APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD
F. HEALY, Judge, presiding.
MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE LORENZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
After a hearing before the Chicago Civil Service Commission, plaintiff was discharged from his job with the Department of Water and Sewers of the City of Chicago (hereinafter Department) for allegedly refusing to wear a protective hat while working in the field as required by departmental regulations. The trial court affirmed the Commission's decision and plaintiff appeals, contending that his discharge was based on a statement made while his statutory due process rights were being violated.
The following facts pertinent to this appeal were adduced at a hearing before the Chicago Civil Service Commission on December 12, 1973.
He is the Water Field Services Supervisor for the Department. He has been employed by the Department for 27 years. Plaintiff, a water rate taker, works under his supervision in the field. He identified four documents concerning employee safety requirements: directives dated November 30, 1972, and August 23, 1973, from the Department's Superintendent of Water Collections to all field personnel requiring them to wear a protective hard hat at all times while working in the field; a safety rule booklet distributed by the Department to all its employees requiring them to wear a hard hat at all times; a safety rule booklet distributed by the Department's Water Collection Division to all its employees requiring them to wear a hard hat at all times during the working day. All of the documents were admitted into evidence.
The Department requires its field personnel to wear a hard hat in order to protect them from possible injury while reading water meters in low-ceilinged dark areas and to identify them to the public while working. During October 1973 plaintiff was suspended by the Department for allegedly failing to wear his hard hat while working in the field, and at his request, a hearing concerning the Department's action was held before the Chicago Civil Service Commission on October 31. On the following date, November 1, 1973, his suspension apparently having lapsed, plaintiff came to the Department's office in the Chicago City Hall and reported to Clarkin for his assignment. William J. Quinlan, Supervisor of Water Administration, and Sherman Clark, Assistant Chief Water Rate Taker, were present when plaintiff reported to Clarkin. Clarkin asked plaintiff, "Are you ready to go back to work?" and plaintiff replied that he was. Clarkin then asked plaintiff, "Are you ready to wear your hard hat according to the safety regulations?" and plaintiff replied "No, I am not." Because plaintiff refused to wear the hard hat, Clarkin suspended him for 29 days.
William J. Quinlan and Sherman Clark
They are, respectively, the Supervisor of Water Administration and the Assistant Chief Water Rate Taker for the Department. They substantially corroborated Clarkin's account of the conversation between Clarkin and plaintiff at the Department's office on November 1, 1973.
He is a water rate taker for the Department. He has been employed in that capacity for almost 5 1/2 years. His basic duties are to take readings from water meters in areas of Chicago to which he is assigned and to report any meters that are malfunctioning. He never suffered any injuries while working, nor was he ever suspended before October 1973. He admitted that he had occasionally been directed to read meters in basements and that the hard hat he is required to wear offers protection against head injury in such places.
At his hearing before the Chicago Civil Service Commission on October 31, 1973, concerning his alleged failure to wear his hard hat in the filed, he stated, "I will not wear the [hard hat] in areas where it is not needed." On the following day, November 1, he came to the Department's office in the Chicago City Hall and reported to Clarkin for his assignment. He did not have his hard hat with him then, even though he was reporting for a field assignment. When asked by Clarkin whether he was going to wear his hard hat, he replied, "I will wear the hard hat in areas where it is needed. When it is not needed in that particular area, I will not wear it." He denied that he ever categorically refused to wear the hard hat.
On November 27, 1973, the Department charged plaintiff with conduct unbecoming an employee of the City of Chicago for refusing to comply with departmental regulations requiring him to wear a hard hat while performing his duties. After a full hearing on December 12, 1973, the Chicago Civil Service Commission, in a written opinion issued on January 23, 1974, found that cause existed for plaintiff's removal and ordered that he be discharged from the Department. Thereafter, plaintiff filed a complaint ...