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Receptionist Fired for Working through Lunch Wins Unemployment Appeal

Receptionist Fired for Working through Lunch Wins Unemployment Appeal
Looks harmless, but this could get you fired.

I know, I didn’t think anyone who volunteered to work through lunch to catch up on some extra assignments would be fired for it, but not only did Chicago receptionist Sharon Smiley get fired – after 10 years of working for the same realty company – she was also accused of insubordination and misconduct.

I bet some of you are re-thinking your willingness to work through a few lunches right now, which is why I’m writing about this news story, even though Smiley technically wasn’t a legal staffer. Still, many people with paralegal degrees would certainly consider realty companies as possible places to use their training and specialized skills.

Seriously, Smiley only worked through lunch the one time, and lost her job at Equity Lifestyle Properties, Inc. in January 2010. Then her former employer challenged her claim for unemployment benefits, which was denied at the state level, and she couldn’t find a lawyer to handle her appeal. She faced the loss of her home and missed many meals, but held things together by bar-tending, working temp jobs, and accepting some help from her church.

The Chicago Tribune reports Smiley’s “horror story” started with her good intentions to catch up on some work:

Her descent to the edge of financial ruin started in January 2010. She had decided not to eat lunch that day, and because another manager assigned her extra work, Smiley wanted to finish it.

“I thought, ‘Well, I’m not hungry; I’ll just do this work … so when I get back from lunch, I can do my original work that I’m supposed to be doing,’ ” she said.

Wow. She should have gotten an A for effort, and not the axe. If the employer didn’t want her working through lunch, HR could have simply thanked her for trying to help catch up, and counseled her not to do it again.

But eventually good intentions triumphed. Smiley got a new receptionist job last month, and won her unemployment appeal by representing herself. It sounds like her new employer is lucky to have this determined, hard-working woman on their team.

But I wonder if she’ll ever volunteer to work through lunch again. Would you?

Source:  The Chicago Tribune; ABA Journal

One Response to Receptionist Fired for Working through Lunch Wins Unemployment Appeal

  1. Oh my…I thought I was the only one that fed them, hugged them and named them George. Love your blog! I am new to your blog and through another well intentioned paralegal mentor learned of it by way of another blog. I am also in NC so glad to be in touch with a fellow North Carolinian. Take care and keep it coming!

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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