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Dispatcher fired after firecracker incident loses unemployment appeal

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An appeals court panel Thursday affirmed denial of unemployment benefits for a Starke County sheriff’s dispatcher who took time off work after a firecracker exploded behind her at work and she was diagnosed with hearing loss, vertigo and tinnitus.

But after dispatcher Gina Albright took sick days, vacation time and bereavement leave, she failed to report to work or call to notify the office that she wouldn’t be in, after which she was fired. The Department of Workforce Development denied unemployment benefits, ruling Albright was fired for cause.

The Court of Appeals agreed in Gina Albright v. Review Board of the Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development and the Starke County Sheriff's Dept., 93A02-1301-EX-81.  The panel noted that while Albright had a diagnosed medical condition due to the incident at work, her doctor had cleared her to work.
 
The record shows Albright was one of two dispatchers who worked 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shifts, four days on and four days off, to cover the northwest Indiana county’s emergency communication services, and authorities said her failure to report to work or call in to report an absence was the first time such an instance had occurred.

The court used the unique responsibilities of dispatchers to set a higher standard for those professionals.

“One of the major objectives of a 911 dispatcher’s duties is to assist people in an emergency. As such, a functioning dispatcher’s office is essential to public safety. There must be a sufficient number of dispatchers on the job so that emergencies are responded to in a timely manner. We conclude that dispatchers are an appropriately distinct class upon which to assess the uniform enforcement of the unexcused, unreported absence policy,” Judge Terry Crone wrote in a unanimous opinion joined by Judges Michael Barnes and Rudy Pyle III.

The opinion also records in a footnote a change in case captions for appeals from the Department of Workforce Development – names, rather than initials, will be used unless an affirmative request for confidentiality is made as outlined in Recker v. Review Board, 958 N.E.2d 1136, 1138 n.4 (Ind. 2011).





 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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