Lester v. Department of Employment Security
819 N.E.2d 1143 (Ill.App.Ct.2004).

Facts:

  • Lester worked as a diverting coordinator for Purity, which was about a mile away from her home.
    • She made $70,200 per year.
  • On May 23, 2001, her position was eliminated for financial reasons.
  • On July 18, 2001, Daniel Davis, director of partnership programs for Purity, offered plaintiff a position at Purity’s other headquarters working out of a Dominick’s supermarket, which was located 30 miles from her home.
    • The offer included an annual salary of $70,200, plus benefits. Plaintiff refused the position.
  • On November 6, 2001, plaintiff filed for unemployment insurance.
    • Although she felt she was competent to fill the job offered to her, she was required farther travel to and from work, required her to supervise a staff, and work 40 hours instead of 35.

History:

  • Her claim was denied by an adjudicator and a referee.
  • She appealed to the Board of Review, which affirmed.

Issue:
Was plaintiff ineligible for benefits because she failed, without good cause, to accept suitable work offered by her former employer?

Holding:
Yes. Affirmed.

Reasoning:

  • A refusal to work must be supported by real, substantial, and reasonable circumstances and cannot be predicated on mere inconvenience.
  • “Good cause” to refuse work may be found in reasons connected with the employer, the claimant’s personal circumstances, or the claimant’s unsuitability for a particular job, and should be judged by the reasonableness of the claimant’s actions in light of the circumstances of his individual case.
    • This includes skill levels and pay rates.
  • Here, the evidence showed that Purity offered plaintiff $70,200 per year, benefits and guaranteed bonuses, which was more than a typical lead coordinator at Purity, who earned a maximum of $54,000 per year, would earn.
  • Plaintiff had experience in the field and she and Davis agreed that she was competent to fill the position. The additional travel time, working 40, instead of 35, hours per week, and the added liaison responsibility did not make the offered position unsuitable.