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Golden Bear Family Restaurants v. Murray

OPINION FILED MAY 15, 1986.

GOLDEN BEAR FAMILY RESTAURANTS, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

JAMES J. MURRAY ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES. — MONTGOMERY WARD AND COMPANY, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

MARY KILROY 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:

Plaintiffs appeal from a judgment entered in two causes consolidated in the circuit court of Cook County. Plaintiff Golden Bear Family Restaurants, Inc. (hereinafter Golden Bear), appeals from the judgment, which granted summary judgment for defendants James J. Murray, the Illinois Department of Labor, wage-claims division (hereinafter the Department), and Donald J. McNeil, superintendent of the Department's wage claims division. Plaintiff Montgomery Ward and Company, Inc. (hereinafter Ward), appeals from the same judgment, which also granted summary judgment for defendants Mary Kilroy, the Department, and McNeil. The judgment upheld a ruling of the Department. The Department ruled that, under Illinois law, employees earned vacation pay pro rata and, upon discharge, were entitled to the vacation wages that they accrued until their employment ended.

We affirm.

Golden Bear discharged Murray, an employee, on October 16, 1982. The company maintained a vacation plan that provided, in pertinent part, as follows:

"9207. Vacation pay when termination occurs within the calendar year of accrual.

Vacation days for all eligible employees will not be paid for accrued vacation days when termination (voluntary or involuntary) occurs within the same calendar year."

Since Golden Bear discharged Murray in 1982, he did not receive any vacation pay for the approximately 10 1/2 months in 1982 during which the company employed him.

Ward discharged Kilroy, an employee, on December 22, 1982. The company also maintained a vacation plan that provided, in pertinent part, as follows:

"9201. Determining Earned Vacation

Earned vacation is the amount of vacation to which an eligible employee becomes entitled to take in a calendar year if the employee is actively on the payroll working a regular schedule (not on disability or leave of absence) on the Wednesday proceeding January 1."

Since Ward discharged Kilroy before the Wednesday following January 1, she did not receive vacation pay for the approximately 11 3/4 months in 1982 during which Ward employed her.

After their discharges, Murray and Kilroy filed wage claims with the Department. They alleged that plaintiffs violated the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, which authorizes the Department to enforce its provisions. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 48, par. 39m-11.) Murray and Kilroy sought from their respective former employers the vacation pay that they earned in 1982. After separate proceedings, the Department determined that Murray was entitled to $217.96 as accrued vacation wages, i.e., the pro rata portion of his 1982 vacation pay that he earned from January 1, 1982, to his last day of employment. Also, the Department determined that Kilroy was entitled to $1,225.02 as accrued vacation wages.

Before the Department began any enforcement action, Golden Bear and Ward brought separate actions in the trial court seeking declaratory judgments under section 2-701 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 110, par. 2-701). Plaintiffs named as defendants their former employees, the Department, and McNeil, superintendent of the Department's wage-claims division. The trial court consolidated these two actions with a third that is not before us on appeal.

All parties moved for summary judgment. Plaintiffs alleged that (1) Federal law preempted the Department's regulation of their vacation plans, (2) the Department misinterpreted the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 48, par. 39m-1 et seq.), and (3) the statute impaired their right to contract with their employees. On February 22, 1985, the trial court granted summary judgment for defendants, ruling that Federal law did not preempt the Department's regulation of plaintiffs' vacation plans, that the Department reasonably interpreted the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act in ruling that employees earned vacation pay pro rata, and that the statute did not impair plaintiffs' right to contract with their employees. Plaintiffs appeal, repeating the first two of their three arguments before the trial court.

A trial court may properly enter summary judgment where the record presents purely questions of law. (People ex rel. Rappaport v. Drazek (1975), 30 Ill. App.3d 310, 313, 332 N.E.2d 532, 535.) In the instant case, all parties agreed on the material facts before the trial court and continue to do so. The only issues before the trial court were the applicability of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act and the Department's interpretation of that statute. Thus, the trial court was faced with pure questions of law. Consequently, summary judgment was proper. People ex rel. Rappaport v. Drazek (1975), 30 Ill. App.3d 310, 313-14, 332 N.E.2d 532, 535.

I

• 1, 2 Plaintiffs first contend that Federal law preempts the Department's regulation of their vacation plans. They argue that their vacation plans are employee benefit plans within the purview of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (29 U.S.C. (1982), sec. 1001 et seq.) (hereinafter ERISA), which shields the plans from State regulation. Defendants contend that plaintiffs' vacation plans are not employee benefit plans within the purview of ERISA. Defendants further contend that it does not matter whether their plans are within ERISA because the statute does not prevent every form of State regulation of employee compensation; further, it specifically allows for concurrent State jurisdiction over vacation plans.

Recognizing the broad scope of ERISA, we agree with the trial court that (A) the State could not regulate plaintiff's vacation plans if they fell within the purview of the statute, but (B) plaintiffs' vacation plans are not employee benefit plans within the meaning of ERISA. We base these conclusions on Federal law because the decisions of the Federal courts are controlling upon our court in the interpretation of a Federal statute. Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Ry. Co. v. Industrial Com. (1956), 9 ...


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