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Skirin v. Bowling





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. RICHARD L. CURRY, Judge, presiding.


Vladimir Skirin (plaintiff) appeals from a judgment affirming a decision of the Board of Review of the Illinois Department of Labor (Board). (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.) The Board adopted a referee's findings and decision that plaintiff was not entitled to receive Federal Supplemental Benefits (FSB) under section 102 of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 1974, as amended (26 U.S.C.A. § 3304, Historical note, at 353-54 (1979)).

Plaintiff worked as a maintenance man in a hotel. He became unemployed in November 1976. He received regular (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 48, par. 403) and extended (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 48, par. 409(F)) unemployment insurance benefits. Thereafter, on August 20, 1977, plaintiff applied for Federal benefits under the Federal Supplemental Benefits Program (FSB). FSB is a Federal program administered by State agencies. It provides additional unemployment insurance benefits in periods of high unemployment to individuals who have exhausted their rights to regular and extended benefits.

On October 6, 1977, a notice was sent to plaintiff by a claims adjudicator from the Board's local unemployment office. This informed plaintiff he was ineligible for FSB because "you did not establish that you are actively seeking work for the period from 8-21-77 through 10-1-77." This determination was based on two FSB "work seeking activities" report forms signed by plaintiff on September 4 and 18 showing four contacts by him with employers in an effort to obtain work between August 21 and September 18 (one contact per week). Plaintiff did not fill out a similar form for the last two weeks of September. However, plaintiff did submit a separate list of three employer contacts to the local office on October 1.

On December 23, 1977, plaintiff appeared without counsel at a hearing before the referee. Plaintiff was accompanied by John Rozanski, a friend. Their testimony indicates plaintiff has difficulty with the English language. Plaintiff testified he cannot write English. Rozanski helped plaintiff complete his unemployment insurance forms, had gone with plaintiff to look for work and had helped him fill out employment applications. When the referee asked plaintiff whether listings of two employment contacts for a two-week period were exhaustive of his efforts during that time, plaintiff replied he understood he only had to "put about two places" and he had not listed other places in which he looked for work such as a "hamburger joint," a bank and a gas station. Rozanski corroborated this testimony and stated plaintiff did not put down these other places because "he thought it wasn't necessary."

Plaintiff testified he looked for "any job I can get." Rozanski stated plaintiff looked for "any kind of work." They stated plaintiff would get leads on jobs from the newspaper and the Illinois State Employment Service. Plaintiff would make four to six contacts per week for the time period in question. Both men repeated several times that plaintiff did not put all the contacts on the form because they did not think it was necessary to put down more than one contact a week. They added that on forms they previously filled out for Illinois unemployment benefits, there was no requirement that plaintiff put down his employment contacts. Instead, all he had to do was answer the question, "Did you actively look for work?"

On February 27, 1978, the referee issued a decision affirming the findings of the claims adjudicator denying plaintiff FSB. The referee made findings based on the FSB forms. He did not comment on the testimony of the witnesses. He stated:

"Only one contact was reported each week. Further claimant's last job was that of a janitor and handyman for the hotel where he lives. While his search appears to involved [sic] seeking semi skilled positions, machinists or machine operators positions, his background essentially is that of a laborer and janitor. Instead of coming down in his expectations of the work sought, he appears to have increased those expectations.

Federal Supplemental Benefits requirements under Public Law 95-19 are far more arduous than are the requirements of Section 500C of the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act. Claimant's reported search for work during the involved four weeks period would not have satisfied Illinois requirements under Section 500C. It also appears of record that claimant was putting unreasonable restrictions on his employability."

Plaintiff contends the decision of the Board is against the manifest weight of the evidence and he was denied a meaningful hearing in violation of his due process rights. The Board contends the trial court was correct in holding the Board decision was supported by sufficient evidence.

Section 102(h) of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 1974, as amended, states in pertinent part (26 U.S.C.A. § 3304, Historical note, at 353-54 (1979)):

"(1) In addition to any eligibility requirement of the applicable State law, emergency compensation shall not be payable for any week to any individual otherwise eligible to receive such compensation if during such week such individual —

(B) fails to actively engage in ...

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