Thursday, December 5, 2013

Chronic Oversleeper is Entitled to Unemployment Benefits

Philip Wrobel was a pressman for the Chicago Tribune for 17 years. His shift started at 6:00 a.m. The Tribune had a policy that required him to phone in by 5:00 a.m. if he was going to be late or absent from work. There was also an attendance policy that provided for various levels of discipline for being late or failing to call. Mr. Wrobel was eventually terminated for repeatedly coming late to work and not calling ahead.

He applied for unemployment benefits, which the Tribune contested. At the hearing, Mr. Wrobel testified that on several occasions his alarm clock failed to sound because the power had gone off during the night. He also testified that on all of those occasions he had failed to set his wind-up alarm clock which was supposed to be used as a back up. He also admitted that his electric alarm clock did have a battery back up, but he had failed to insert any batteries. The hearing officer found that "the circumstances that caused his final attendance violation were within his ability or control to avoid," that he was properly terminated for misconduct, and that his unemployment benefits were denied.

Mr. Wrobel appealed. The appellate court noted that in order to be guilty of misconduct that would preclude benefits, the employee must deliberately and willfully violate a reasonable rule or policy of the employer. After reviewing the record and the testimony, the appellate court could not conclude that Mr. Wrobel deliberately and willfully violated the Tribune's rules. The court noted that the true problems arose when Mr. Wrobel forgot to set his wind-up alarm clock or put a battery in his electric alarm clock.

The court brilliantly observed that "One does not typically forget to do something intentionally; forgetting is a matter of carelessness." The court further observed that this case did not even involve a conscious act by Mr. Wrobel; but rather an "unconscious act: he overslept." The court ruled that Mr. Wrobel did not deliberately and willfully oversleep, but was rather only negligent, so he was entitled to his unemployment benefits.

What do you think Law Blog readers? Is chronic oversleeping grounds denial of unemployment, or was this guy just an unlucky man who did not deliberately violate company policy?  HERE is a link to the opinion if you are interested. 

No comments: