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Hodge v. U.S. Sec. Assocs., Inc.

Supreme Court of Michigan

February 6, 2015

CARNICE HODGE, Claimant-Appellee,
v.
U.S. SECURITY ASSOCIATES, INC., Respondent-Appellee, and DEPARTMENT OF LICENSING & REGULATORY AFFAIRS/UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AGENCY, Appellant

For CARNICE HODGE, Claimant-Appellee: STEVE GRAY, ANN ARBOR MI.

For U.S. SECURITY ASSOCIATES INC, Respondent-Appellant: BRIAN A KREUCHER, ROYAL OAK MI.

For LICENSING & REGULATORY AFFAIRS DEPT OF/UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AGENCY, Appellee: SHANNON WOOD HUSBAND, DETROIT MI.

Chief Justice: Robert P. Young, Jr. Justices: Stephen J. Markman, Mary Beth Kelly, Brian K. Zahra, Bridget M. McCormack, David F. Viviano, Richard H. Bernstein.

OPINION

Page 684

BEFORE THE ENTIRE BENCH

[497 Mich. 190] Per Curiam.

In this case involving a claim for unemployment benefits, we must determine whether the lower courts applied the proper standard for reviewing determinations made by an administrative agency. Specifically, claimant was terminated from her employment for willfully violating her employer's computer use policy. The state's unemployment agency denied her claim for unemployment benefits and this decision was affirmed by an administrative law judge (ALJ). In turn, the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) affirmed the ALJ's decision, holding that the decision was made in conformity with the facts as developed at the hearing and properly applied the law to the facts. On appeal to the circuit court, however, the court concluded that, because claimant violated her employer's policy to assist a customer, the conduct did [497 Mich. 191] not warrant a denial of unemployment benefits. The Court of Appeals, in a published opinion, affirmed the circuit court, agreeing that claimant's violation of her employer's rules was not sufficiently egregious to deny the claimant benefits.

We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and we reinstate the judgment of the MCAC. Both the Wayne Circuit Court and the Court of Appeals applied an incorrect standard of review by substituting their own assessment of the relative severity of the claimant's violation of her employer's rules for the assessment of the MCAC. The MCAC's assessment of the claimant's conduct was made within the correct legal framework and, therefore, was authorized by law and was not contrary to law, and the courts below improperly reweighed the evidence in order to reach a different assessment in violation of Const 1963, art 6, § 28, and MCL 421.38(1).

I. BASIC FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Claimant, Carnice Hodge, was employed as a security guard with U.S. Security Associates, Inc (USSA). On November 11, 2008, shortly after being hired, Hodge signed an acknowledgement of USSA's " Security Officer's Guide," which provided, in relevant part, that the " [u]nauthorized use of client facilities or equipment, including copiers, fax machines, computers, the internet, forklifts, and vehicles" may result in immediate termination. USSA had a contract to provide security at Detroit Metropolitan airport, and she was assigned to work at the airport. Despite acknowledgement of USSA's " Security Officer's Guide," on January 27, 2011, Hodge accessed the airport's computer system in order to assist a passenger by retrieving departure information.

[497 Mich. 192] The parties agree to the following facts: (1) USSA had a policy that prohibited employees from accessing airport computers, (2) Hodge knew of this policy, (3) Hodge had violated this policy on some occasions in the past, (4) Hodge never received any instruction or approval to violate this policy, and (5) Hodge violated this policy on January 27, 2011 when she accessed the airport's computer system in order to retrieve departure data for a passenger.

Given these facts, the ALJ concluded that Hodge's reason for using the airport computer was irrelevant because USSA's policy prohibited computer access for any ...


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