Unemployment Benefits Secured for Former Restaurant Employee
Just a few days short of her seven-year employment anniversary, Geraldine Jenkins was terminated from her job in the kitchen of a Bedford restaurant. The employer informed her that she had violated the company’s attendance policy by exceeding the limit of unexcused absences. Ms. Jenkins had submitted medical excuses for some of those absences. Other reprimands were for tardiness beyond her control, such as the day a blizzard made the streets impassable and she arrived less than twenty minutes late to work. Ms. Jenkins filed for unemployment benefits for the first time in her life, was denied, and lost a subsequent appeal.
“Baffled” and “stressed out,” Ms. Jenkins came to Legal Aid. She was assisted by CWRU law student Benjamin Cooper and senior attorney Anita Myerson, both of whom she praises as “fearless and thorough.” Mr. Cooper told her to go through hospital documents for proof of her illnesses; he checked the internet to discern weather conditions on the disputed days and discovered one fell during a March blizzard which had dumped over twenty inches of snow in the area.
Ms. Jenkins laughs, remembering the opposing party’s reaction as she walked into the hearing, “They were blown away that I came in with an attorney.”
During the hearing proceedings, a discrepancy was proven in the tally of absences kept by the restaurant. Ms. Myerson argued that the discharge lacked just cause: Ms. Jenkins did not have the number of points required for discharge and some instances of tardiness were beyond her control. The judge said he would issue a decision within a week. Two days later, Ms. Jenkins received a letter saying she had been discharged without just cause and could receive unemployment benefits.
She says, “I wanted to give up, but then I thought ‘No, that’s what they expect me to do.’ I knew in my heart that [the employer] was wrong and (that I) just needed some support.”