Thomas Stilp, JD, MBA/MM, LLM, MSC
|In Illinois, is it really okay to sleep on the job? In an answer that will surely depress employers, “yes,” it is okay to sleep on the job in Illinois.
In Universal Security Corp. v Illinois Dept. of Employment Security, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed granting unemployment benefits to a security guard at O’Hare Airport who literally slept on the job.
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) requires employers to pay premiums that increase with the number of claims awarded. In other words, it costs more to employers the more claims against the employer. IDES recognizes two general exceptions to awarding benefits. First, an employee is not eligible for benefits if the employee voluntarily quits through no fault of the employer. Second, and as issue in Universal Security Corp., an employee is ineligible for benefits if the employee deliberately and willfully violated a reasonable policy of the employers of which the employee had notice.
Although Universal Security did have a policy against sleeping on the job, perhaps it is was not clear enough as the Court concluded “nodding off” was not deliberate and, therefore, there was no violation of the rule.
Illinois is supposed to be an “at will” employment state where either the employer or employee can end the employment relationship for any reason or no reason at all. But if ending employment means a protracted legal battle, there truly is a cost that goes against an “at will” relationship.
Security guards hired for airport duty (serious business these days) cannot fall asleep in public at one of the world’s business airports. Universal Security spent a lot of money fighting unemployment benefits with concern for its reputation.
As the Universal Security Corp. case demonstrates, at least in Illinois, employers better have an attorney at their side when making what appear to be clear-cut employment decisions, or face the consequences.