LANSING, Mich. (CN) – A worker’s refusal to attend her employer’s mandatory Martin Luther King Jr. birthday party constituted willful misconduct and prevents her from collecting disability benefits due to her depression, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled.
The Court of Appeals had determined that Patricia Brackett qualified for disability benefits after her conversation with her employer sent her spiraling into a depression.
Justice Corrigan ruled that Brackett was at fault since her employer, Focus Hope Inc., told her that the event was designed to further the company’s goal of racial reconciliation.
Brackett is African-American, and she objected to the event’s location in the city of Dearborn because of her family’s past experiences there.
In a meeting about her refusal, Brackett’s boss shook a finger in her face and said she did not deserve a paycheck from Focus Hope. She left the job and never returned.
Despite Brackett’s depression, Corrigan ruled that the plaintiff’s actions precipitated the events that followed.
State law “bars an employee from recovering benefits for conduct that is both intentional and willful,” Corrigan wrote.