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The findings and conclusions of an administrative agency on questions of fact are prima facie true and correct. Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 110, para. 3-110 (1989). A reviewing court's function is limited, therefore, to ascertaining whether the decision of the administrative agency is against the manifest weight of the evidence; that is, whether the opposite conclusion is clearly evident. It is the decision of the Illinois Department of Labor Board of Review, not a referee, which is reviewed by the reviewing court. The reviewing court is not bound to give the same deference to the agency's conclusions of law, such as its construction of a statute, as it gives to its findings of fact. Also, where it appears that the agency's findings are not supported by substantial evidence, they will be reversed. When an administrative order is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence, it is an appellate court's duty to affirm the circuit court's action in setting the order aside.
The employer discharged the claimant from his position as a material handler after he was caught leaving work with an extension cord belonging to the employer, and the claimant applied for unemployment insurance benefits. A claims adjudicator determined that the claimant was ineligible for benefits under Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 48, para. 432(A) (1989) because he engaged in deliberate and willful misconduct The claimant requested a hearing before a referee who found that the claimant was eligible for benefits, and the employer appealed to the board, which reversed the referee's decision. The claimant appealed, and the circuit court reversed the board's decision.
Did the trial court err in reversing the Board's decision?
On appeal, the court affirmed. The court held that there was no evidence that the employee deliberately and willfully violated the employer's rule requiring that he obtain a package pass before taking an extension cord from the employer's property. The claimant had borrowed items before without obtaining the required pass, and he had always returned the items. Further, there was no evidence that the employer would have suffered any loss of property or other harm due to the claimant's violation of the rule.