Unemployment benefit for fired for 'violating safety rule', Illinois
I am a professional engineer, with a stellar record working for this company for 15 years. I get along with everyone and have been receiving good performance rating for the last 15 years.
Three months ago, the company rolled out 10 safety rules. One of them is when you're on the roof working, you cannot come within 6 ft of the edge. Everyone has been trained, including me in these rules.
Recently, I was on the roof to get information so I can design instruments to improve safety (ironically) for those having to work near the edge of the roof. A new design idea occurred to me and impulsively, without thinking, I came near the edge to take a look at the spout to confirm my idea. Some people saw me from below and reported me. I was suspended, pending investigation and even though the site team (including my boss and my boss' boss) recommended another course of action, the big boss fired me yesterday citing 'willful misconduct' by violating that rule. I live in the state of Illinois.
My question: What do you think my chance is for claiming/appealing unemployment benefit? And what type of information should I prepare to provide.
Safety rule violations are probably some of the most strictly enforced rules an empoyer has. The reason is due to "compliance" with OSHA regs, etc and the huge liabilities an employer can face because of injuries and peripherals such as fines and insurance rate increases.
The question of whether your actions could be harmful to the employer is
clearly answered if one looks at it that way.
But there is always the question of whether the employer's policy demands immediate termination or whether there is some allowance for a disciplinary action vs. discharge.
I think the first thing I would look at if I were you is the employer's policy and if you have knowledge of other instances that involved other people violating a safety rule where the severity of the discipline was of a lesser nature.
There may be an argument in asserting that your impulsive action was a one time inadvertent error and basically .. the punishment did not fit the crime.
To get you started I think you should read some Illinois decisions on the subject.
Here's the link: It's the IDES.PDF
It's a huge publication and it was a happy day when I finally found it.
By reading decisions you may be able to find a "hole" in the rule or the discipline policy that presents itself as a viable argument. Do not view the adjudication process as the final word if you believe you have a solid argument that would show your action should not have been considered misconduct that rose to the level of requiring immediate termination.
Ultimately, if you have any type of documentation that reflects the opinions of the people that suggested a less harsh course of action .. that would be helpful also. There must be something that if not in your possession, could be subpoenaed from the employer to prove this.
Let me know if you have any more to add.