If you are an employee in Michigan, you are an at-will employee and can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. (Unless your employer violates a federal or statute statute.) I put together the following by way of example and as illustrations of common fact patterns that people believe violate their rights.
1. We have conducted an investigation and concluded . . .
Your boss can say this even if they did not conduct an investigation. While Courts have concluded that a termination that is baseless may pretext for an illegal reason, you still need some proof connecting your termination to the illegal reason. In other words, it isn't illegal for your employer to lie to you about the reason for termination without more.
On December 20, 2012, The Michigan Court of Appeals issued an unemployment decision. For those inovlved with unemployment during 2012, it has been a wild ride. The MCAC has made some unique decisions. The Case of Shepard v. Meiher Great Lakes Ltd., is illustrative of those decisions.
A very interesting case about unemployment and Title VII came out on Oct 4, 2012. (h/t to Eric B. Meyer at The Employer Handbook Blog where I first read about and clicked to read the whole case) Stezzi v. Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, Docket No. 10-4333 (Oct. 4, 2012) explains that under Title VI a claim for retaliation may exist if an unemployment appeal was made because a charge of discrimination was filed.
To be eligible for unemployment in Michigan, an individual needs to be available for full-time work of a character which the individual is qualified to perform. What does it mean to be available?
As the economy in Michigan improves and the number of people collecting unemployment decreases it seems that the amount of contested unemployment cases is staying about the same (as least anecdotally). One thing has struck me recently, the number of unemployment cases that are contested with little or no basis. There will always be the claims where there is a difference in opinion about what happened or who said what, but lately it seems that employers have pursued more claims where they fired the employee and want the court to find misconduct. Misconduct has been interpreted in Michigan to be a pretty high burden for the employer. (See below - the basics of unemployment) If you are fired, you are likely eligible for unemployment unless you did something purposefully to get fired or failed to follow directions several times. If you quit, you are likely ineligible, unless you have a reason that was caused by your employer.
For businesses, my advice is to keep unemployment separate in your mind from general employment decisions. In other words, yes you can fire an employee for no reason, BUT you will have to pay them unemployment. If you want to avoid unemployment, you should be tracking discipline and discussing with someone the requirements for meeting the misconduct standard. Ben Franklin said "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure." For businesses, the proper paperwork and documentation can mean the difference between winning an unemployment hearing and losing one.
Click below to read more.