Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
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O’Connell began working for the County in 1999 and became a participant in the Benefit Fund, with the County transferring a portion of his salary to the Fund as his employee contribution (40 ILCS 5/9-108). In 2001, O’Connell was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In 2017, after exhausting his paid leave, O’Connell obtained an ordinary disability benefit (50% of his salary). The Board stated that based on his years of service, the benefit would expire in August 2021. The County separated him from the position effective July 1, 2019. The Board ceased paying the ordinary disability benefit to O’Connell; the County ceased making contributions to the Fund on O’Connell’s behalf.O’Connell filed suit, alleging that the Illinois Pension Code and the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIII, 5) entitled him to continued ordinary disability benefit payments even though the County had terminated his employment. The appellate court reversed the dismissal of his complaint. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. O’Connell maintained standing to seek relief for reinstatement of his ordinary disability benefit by the Board and of contributions by the County and stated a sufficient cause of action for declaratory judgment and for mandamus. Once the Board grants the employee the ordinary disability benefit, Pension Code section 9-157 then enumerates triggering events, which do not include termination of employment, that halt the benefit. View "O'Connell v. County of Cook" on Justia Law

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A Pan-Oceanic supervisor, Singh, asked Green to pick up a skid steer from Patten. Green saw that the equipment was not loaded properly, and asked that it be reloaded. Patten employees refused. Singh told Green to return with the equipment. In heavy expressway traffic, Green saw that the trailer was bouncing and stepped on the brakes. The trailer swung into McQueen's car, injuring him. Pan-Oceanic acknowledged that Green was its agent, acting within the scope of his agency. A jury ruled for McQueen against PanOceanic, but not against Green, and assessed damages of $163,227.45, finding that Pan-Oceanic had acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others. The jury subsequently awarded $1 million in punitive damages.On appeal, the court held that, when a plaintiff is injured by a company’s employee in a motor vehicle accident, the plaintiff cannot maintain a claim for direct negligence against the employer where the employer admits responsibility for the employee’s conduct under respondeat superior, concluding that the jury’s findings—that Green was not negligent but Pan-Oceanic acted with aggravated negligence—were legally inconsistent, The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the award. The trial court properly instructed the jury that Green claimed Pan-Oceanic was negligent for ordering Green to take the load on the highway after it knew or should have known, that it was unsafe and for failing to reject the load to prevent it from traveling on the highway. This liability did not depend on Green’s actions. The verdicts were not legally inconsistent. View "McQueen v. Green" on Justia Law

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McDonald filed a putative class action, alleging that her former employer, Bronzeville, collected, used, and stored sensitive biometric data from employees in a fingerprint timekeeping system, violating the Biometric Information Privacy Act,740 ILCS 14/1. McDonald alleged that she was never provided with nor signed a release and had never been informed of the purposes or length of time for which her biometric information was stored. Bronzeville argued that the claims were barred by the Workers’ Compensation Act, 820 ILCS 305/1, the exclusive remedy for accidental injuries transpiring in the workplace, and that an employee has no common-law or statutory right to recover civil damages from an employer for injuries incurred in the course of her employment.The circuit court rejected Bronzeville’s argument, reasoning that privacy rights are neither a psychological nor physical injury and not compensable under the Compensation Act. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court concluded that an employee's claim against an employer for liquidated damages under the Privacy Act, available without further compensable actual damages being alleged or sustained and intended to have a preventative and deterrent effect, is not the type of injury that categorically fits within the purview of the Compensation Act, a remedial statute designed to provide financial protection for workers that have sustained an actual injury. View "McDonald v. Symphony Bronzeville Park, LLC" on Justia Law

