Chicago Transit Manager Fired For Cause Appeals and Loses Reports Chicago Employment Lawyer
Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) February 24, 2012 - The appellant in this case lost. Not all instances where someone is fired amount to a wrongful dismissal.
“The case in point here is Robert M. Bono v. Chicago Transit Authority (882 N.E.2d 1242 (2008)), and it deals with what initially appeared to be a wrongful dismissal,” recounted Timothy Coffey, a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace.
Mr. Bono, previously a Chicago Transit Authority supervisor, was discharged for the improper personal use of the phone to a call a customer while he was working. Bono got his pink slip on September 15, 2005, and it detailed the rules he had violated due to making a phone call at work on August 25, 2005. Bono asked to have a “for cause” hearing before the Chicago Transit Board. The Board hearing involved three witnesses – a criminal investigator from Chicago Transit, Bono’s supervisor, and the complainant, Lisa Johnson.
Johnson was an email applicant for a Transit fare card, and she called in to complain about a phone call she had received from a Transit employee. That employee was identified as Bono. He admitted he phoned Johnson, as he thought he knew her, and that it was poor judgment that would not happen again. Bono further admitted he joked about a town in Minnesota, called Moorhead, where he had family.
On further questioning, he admitted it was not a joking matter as it was only funny as a sexual joke, making reference to “more head”. The Transit Authority fired him as his behavior in using personal customer information to call the complainant and making sexual jokes was considered to be a serious matter. Furthermore, they felt since this incident happened once, there was a risk it would happen again despite Bono’s 22 years of service without any problems.
On February 15, 2006 the Board affirmed Bono’s dismissal. He filed a writ of certiorari to the circuit court, for a review of the Board's decision. The trial court upheld the Board’s findings. Bono appealed once more. The Appellate Court had to decide if the Board’s decision to fire Bono was against the weight of the evidence. The Board’s decision was reviewed, as they were the fact finders making a determination of credibility. (Kimball Dawson, LLC v. City of Chicago Department of Zoning, 369 Ill.App.3d780, 786, 308 Ill.Dec. 151, 861 N.E. 2d 216 (2006))
In order to find that the Board had decided against the evidence, this would have called for finding that all reasonable individuals would find the opposite conclusion readily apparent. (North Avenue Properties, L.L.C. v. Zoning Board of Appeals, 312 Ill.App.3d 182, 184, 244 Ill.Dec 469, 726 N.E. 2d 65 (2000))
There was no reason to present the complainant at the hearing or in court. Bono admitted he made a personal call from work based on information he garnered from the complainant’s email request for information. He indicated he thought he knew the woman, meaning it was a personal call to that person alone as no others were made that day. The Board's finding that Bono conducted personal business on company time, using company resources, was within the manifest weight of the evidence.
Was the decision to fire Bono arbitrary and unreasonable and were the Board’s factual findings enough to support his discharge? (Applegate, 335 Ill.App.3d at 1062, 270 Ill.Dec. 521, 783 N.E. 2d96) The Appellate Court did comment that Bono’s firing was steep considering his long service without incident. However, it is not within the Court’s purview to figure out a lesser-punishment or devalue the effect of that decision.
Ultimately, the Appellate Court upheld the Board’s decision. The petitioner Bono did not win this case. “It is a good example of how things may go awry in the workplace environment, and of how careful you need to be to not step outside defined boundaries when dealing with another’s personal information. Certainly, it also speaks to the unwise sexual comments made to another. The case clearly points out that people must take responsibility for their actions and words while dealing with other people,” added Coffey.
Timothy Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a Chicago employment attorney, visit Employmentlawcounsel.com.
THE COFFEY LAW OFFICE, P.C.
351 W. Hubbard Street, Suite 602
Chicago, IL 60654
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