace or worked under the influence of marijuana; Applicability of the MMMA to private employers; Casias v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (6th Cir.); Beinor v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office of CO & Serv. Group, Inc. (CO App.); Denial of unemployment benefits as a state action; Vander Laan v. Mulder; Whether the claimants were disqualified under § 29(1)(b); Review of a decision by the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC); MCL 421.38; The court's review of a lower court's review of an administrative decision; VanZandt v. State Employees' Ret. Sys.; Statutory interpretation; Mericka v. Department of Cmty. Health; Klooster v. City of Charlevoix; Michigan v. McQueen; In re Haley

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Published)

Case Name: Braska v. Challenge Mfg. Co.

e-Journal Number: 58391

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Borrello, Servitto, and Shapiro

 

Holding that the denial of unemployment benefits under MESA § 29(1)(m) constituted a penalty under the MMMA that was imposed upon the claimants for their medical use of marijuana, the court affirmed the circuit courts' orders in these consolidated cases reversing the MCAC's rulings that they were disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits after being terminated for failing a drug test. It was undisputed that the claimants met the threshold requirements for benefits under MCL 421.28. There was "no evidence in the record that any of the three claimants ingested, injected, inhaled or possessed marijuana on the premises of their respective employers." Further, their employers did not allege that they "were under the influence of marijuana at any time during work hours. Similarly, claimants did not refuse to submit to a drug test. Thus, the first two disqualifiers under § 29(1)(m)" did not apply. As to the third disqualifier, "the MCAC determined that claimants were disqualified under that provision because they failed a drug test." The MMMA's immunity clause provides that "qualifying patients 'shall not' (1) be subject to arrest, prosecution, or 'penalty in any manner' or (2) be denied any 'right' or 'privilege,' 'including but not limited to civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau. . . .'" It was not asserted that the claimants "used medical marijuana in a manner that did not comply with the terms of the MMMA." While the MMMA does not define the term penalty, in Ter Beek the Michigan Supreme Court referred to a dictionary to define it to mean "'a punishment imposed or incurred for a violation of law or rule . . . something forfeited. . . .'" As the term is modified in MCL 333.26424(a) "by the phrase 'in any manner,' the immunity granted by the MMMA from penalties 'is to be given the broadest application' and applies to both civil and criminal penalties." The only reason the claimants "were disqualified by the MCAC from receiving benefits was because they tested positive for marijuana." Absent their medical use of marijuana, they "would not have been disqualified under § 29(1)(m)." Thus, because they used medical marijuana, "they were required to forfeit their unemployment benefits. For this reason, the decision by the MCAC to deny claimants unemployment benefits amounted to a penalty imposed for the medical use of marijuana contrary to MCL 333.26424(1)." As the "MMMA preempts the MESA, the MCAC erred in denying claimants unemployment benefits." The court rejected the argument that it should distinguish the failing of a drug test from the medical use of marijuana, noting that the claimants' "use of medical marijuana and their subsequent positive drug tests are inextricably intertwined." As to the argument that the MMMA does not apply to private employers, when "an individual is denied unemployment benefits, the employer's conduct is not at issue, but rather, the denial involves state action." Affirmed.

 

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