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Munoz sued general contractor, Bulley & Andrews, for injuries he sustained while an employee of its subcontractor, Bulley Concrete. Bulley & Andrews had paid workers’ compensation insurance premiums and benefits for the subcontractor and its employees. Each company has its own distinct federal tax identification number and files separate federal and state income tax returns. The companies have different presidents and employ different workers.The circuit court dismissed, finding that the genderal contractor was immune from the lawsuit under the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/5(a). The appellate court affirmed.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The exclusive remedy provisions do not extend to a general contractor who is not the employee’s immediate employer. Immunity does not hinge on the payment of benefits. Bulley & Andrews had no legal obligation to provide workers’ compensation insurance for Bulley Concrete employees. The fact that Bulley Concrete was a subsidiary of Bulley & Andrews is of no import. If a parent company and its subsidiary are operated as separate entities, only the entity that was the immediate employer of the injured worker is entitled to immunity. The Act bars an employee from bringing a civil suit directly against his employer but does not limit the employee’s recovery from a third-party general contractor. View "Munoz v. Bulley & Andrews, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (820 ILCS 320/1), states that “an important State interest” requires that an employer “who employs a full-time law enforcement, correctional or correctional probation officer, or firefighter, who ... suffers a catastrophic injury or is killed in the line of duty shall pay the entire premium of the employer’s health insurance plan for the injured employee, the injured employee’s spouse, and for each dependent child.” The Act does not define “catastrophic injury,” which the Illinois Supreme Court has found “synonymous with an injury resulting in a line-of-duty disability under section 4-110 of the [Illinois Pension] Code”Peoria’s ordinance was amended to define “catastrophic injury” as “[a]n injury, the direct and proximate consequences of which permanently prevent an individual from performing any gainful work.” The term “gainful work,” which does not appear in the Act, is defined as “[f]ull- or part-time activity that actually is compensated or commonly is compensated.”The Union sought a declaratory judgment that the amendment violates the Act. The circuit court granted the Union summary judgment. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The ordinance’s definitions are inconsistent with the requirements of the Act and are therefore preempted; the ordinance is not a valid exercise of Peoria’s home rule authority. View "International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 50 v. City of Peoria" on Justia Law

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In 2017, an arbitrator found that Western Illinois University violated its collective bargaining agreement with respect to layoffs. In 2018, the arbitrator entered a supplemental award, finding that the University failed to comply with the earlier award. The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board then found that the University committed an unfair labor practice in violation of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, 115 ILCS 5/14(a)(1), (8), by failing to comply with the two arbitration awards. The Act requires that public education employers arbitrate disputes arising under a collective bargaining agreement. Refusal to comply with the provisions of a binding arbitration award is an “unfair labor practice” under the Act. The appellate court vacated the Board’s decision.The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. An arbitrator in the public educational labor relations context exceeds his authority by reviewing a party’s compliance with his own award in contravention of the Act, which vests exclusive primary jurisdiction over arbitration awards with the Board. The Board may not limit the evidence it will consider in an unfair labor practice proceeding under the Act to the evidence before the arbitrator. Under the Act, arbitrators retain limited jurisdiction of the awards for the sole purpose of resolving remedial issues that may arise from the award itself. View "Western Illinois University v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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Indeck develops, owns, and operates conventional and alternative fuel power plants. DePodesta, Indeck's vice president of business development, had overall responsibility for Indeck’s electrical generation project development efforts. Dahlstrom was director of business development. DePodesta and Dahlstrom had signed confidentiality agreements.In 2010, Dahlstrom founded HEV, a consulting firm that develops electrical power generation projects. DePodesta later became a member of HEV. In 2013, DePodesta, Dahlstrom, and HEV formed an LLC to develop natural-gas-fired, simple cycle power plants in Texas. The two subsequently copied and removed from Indeck’s premises thousands of documents and files. DePodesta resigned from Indeck on November 1, 2013, and Dahlstrom on November 4. They did not tell anyone at Indeck that they intended to pursue an opportunity with a new LLC. In 2014, Indeck filed suit, alleging breach of the confidentiality agreements and fiduciary duties,” seeking injunctive relief and disgorgement.The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. Indeck’s confidentiality agreement was unenforceable as overbroad and Indeck failed to prove it had sustained injury based on any breach. Any profits from breaches of fiduciary duty after the defendants were speculative; there was no identifiable fund traceable to those breaches, so a constructive trust was not available. However, defendants breached their fiduciary duties during their employment and were required to disgorge their salaries. Indeck failed to prove the injury necessary for its claim of usurpation of a corporate opportunity. View "Indeck Energy Services, Inc. v. DePodesta" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs, 12 tree planters who allegedly worked for Moore Landscapes under contracts that Moore executed with the Chicago Park District, sought unpaid wages, statutory damages, prejudgment interest on back-pay, and reasonable attorney fees and costs under the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act, 820 ILCS 130/11. They alleged that Moore improperly paid them an hourly rate of $18 instead of the prevailing hourly wage rate of $41.20.The appellate court reversed the circuit court’s dismissal order. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal. The Park District and Moore did not stipulate rates for work done under the contracts. The Act provides that, when the public body does not include a sufficient stipulation in a contract, the potential liabilities of the contractor are narrower than those provided under section 11, when a contractor disregards a clear contractual stipulation to pay prevailing wage rates, and “shall be limited to the difference between the actual amount paid and the prevailing rate of wages required to be paid for the project. View "Valerio v. Moore Landscapes, LLC" on Justia Law

