APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JAMES
C. MURRAY, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE MCGILLICUDDY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This is an appeal from an order of the circuit court of Cook County affirming the decision of the Board of Review of the Illinois Department of Labor (Department) which denied the plaintiffs certain unemployment compensation benefits for the period between August 2, 1975, and November 1, 1975.
On August 1, 1975, employees of the MGD Graphic Systems Division of Rockwell International Corporation (Rockwell) in Cicero, Illinois, voted to strike. Collective bargaining negotiations between Rockwell and the plaintiffs' union continued during the strike. On October 24, 1975, Rockwell announced its decision to close the plant.
Certain employees (other than the plaintiffs) filed for benefits under the Unemployment Compensation Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 48, par. 300 et seq.) within a few days of the commencement of the strike. These claims were initially denied by department claims adjudicators. The claimants appealed, and on April 20, 1977, the Director of Labor reversed the adjudicators' decisions. The Director found that the work stoppage was the result of a lockout, and not a result of a labor dispute, and that the claimants were entitled to benefits commencing on the date of the strike.
When the 79 plaintiffs in the instant case learned of the Director's decision, they immediately filed antedated claims for benefits commencing August 2, 1975. These claims were denied by department claims adjudicators. The plaintiffs appealed, and a referee conducted a consolidated hearing.
At the hearing Joseph Nendza testified on behalf of 63 claimants who allegedly were denied permission to file claims in August 1975. He stated that in August 1975 he went to the local unemployment office at 51st Street and Cicero Avenue to apply for benefits. Nendza was told by a department employee, a middle-aged white woman, that he could not file a claim because he was on strike.
George Stuit testified on behalf of certain other claimants who did not attempt to file for benefits because they had heard from fellow strikers that they were not eligible. Leonard Cumbo testified on behalf of those claimants who had filed for benefits but did not appeal the denial of their claims.
John Deifel, who at the time of the hearing was the manager of the local unemployment office located at 5101 South Cicero Avenue, Chicago, testified that it is the Department's policy to allow all individuals to file claims regardless of the reason for their unemployment. The determination of eligibility for benefits is made at the central office, not at the local offices.
Although Deifel was not assigned to the Cicero office in August 1975, he testified, over objection, that Nendza's description of the woman to whom he spoke applied to one of two employees. Deifel spoke to both women, and neither one would have refused to accept a claim for benefits. Deifel also testified that 100 to 150 Rockwell workers filed claims in August 1975.
Elizabeth Carter, a claims representative, testified that it was the Department's policy to instruct all claims examiners to take all claims. She also was not assigned to the Cicero office in August 1975.
In a decision dated April 25, 1978, the referee affirmed the denial of the plaintiff's claims because they were not timely filed. The referee relied on a department regulation which provides that a claim must be filed within one year of the week of unemployment for which benefits are sought. The referee also found that the plaintiffs had not been denied permission to file their claims in August 1975.
On March 30, 1979, the Board of Review affirmed the decision of the referee. Plaintiffs filed a complaint for administrative review, and in a written order dated February 7, 1980, the trial court affirmed the decision of the Board of Review.
On appeal the plaintiffs contend (1) that the one-year limitation period deprives them of due process of law; (2) that the one-year limitation period commenced on the date the plaintiffs knew or should have known that they could successfully make a claim for benefits; and (3) that the Department is estopped from asserting the limitation period.
Pursuant to section 500B of the Act, an unemployed individual is eligible to receive benefits with respect to a week of unemployment only if the Director finds that he has made a claim for benefits with respect to that week in accordance with such regulations as the Director may prescribe. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 48, ...