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06/14/95 MARIA DOW v. COLUMBUS-CABRINI MEDICAL

June 14, 1995

MARIA DOW, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
COLUMBUS-CABRINI MEDICAL CENTER, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable John Gilbert Grossi, Judge Presiding.

As Modified on Denial of Rehearing August 30, 1995. Rehearing Denied August 31, 1995. Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied December 6, 1995.

Presiding Justice Greiman delivered the opinion of the court: Rizzi and Tully, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Greiman

Modified on Denial of Rehearing

PRESIDING JUSTICE GREIMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff Maria Dow (Dow) was fired by defendant Columbus Cabrini Medical Center (CCMC) for stealing company property worth $25. Dow brought suit against CCMC to recover $9,166.08, which represented the value of unused sick-day time and was available to employees meeting certain requirements, including that they retire from service. The trial court determined that Dow was not entitled to the above benefit because she was fired for cause rather than voluntarily retiring. Summary judgment was entered for CCMC, from which Dow now appeals.

The sole issue raised on appeal is whether an employer's personnel policy providing for payment of accumulated unused sick-days to employees who "retire" is available to an employee whose employment is terminated. Because we believe Dow is entitled to this sum, we reverse the trial court and enter judgment for Dow in the amount of $9,166.08, plus prejudgment interest of 5% per annum.

It was the Christmas season. A time for good will to all. CCMC planned to give each employee a gift certificate for $25 from Jewel Food Co. The certificates were to be awarded to CCMC employees a couple of days before Christmas.

A few weeks before the certificates were to be given, Dow, a 20 year employee of CCMC, appropriated, converted, and otherwise exercised dominion and control over the certificate she would have received. The record does not disclose precisely what she did with the proceeds of the purloined certificate, however, we may speculate that she may have purchased a toy or gift for a grandchild, a turkey, plums for the traditional plum pudding or, perhaps, some myrrh and frankincense.

Upon discovering this theft, CCMC discharged Dow on December 15, 1992, forcing her into retirement. In March of 1993, Dow requested and began receiving a pension under an early retirement program CCMC provided for its employees.

CCMC's personnel policies in effect during Dow's employment provided for payment to employees who retire from CCMC with unused, accrued sick days. Specifically, CCMC's Employee Handbook states:

"Employees who retire, and are immediately eligible to receive payment from the Employee Pension Plan, will be paid all unused sick days which have already been accrued."

Employees become eligible under the Pension Plan after five years of service and on or after their 55th birthday. Dow was eligible or vested in the Plan.

In March of 1993, Dow informed CCMC that she wished to begin receiving pension benefits under the CCMC Plan, and she has been receiving such benefits ...


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