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County of Cook v. Ill. Dep't of Labor

OPINION FILED MARCH 15, 1984.

THE COUNTY OF COOK ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James C. Murray, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE JOHNSON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied April 23, 1984.

This appeal is brought by the County of Cook and the Cook County Department of Corrections (Department of Corrections), seeking reversal of a circuit court ruling which confirmed a decision of the Illinois Department of Labor (Department of Labor). A complaint for administrative review was filed in the circuit court by the Department of Corrections against the Department of Labor. The circuit court held that the Department of Labor correctly decided that section 604 of the Unemployment Insurance Act (the Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 48, par. 434) was the applicable provision for determining the period of ineligibility for benefits.

The issue on appeal is whether the claimants' actions constituted misconduct or voluntary leaving of their jobs within the meaning of sections 601 and 602 of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 48, pars. 431, 432).

We affirm.

The defendants are the Department of Labor, four State officials in their official capacities, and 23 county correctional officers (claimants).

The summarized facts are that claimants were all employed as correctional officers at the county jail. A labor dispute arose between the claimants and the Department of Corrections. The dispute centered around demands for salary increases. On January 20, 1980, a majority of the correctional officers employed at the county jail failed to report for work. Some of the correctional officers reported that they were ill. A county investigator observed some of the claimants on picket lines outside correctional facilities in Cook County. On January 23, 1980, a circuit court judge issued a temporary restraining order against the work stoppage. On January 25, 1980, the judge ordered the correctional officers to return to work within 24 hours. They did not comply. On January 27, 1980, the county sheriff sent mailgrams to the correctional officers informing them that suspension or termination would result if they did not resume their duties by January 29, 1980.

The claimants did not return on the 29th of January. They began returning to work on January 30, 1980, at which time they were told that they were suspended, pending action by the Cook County Police and Corrections Merit Board.

The claimants thereafter applied for unemployment compensation benefits. The Department of Corrections objected on the ground that they had been guilty of misconduct and failure to report for work. Subsequently, all of the claims were consolidated for hearing by an adjudicator of the Department of Labor. The Department of Corrections asserted that the claimants were suspended for misconduct, voluntary leaving of their jobs, and other violations of departmental regulations. The parties agreed that the conduct complained of occurred between January 20 and 30, 1980.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the adjudicator determined that a labor dispute had occurred between the dates of January 20 and 30, 1980, and that the claimants were ineligible for benefits only during that period. The adjudicator's determination stated in part:

"There was a labor dispute between the Department of Corrections, under the jurisdiction of the Cook County Board, and the correctional officers, over an increase in wages. The dispute was manifested by unsuccessful negotiations, a strike in the form of a `sick-in' job action and picketing. This situation resulted in a substantial disruption of the jail's normal operations and constituted a stoppage of work under the provisions of Section 604.

This determination supersedes all other determinations that may have been previously made on the separation issue. Consequently, any determinations made under Sections 601, 602 or 603 are hereby rendered null and void."

The Department of Corrections appealed from the adjudicator's ruling and contended that the claimants had been guilty of misconduct and had voluntarily left their jobs; therefore, they should be found ineligible for compensation indefinitely instead of only for the 10-day period determined by the adjudicator. Hearings on the appeal were held before a representative of the Director of the Department of Labor (the Director). Following those hearings, the Director's representative recommended that the adjudicator's determination be adopted. The Department of Corrections objected to the representative's recommendation, contending that the determination was made under the wrong statutory provision and, once again, asserting that the claimants were guilty of misconduct and had voluntarily left their jobs.

On August 12, 1980, the Director adopted his representative's recommendation as the official determination of the Department of Labor. The Department of Corrections then filed a complaint for administrative review in the circuit court of Cook County. On February 2, 1982, the circuit court ...


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