Cahoo v. SAS Analytics Inc., No. 18-1296 (6th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency's automated program, MiDAS, accessed claimant records from employers, state agencies, and the federal government. When MiDAS detected unreported income or “flagged” other information, it initiated an automated process to determine whether the individual had engaged in fraud. If an employee reported no income for any week during a quarter in which he earned income, MiDAS automatically found fraud. MiDAS did not inform the claimant about the basis for suspicion and did not allow fact-based adjudication but automatically sent claimants multiple-choice questionnaires. No human being took part in the fraud determination. MiDAS sent the questionnaires to claimants’ online accounts, many of which were dormant, and did not take additional steps (emails, mail, or phone) to notify claimants. When MiDAS determined that a claimant committed fraud, the individual’s right to benefits terminated immediately and severe monetary penalties were automatically assessed, even when claimants did not actually receive benefits. Most claimants did not know about the determination until the time for appeal had expired. The Agency did not answer calls and garnished claimants’ wages and intercepted their federal income tax returns without an opportunity to contest the fraud determinations. The Michigan Auditor General reviewed 22,000 MiDAS fraud determinations; 93% did not actually involve fraud.
In an action under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court denied the Individual Defendants qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part. Plaintiffs adequately alleged that Defendants violated their right to procedural due process by terminating their eligibility for benefits and seizing their tax refunds without any meaningful pre-deprivation process; the right to a pre-deprivation hearing was clearly established at the time. Plaintiffs failed to state a plausible equal protection claim; they failed to allege Defendants intentionally singled them out for discriminatory treatment. Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights were not clearly established in this context.