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Dorner v. Illinois Civil Service Com.

OPINION FILED JUNE 18, 1980.

DAVID DORNER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT AND CROSS-APPELLEE,

v.

ILLINOIS CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES AND CROSS-APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.

MISS PRESIDING JUSTICE MCGILLICUDDY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal from an order of the Circuit Court of Cook County in which the court found that the Department of Corrections violated the plaintiff's right to a voluntary reduction in status and his right to reemployment as provided by the rules of the Department of Personnel of the State of Illinois.

The plaintiff, David A. Dorner, was employed by the Department of Corrections Training Academy as a correctional academy trainer IV (CAT IV). On July 6, 1976, the plaintiff was suspended from work for alleged mismanagement of his duties. On July 8, 1976, he was notified in a letter from the superintendent of the academy that the suspension was rescinded. However, the plaintiff was also informed that due to a significant budget deficit, all CAT IV positions would be abolished and all incumbents laid off effective August 1, 1976. The superintendent instructed the plaintiff not to return to the academy so that he would have ample opportunity to seek alternative employment.

At the time of the layoff there existed four levels of correctional academy trainers. All three employees in the CAT IV positions, the highest level, were laid off along with 10 of 17 employees in CAT II positions. The department's explanation of the layoff was lack of funds.

On July 27, 1976, the plaintiff notified the director of personnel and the acting director of the Department of Corrections by mail of his intention to accept a voluntary reduction to a current vacant position pursuant to the rules of the Department of Personnel. Rule 2-550 provides in pertinent part that,

"A certified employee * * * who is subject to layoff as a result of the Director's approval of a layoff plan shall be promptly notified thereof of the effective date of layoff, and shall then be advised of the opportunity to request voluntary reduction to a current vacant position in accordance with Rule 2-500. An employee seeking voluntary reduction must request such in writing to the head of the employing agency prior to the proposed effective date of layoff."

Rule 2-560 provides that such person shall be preferred for any current vacant position in a lower class within the same agency and location in which the employee is then incumbent at the time of such layoff.

On August 5, 1976, the acting director of the Department of Corrections notified the plaintiff that his right to a voluntary reduction to a current vacancy expired on August 1, 1976, the effective date of the layoff. In addition, the acting director stated that he was unaware of any vacancies at the academy.

The plaintiff's request for reconsideration of the decision approving the layoff was granted, and a hearing before the Department of Personnel was held on October 15, 1976. The review officer found that no violation of the rules occurred. Upon review of this report, the director of personnel found that there was no reason to reconsider his original decision.

On November 5, 1976, the plaintiff appealed the decision of the Department of Personnel to the Civil Service Commission pursuant to its rules and asserted that the layoff was a subterfuge for discharge. On December 1, 1976, Bruce J. Finne, the executive secretary of the commission, notified the plaintiff that after a review of the entire matter, a recommendation would be made to the commission to deny his appeal. Although Finne acknowledged that the notification of the rescission of the suspension and the intended layoff in the same communication raised serious doubts about the motives of the department of corrections, he concluded that the layoff was in good faith. Finne also accepted the Department of Personnel's interpretation of Rule 2-560 that once an employee is laid off, he is no longer eligible for a voluntary reduction. Finne noted that a CAT III position vacancy did not occur until after the effective date of the layoff.

The plaintiff responded to this notification with a letter repeating his request for a formal hearing to determine whether his layoff was merely a subterfuge for discharge. In addition to arguments previously presented to the commission, the plaintiff contended that the department also violated his right to reemployment pursuant to Rule 2-570:

"The Department shall establish and maintain a reemployment list, by class and agency and county, or other designated geographical area approved by the Director before layoff. A certified employee who has been laid off shall be placed in order of length of continuous service as defined in Rule 2-190 on a reemployment list for recall to the first available assignment to a position in the class (or related classes with substantially similar requirements and duties) and agency, and county, or other designated geographical location or area in which the employee was assigned prior to being placed on the reemployment list. Where circumstances warrant, at the discretion of the director, such reemployment list may be established by related classes whose duties are substantially similar to the class from which the employee was laid off."

The plaintiff argues that when the CAT III position became available subsequent to his layoff, the department was required to offer him that position because CAT III and CAT IV positions had substantially similar requirements and duties.

Finne responded on January 18, 1977, with a letter which repeated his opinion that a formal hearing was unnecessary because there had been no violation of the Department of Personnel's rules. Finne asserted that according to the department's interpretation, Rule 2-570 required only that the department place the plaintiff on a reemployment list for the specific position of CAT IV. Finne informed the plaintiff that the ...


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