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03/09/88 Bonnie J. Moreland, v. the Department of

March 9, 1988





520 N.E.2d 1227, 166 Ill. App. 3d 1040, 117 Ill. Dec. 876 1988.IL.331

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. Simon L. Friedman, Judge, presiding.


PRESIDING JUSTICE GREEN delivered the opinion of the court. LUND and SPITZ, JJ., concur.


Plaintiff Bonnie J. Moreland appeals a decision of the circuit court of Sangamon County, which upheld an order of the Civil Service Commission (Commission) discharging plaintiff from her employment as a registered nurse with the Department of Corrections (Department). She contends the discharge was arbitrary and in contravention of State public policy. We affirm.

Pursuant to section 9(5) of the Personnel Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 127, par. 63b109(5)), charges against the plaintiff were approved August 4, 1986, by the director of the Department of Central Management Services. Amended charges were approved September 17, 1986. Plaintiff requested a hearing August 16, 1986. Following hearings, the Commission's hearing officer issued a recommended decision upholding the discharge January 20, 1987. The Commission adopted the recommended decision February 18, 1987. On March 25, 1987, plaintiff filed her complaint for administrative review. The circuit court affirmed on July 2, 1987. This appeal followed.

Plaintiff was charged with failing to follow medical procedures by taking prescription drugs without authorization while on duty. She was also charged with misusing State property by taking for her own use unauthorized prescription drugs while working at the correctional center. She allegedly falsified official statements regarding disposal of unused drugs. These actions were in violation of Department rules which appear at sections 305.20, 305.30(a), and 305.30(c) of title 20 of the Illinois Administrative Code. 20 Ill. Adm. Code 305.20, 305.30(a), (c) (1985).

A court reviewing a decision of the Commission approving a discharge of an employee must determine whether: (1) the factual determinations of the Commission are contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence; and (2) the proved facts constituted cause of dismissal. (Department of Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities v. Civil Service Comm'n (1981), 85 Ill. 2d 547, 426 N.E.2d 885; Bodine v. Civil Service Comm'n (1987), 151 Ill. App. 3d 895, 504 N.E.2d 182.) Plaintiff does not dispute the sufficiency of the evidence to prove the misconduct charged. Rather, she maintains the proved facts were insufficient cause for discharge under the peculiar facts of this case. The thrust of this contention is that her discharge was violative of and inconsistent with a Department policy in regard to drug abuse by employees.

Plaintiff bases her policy argument on the provisions of a document titled "State of Illinois Employee Assistance Program Supervisor's Manual" (Manual) which appears in the record. The introduction to the manual states the program "guarantees confidential referral to treatment for alcoholism and drug dependence without threat of job loss." (Manual, at 1.) A supervisor's role is limited to offering a referral for professional help. Manual, at 4.

The policy is designed to recognize alcoholism and drug abuse as illnesses and encourage employees to voluntarily seek treatment. Under this policy, department heads and supervisors may refer for diagnosis employees who demonstrate unsatisfactory job performance based on apparent medical or behavioral problems. Department heads and supervisors are entrusted to implement the policy and to assure that "no employee with an alcohol or drug problem will have job security or advancement opportunities jeopardized by seeking diagnosis and treatment." Manual, at 5.

Subsection 11 of the policy states "[the] confidential handling of the referral, diagnosis and treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse is mandated by Federal and State laws and is assured." (Manual, at 5.) Subsection 12 states "[implementation] of this policy will not require, or result in, any special regulations, privileges or exemptions from the standard administrative practices applicable to job performance requirements." (Manual, at 5.) A separate section entitled "Confidentiality" states "[the] information that is exchanged between employee, Referral Coordinator . . ., and community resource is protected by Federal confidentiality laws and cannot be shared with anyone without a written release of information from the employee." Manual, at 6.

The evidence before the Commission was not essentially disputed. Prior to February 27, 1986, plaintiff had been employed by the Department of Corrections at its penal facility at Vandalia as a nurse. Shortly before that date, she sought help from the Fayette County Mental Health Center for her drug abuse problem. On that date, she met with a counselor from the Mental Health Center who arranged for her to enter a treatment program and directed her to make arrangements with her employer for a 30-day leave to obtain the treatment. On February 28, 1986, plaintiff met with her supervisor, Robin Bates, and requested that leave. The evidence indicated Bates asked plaintiff if she had been taking controlled substances from the hospital where she worked, and plaintiff answered that she had. The testimony was undisputed that at some time during the conversation, plaintiff asked Bates to keep the information she had given Bates confidential. However, Bates explained she would keep the information confidential as to others, but that she would have to give the information to her supervisor. The time plaintiff made the request was not established directly, but the record indicates strongly that the request was made after plaintiff had admitted she had been taking controlled substances from the hospital.

The evidence also showed: (1) prior to taking leave for entry to the drug abuse program, plaintiff had performed her work well, with the exception of the misconduct for which the discharge was made; (2) her treatment had apparently been successful; (3) procedures had been developed which would make it harder for her to steal drugs in the future; and (4) she had agreed to submit to random drug testing if ...

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