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04/07/94 PATRICIA FOILES v. NORTH GREENE UNIT

April 7, 1994

PATRICIA FOILES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
NORTH GREENE UNIT DISTRICT NO. 3, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Greene County. No. 88LM48. Honorable James W. Day, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication June 1, 1994.

Honorable Carl A. Lund, J., Honorable John T. McCULLOUGH, P.j., Honorable James A. Knecht, J., Concurring

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lund

JUSTICE LUND delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff Patricia Foiles appeals from an August 12, 1993, judgment of the circuit court of Greene County holding for defendant North Greene Unit District No. 3 (District). Plaintiff's cause of action related to her employment as a school bus driver for the District.

Plaintiff was hired as a full-time school bus driver for the 1983-84 school year. Her route was (and has been for all relevant times) for early childhood students. The route required morning, noon, and evening transportation. The early childhood classification did not include kindergarten students. Defendant paid an additional stipend if a bus driver had noontime kindergarten passengers. For the 1983-84 school year, plaintiff had two kindergarten students and received additionalincome of approximately $1,700 because of the stipend. The crux of her claim is the failure of the District to pay the stipend, even though she did not transport kindergarten children, for the 1984-85, 1985-86, and 1986-87 school years. Plaintiff claims when she was hired for 1984-85 she was told she would be employed under the same agreement as 1983-84. The bus superintendent testified he did not set salaries and did not represent the 1984-85 compensation to be the same as in 1983-84.

In essence, plaintiff's claim is based upon an implication that contracts existed for 1984-85, 1985-86, and 1986-87, similar to the 1983-84 contract.

Evidence establishes that plaintiff first made objection to the bus superintendent after her second monthly check in 1984-85. She was told by the bus superintendent that the reduction in compensation resulted from the deletion of kindergarten children from her route. To no avail, plaintiff made objection to the District's administration and school board. The written judgment by the trial court contained the following statement:

"Obviously plaintiff did not agree with the defendant's practice of compensating bus drivers by category of students[,] but she was informed from the beginning of the [19]84-85 school year of the reasoning behind the cessation of the kindergarten stipend. Evidence at trial proved that the plaintiff had no written contract with the school district for the three years in question. The evidence is not sufficient to prove that Mr. Stewart, the bus supervisor, had authority to extend the plaintiff's first year compensation into subsequent years. Not only did Mr. Stewart not have the authority[,] he testified that he did not tell the plaintiff that her compensation would remain at the first year level. There being no oral or written agreement that plaintiff's first year compensation would be extended into the subsequent years[,] the court finds that the plaintiff was an employee 'at will'. As plaintiff was an employee at will[,] the defendant was not required to pay the same salary each year. Plaintiff's salary could be modified.

Judgment for the defendant."

Plaintiff contends plaintiff's 1983-84 employment contract was for a fixed duration and, as a result, plaintiff was not an employee at will. She also contends the bus superintendent had apparent authority to negotiate terms of compensation and, in doing so, bound the District. She further contends plaintiff's employment was renewed by defendant for the 1984-85 school year without any agreement to renegotiate compensation and, thus, was impliedly renewed in accordance with the 1983-84 terms of compensation.

Defendant argues application of the Frauds Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 59, par. 1); and that the employee-at-will determination was correct and, hence, plaintiff's compensation was at all times subject to the will of defendant, and by continuing to work, plaintiff assented to the paid wage.

FRAUDS ACT

Evidence supports the trial court's determination that no written contract existed between plaintiff and defendant for any of the years from the summer of 1983 through the 1986-87 school ...


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