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Baker v. Department of Employment Security

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

March 14, 2014

RONALD BAKER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THE DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY; THE DIRECTOR OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY; THE DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITYBOARD OF REVIEW; and CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT c/o Cambridge/Sedgwick Bruce Kijewski, Defendants-Appellees

Page 831

As Corrected.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 11 L 50928. Honorable Robert Lopez Cepero, Judge Presiding.

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

The denial of plaintiff's application for unemployment benefits by the Board of Review of the Department of Employment Security following the termination of his employment for making aggressive or hostile comments during meetings with other workers, including supervisors, was properly upheld on administrative review, since plaintiff made comments about " going Arizona" shortly after a shooting in Arizona in which several people, including a Congresswoman, were shot and some died, and the Board's conclusion that defendant's comments constituted misconduct under the Unemployment Insurance Act was not clearly erroneous.

David A. Rodriguez, of DePaul Legal Clinic, of Chicago, for appellant.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Chicago (Michael A. Scodro, Solicitor General, and Janon E. Fabiano, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel), for appellees.

PRESIDING JUSTICE GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McBride and Palmer concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

GORDON, PRESIDING JUSTICE

Page 832

[¶1] Plaintiff Ronald Baker appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County affirming the ruling of the Board of Review (Board) of the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) which denied him unemployment benefits. On appeal, plaintiff contends that his statement in the presence of three supervisors did not constitute a threat or misconduct. He also asserts the circuit court abused its discretion in denying his request to remand the matter to the Board to consider

Page 833

a supervisor's affidavit as additional evidence. We uphold the Board's decision.

[¶2] Plaintiff was employed as an electrician for the Chicago Park District (District) from August 1997 to February 28, 2011, when he was discharged for violating the District's code of conduct with respect to violence in the workplace. Under that policy, employees are prohibited from making aggressive or hostile comments, threatening remarks, or any activity or gesture that creates a reasonable fear of injury to another person or subjects another person to emotional distress. The District's disciplinary meeting disposition, over the signature of human resources manager Pamela Walton, informed plaintiff of his termination and stated in pertinent part:

" It has been reported that on 1/20/11 during a meeting in the office with your foreman regarding a previous conversation you had with a co-worker (two other foremen were in the office at the time of the meeting) you were heard making the following allegation[,] 'I don't want this to turn into an Arizona ...

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