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Rehfield sued the Diocese, alleging retaliatory discharge and violation of the Whistleblower Act (740 ILCS 174/1). Rehfield was an educator for more than 43 years. In 2012, Rehfield was hired as the principal of St. Raphael Catholic School in Naperville. In 2016, Rehfield alerted teachers about an out-of-state parent, MacKinnon, whom Rehfield believed to present a threat based on his emails concerning his daughter. Eventually, the police issued an arrest warrant for MacKinnon. Against the advice of the police and the supervising priest, Rehfield distributed a photograph of MacKinnon and informed her staff to call 911 if they saw MacKinnon. In May 2017, the Naperville Sun published an inaccurate story about the situation: “Man vowed to ‘terrorize’ Naperville school: authorities.” Days after a meeting with angry parents, the Diocese terminated RehfieldThe trial court dismissed, reasoning that Rehfield was employed pursuant to a contract and “[c]ommon law retaliatory discharge claims may only be asserted by employees terminable at will.” The trial court also cited the doctrine of ecclesiastic abstention. The appellate court affirmed, stating that Rehfield was not a secular employee but a “member of the clergy.” The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Rehfield’s formal title (lay principal) does not necessarily indicate a religious role but her job duties entailed numerous religious functions in furtherance of the school’s Catholic mission. There is sufficient evidence to conclude that she was a minister and that the ministerial exception bars her whistleblower claim. View "Rehfield v. Diocese of Joliet" on Justia Law

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The John A. Logan Community College Board of Trustees voted to reduce the number of full-time faculty members for the 2016-17 school year; 27 tenured faculty members (including the plaintiffs) received layoff notices under the Public Community College Act, 110 ILCS 805/3B. The Board and the union entered into a settlement agreement regarding various matters related to the decision.In 2017, the plaintiffs filed suit, citing section 3B-5 of the Act, which provides: “For the period of 24 months from the beginning of the school year for which the faculty member was dismissed, any faculty member shall have the preferred right to reappointment to a position entailing services he is competent to render prior to the appointment of any new faculty member; provided that no nontenure faculty member or other employee with less seniority shall be employed to render a service which a tenured faculty member is competent to render.” During the 2016-17 school year, adjunct instructors taught courses that plaintiffs had previously taught; they alleged that enough work existed to employ them full-time.The appellate court ruled that adjunct instructors were other “employee[s] with less seniority” under the “bumping rights” provision. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The rights conferred by section 3B-5 apply to individual courses, rather than to positions as faculty members; section 3B-5 prohibits the Board from laying off tenured faculty members and hiring adjunct instructors to teach courses that the tenured faculty formerly taught. View "Barrall v. Board of Trustees of John A. Logan Community College" on Justia Law