Appeal from the Circuit Court of McHenry County; the Hon.
Roland A. Herrmann, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE STROUSE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
The defendant, the Board of Review (Board) of the Illinois Department of Labor (Department), appeals from an order of the circuit court, entered in an administrative review proceeding, that reversed the Board's determination that the plaintiff, Elizabeth Hamilton, did not qualify for unemployment insurance benefits under the provisions of section 601(A) of "An Act in relation to a system of unemployment insurance" (Unemployment Insurance Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 48, par. 431(A)). On appeal, the Board argues that the trial court's order must be reversed because the Board's determination that the plaintiff was not entitled to unemployment benefits for the reason that she voluntarily left her job without good cause attributable to her employer was not contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence.
M.A.L. Company employed the plaintiff as a shipping clerk from July 1, 1979, through August 6, 1982. On August 10, 1982, the plaintiff filed a claim for unemployment insurance benefits with the Division of Unemployment Insurance of the Illinois Department of Labor. In her application Hamilton stated that she was dismissed from her job because she refused to work overtime on August 7, 1982. In response, the employer submitted a statement setting forth its version of the instant controversy.
On August 26, 1982, a claims adjudicator of the Department determined that the claimant voluntarily terminated her employment "without good cause attributable to the employer." Therefore, the adjudicator concluded that the plaintiff did not qualify for unemployment insurance benefits under the provisions of section 601(A) of the Unemployment Insurance Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 48, par. 431(A)).
The following day the plaintiff filed an appeal from this determination with the appeals section of the Unemployment Insurance Division of the Department, and on September 22, 1982, the Department granted the plaintiff a formal hearing before a hearings referee. The following facts were proved at this hearing.
M.A.L. Company, the employer, is involved in the automotive industry business; July and August of each year comprise the company's peak period of activity due to the annual changes the industry makes in models at that time. The plaintiff was a shipping clerk for her employer as an hourly employee from July 1, 1979, until June 28, 1982. On June 28, her employer offered to place her on salary with a salary increase, or she could remain on the hourly rate. She elected to go on salary.
The employer considered the plaintiff to be a very good or excellent employee who had always worked overtime in the past when requested to do so. The plaintiff worked 14.3 hours overtime from July through December 26, 1981, and a total of 16 hours overtime from July 1, 1981, through June 30, 1982. During the company's peak period in 1981, the claimant worked only 2.4 hours overtime. However, during the one-month period after she became a salaried employee, the plaintiff worked 36.9 hours overtime. The evidence is that, with respect to overtime work, a salaried employee receives less compensation than an hourly worker does, although for regular work she receives more.
On Friday morning, August 6, 1982, the plaintiff requested that M.A.L. Company return her to an hourly rate of pay and that the change be made retroactively. The employer agreed to return the plaintiff to her status as an hourly employee effective the following Monday, because Monday commenced a new payroll period. As an hourly employee, the plaintiff's daily hours would only be from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and she would not have to work overtime. The plaintiff agreed to this arrangement because (1) she felt she was not being compensated fairly for her overtime labor; (2) her husband was dissatisfied with the number of overtime hours she was working; and (3) the number of overtime hours affected the plaintiff's children.
Sometime between 2 and 3 p.m. on Friday, a representative of M.A.L. Company asked the plaintiff whether she had contacted the plant superintendent to see what time the shipping documents, for which the plaintiff was responsible, would be available on Saturday morning. According to the employer, the plaintiff responded that she would not work any overtime and was not coming to work on Saturday. Shortly thereafter, the employer held a meeting with the plaintiff and informed her that overtime work was a condition of the job she had accepted; that she had to live by the salaried conditions until Monday; and that it was necessary for her to work on Saturday due to shipping requirements. M.A.L. Company informed the plaintiff at this time that if she did not appear for work on Saturday or Sunday, the company would consider her to have resigned her position with the employer. The plaintiff testified that she was told she would be discharged from employment if she did not work on Saturday. The employer related that the company had shipped on Saturdays previously and that the plaintiff was aware of the work schedule during peak periods.
A short while later, the plaintiff who claimed to be physically and mentally exhausted as a result of having worked overtime over the past month and 8 1/2 hours that day, asked if she could go home a little early; M.A.L. Company granted the plaintiff's request. The comptroller of the company called her at home Friday evening and told the plaintiff's husband to inform her that she had to be at work on Saturday by 11 o'clock. The husband testified that the caller stated that the plaintiff's employment would be terminated if she did not show up for work on Saturday. The comptroller denied that he told the plaintiff's husband that the plaintiff would be discharged if she did not work the following day.
On Saturday morning, plaintiff telephoned Mary Lennon, the office manager of M.A.L. Company, at her home and informed her that she would not report to work that day because she was emotionally upset and Ms. Lennon, who was pressed for time because she was about to depart on vacation, responded "okay, fine." The plaintiff did not report for work on Saturday or Sunday. The employer viewed the plaintiff's failure to appear for work over the weekend as an indication that she resigned her position with the company; M.A.L. Company maintained that it did not terminate the plaintiff.
The following Monday, the plaintiff arrived at M.A.L. Company between 8 and 8:30 a.m. and observed that her parking space was occupied, that a girl was working at plaintiff's desk, and that the plaintiff's personal belongings were on a file cabinet next to the desk. The plaintiff was not attired in working clothing. The employer testified that although the plaintiff came into the office, she did not report for work and she was not dressed for work, but she asked a few questions concerning her vacation pay and profit-sharing plan and gave the keys back to M.A.L. Company.
On October 6, 1982, the referee found that the claimant preferred to leave her job rather than work overtime on August 7, 1982, because she was emotionally upset. The referee stated that in order for the plaintiff to establish that she left her position involuntarily, she had to demonstrate that she quit because of "compelling circumstances" and because the work conditions became so incompatible with her well-being that the work was rendered unsuitable for her. The referee concluded that the claimant failed to establish the existence of compelling circumstances to leave her work and, therefore, affirmed the determination of the claims adjudicator that the plaintiff was ineligible for benefits under section 601A of the Act.
On March 31, 1983, the Board of Review of the Illinois Department of Labor adopted the referee's factual finding that the claimant left her job rather than work overtime and affirmed the ...