When a long-time employee refused her manager’s request to go to lunch and opted to get caught up on a project, she probably never imaged her response would lead to this.
For ten years, Sharon Smiley had been working as a receptionist and administrative assistant at a Chicago-based real estate company when she had a problem with her manager over her required lunch break.
According to a story a Good Morning America story, Smiley clocked out for lunch on Jan. 28, 2010, but stayed at her desk to finish a project instead of breaking to eat. When Smiley’s manager told her to go to lunch, she refused. The manager then saw Smiley working on a spreadsheet, answering calls and fielding phone calls from co-workers.
Eventually, the incident went to the company’s HR director — who explained that employees were required to take a 30-minute lunch break and that the company had a policy in its handbook about it — and Smiley was ultimately fired from the company.
The icing on the cake? After her termination, which she didn’t challenge, Smiley found out she was ineligible for unemployment benefits because she had been fired for misconduct.
Luckily, the story has a somewhat happy ending. After three failed appeals to the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s board of review, Smiley went to a circuit court. Finally, after two years, the appeals court found the denial of Smiley’s unemployment benefits was “clearly erroneous.”
Readers, weigh in: Do you think Smiley got a raw deal or was the company justified in its actions? Let us know in the Comments section.