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Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs v. Khan

Court of Appeals of Michigan

June 11, 2015

DEPARTMENT OF LICENSING AND REGULATORY AFFAIRS, UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AGENCY/TRA SPECIAL PROGRAMS UNIT, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
MOHAMMED KHAN, Respondent-Appellee

Macomb Circuit Court. LC No. 2013-001578-AE.

For DEPARTMENT OF LICENSING & REGULATORY AFFAIRS/UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AGENCY/TRA SPECIAL PROGRAMS UNIT, ATTORNEY GENERAL, Petitioner-Appellant: PETER T KOTULA, DETROIT, MI.

MOHAMMED KHAN, Respondent-Appellee, Pro se.

Before: SAAD, P.J., and M. J. KELLY and SHAPIRO, JJ.

OPINION

[311 Mich.App. 67] Per Curiam.

Following a remand from the Supreme Court to review this case as on leave granted,[1] petitioner appeals an order of the circuit court affirming the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission's (MCAC) determination that respondent is entitled to trade readjustment allowance (TRA) unemployment benefits under the federal Trade Act of 1974, 19 U.S.C. 2101 et seq. We affirm.

[311 Mich.App. 68] This case concerns respondent's attempt to obtain TRA benefits even though he did not participate in training classes, which are a prerequisite to eligibility, or timely file a waiver of training. TRA benefits are offered under a federal program to those whose " firm has been adversely affected by imports" and whose employment has been affected as a result. Dep't of Labor & Economic Growth, Unemployment Ins Agency v Dykstra, 283 Mich.App. 212, 215; 771 N.W.2d 423 (2009). Essentially, a group of workers first seeks approval to become certified for the program

Page 190

and then the affected workers seek individual eligibility. Although the program is entirely federally funded, petitioner--through Michigan Works! at the time of respondent's filing--administers the eligibility portion of the program.

On October 22, 2009, workers at respondent's employer, Technicolor, were certified for eligibility for TRA benefits. Respondent was separated from his employment at Technicolor on January 4, 2010 and, on March 24, 2010, he signed a document acknowledging that he had 26 weeks from separation, i.e., until July 5, 2010, to enroll in classroom training or to contact the Michigan Works! office to request a waiver.[2] However, respondent did not enter training. He acknowledged below that he simply forgot to do so, and that he only remembered the deadline after seeing some of his colleagues going to the training. Petitioner denied respondent's request for TRA benefits. Respondent sought a redetermination of petitioner's decision, which was denied on the basis that respondent's September 7, 2011 request to waive training was untimely. Respondent appealed that decision in the Michigan [311 Mich.App. 69] Administrative Hearings System. Following a hearing on February 1, 2012, the administrative law judge issued a written decision in which he determined that respondent was entitled to benefits because the 26-week deadline contained in the 2009 version of 19 U.S.C. 2291(a)(5)(A)(ii) applied only to enrollments in training and not to waivers of training, which were instead covered under 19 U.S.C. 2291(a)(1), a statute that did not contain this time limit. In reaching this decision, the administrative law judge relied on this Court's decision in Dykstra, which, discussing the 2002 version of the statute, ruled that even though the United States Department of Labor (USDL) had a contrary interpretation concerning the then 16-week deadline, that interpretation was not entitled to any deference. Dykstra, 283 Mich.App. at 229. In this case, petitioner appealed the administrative law judge's decision to the MCAC, which affirmed on the basis that Dykstra constituted binding precedent. The MCAC noted that the result was consistent with a 2011 MCAC decision in which the commission found that another individual was entitled to TRA benefits under Dykstra. The circuit court affirmed on similar grounds.

Petitioner argues that the MCAC and the circuit court erred by ruling that this case is governed by Dykstra 's holding. Noting that Congress amended the Trade Act in 2009 to change the relevant deadlines under 19 U.S.C. 2291(a)(5)(A)(ii) from 8 and 16 to 26 and 26 weeks, petitioner essentially argues that Congress's continued silence as to whether the deadlines apply to those seeking a waiver acts as an adoption of the USDL's interpretation that the deadlines apply. Petitioner argues that Dykstra no longer is good law and has no precedential value.

[311 Mich.App. 70] A circuit court may reverse a decision of the MCAC only if it is " contrary to law or is not supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence on the whole record." MCL 421.38(1).

[W]hen [this Court] review[s] a lower court's review of agency action this Court must determine whether the lower court applied correct legal principles and whether it misapprehended or grossly misapplied the substantial evidence test to the ...

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