By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If you are fired, are you automatically entitled to receive unemployment compensation?

Two Illinois police officers were fired after what their lawyer described as horseplay – including pouring water on the door handles of a police cruiser so it would freeze shut. That’s some nice police work there, lou. And who wouldn’t chuckle when he needed to get into a police car in a hurry only to find it frozen shut? Certainly not the criminals being chased. Actually, only the unemployment comp board, who this month denied the officers’ claim for unemployment compensation.

You can lose your right to collect unemployment if you are fired for work related willful misconduct, a deliberate violation of the employer’s rules.

Now, most unemployment boards tend to give employees the benefit of the doubt, so employers should be clear in their policy books about what is misconduct because there is little that is more frustrating to an employer than firing someone for willful misconduct, only to have that person continue to collect money.

As for employees, understand your employer’s policies to avoid losing out on unemployment – or better yet, to avoid having to apply for it in the first place.