Woman Fired for Working on Lunch Hour Wins Unemployment Benefits Appeal
A suburban Chicago woman who was fired for working on her lunch hour has won an appeal upholding unemployment benefits.
The realty company that had employed Sharon Smiley as a receptionist accused her of misconduct and insubordination when she skipped lunch in January 2010 to try to catch up on work, report the Chicago Tribune and ABC News. A manager told Smiley she was required to take the break and ordered her to go to human resources to discuss the issue. The HR manager who fired Smiley claims the employee interrupted her during their talk.
A Cook County judge ruled Smiley’s conduct didn’t amount to misconduct that would disqualify her for benefits, and an appeals court agreed in a Jan. 11 ruling.
Chicago-Kent law professor Martin Malin told the Tribune that companies can be held liable in suits for unpaid overtime if employees work during mandatory lunch breaks with a supervisor’s knowledge.
Smiley, who got a new job as a receptionist last month, represented herself after several lawyers turned down her case. She called one of the lawyers after her appellate win. “I said, ‘This is Sharon Smiley, and I just wanted to call and let you know that I did win my case, and I did it on my own,’ ” she recounted in a Tribune interview.