By Brendan O'Brien
Jan 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday asked the
Solicitor General to file a brief in a case over Michigan's
interpretation of a federal program to help workers displaced by
The request signals the justices' interest in the case,
which was brought by Michigan's Department of Licensing and
At the center of the case is the Trade Act of 1974, which
provides aid to workers who lose their jobs because of foreign
competition. In order to receive aid, the workers must be
enrolled in a retraining program within a certain period of time
or receive a state waiver.
Courts in some other states have interpreted the act as
saying that workers must ask for a waiver within the same time
frame as required for workers who enroll in retraining, Michigan
said in its petition to the Supreme Court. But Michigan courts
have required the state to provide benefits no matter when a
displaced worker chooses to petition for a waiver, the petition
"Multiple state court rules have created conflict among the
states," said Joy Yearout, a spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney
General Bill Schuette. "Whether you can obtain these benefits
and when depends upon which state you live in. Clearly this is
not what Congress intended when it created this program," she
The person in the case, Dawn Gerstenschlager, was a
displaced worker who was unaware of the Trade Act program and
its deadlines because her former employer failed to give the
state her contact information, according to the state's
She applied for the program after the deadlines passed, and
the state denied her application.
On June 15, 2011, the Huron County Circuit Court reversed
the state's decision, granting Gerstenschlager aid under the
program. The Court of Appeals in Michigan denied the state's
application for leave to appeal and in March of 2012 the
Michigan Supreme Court declined to take the case.
Like Michigan, Minnesota has no deadline for seeking
waivers, while Nebraska and Wisconsin have implemented the
In an order on Monday, the Supreme Court invited the U.S.
Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the views of the
Attorneys for Gerstenschlager were unavailable to comment
The case is Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory
Affairs v. Gerstenschlager, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-379.
For Michigan: Attorney General Bill Schuette, Solicitor
General John Bursch and Assistant Attorneys General Susan
Przekop-Shaw, Peter Kotula, Sarah Barnes.
For Gerstenschlager: Clifford Sloan of Skadden, Arps, Slate,
Meagher & Flom.
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