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Bess v. Daniel

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 7, 1976.

GEORGIA BESS ET AL., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS REPRESENTATIVES OF A CLASS, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,

v.

DAVID DANIEL, DIRECTOR, COOK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC AID, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. SAMUEL EPSTEIN, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE STAMOS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied October 29, 1976.

Plaintiffs, Georgia Bess, Hattie Payne, Marie Johnson, and Larvell Lemons, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, commenced this action against defendants, David Daniel, Director of the Cook County Department of Public Aid; Nolan Jones, Director of the State Department of Personnel; and Joel Edelman, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Aid. Plaintiffs sought compensation for overtime they had worked between September 12, 1968, and December 31, 1971, but for which they had not been adequately paid. After a trial without a jury, plaintiffs were found to be employees of Cook County, and Cook County was ordered to pay each member of the class a certain additional amount for the overtime each had worked. Defendant Daniel, Director of the Cook County Department of Public Aid (County), appeals from that judgment order. Plaintiffs have cross-appealed.

In its original brief, the County raised two issues for our review: (1) whether, prior to January 1, 1974, plaintiffs were employees of the State of Illinois or of Cook County; and (2) whether the State rather than the County is ultimately liable for compensating plaintiffs regardless of which entity is the actual employer. In its reply brief, the County presents three additional arguments why plaintiffs' claim for damages against the County cannot be sustained. In their cross-appeal, plaintiffs raise a single issue for our review: whether the trial court's award of damages was inadequate. A summary of the relevant facts follows:

Plaintiffs were employed as "Homemakers." As homemakers, plaintiffs' duties entailed caring for persons on public aid, primarily children and the elderly, who were unable to care for themselves. During their assignments, plaintiffs were required to live in the homes of the public aid recipients. Because of the nature of their employment, an assignment to a particular recipient could be for a 24-hour period. In fact, a homemaker could be assigned to a particular home for up to 14 days, during which she was considered on duty 24 hours a day.

For this work, homemakers were paid as follows: each homemaker was assigned a monthly wage rate which was then broken down into a daily rate. This daily rate was what a homemaker was paid for the first 8 hours of each day she worked. On 24-hour assignment, a homemaker was paid for the additional 16 hours an amount equal to 15% of her daily rate. To illustrate: the average homemaker earned approximately $25 for an 8-hour day. If she worked an additional 16 hours, she earned an additonal $3.75, or approximately 23 cents for each of the additional 16 hours.

Defendant Daniel, the Director of the Cook County Department of Public Aid, testified that in his opinion the average homemaker on 24-hour assignment worked 16 hours and slept 8 hours. In an earlier internal memo, Daniel had also opined that homemakers should be paid for 16 hours. He had previously reviewed a recommendation of a grievance panel considering a homemaker's complaint regarding her overtime pay, and, at that time, had agreed that the compensation was unfair and inadequate. At trial, he again stated that a 15% increase (based on her 8-hour daily rate) for an additional 16 hours of work was inadequate.

At the conclusion of all the evidence, the trial judge found that homemakers were employees of Cook County and ordered the County to pay plaintiffs straight salary for 12 hours for each 24-hour day they had worked between September 12, 1968, and December 31, 1971.

In its original brief, the County first argued that the trial judge erred in finding that plaintiffs were employees of Cook County between September 12, 1968, and December 31, 1971. The County argued that prior to January 1, 1974, the Cook County Department of Public Aid was merely an administrative agent for the State of Illinois, and therefore, plaintiffs were employees of the State rather than of the County.

• 1 However, subsequent to the filing of the County's brief, the Illinois Supreme Court decided Merrill v. Drazek, 62 Ill.2d 1, 338 N.E.2d 164. In Merrill, the court was presented with the same issue presented here; the court was asked to determine the status of employees of the Cook County Department of Public Aid prior to January 1, 1974. After an examination of all the relevant statutory provisions, the court concluded:

"* * * although prior to January 1, 1974, the [Cook] County Department [of Public Aid] served as agent of the Illinois Department in the administration of its programs * * * the clearly expressed legislative intent was that its employees be employees of Cook County." (62 Ill.2d 1, 7.)

The County now properly concedes that it can no longer be disputed that plaintiffs were employees of Cook County prior to January 1, 1974. We agree, and based on Merrill, conclude that the trial judge did not err in finding that plaintiffs were employees of Cook County.

The County's second argument is that, even though plaintiffs were employees of the County, the court erred in ordering the County to compensate plaintiffs since the State is ultimately liable to bear the financial burden. The County contends that section 12-5 and 12-18.4 of the Illinois Public Aid Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 23, pars. 12-5 and 12-18.4) require the State to reimburse the County for all expenses of the Cook County Department of Public Aid, and thus, the State must ultimately bear the burden of compensating plaintiffs.

• 2 We find it unnecessary to determine whether the provisions of the Public Aid Code require the State to reimburse the County for "all expenses" of the County Department of Public Aid, or even to determine whether the State is ultimately liable for the salaries of the instant plaintiffs. Such an issue was not ...


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