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Ann Arbor firefighter wins appeal, receives unemployment benefits

Firefighter to get benefits after city fails to show at hearing

Former Ann Arbor firefighter Tim Rugg has won his appeal to receive unemployment benefits after the city fired him in December 2021. Michigan Capitol Confidential previously reported on Rugg’s dismissal, which came after 22 years of employment, for refusing a COVID-19 vaccination.

Rugg had requested a religious exemption from the vaccination mandate, which the city denied, saying he was insincere. The city then denied Rugg’s claim for unemployment benefits, citing misconduct under the Michigan Employment Security Act.

Rugg filed an appeal with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. He won a reversal June 19 from Administrative Law Judge Denise McNulty.

Denise McNulty noted that courts have defined “misconduct” as actions that exhibit willful or wanton disregard of an employer’s interests, with an intent to do the employer harm, repeatedly. Rugg disputed the city’s claim he had acted that way. The city did not show up to the hearing McNulty conducted, leading her to rule in his favor. “His unrebutted and credible testimony contained no information of wrongdoing or disregard of the employer’s interest,” McNulty wrote. As a result, she concluded, “The claimant is not disqualified for benefits from the misconduct provision” of state law.

Rugg and three other city employees who were also denied religious exemptions have filed a civil lawsuit against Ann Arbor. They seek a monetary award, including payment for mental anguish and reimbursement for legal fees.

Rugg said his union’s lawyers have tried to negotiate with the city to reverse his termination and reinstate him but have not succeeded.

The city did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.