Sharon Smiley was an administrative assistant at a Chicago real estate company.
After more than 10 years with the company, she was fired. Her offense? Working through lunch.
According to Open Forum and multiple other news outlets, Smiley was told that company policy required her to take a half-hour lunch break. Smiley was, at the time, off the clock, but was sitting at her desk working on a spreadsheet.
She was then instructed to go to HR to discuss the issue and was fired for “misconduct and insubordination with the HR manager.”
That was in 2010. Now, finally, a Cook County judge has ruled that Smiley’s conduct “didn’t amount to misconduct that would disqualify her for benefits,” and she will be entitled to keep the unemployment payments that she’s been receiving. (A ruling against her would have required her to repay all the money.)
“I knew you couldn’t eat lunch at your desk,” Smiley told ABC News. “I was under the impression that because I was punched out I could do what I want.” It was the first time in ten years she had worked through lunch.
In December, after spending nearly two years working temp jobs and working for tips at a restaurant, she got a new job as a receptionist at an advertising firm.
And now she’s won her case. The crazy part? No lawyer Smiley could find would take her on as a client, so she had to represent herself. After winning her appeal, she called one of the lawyers who turned her down and left a voicemail:
“I said, ‘This is Sharon Smiley, and I just wanted to call and let you know that I did win my case, and I did it on my own.’ “