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08/17/89 Mueller Company, v. the Department of Labor Et

August 17, 1989

MUELLER COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS (HUGH FORD, DEFENDANT)



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FOURTH DISTRICT

543 N.E.2d 518, 187 Ill. App. 3d 519, 135 Ill. Dec. 135 1989.IL.1270

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Macon County; the Hon. John L. Davis, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

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

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE MCCULLOUGH

This case comes on appeal from the circuit court of Macon County. The defendant Hugh Ford was employed by the plaintiff Mueller Company from March 3, 1986, until he left the company voluntarily on September 11, 1987. Upon leaving the firm, Ford sought to be paid for the pro rata vacation time which he had earned but not taken during his second year of employment. The plaintiff refused Ford's request.

Faced with this refusal, Ford filed a claim with the Department of Labor (Department). On February 26, 1988, the Department, after holding a hearing on Ford's complaint, issued a wage payment demand letter to the plaintiff finding Ford was entitled to $914.19. This amount represented the value of his pro rata unused vacation time.

On March 18, 1988, the plaintiff filed a two-count complaint in the circuit court of Macon County. Count I sought administrative review of the Department's finding and count II sought declaratory judgment that the Department's findings were contrary to law. On May 4, 1988, count I of the complaint was dismissed on motion of plaintiff, leaving only the declaratory judgment action.

The circuit court heard argument on the legal issues and on November 9, 1988, found the decision of the Department was contrary to law. The court decided the authority relied on by the Department had been superseded by an amendment to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 48, par. 39m-1 et seq.) and the terms of the employment contract would control in this case. The court found that because the contract provided an employee became entitled to vacation time only after the end of the plaintiff's fiscal year and Ford had not completed the fiscal year, he was not entitled to any compensation for vacation time. The Department, which was also a defendant in the circuit court action, filed a notice of appeal on December 7, 1988.

The fundamental issue in contention here is the application of the Act to the employment contract. Both parties concede that under the prior language of the Act Ford would be entitled to be paid for his unused vacation time. The plaintiff argues the legislature, by amending the Act, has materially altered its meaning and overturned prior precedent. The defendants argue the amendment merely represents a clarification of the Act and existing precedent is still valid., Plaintiff's vacation policy provided in part:

"INITIAL VACATION

After six months of service, new employees may take one-half of the vacation that they will have earned upon completion of their one-year anniversary. Then upon completion of one years [ sic ] service, the employee may take the other one-half of vacation due. Employees hired in October or November should attempt to complete their initial vacation before the end of the fiscal year. In unusual circumstances, special arrangements can be made to ensure the employee is able to schedule a vacation.

SUBSEQUENT VACATION

After the initial vacation, an employee becomes eligible for subsequent vacations at the beginning of each fiscal year. An exception to this is those years when vacation allotments advance. During these years, the employee will be allotted his regular vacation at the start ...


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