Glenn v. City of Chicago

Decision Date23 December 1993
Docket NumberNo. 1-91-0008,1-91-0008
Citation256 Ill.App.3d 825,628 N.E.2d 844
Parties, 195 Ill.Dec. 380 Sharon GLENN, Betty J. Fields, Annie J. Finley, Betty A. Lange, Evangeline Belton and Edward Sweik, on behalf of themselves and all other employees of the City of Chicago, Plaintiffs-Appellants, Cross-Appellees, v. The CITY OF CHICAGO, a municipal corporation, Jesse E. Hoskins, Commissioner of the Department of Personnel, Judith Walker, Commissioner of the Department of Human Services, and Brenda J. Gaines, Commissioner of the Department of Housing, Defendants-Appellees, Cross-Appellants.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

Asher, Gittler, Greenfield, Cohen & D'Alba, Ltd. (Stephen Feinberg, of counsel) and Anne M. Burke, Chicago, for appellants.

Corporation Counsel, City of Chicago, Chicago (Kelly R. Walsh, Lawrence Rosenthal, Benna Ruth Solomon, and Jean Dobrer, of counsel), for appellees.

Presiding Justice GORDON delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiffs, a certified class of approximately 162 current or former career service employees of the City of Chicago (City), brought this action challenging the validity of City of Chicago Personnel Rule XXVI (Rule XXVI). They seek to reverse the administrative determinations of defendants "correcting" plaintiffs' existing certified career service titles, reducing their salaries and eliminating their accrued seniority. The remedies to which they claim entitlement include compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement Pursuant to plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, the trial court found that Rule XXVI was invalid and plaintiffs were subsequently awarded back pay according to a "redlining" method advanced by defendants which computed back pay by excluding all salary increases which plaintiffs would have earned in their pre-Rule XXVI salary grades. The trial court denied plaintiffs' request for reinstatement to their pre-classification positions without an evidentiary hearing and also denied their request for prejudgment interest. Plaintiffs appeal and defendants cross-appeal from the trial court's rulings. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.

[195 Ill.Dec. 382] to their previous positions, back pay, pre-judgment interest, and injunctive relief.

FACTS

The six named plaintiffs are career public employees having from seven to twenty-eight years of service for the City of Chicago. Prior to July 15, 1985, plaintiffs had each accumulated from four to seven years of career service seniority in their respective positions, classifications and pay grades. All plaintiffs in the class had previously been certified and appointed to their respective career service positions by the then acting Commissioner of Personnel in accordance with Section 25.1 of the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago (Municipal Code) and the Personnel Rules promulgated thereunder. Plaintiffs each received a form letter from the Commissioner of Personnel in June 1985 announcing that their respective positions were being reclassified pursuant to Personnel Rule XXVI. That letter notified the plaintiffs that effective in July 1985 they would be appointed to a new position with seniority to begin running from the date of such new appointment.

On August 2, 1985, plaintiffs filed this suit challenging the validity of Personnel Rule XXVI and the reclassification undertaken pursuant to that rule. In count I, plaintiffs averred that they and 250 similarly situated employees were simultaneously "demoted or transferred to different jobs in the career service having lesser wages and benefits and/or resulting in complete loss of accumulated seniority for purposes of layoff." Plaintiffs further alleged that defendants simultaneously promoted approximately 350 non-plaintiff City employees under Rule XXVI into either positions previously held by plaintiffs or into vacant positions of increased pay. Plaintiffs sought a declaration that Rule XXVI was invalid because it violated Section 25.1 of the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago and was inconsistent with the provisions, spirit and intent of that section. The plaintiffs asked that all actions taken under Rule XXVI be declared null and void and that they be restored to their former positions and receive compensatory damages.

In count II, plaintiffs alleged defendants had wilfully, wantonly and in bad faith enacted and implemented Rule XXVI to deprive them of their career service employment rights. Plaintiffs averred that Rule XXVI was devised and implemented to further defendants' political patronage goals, and was designed to allow the city administration to non-competitively promote current employees favored by the administration and hire new employees selected by the administration. Plaintiffs further alleged that there were no valid administrative reasons why they could not have been assigned duties commensurate with their job titles instead of being reclassified into lower titles. This count asked for punitive as well as compensatory damages.

