Labor and Economic Opportunity
In this edition, we would like to focus on two areas that have recently been fundamental concerns with employers regarding benefit claims, they are:
1) Employers requiring COVID-19 vaccines, and
2) Michigan's legalization of recreational marijuana usage as it relates to the workplace.
We have provided a short analysis for you to review. However, in the event there are protests to claims, our trained adjudication team will review each issue separately based on its merit as it relates to the Michigan Employment Security Act (MESA).
All Michigan unemployment benefit programs that were extended as part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act expired on September 4, 2021. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) and Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) have all ended. However, all protests that are still pending determinations as of Sept. 4 will continue through the protest/appeal process. Claimants determined to be eligible will continue to be paid unemployment benefits. If you offer positions for employment and they are refused, contact UIA immediately by visiting your MiWAM login Account Services tab under Benefit Services: "Report Refusal of Offer to Work." Your continued communication with Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) is imperative.
If you would like to suggest articles or subjects for this newsletter or would like to nominate your company to participate in a focus group, please send us a message to UIAfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Since December 2018, The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA) legalized recreational use and possession of marijuana for those over age 21 in Michigan. However, the MRTMA does not require an employer to permit or accommodate conduct otherwise allowed by the act, and does not prohibit an employer from disciplining, discharging, or taking an adverse employment action against a person for violation of a workplace drug policy or because that person was working under the influence of marijuana. The MRTMA allows people and legal entities to prohibit or otherwise regulate the consumption, cultivation, distribution, processing, sale or display of marijuana and marijuana accessories on property the person owns, occupies, or manages.
Employers are still able to regulate a wide range of employee behavior with respect
to marijuana through the implementation of workplace drug policies. However, many employees terminated by these actions may still be eligible for unemployment benefits under some circumstances. Eligibility for unemployment benefits will be evaluated case-by-case and based on whether a separated individual is disqualified from benefits for misconduct, controlled substance use or for intoxication while still being in the workplace.
The Michigan Employment Security Act (MESA) disqualifies an individual from receiving benefits where the person was discharged for "illegally ingesting, injecting, inhaling, or possessing a controlled substance on the premises of the employer," or for refusing or testing positive on a drug test administered in a nondiscriminatory manner. This only disqualifies a person for illegal use or possession of a controlled substance. Non work hour and off work site marijuana use consistent with MRTMA, or a positive drug test for marijuana or metabolic byproducts after legal use may allow a person to receive unemployment benefits.
The private, lawful use of marijuana, comparable to the private, lawful use of alcohol or tobacco, is not evidence of a "willful or wanton disregard of an employer's interests" that warrants a denial of unemployment benefits.
Employers are encouraged to review their policies and work rules related to accidents, marijuana use, possession and intoxication in the workplace.
Much like with marijuana uses under the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA), whether an individual is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits as a result of a separation for failure to take a COVID-19 vaccine, will depend on the facts and circumstances in each case.
Whether an individual is disqualified for benefits starts with identifying how the separation occurred. For example, is the separation due to a discharge, voluntarily quitting or some other underlying factor? If an employee is discharged, the employer's policies and work rules will be material in evaluating if misconduct applies. Misconduct is generally defined as "an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer's interests or of the employee's duties and obligations to his employer." Qualification will be based on whether an individual's failure to be vaccinated constitutes or rises to the level of misconduct.
If a separation results from a worker voluntarily quitting, whether an individual is qualified for benefits will depend on whether the individual had good cause attributable to the employer for quitting the job. Factors for consideration will include but are not limited to, if there was a material change in the job requirements, whether the individual expressed concerns with the employer and gave the employer an opportunity to remedy those concerns and whether the individual's quitting falls under a medical exception.
The facts and circumstances of each case will be important. Therefore, employers are encouraged to review their policies and work rules related to required COVID-19 vaccinations.
The fastest and most accurate way to submit payments is through your MIWAM account. Mailing tax payments and correspondence to an incorrect address may interrupt your payments and delay addressing your concern. If it is necessary to mail documents and checks, please use the appropriate addresses below:
In the unfortunate circumstance that a lien has been assessed to your account and needs to be discharged after your debt is paid in full, a UIA form 1450 Notice of Lien Recording & Discharge Fee is generated and mailed to you. The employer must submit the Certification of Discharge of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency Tax Lien (Pg. 4 of UIA form 1450) to your county's Registrar of Deeds and pay any applicable discharge and recording fees.