Bill Text: MI HB5552 | 2021-2022 | 101st Legislature | Engrossed


Bill Title: Legislature: legislative agencies; unemployment insurance agency ombudsman; create. Creates new act. TIE BAR WITH: HB 5549'21, HB 5554'21

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Republican 9-0)

Status: (Engrossed) 2022-01-27 - Referred To Committee On Economic And Small Business Development [HB5552 Detail]

Download: Michigan-2021-HB5552-Engrossed.html

 

 

Substitute For

HOUSE BILL NO. 5552

A bill to create the office of the unemployment insurance advocate; to provide a process for investigating certain complaints; to provide for the powers and duties of certain state governmental officers and entities; and to provide for penalties and remedies.

the people of the state of michigan enact:

Sec. 1. This act may be cited as the "unemployment insurance advocate act".

Sec. 3. As used in this act:

(a) "Administrative act" includes an action, omission, decision, determination, redetermination, recommendation, practice, or other procedure of the unemployment agency.

(b) "Advocate", unless the context requires otherwise, means the unemployment insurance advocate.

(c) "Claimant" means an individual who applies for benefits under the Michigan employment security act.

(d) "Complainant" means a claimant or employer who submits a complaint to the advocate under this act. Complainant includes a representative of a claimant or employer who submits a complaint to the advocate under this act.

(e) "Council" means the legislative council established under section 15 of article IV of the state constitution of 1963.

(f) "Employer" means that term as defined in section 41 of the Michigan employment security act, MCL 421.41.

(g) "Michigan employment security act" means the Michigan employment security act, 1936 (Ex Sess) PA 1, MCL 421.1 to 421.75.

(h) "Office" means the office of the unemployment insurance advocate created under section 5.

(i) "Personal identifying information" means information that could be used to identify an individual, including, but not limited to, the individual's name, initials, email address, Social Security number, telephone number, or home address.

(j) "Unemployment agency" means that term as defined in section 3 of the Michigan employment security act, MCL 421.3.

Sec. 5. (1) The office of the unemployment insurance advocate is created within the legislative council.

(2) The principal executive officer of the office is the unemployment insurance advocate. The council shall appoint the unemployment insurance advocate. The unemployment insurance advocate serves at the pleasure of the council.

Sec. 7. The council shall establish procedures for all of the following:

(a) Approving the budget of the office.

(b) Expending funds of the office.

(c) The employment of personnel for the office.

Sec. 9. (1) The advocate may, upon his or her own initiative or upon receipt of a complaint from a complainant concerning an administrative act, do any of the following:

(a) Investigate the status of a claimant's claim for benefits.

(b) Investigate the status of a matter related to an employer's unemployment taxes.

(c) Answer a claimant's question regarding any of the following:

(i) Eligibility for unemployment benefits.

(ii) The status of a claim for benefits or payment of benefits.

(iii) The status of a protest or appeal.

(iv) An employer's unemployment insurance accounts.

(v) General unemployment benefit and unemployment tax issues.

(2) Subject to approval of the council, the advocate shall establish procedures for all of the following:

(a) Receiving and processing complaints.

(b) Conducting investigations.

(c) Holding hearings.

(d) Reporting the findings of investigations.

Sec. 11. (1) Subject to subsection (3), upon request from the advocate, the unemployment agency shall grant the advocate access to all information, records, and documents in the possession of the unemployment agency that the advocate considers necessary to an investigation, including, but not limited to, all of the items listed in section 32e(1) of the Michigan employment security act, MCL 421.32e.

(2) Subject to subsection (3), the advocate may do both of the following:

(a) Hold informal hearings in person, via telephone, or via a virtual meeting technology.

(b) Request that an individual appear before the advocate, or at a hearing, to give testimony or produce documentary or other evidence that the advocate considers relevant to an investigation.

(3) The unemployment agency shall not grant the advocate access to information, records, and documents as required under subsection (1) unless the advocate provides to the unemployment agency written authorization of representation as required under section 11 of the Michigan employment security act, MCL 421.11. The advocate shall not hold a hearing on a complaint if the complaint involves a matter that has been protested or appealed and for which the unemployment agency, administrative law judge, or unemployment insurance appeals commission, as applicable, has not issued a final determination or decision.

Sec. 13. (1) The advocate shall advise a complainant of all administrative remedies available to the complainant. Upon request from the advocate, the unemployment agency shall provide a progress report concerning the administrative processing of a complaint. After the unemployment agency takes administrative action on a complaint, the advocate may conduct further investigation at the request of the complainant or on his or her own initiative.

