Caution: Do not work during your lunch break or you’ll be fired!

Chicago Woman Fired for Doing Work at Lunch Wins Unemployment Claim

Well, that’s exactly what happened to Sharon Smiley, receptionist and administrative assistant at a Chicago real estate company, who decided to skip out on her lunch break to put in some work instead. Smiley had been working with the company for 10 years until her unfair firing. According to Yahoo News, an appeals court in Illinois has found that denial of her unemployment benefits was “clearly erroneous.” This is the decision after a two year battle with the former company. 

On January 28, Sharon checked out of her work for lunch but was said to have remained at her desk (obviously she shouldn’t have punched out but that’s just ridiculous to get fired over). She was finishing up a project assigned by a manager because “she did not plan to eat that day.” Smiley, who had passed her 10-year anniversary with the company more than a month before, said another manager told her it was time for her to go to lunch and step away from her desk, but she refused. That manager observed Smiley working on a spreadsheet on her computer, answering the phone and responding to questions by people who approached her desk, according to a filing from the appellate court of Illinois.

The company’s human resources director then became involved, explaining that hourly non-exempt employees were required to take a 30-minute lunch break, a policy that had been in the company handbook for 10 years, according to the filing. Not following the policy would be a violation of Illinois’ labor laws, the HR director said.

After nine months of unemployment, Smiley obtained a similar job at another company on Dec. 13. She said her new employer has a more liberal lunch policy. “They told me I could sit at my desk, I could be at my computer during lunch, or I could look at magazines. And in my area, they have two flat-screen TVs on the wall,” she said with a chuckle.

In my opinion, she was definitely treated unfairly. I’m glad that her case wasn’t left in the shadows and that it is being dealt with justly. 

What do you think?


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