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Horton v. Department of Employment Security

November 26, 2002


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

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice McBRIDE


Plaintiff Steevy J. Horton filed a complaint for administrative review seeking to reverse a decision by the Board of Review of the Department of Employment Security (Board) that he was ineligible to receive unemployment compensation benefits because he voluntarily left work without good cause attributable to his employer. 820 ILCS 405/601(A) (West 2000). The circuit court reversed the Board's decision, and the Board appealed, contending that its decision followed plaintiff's failure to maintain his driver's license, which resulted in a constructive voluntary leaving without good cause attributable to his employer.

In 1996, plaintiff began working as a service agent for Avis Rent-A-Car (Avis). Avis and the Teamster's union had a collective bargaining agreement which, in part stated:

"As a condition of employment, employee must have a valid driver's license. Employees who have their driver's license suspended and/or revoked will immediately report this status to the company prior to starting work, failure to do so will result in immediate termination of employment. Employees who do inform the company will be given a 30 day leave of absence to secure a valid driver's license (this language is applicable to all employees driving vehicles as part of their duties)."

In 1999, plaintiff received citations for three traffic violations. Pursuant to section 6-206(a)(2) of the Illinois Vehicle Code, plaintiff's driver's license was suspended for three offenses committed within a 12-month period. 625 ILCS 5/6-206(a)(2) (West 2000). Notice of the suspension, effective July 25, 2000, was mailed to plaintiff at a 3110 West Fulton address.

On September 13, 2000, plaintiff was discharged from Avis. A letter memorializing his termination stated that the reason for the discharge was plaintiff's failure to notify his employer of the suspension, a direct violation of the collective bargaining agreement.

On September 18, 2000, plaintiff filed for unemployment benefits. He indicated that he was discharged for failure to notify his employer of his license suspension. Plaintiff was aware that his employer required notification of license suspensions, but he stated that he had not been notified of his suspension.

On October 7, 2000, a claims adjudicator found plaintiff ineligible for benefits, because he was discharged for violating a "known and reasonable company rule." Plaintiff was denied benefits under section 602(A) of the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act (Act), which provides:

"An individual shall be ineligible for benefits for the week in which he has been discharged for misconduct connected with his work and, thereafter ***. *** For purposes of this subsection, the term 'misconduct' means the deliberate and willful violation of a reasonable rule or policy of the employing unit, governing the individual's behavior in performance of his work, provided such violation has harmed the employing unit or other employees or has been repeated by the individual despite a warning or other explicit instruction from the employing unit." 820 ILCS 405/602(A) (West 2000).

Plaintiff appealed the adjudicator's decision and received a hearing before a referee on November 2, 2000. At the hearing, plaintiff testified that he did not know his license had been suspended until his employer informed him of this fact on the day he was discharged. Plaintiff testified that he had three moving violations, but he was not aware that three tickets in one year caused his license to be suspended. He did not know of the suspension because he had moved and the notice of suspension was delivered to his former address. Plaintiff did not notify the Secretary of State that he no longer lived at the address listed on his driver's license. However, he did obtain a State identification card on September 16, 1999, which listed his current address. Plaintiff also stated that he filed a change of address form with the United States Postal Service in January 2000. He admitted he knew a valid driver's license was required for employment.

David Hertowski testified on behalf of Avis. Hertowski explained that allowing employees to drive company vehicles with suspended licenses put the company at risk. According to Hertowski, a grievance hearing took place on October 10, 2000, at which time plaintiff failed to produce evidence that he had a valid license from July 25 to September 13.

The referee upheld the denial of benefits but determined that section 602(A) of the Act did not apply. The referee's decision stated, "Claimant did not intend to violate the rule that provided a worker must notify the company of [his] driver's license's suspension. His wanton and wilful misconduct is not established. He was not discharged and the misconduct disqualification is not applicable to this claim."

Rather, the referee denied plaintiff benefits under section 601A of the Act, which provides: "An individual shall be ineligible for benefits *** [if] he has left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the employing unit ***." 820 ILCS 405/601(A) (West 2000). She reasoned that there were no unilateral changes in the nature of ...

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