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Scheller v. Health Care Service Corp.

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 22, 1985.

SHIRLEY R. SCHELLER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

HEALTH CARE SERVICE CORPORATION ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. Jerry S. Rhodes, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE MORTHLAND DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

On February 7, 1983, the plaintiff filed a complaint in the circuit court of Sangamon County. She thereafter filed her amended complaint on February 15, 1984, her second amended complaint on August 23, 1984, and her third amended complaint on January 8, 1985.

The second amended complaint was dismissed by the trial court on motion of the defendants. The court stated that the allegations were insufficient to plead intentional infliction of emotional distress, but suggested subparagraphs (a), (b), (c), (f) and (g) might be sufficient to plead retaliatory discharge. The third complaint was the same as the second, except it did not allege intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Count I of the third amended complaint alleged that plaintiff was employed as a supervisor in the Springfield office of Health Care Service Corporation (HCS). During plaintiff's administration of this office she received numerous commendations from HCS and the State of Illinois. During the same period, repeated complaints were made by the State concerning the operation of HCS's Chicago office, which was headed by defendant Raymond Santi. This count further alleged that beginning in late 1979 and continuing through June 1980, HCS's management personnel committed one or more of the following acts:

"(a) The defendant instructed the plaintiff in advance of regularly scheduled meetings with the Department of Personnel of the State of Illinois not to make responses to direct questions by representatives of the Department of Personnel despite the fact that false, inaccurate, incomplete or otherwise misleading responses were provided by Raymond Santi at those meetings;

(b) The defendant instructed the plaintiff not to respond to direct inquiries made by members of the House of Representatives of the State of Illinois and by other high officials of the State of Illinois concerning administration of the State of Illinois' contact with the defendant despite the fact that false, inaccurate, incomplete or otherwise misleading responses were provided by Raymond Santi at those meetings;

(c) The defendant suggested to the plaintiff that she alter claims figures submitted to the State of Illinois which would represent a significant distortion of reports provided to the State of Illinois;

(d) The defendant forced the plaintiff to terminate a black supervisor without cause and at the same time refused to allow the plaintiff to recruit other minority applicants so that the Springfield office of the defendant could meet Equal Employment Opportunity Standards; and

(e) The defendant demanded that the plaintiff have the supervisors under her supervision falsify evaluations of employees and label them as incompetent in order to reduce staff and at the same time deny unemployment compensation to such employees."

In addition, this count alleged that as a result of the foregoing acts, plaintiff experienced a total physical and emotional breakdown, high blood pressure and other medical problems caused by job pressures and that because of her physical and emotional condition, plaintiff was "forced" to resign from her employment with HCS.

Count II of the third amended complaint alleged that defendant Santi was envious of plaintiff's success in Springfield and feared her promotion ahead of him. Accordingly, in 1979 he embarked on a campaign to interfere with plaintiff's contractual relationship with HCS and to render plaintiff's employment intolerable. Count II alleged that Santi personally committed the acts attributed to HCS under count I. It further alleged that Santi imposed a series of claim reduction demands on her which were designed solely to harass her; that he coerced employees under her supervision to express criticism of plaintiff's job performance directly to her and to others in a locked-room session. During this session, Santi allegedly refused to allow any employees to leave the room until they expressed criticism of plaintiff. As a result of Santi's acts, she was deprived of her employment and experienced total physical and emotional breakdown. The third amended complaint sought compensatory and punitive damages from HCS in counts I and II and compensatory damages from Santi in count III. The trial court dismissed the third amended complaint with prejudice on March 5, 1985, and plaintiff filed her notice of appeal on March 22, 1985.

The plaintiff contends on appeal that we should reverse the trial court's dismissal of her third amended complaint because it stated a cause of action for retaliatory discharge, or in the alternative she should have been given leave to amend her pleadings.

The defendants contend that we should affirm the dismissal of plaintiff's third amended complaint because (1) the plaintiff failed to allege that defendant HCS discharged her; (2) the plaintiff failed to allege retaliatory conduct on the part of the defendants; (3) the concept of constructive discharge should not be adopted in retaliatory discharge cases; (4) no clearly mandated public policy was violated; and (5) plaintiff did not ask the trial court for leave to file a fourth amended complaint and therefore elected to stand on her third amended complaint.

A cause of action for retaliatory discharge was first recognized by our supreme court in Kelsay v. Motorola, Inc. (1978), 74 Ill.2d 172, 384 N.E.2d 353. In Kelsay, an employee was discharged in retaliation for filing a workmen's compensation claim against her employer. The court held that the cause of action was necessary to insure that the public policy behind the enactment of the ...


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