Counts III and IV alleged violations of plaintiffs' federal and state constitutional rights. Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed counts III and IV. As such, these counts are not at issue in this appeal.

Both sides separately moved for summary judgment on count I. The trial court denied defendants' motion and subsequently, on August 29, 1989, entered summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs on that count for liability only. The trial court did not reach the factual issue involved in determining whether the reclassification was undertaken by defendants in good faith. Rather, the trial court ruled upon the invalidity of Rule XXVI which it found to be in conflict with the entire career service system. In so ruling, the trial court noted the potential for abuse under Rule XXVI. The trial court reasoned that under this rule, a certified employee could be Before granting summary judgment to plaintiff on count I, the trial court dismissed count II of plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to defendants' motion to dismiss. The trial court ruled that defendants were absolutely immune from any liability arising from the enactment of Rule XXVI under section 2-205 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1989, ch. 85, par. 2-205) (Tort Immunity Act), and consequently dismissed those allegations in count II pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure. (Ill.Rev.Stat.1989, ch. 110, par. 2-619). The trial court then dismissed the remaining allegations of count II pursuant to section 2-615 (Ill.Rev.Stat.1989, ch. 110, par. 2-615), because those allegations failed to state a cause of action. In making its ruling, the court noted that count II could also have been dismissed because the allegations of malice contained in the complaint were insufficient to remove it from the Tort Immunity Act. Plaintiffs appeal the trial court's order dismissing this count.

[195 Ill.Dec. 383] directed by his or her supervisors to perform duties outside of those of the position to which that employee was certified and appointed. Then in a subsequent reclassification, which only looks to the duties an employee is actually performing, the employee could be reclassified into a lower position with resultant loss of pay and seniority, without the protection provided by the career service system. Defendants' cross-appeal challenges this ruling.

On December 27, 1990, a new trial judge who succeeded the original trial judge in this cause considered the issues pertaining to remedies. This judge denied plaintiffs' motion for an evidentiary hearing to determine the remedies to be granted and summarily entered final judgment. The successor judge enjoined the city from reducing any employee's salary pursuant to Rule XXVI, but denied plaintiffs' request for prejudgment interest and for reinstatement with seniority to their former career service titles and pay grades.

Regarding back pay, the successor judge awarded plaintiffs relief according to the "redlining" method advanced by the defendants. Using this method, the plaintiffs were awarded the difference between what they had earned in their reclassified positions and what they would have earned if their salaries had been frozen or "redlined," rather than decreased, when they were reclassified. This method of computing back pay excludes all subsequent salary increases, including annual percentage and service longevity increases, which the plaintiffs would have earned in their pre-Rule XXVI classifications. The successor judge reasoned that this method was appropriate on the grounds that the original trial judge's basis for finding Rule XXVI invalid was that it permitted salaries to be reduced. Under the court's order, plaintiffs would continue to earn no less than their frozen pre-reclassification salaries until the salary corresponding to their reclassified title, grade and seniority became equal to or exceeded their frozen pre-reclassification salaries. Plaintiffs appeal this ruling.

OPINION

On appeal, plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in (1) dismissing count II of their complaint; (2) using the "redlining" method to compute the amount of back pay; (3) refusing to award prejudgment interest; and (4) denying their request for reinstatement to their pre-classification titles and salary grades. In their cross-appeal, defendants contend that the trial court erred in finding Rule XXVI invalid on the grounds that it conflicts with the career service system established in the Chicago Municipal Code and the Personnel Rules promulgated thereunder. Since the resolution of the issues raised in the primary appeal are contingent upon the determination of the issue raised in defendants' cross-appeal, namely whether Rule XXVI is valid, we will first address defendants' cross-appeal.

Rule XXVI was promulgated in June 1985 and became effective as of July...

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