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Weingart v. Department of Labor

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 26, 1986.

DOLORES WEINGART ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur L. Dunne, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE LORENZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

In this consolidated appeal plaintiffs, Dolores Weingart and Janice Corbett, challenge two orders of the circuit court of Cook County finding that the Board of Review of the Department of Labor properly found plaintiffs to be ineligible for unemployment compensation. Plaintiffs contend: (1) the Department's actions were void and unenforceable because the Department acted after the expiration of a statutory one-year limitation period; (2) the Department erred in construing as back pay certain payments received by plaintiffs from their former employer in settlement of an action brought against their employer before the National Labor Relations Board; and (3) they were deprived of due process in the proceedings before the Department.

We reverse and remand, finding that the Department's actions were void and unenforceable.

Plaintiffs were both employees of Advo-Systems, Inc., until August 21, 1980. At that time, Advo-Systems closed its Illinois operations after its employees voted in a union. The company's move to an out-of-State location left plaintiffs and other employees jobless.

Shortly thereafter plaintiffs applied for and received unemployment compensation benefits. Dolores Weingart received a total of $4,408 in benefits between August 30, 1980, and June 27, 1981. Janice Corbett received a total of $5,832 in benefits between August 30, 1980, and May 2, 1981.

In the meantime, a complaint was filed on behalf of the ex-employees against Advo-Systems with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by the employees' union representatives. A year and a half after Advo-Systems' decision to shut down its operations in Illinois, the company entered into an out-of-court settlement to terminate the pending NLRB litigation. Pursuant to that settlement, Janice Corbett received a payment in the amount of $8,140 on January 20, 1982. Dolores Weingart's settlement payment was made in two installments, one on January 20, 1982, and the other on February 16, 1982. Her check stubs are labelled "first installment settlement" and "Chicago settlement 2nd installment" respectively. The amounts on those two stubs total $8,656.76, but the decisions below uniformly indicate that Weingart received the same amount as Corbett, $8,140.

On March 31, 1982, Advo-Systems wrote a letter to the division of unemployment insurance of the Department of Labor stating that it had been ordered to make back-pay awards to its former employees for the period of August 30, 1980, through June 1, 1981. The letter, received by the Department April 7, 1982, stated that these employees had also collected unemployment compensation benefits. Accompanying the letter was a list of base wages and the amount of back pay allegedly awarded to each of the former employees, including $8,140 to each plaintiff.

On September 17, 1982, approximately 5 months after the Department of Labor had received Advo-System's letter and 15 months after plaintiff Weingart had drawn her last unemployment benefit check, a Department claims adjudicator issued a notice of reconsidered determination and recoupment decision. The notice informed Weingart she had been found retroactively ineligible to receive benefits from August 24, 1980, to June 27, 1981, because she had received a back-pay award. The claims adjudicator thus concluded that because plaintiff was deemed to have received disqualifying income the benefits paid her were subject to recoupment under section 900(D) of the Unemployment Insurance Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 48, par. 490(D)). Weingart appealed this decision to a referee and was given a hearing. On October 19, 1982, the referee issued a decision upholding the claims adjudicator's determination. Weingart next appealed to the Board of Review, which affirmed the referee's decision on March 30, 1983. However, the Board's March 30 decision was not received by Weingart until July 12 or 13, 1983.

On September 30, 1983, Weingart filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County seeking administrative review of the Board's decision. In her complaint Weingart alleged that, because the Department failed to make the recoupment determination within the one-year limitation period for reconsiderations provided by section 703 of the Unemployment Insurance Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 48, par. 453), the Department's determination was void and unenforceable. She also contended that the Board of Review failed to notify her of its decision in a timely fashion and failed to respond to a letter wherein she protested the late notice and inquired as to the possibility of pursuing another appeal within the Department.

Janice Corbett's case followed a similar course. The notice of reconsidered determination and recoupment decision finding her ineligible for benefits because of the purported back pay was issued April 12, 1983. This was over one year after the Department received Advo-System's letter and almost two years after Corbett received her last unemployment benefit check. The reconsideration was reaffirmed at each stage of administrative proceedings until Corbett exhausted her appeal remedies within the Department. Corbett then filed a complaint for administrative review in the circuit court of Cook County alleging, inter alia, that the Department's actions were void and unenforceable for the same reasons advanced by Dolores Weingart.

The two cases were consolidated solely for hearing in the circuit court, and two orders were entered September 4, 1984, affirming the decision of the Board of Review. The circuit court found that the time limitations set forth in section 703 of the Unemployment Insurance Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 48, par. 453), did not apply to redeterminations involving back pay under section 900(D) of that Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 48, par. 490(D)). The court further concluded that the settlement payments constituted back pay and that the Board's decision was not against the manifest weight of the evidence.

OPINION

We first consider the plaintiffs' contention that the actions of the Department were void and unenforceable because the Department did not act within the applicable limitation period.

In this cause the Department's claims adjudicator took two separable actions: he reconsidered the prior determination that plaintiffs were eligible for benefits, and, pursuant to this redetermination, he sought to recoup benefits already paid out to the plaintiffs. The confusion in this case arises from the fact that both of these actions were combined in one procedure, as ...


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