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02/05/87 Charles Lawrence, v. the Board of Education of

February 5, 1987

CHARLES LAWRENCE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF SCHOOL DISTRICT 189, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT

503 N.E.2d 1201, 152 Ill. App. 3d 187, 105 Ill. Dec. 195 1987.IL.136

Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. Roger M. Scrivner, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE KASSERMAN delivered the opinion of the court. HARRISON and WELCH, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE KASSERMAN

This case involves a claim by the plaintiff-appellee, Charles Lawrence, a retired attendance officer, that the defendant-appellant, board of education of School District No. 189 (board), wrongfully denied him payment of accumulated sick leave at the time of his retirement from the defendant on March 1, 1979. The circuit court of St. Clair County concluded that plaintiff was entitled to such compensation and entered judgment accordingly.

On appeal, defendant contends (1) that the trial court's factual holding that the plaintiff had exhausted his requirements pursuant to the grievance arbitration procedure is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence; (2) that the trial court erroneously held that the plaintiff was equitably entitled to compensation for the sick-leave days accumulated prior to the deletion of such provisions from the collective-bargaining agreement; and (3) that insufficient evidence was presented by plaintiff to support a finding that at all times prior to August 30, 1976, attendance officers could receive compensation for accumulated sick-leave days upon retirement to the same extent as a teacher.

The essential facts in this case are substantially undisputed by the parties. The evidence available to the trial court was presented in the form of testimony, a joint stipulation of facts, and copies of certain collective-bargaining agreements.

Plaintiff, Charles Lawrence, was hired by the defendant board in the capacity of an attendance officer in September of 1959 and worked full time in that capacity until his retirement on March 1, 1979. On the date of his retirement, plaintiff was 65 years of age and had worked for the defendant for nearly 20 years. His duties as an attendance officer involved reporting to school authorities which children were absent from school and the reasons for their absence. In addition to his full-time job as an attendance officer for the defendant, plaintiff worked a full-time job as a utility man for McDonnell-Douglas Corporation.

It was stipulated by the parties that during the period from September 1959 to March 1979, the East St. Louis Federation of Teachers, Local 1220 of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO (hereinafter local 1220), was the duly elected bargaining agent for the teachers and attendance officers of District 189. As bargaining agent, local 1220 negotiated collective-bargaining agreements between the defendant board and the faculty members and attendance officers. Plaintiff was not a member of local 1220 but was generally aware from other attendance officers that local 1220 was negotiating benefits for them.

The collective-bargaining agreements negotiated by local 1220 contained provisions concerning sick leave and the accumulation of sick-leave days. These agreements allowed an attendance officer 10 sick-leave days per year and allowed such employees to accumulate their sick-leave days to the same amount as a teacher. Under these provisions, a teacher could accumulate his sick-leave days and receive a specified percentage of those accumulated sick-leave days as severance pay upon retirement. In order to qualify for this severance pay it was necessary for the teacher to meet certain conditions. The eligibility requirements for a teacher, as stipulated by the parties, were that the teacher either have 20 years of service with District 189 and be entitled to receive Illinois Teacher Retirement Benefits or have 15 years of service with District 189 and be 65 years old as of retirement. In addition to this service requirement, the teacher was required to notify the school district in writing one year prior to the date of retirement. If these conditions were met, the teacher would receive 75% of his accumulated sick-leave days up to a maximum of 180 days. Under these provisions of the collective-bargaining agreements between the defendant board and local 1220, an attendance officer could not only accumulate his sick-leave days to the same amount as the teacher, he could also use these accumulated sick-leave days to the same extent and purpose as a teacher. The provisions concerning the payment of accumulated sick-leave days as severance pay upon retirement remained in effect and substantially unchanged for attendance officers until August 30, 1976. At this time these provisions were deleted from the employment agreement.

Shortly after plaintiff began working in his capacity as an attendance officer, he became aware of the fact that he would be able to accumulate sick-leave days and be compensated for them upon retirement. When plaintiff became aware of this fact, it became his intent to accumulate sick-leave days during his employment so that he would be able to use this additional compensation for the education of his youngest children. As a result of this decision, the plaintiff used only a small percentage of his possible sick-leave days despite the fact that he could have stayed home many times because of illness. Plaintiff accordingly accumulated a large number of sick-leave days to the extent that he had 150 days on the date of the contract modification on August 30, 1976, and 161 days upon his retirement. Even after the modification of the collective-bargaining agreement which eliminated the provision allowing attendance officers to accumulate sick-leave days and receive them as severance pay, plaintiff continued his practice of accumulating sick-leave days because he was not notified or otherwise made aware of the fact that the provision had been deleted from the contract.

In early 1978, plaintiff contacted the personnel director of District 189, Hyriam Williams. It was plaintiff's intention at that time to retire in early March of 1979 as he would reach age 65 as of February, 1979. During his conversation with Mr. Williams, plaintiff was informed that he would receive 75% of his accumulated sick-leave days as severance pay upon retirement, provided that he notified District 189 by letter. Mr. Williams informed plaintiff as to when to file the letter and described the necessary contents. During his conversation with plaintiff, Mr. Williams made no mention of the change in the contract provisions. After speaking with Mr. Williams and sending the letter as he was instructed, plaintiff continued to work and some months prior to his retirement contacted his supervisor, Dr. Crowe, concerning his retirement. He was advised of the number of his accumulated sick-leave days by Dr. Crowe's secretary. In addition, Dr. Crowe, or someone from his office, informed plaintiff that he would be receiving his accumulated sick-leave as severance pay upon retirement.

In addition to making his arrangements for retirement from District 189, plaintiff also arranged to have his retirement from McDonnell-Douglas commence on March 1, 1979. Plaintiff also contacted the Social Security Administration to arrange for his retirement benefits as of that date. Plaintiff testified at trial that once these arrangements had been made it would have been impossible to change them and that he could not have continued working at District 189 and received his other retirement benefits. Two days prior to this retirement, plaintiff contacted Mr. Williams for a final conference concerning his retirement as he had been instructed earlier by Mr. Williams. At that time Mr. Williams informed plaintiff that it would be necessary for plaintiff to speak with the principal, Mr. Ducksworth, concerning his sick-leave days. Plaintiff immediately went to see Mr. Ducksworth and was informed that he would not be receiving his severance pay. There was no reason given for this decision nor was there any mention made of the collective-bargaining agreement. After speaking with Mr. Ducksworth and taking his retirement on March 1, 1979, the plaintiff contacted the president of local 1220. At the time of this initial ...


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