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Monday, June 12, 2023

Employee Terminated for Social Media Posts Not Entitled to Unemployment Benefits

An Illinois Appellate Court recently held that an employee who had been fired for making threats against his co-workers on Facebook was not entitled to unemployment benefits. Termini v. Board of Review of IDES

A City truck driver posted on a Teamster union's Facebook page that he objected to his co-workers coming to work while exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. According to the opinion, his posts read as follows:

This is really getting old. I’m sick of this. How is it that money comes before safety? Well, you’ve been warned. You better pray this doesn’t touch my life because I’ll take you all with me.

* * * 

You've been warned.

The City fired the driver as a result of his social media posts, and he filed an application for unemployment benefits. The City objected to his application on the basis that he was not eligible for unemployment benefits because he had been terminated for misconduct. The City argued the driver was dismissed because he used social media to "willfully and deliberately make threatening statements towards his coworkers" in violation of a law prohibiting harassment through electronic communication and the City's electronic communication policy. After the IDES granted him unemployment benefits, the City filed an administrative appeal before the ALJ, which also upheld the approval of benefits.

The City then appealed to the IDES Board of Review, which determined that the driver was not eligible for benefits because his public threat of violence in the workplace constituted "misconduct," which violated state law and the City's policies and disrupted the City's operations. The driver then filed a lawsuit, which case ultimately went to the Appellate Court.

The Appellate Court agreed that the driver was not entitled to unemployment benefits, finding that his social media postings constituted "misconduct" because they violated laws prohibiting harassment through electronic communications. The Court found his postings were an "illegal threat" because his statements, when read together, could reasonable be read as a threat of violence, whether the statements were interpreted to mean the driver would physically harm his co-workers or threaten to infect his co-workers if he were to contract COVID-19 from his co-workers.


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