Legal Memorandum: Denial of benefits under the Unemployment Insurance Act supported by common sense rule

Issue: Under Illinois law, may a denial of benefits under the Unemployment Insurance Act be supported under the "common sense" rule where no specific employer rule was violated by the employee?

Area of Law: Insurance, Labor & Employment, Labor and Employment, Litigation Practice & Procedure, Litigation Practice and Procedure
Keywords: ; Unemployment Insurance Act; Common Sense; Misconduct
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2016

In the absence of an express rule or policy prohibiting a plaintiff’s actions, a court is left to consider a determination that "there are some acts of misconduct that are so serious and so commonly accepted as wrong that employers need not have rules covering them."  Such a conclusion finds support in numerous appellate court decisions holding that, under certain circumstances, an employer need not prove the existence of a rule or policy by direct evidence. Instead, these cases hold, a court may infer a rule violation "by a common sense realization that certain conduct intentionally and substantially disregards an employer’s interests." Greenlaw v. Department of Employment Security, 299 Ill. App. 3d 446, 448 (1998). The common sense rationale was initially applied in cases of criminal conduct. Meeks v. Department of Employment Security, 208 Ill. App. 3d 579, 585 (1990) (employer need not prove an express rule against physically assaulting a coworker); Ray v. Department of Employment Security Board of Review, 244 Ill. App. 3d 233, 236 (1993) (employer need not prove an express rule against stealing). The appellate court later expanded the common sense exception to cases in which the employee’s conduct was not criminal or universally regarded as grounds for immediate termination. See Lachenmyer v. Didrickson, 263 Ill. App. 3d 382, 388-89 (1994) (throwing folder toward supervisor); Stovall v. Department of Employment Security, 262 Ill. App. 3d 1098, 1102-03 (1994) (leaving meeting and calling supervisor a liar); Greenlaw, 299 Ill. App. 3d at 449 […]

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