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10/13/89 Doris Hogge, v. Champion Laboratories

October 13, 1989





546 N.E.2d 1025, 190 Ill. App. 3d 620, 137 Ill. Dec. 912 1989.IL.1627

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Edwards County; the Hon. John Lundmark, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE LEWIS delivered the opinion of the court. HARRISON and HOWERTON, JJ., concur.


The plaintiff, Doris Hogge, appeals from a judgment of the trial court entered in favor of the defendant, Champion Laboratories, Inc. (hereafter referred to as Champion), following a bench trial. She presents for review the following four issues, which we quote:

"1. Whether an employee manual which imposes obligations on both the employer and employee binds the employer and its provisions?

2. Whether the employment application is incorporated into the contract between the employer and employee?

3. Whether a contract between the employer and employee may extend to and govern behavior affecting the employee and the State of Illinois?

4. Whether the employer, with timely notice of a breach, waives its right to enforce the contract by waiting more than three (3) years to exercise that right."

Many of the facts of this cause are undisputed, among them the following. In December of 1982 or in January of 1983, while the plaintiff was employed by the defendant, she was laid off for a brief period for defendant's taking of inventory. During that time she applied for and received unemployment benefits paid to her by the State of Illinois. When she returned to work for the defendant she continued to apply for and to receive unemployment compensation, while working for the defendant full time, until August of 1983, when the payments were discontinued by the State of Illinois. Thereafter, action was taken by the State of Illinois against her to recover the amount of unemployment compensation paid her while she was working for the defendant. On January 13, 1986, the State filed a complaint against her in the circuit court of Wayne County seeking payment of $4,754, the amount of the overpayment she had received. The defendant herein was not a party to that cause of action. A local newspaper carried an account of this action by the State against plaintiff, which appeared early in June of 1986. One or more clippings of the news story appeared on one or more bulletin boards at the defendant's plant where plaintiff worked. Thereafter the plaintiff was called to the office of defendant's director of personnel concerning the information contained in the newspaper article, was advised that she would be suspended for five days, and was terminated from employment on June 13, 1986.

In her complaint she alleged, inter alia, that on May 16, 1983, August 15, 1983, and November 15, 1983, the defendant had received notices indicating times during which she was paid unemployment benefits while she was not unemployed. She alleged further that on June 13, 1986, she was discharged from the defendant's employ and that the reason given was that defendant had recently learned that the plaintiff had collected unemployment benefits from the State of Illinois chargeable to the defendant from January 15, 1983, through August 27, 1983. The defendant admitted in its response to the plaintiff's request for admission that on those three dates in 1983 it had received a notice "indicating periods in which plaintiff was paid benefits."

At trial the plaintiff called as a witness Dudley Willis, the defendant's director of human resources, who described the plaintiff as a "factory employee" assembling filters and stated that the purpose of the defendant's Employee's Manual (hereafter referred to as the Manual), which was admitted into evidence, was to provide to employees an "overview" of those matters presented to them during orientation. On page 23 of the Manual the following statements appear:

"The following enumerated reasons for disciplinary action up to and including discharge is [ sic ] by way of illustration and is [ sic ] not to be deemed to exclude management's right to discharge employees for any other reason.

MAJOR OFFENSES which due to their severe nature result in immediate suspension with possible discharge:

7. Willful falsification or misrepresentation of employment, pay, production or ...

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