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11/15/95 CHRISTELLA JONES v. ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT

November 15, 1995

CHRISTELLA JONES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, AN ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCY IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS; DIRECTOR OF ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY; BOARD OF REVIEW, AN ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCY IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS, AND THE GAMALIEL FOUNDATION, DEFENDANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable John A. Ward, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication December 21, 1995.

The Honorable Justice Tully delivered the opinion of the court: Rizzi and Cerda, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tully

JUSTICE TULLY delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff, Christella Jones, pursuant to section 3-101 of the Codeof Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/3-101 (West 1992)), filed this action for administrative review in the circuit court against defendants, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), the Director of Illinois Department of Employment Security, and the Board of Review, seeking reversal of the Board of Review's affirming of a referee's decision finding plaintiff ineligible for unemployment compensation. The IDES appeals division referee's decision affirmed an IDES claims adjudicator's earlier determination that plaintiff was ineligible for unemployment benefits. On October 17, 1993, the circuit court reversed the Board of Review's decision as being against the manifest weight of the evidence and entered judgment for plaintiff. It is from this judgment that defendants now appeal to this court pursuant to section 3-112 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/3-112 (West 1992)) and Supreme Court Rule 301 (134 Ill. 2d R. 301).

For the reasons which follow, we affirm.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On July 28, 1992, plaintiff filed a claim for unemployment benefits, naming defendant Gamaliel Foundation as the chargeable employer. The foundation filed a timely protest to plaintiff's claim stating that she voluntarily left the foundation's employ to work for Carol Mosely Braun's campaign for the United States Senate. Subsequently, after initially finding plaintiff eligible for unemployment compensation, an IDES claims adjudicator reconsidered that decision and determined plaintiff to be ineligible for unemployment compensation because of voluntary separation from employment. Plaintiff then appealed the claims adjudicator's decision to the appeals division of IDES, whose referee held a hearing on the matter.

At the outset of the hearing, plaintiff was asked why she stopped working at the Gamaliel Foundation. Plaintiff responded that prior to May 12, 1992, she had had a meeting with Greg Galluzzo, the foundation's executive director, and requested a leave of absence to work for the Braun campaign, which he granted. Plaintiff recounted that she and Galluzzo had agreed that she could return to her job after the election was over or sooner should her position with the campaign not work out.

Plaintiff recalled that she tried to return to work on July 27, 1992, but was told by the foundation's assistant director, Joseph Mariano, that the Gamaliel Foundation had restructured itself. Mariano further informed plaintiff in their meeting that the person who was sitting in for her was working for less money than the foundation had been paying plaintiff and that the position was closed to her. The Gamaliel Foundation never offered Mariano's testimony in rebuttal; however, Galluzzo did testify as to his conversation with plaintiff before she began working for the Braun campaign.

Initially, Galluzzo maintained that he only agreed that he "would consider rehiring" plaintiff when the campaign ended. The referee then pressed Galluzzo and asked him specifically "when [plaintiff] left in May [1992] did you consider her employment to have ended there?" Galluzzo responded that his "hope was that [plaintiff] would find a new career and move on to other opportunities." To this response the referee repeated his question and added that "you're not answering my question." Galluzzo then asserted "I did consider her employment terminated."

Immediately thereafter, however, Galluzzo volunteered that: "On the *** possibility that [plaintiff] would not get *** another job opportunity at the end of the campaign[,] we hired a replacement for 5 months *** until November. And I told this replacement that *** after November I'm not sure if I'm going to guarantee you this position."

Plaintiff then offered the testimony of John Arlington, who had worked for an organization affiliated with the Gamaliel Foundation for 3 1/2 years. Arlington testified that he had spoken with Galluzzo about plaintiff's employment status, and that Galluzzo had referred to plaintiff's job with the Braun campaign as a "temporary position" and that her departure was a leave of absence. Arlington also recalled that Galluzzo thought working on the Braun campaign was an excellent opportunity for plaintiff and if as a result of it she then obtained a good position elsewhere so much the better, but "if she came back[,] fine."

After Arlington's testimony, Galluzzo admitted: "Okay. Okay. I think it's clear to everyone that [plaintiff] had a 5 month leave of absence." There are numerous other instances in the record where Galluzzo refers to ...


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