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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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