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Shamela Hightower, $9/Hour Worker Fired For Not Buying New Car, Gets Unemployment Benefits Over Ex-Employer Protest

A $9-per-hour worker who was fired from her job for not buying a new car will receive unemployment benefits, despite her former employer’s objections, a Pennsyvalnia court ruled.

Shamela Hightower worked for Bell Socialization Services in the York, Penn., area. Because her job involved transporting people with mental disabilities, “reliable transportation” was part of the job description.

But according to the York Patriot News, Hightower’s car broke down in early 2012. Hightower was able to borrow her mother’s car for a while, then that went out of commission, too, after an accident.

Though she tried to buy a new car, on hr meager wages Hightower was unable to do so. As a result, Bell fired her.

When the woman applied for unemployment benefits, Bell opposed her application, saying that Hightower had engaged in “willful misconduct” by failing to buy a new car.

Commonwealth Court Judge Rochelle S. Friedman (pictured) agreed that owning a car was a “reasonable” requirement for the job. But she ruled that Hightower had done nothing to justify denying her unemployment benefits.

“Inability…to meet an employer's standards is not willful misconduct,” the judge wrote.

The company argued that Hightower should have moved to anther job within the organization, one not requiring vehicle ownership. But Friedman noted that the company never informed the employee that such an option was available.

Low wage workers across the country have been facing up to employers in recent weeks as strikes by employees at fast food restaurants which began last December in New York and involved about 200 workers have lately spread to 58 cities in the United States.



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