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Spooner v. Armour-dial





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. Marvin D. Dunn, Judge, presiding.


Plaintiffs, Charles and Clara Spooner, filed a five-count complaint, later amended and supplemented, against defendants, Armour-Dial, Inc., and four of its supervisory employees, seeking damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, count I, tortious interference with occupation, count II, libel and slander, count III, bailment, count IV, and loss of consortium, count V, arising out of Charles Spooner's employment by defendant, Armour-Dial. This appeal is from an order granting defendants' motion for summary judgment on all counts.

Plaintiffs raise two issues on appeal: (1) whether the trial court, relying on Suddreth v. Caterpillar Tractor Co. (1983), 114 Ill. App.3d 396, 449 N.E.2d 203, improperly concluded that because all of plaintiffs' claims were covered under the grievance procedures of a collective-bargaining agreement between Armour-Dial and plaintiff Charles Spooner's union, plaintiffs could not bring these actions in circuit court independent of any contract remedy based upon the collective-bargaining agreement; and (2) assuming an independent action exists, whether genuine issues of material fact are present which prevent the granting of summary judgment.

Plaintiff Charles Spooner was employed as a welder-fitter by Armour-Dial, Inc., at its Montgomery, Illinois, facility. Since 1964, plaintiff has been a member of either Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America, AFL-CIO, Local P-100, or its successor union, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, AFL-CIO & CLC, Local P-500. During plaintiff's period of employment with Armour-Dial, there were in effect certain collective bargaining agreements between Armour-Dial and the two labor unions which governed the terms and conditions of employment of Armour-Dial employees. Particularly relevant to the instant appeal are the collective bargaining agreement provisions which provide certain procedures to be utilized in resolving employee grievances and disputes.

Collective-bargaining agreement article XXI, entitled "Adjustment of Grievances," section 21.2, provides in relevant part:

"21.2 Grievance Steps.

Should differences arise between the Company and the Union, or between the Company and employees, or between employees of the Company because of Union or non-Union affiliation, or should trouble of any kind arise in the plant, there shall be no strike, stoppage, slowdown, suspension of work or boycott on the part of the Union or its members or the employees, or lockout on the part of the Company, on account of such dispute, until such matters have been processed through the grievance procedure * * *."

Subsections (a) through (d) of section 21.2 set forth a three-step procedure for the filing of employee grievances, followed by a final step pursuant to which the matter is submitted to binding arbitration. The first step provides that an employee may initiate these procedures by filing a grievance which can later be appealed by the grievance committee under steps two, three and the final step if no settlement is reached under the preceding steps. The final step allows arbitration by an impartial arbitrator pursuant to section 21.4, which provides in relevant part:

"21.4 Arbitration.

(a) Arbitration shall be the final step with respect to the classes of grievances referred to in this Section and shall be provided through an Arbitrator chosen by the parties.

(f) There shall be no appeal from the Arbitrator's decision, which shall be final and binding on the Union and its members, the employees or employee involved, and the Company."

Plaintiffs' amended and supplemented complaint, bill of particulars and supplemental bill of particulars specifically set forth the alleged conduct of defendants underlying the five theories of recovery advanced by plaintiffs in counts I through V.

Count I alleges that plaintiff Charles Spooner suffered severe emotional distress as a result of defendants' extreme and outrageous conduct. Plaintiff delineated approximately 16 specific instances of alleged harassment by defendants, within the context of the employment relationship, which resulted in his suffering severe emotional distress. Generally, these allegations of harassment included accusations by one of Armour-Dial's supervisory employees that plaintiff had been drinking on the job and had been abusive to his supervisory employees, which resulted in his termination from employment; a conspiracy by defendants to keep plaintiff from being reinstated at his former job; Armour-Dial's failure to reimburse plaintiff for medical expenses and back pay; various and repeated warnings given to plaintiff by Armour-Dial's supervisory employees concerning his conduct in the workplace; a statement made by one of plaintiff's superiors that plaintiff had requested several female employees to go out drinking with him at lunch; Armour-Dial's wrongful termination of plaintiff's employment for theft of company product; and allegations by plaintiff that Armour-Dial employees had removed certain items of his personal property from his employee locker which were never returned to him.

Plaintiff filed grievances pursuant to the provisions of his collective-bargaining agreement on approximately 13 of his specific allegations of misconduct by defendants. Two of these grievances were ultimately submitted to arbitration and settlements were reached. The remaining grievances were denied by the grievance committee and not appealed through the grievance process by plaintiff. Of the remaining three allegations of misconduct, one was the subject of a charge with, and denied by, the National ...

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