Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 92 L 13992. Honorable Julia M. Nowicki, Judge Presiding.
Rehearing Denied July 24, 1997. Released for Publication August 5, 1997.
The Honorable Justice Cahill delivered the opinion of the court. Theis and S.m. O'brien, JJ., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cahill
JUSTICE CAHILL delivered the opinion of the court:
Plaintiffs appeal a trial court dismissal of their complaint under section 2-619(9) of the Code of Civil Procedure. 735 ILCS 5/2-619(9) (West 1994). They allege defendant terminated their employment in violation of the terms of defendant's employee handbook. The trial court relied on the second district decision in Condon v. American Telephone & Telegraph Co., 210 Ill. App. 3d 701, 569 N.E.2d 518, 155 Ill. Dec. 337 (1991), which held that an employer could unilaterally modify an existing contract to claim a contract no longer exists. We reverse.
Plaintiffs are nurses and former employees of Holy Cross Hospital. Mary Doyle and Leni Serra were hired in 1960 and 1968, respectively. Susan Valderrama and Valerie Zorek were hired in 1972. In 1971 Doyle and Serra received employee handbooks which set out certain policies of the hospital. These policies were in effect when the handbooks were given to Valderrama and Zorek in 1972. Plaintiffs' complaint relies upon policy number 7-G titled "Economic Separation," which reads in part:
"Holy Cross Hospital is committed to providing a working environment where employees feel secure in their job. We understand that job security is important to an employee and to that employee's family. There are instances, though, that for economic or other reasons it becomes apparent that the permanent elimination of departments, job classifications and/or jobs must be made, and there is no reasonable expectation that employees affected could be placed in other positions in the hospital or be recalled for work in one year or less. To ensure that the economic separation is handled in an objective, structured and consistent way, the following policies will be followed in determining which employees will be affected.
2. Length of Continuous Hospital Service
3. Ability and Fitness to Perform the Required Work
Because of the special needs of our patients, the following factors will be used in an economic separation affecting R.N.'s:
1. Nursing Areas of Expertise
2. Length of Service Within Each Area ...