(2) The advocate is not required to conduct an investigation of a complaint submitted to the advocate. A complainant is not entitled to have an investigation conducted by the advocate.

Sec. 15. Upon receiving a complaint under this act and deciding to investigate the complaint, the advocate shall, not later than 10 days after receiving the complaint, notify the complainant and the unemployment agency of the advocate's decision. If the advocate decides not to investigate a complaint, the advocate shall, not later than 10 days after receiving the complaint, notify the complainant, in writing, of the reasons for the advocate's decision.

Sec. 17. Upon request from the advocate, the council may hold a hearing. The council may do any of the following:

(a) Administer oaths.

(b) Subpoena witnesses.

(c) Examine the books and records of the unemployment agency.

Sec. 19. (1) Subject to subsection (2), correspondence between the office and a complainant is confidential, is privileged communication, and is exempt from disclosure under the freedom of information act, 1976 PA 442, MCL 15.231 to 15.246.

(2) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, the office shall maintain confidentiality regarding all matters under investigation and shall not disclose the personal identifying information of a complainant, claimant, or employer to another person. If disclosure of personal identifying information is necessary for the advocate to perform the duties of the office or to support a recommendation that is based on the results of an investigation, the advocate shall disclose the personal identifying information only to the minimum extent necessary to perform the duties of the office or to support a recommendation.

Sec. 21. (1) If the advocate finds any of the following during an investigation, the advocate shall prepare a report of the findings and submit the report, along with any recommendations, to the council not later than 30 days after the advocate completes the investigation:

(a) A matter that should be considered by the unemployment agency.

(b) An administrative act that should be modified or canceled.

(c) A statute or rule that should be altered.

(d) An administrative act for which justification is necessary.

(e) Any other significant concerns.

(2) Subject to section 23, the council shall forward a report prepared and submitted under this section to the unemployment agency and the complainant who submitted the complaint on which the report is based.

Sec. 23. Before the advocate submits a report under section 21(1) with a conclusion or recommendation that expressly or impliedly criticizes a person or the unemployment agency, the advocate shall consult with that person or the unemployment agency. If the advocate publishes an opinion adverse to a person or the unemployment agency, the advocate shall include in that publication a statement of reasonable length made to the advocate by that person or the unemployment agency in defense or mitigation of the opinion if the person or unemployment agency provides the statement within a reasonable period of time as determined by the council. The advocate may request to be notified by a person or the unemployment agency, within a specified time, of any action taken on a recommendation of the advocate. The advocate shall notify the complainant of the actions taken by the person or unemployment agency.

Sec. 25. (1) If the advocate receives a report from the unemployment agency under section 32f(1) of the Michigan employment security act, MCL 421.32f, that lists 1 or more claims that meet all of the conditions described in section 32f(1)(c) of the Michigan employment security act, MCL 421.32f, the advocate shall submit the report to the standing committees of the senate and house of representatives that have oversight of the unemployment insurance agency. If the advocate receives an item from the unemployment agency under section 32f(3) of the Michigan employment security act, MCL 421.32f, the advocate shall submit the item to the senate oversight committee and house of representatives oversight committee.

(2) The advocate shall submit to the council and the legislature an annual report on the conduct of the office that includes information required by the council.

(3) A report required to be submitted under this section must not include or disclose any personal identifying information of individuals from whom the advocate acquired information during an investigation.

Sec. 27. (1) The unemployment agency shall not penalize in any way a complainant for doing any of the following:

(a) Filing a complaint.

(b) Providing information to the council or a legislator.

(c) Cooperating with the advocate in the investigation of a complaint.

(2) The unemployment agency or a person shall not do any of the following:

(a) Hinder a lawful action of the advocate or employees of the office.

(b) Willfully refuse to comply with a lawful demand of the office.

Sec. 29. (1) The authority granted to the advocate under this act is in addition to all other authority granted by law to any other office or agency relative to any of the following:

(a) A remedy or right of appeal or objection for a complainant.

(b) A procedure provided for the inquiry into, or investigation of, any matter.

(2) The authority granted to the advocate under this act does not limit or affect any other remedy or right of appeal or objection provided by law and must not be considered to be exclusionary.

Enacting section 1. This act does not take effect unless all of the following bills of the 101st Legislature are enacted into law:

(a) House Bill No. 5549.

(b) House Bill No. 5554.

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