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08/13/87 William A. Frazee, v. the Department of

August 13, 1987

WILLIAM A. FRAZEE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

THE DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES (KELLY SERVICES, DEFENDANT)



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, THIRD DISTRICT

512 N.E.2d 789, 159 Ill. App. 3d 474, 111 Ill. Dec. 400 1987.IL.1170

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon. Robert E. Manning, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE SCOTT delivered the opinion of the court. BARRY and WOMBACHER, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE SCOTT

This is an appeal from an order of the circuit court of Peoria County which affirmed a decision of the defendant Illinois Department of Employment Security which determined that the plaintiff, William A. Frazee, should be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits due to his refusal to work.

The decision of the Board of Review of the Department of Employment Security capsulizes the facts which led to this appeal. The pertinent part of that decision is as follows:

"In this case, the evidence established that the claimant refused an offer of suitable work without good cause, as his personal desire, no matter how strong or sincere [ sic ] held, did not constitute good cause for his refusal of work. When a refusal of work is based on religious convictions, the refusal must be based upon some tenets or dogma accepted by the individual of some church, sect, or denomination, and such a refusal based solely on an individual's personal belief is personal and noncompelling and does not render the work unsuitable. It is not the purpose of the Act nor of the Board of Review to abridge or to deny the claimant's constitutional right to the free exercise of religion by imposing a disqualification from benefits. However, other than his own self-serving testimony, the claimant has presented no corroborative evidence to establish that working on a Sunday was unsuitable for him. The claimant's contention that, subsequent to his refusal, he learned that his schedule could have been adjusted, is pure hearsay and conjecture and is of no evidentiary weight."

We have been presented for determination in this appeal the question of whether the plaintiff's personal professed religious belief that he could not work on Sundays constituted good cause for his refusal of work.

In support of his contention that his refusal to work on Sunday because of his personal religious belief constituted good cause the plaintiff cites a numbers of cases. We direct our attention to three United States Supreme Court cases, namely, Thomas v. Review Board (1981), 450 U.S. 707, 67 L. Ed. 2d 624, 101 S. Ct 1425, Sherbert v. Verner (1963), 374 U.S. 398, 10 L. Ed. 2d 965, 83 S. Ct. 1790, and Hobbie v. Unemployment Compensation Appeals Com. (1987), 480 U.S. , 94 L. Ed. 2d 190, 107 S. Ct. 1046.

An examination of the cases discloses that in Thomas the claimant was a Jehovah's Witness who quit his employment when he was assigned to a department which produced turrets for military tanks. The Supreme Court of Indiana found the claimant to be ineligible for unemployment compensation. This determination was overturned by the United States Supreme Court on the ground that the claimant's religious beliefs were entitled to first amendment protection. In Thomas the court made the following observation:

"Where the state conditions receipt of an important benefit upon conduct proscribed by a religious faith, or where it denies such a benefit because of conduct mandated by religious belief, thereby putting substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs, a burden upon religion exists." (Emphasis added.) Thomas v. Review Board (1981), 450 U.S. 707, 717-18, 67 L. Ed. 2d 624, 633-34, 101 S. Ct. 1425, 1431-32.

The Sherbert case involved a Seventh-Day Adventist who was discharged by her employer for her refusal to work on Saturday, the sabbath day of her faith. Her application for unemployment compensation benefits from the State of South Carolina was denied. The United States Supreme Court reversed the Supreme Court of South Carolina on the ground that denial of unemployment compensation benefits to a Seventh-Day Adventist restricted the free exercise by the claimant of her religious beliefs. The United States Supreme Court in reaching such a decision stated:

"Here not only is it apparent that appellant's declared ineligibility for benefits derives solely from the practice of her religion, but the pressure upon her to forgo that practice is unmistakable. The ruling forces her to choose between following the precepts of her religion and forfeiting benefits, on the one hand, and abandoning one of the precepts of her religion in order to accept work, on the other hand. Governmental imposition of such a choice puts the same kind of burden upon the free exercise of religion as would a fine imposed ...


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