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Petrovic v. Dep't of Employment Security

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

September 19, 2014

ZLATA PETROVIC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
THE DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, DIRECTOR OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, and THE BOARD OF REVIEW OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, Defendants-Appellants (American Airlines, Defendant)

Page 171

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 12 L 51037. Honorable Robert Lopez Cepero, Judge Presiding.

SYLLABUS

The appellate court reversed a decision of the trial court that reversed the denial by the Board of Review of the Department of Employment Security of plaintiff's claim for unemployment benefits on the ground that she was discharged from her position as a tower planner for an airline for misconduct based on leaving her position in the tower to board a plane to speak to a flight attendant and a gate agent about getting an upgrade and a bottle of champagne for a friend of a friend, notwithstanding plaintiff's contentions that the Board lacked standing to appeal because her employer did not appeal the trial court's decision and that she did not know her conduct violated her employer's policies, since the legislature intended to confer standing on the Department of Employment Security, its Director, and the Board of Review to prosecute appeals from adverse trial court decisions, even if the employer does not appeal, and the Board's finding that plaintiff's actions constituted misconduct was not clearly erroneous.

For Plaintiff-Appellee: Martin Whittaker, Timothy Huizenga, Miriam Hallbauer of LAF Chicago.

For Defendants-Appellants: Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, Michael A. Scodro, Carolyn E. Shapiro, Solicitors General, Timothy K. McPike, Assistant Attorney General.

JUSTICE McBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Gordon and Reyes concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

McBRIDE, JUSTICE.

Page 172

[¶1] In January 2012, plaintiff Zlata Petrovic was fired from defendant American Airlines (American) after she gave a gift and a first class upgrade to a passenger without authorization. Petrovic filed a claim for unemployment benefits with defendant Illinois Department of Employment Security (the Department). Defendant Board of Review (Board) denied Petrovic's claim on the ground that she was discharged for misconduct. Petrovic filed a complaint for administrative review in the trial court, and the trial court reversed the Board's finding.

[¶2] The state defendants appeal, arguing that the Board's decision finding that Petrovic was discharged for misconduct and denying her claim was not clearly erroneous. Additionally, Petrovic asserts that the state defendants lack standing to appeal the trial court decision when Petrovic's employer, American, is not participating in the appeal.

[¶3] Plaintiff was employed by American from June 1988 to January 2012. At the time of her termination, plaintiff worked as a tower planner for the airline. Plaintiff was discharged in January 2012 for misconduct. Plaintiff filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the Department.

[¶4] In February 2012, American filed a letter in response to plaintiff's claim. The letter stated that plaintiff was " discharged for violation of a reasonable and known policy." The incident occurred on January 1, 2012.

" The claimant left her work area without her manager's approval to secure an undocumented upgrade for a friend of a friend. The claimant is not authorized to offer upgrades. During this exchange she did not collect the required fees associated with this upgrade, (-$7,143.50 discrepancy), failed to advise the agent working the flight, and failed to advise the load control of the upgrade. She was previously issued a performance

Page 173

discussion on July 14th, 2011 regarding being out of her work area.
Only authorized employees may issue an upgrade and employees are expected to remain in their work area during the course of their shift unless given permission by their manager to leave. The claimant was made aware of this policy through PC based training."

[¶5] In March 2012, the claims adjudicator denied plaintiff's request for unemployment benefits, finding that plaintiff was ineligible because she was discharged for misconduct connected with work. Plaintiff filed a request for ...


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