Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 95-CH-3670. Honorable Edwin Berman, Judge Presiding.
Rehearing Denied September 19, 1997. Released for Publication October 9, 1997.
The Honorable Justice Theis delivered the opinion of the court. Greiman, P.j., and Quinn, J., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Theis
The Honorable Justice THEIS delivered the opinion of the court:
Plaintiffs, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (the District) and F.D. O'Brien as Director of Personnel, appeal the trial court's order affirming a determination by the Civil Service Board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and its members (the Board). On appeal, the District argues that: (1) the Civil Service Board exceeded its authority by granting Suzan Zambrzycki additional compensation without a prior appropriation; (2) the Board exceeded its authority by awarding Zambrzycki back pay commensurate with a salary level to which she had not been appointed; (3) theories of contract or estoppel do not entitle Zambrzycki to additional compensation; and (4) the Board abused its discretion by reversing the director's decision without finding the decision to be arbitrary and capricious.
District employee and codefendant Suzan Zambrzycki was employed as a civil service employee. On May 29, 1992 Zambrzycki was appointed to the classification of assistant personnel analyst. The District provided Zambrzycki a copy of the personnel rules for classified service and the work rules. On May 15, 1992, Zambrzycki was reassigned to the examinations section of the personnel department to assist the senior personnel analyst and the supervising personnel analysts.
On December 3, 1993, the director of personnel sent notice of pending reassignments to department employees. Zambrzycki was to be reassigned to the training section of the personnel department. Zambrzycki filed a grievance with the director of personnel, claiming that: (1) the District could not reassign her from the examination department; (2) she had been doing work above her classification for the past 18 months; and (3) she was entitled to back pay because she had performed the work of an associate personnel analyst since May 15, 1992. Prior to this objection, Zambrzycki had never informed her supervisor or the director of personnel that she believed she was doing work above her classification.
The director rejected Zambrzycki's claim, and Zambrzycki brought her grievance before the Civil Service Board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (the Board). Zambrzycki presented the testimony of other employees who stated that Zambrzycki had been performing the work of an associate personnel analyst since approximately May of 1993. Zambrzycki pointed to Work Rule 4.201 which provides that employees working in a higher capacity are entitled to higher pay. The Board held that Zambrzycki had no vested interest in her job within the examination department. However, the Board determined that Zambrzycki had been doingwork above her classification for approximately six months and was entitled to back pay pursuant to Work Rule 4.201.
The plaintiffs challenged the Board's determination in the circuit court. The plaintiffs first argued that the Board failed to find that the director of personnel's decision was arbitrary and capricious. In addition, the plaintiffs claimed that the Board's findings were erroneous. The plaintiffs argued that in the absence of a prior appropriation for the higher pay, neither the District nor the Board had the authority to award Zambrzycki the back pay. In justifying the Board's decision, the trial court stated that "they tried to rectify an unfair proceeding" and that "any fair-minded person, in my view, would have done the same thing." The trial court agreed that Zambrzycki had worked in a capacity above her classification. In affirming the Board's award, the trial court stated:
"If the person in charge can direct somebody under them to do a particular job that calls for a higher rate of pay without dotting I's and crossing T's to give them the position to require that pay, it would undermine the whole system. It's just not right.
And I think when you balance equity against the chain of command, and what the statute says, I don't agree with you, Counsel, that I don't have the power to say this is an equitable issue and should be remedied.
Now I don't even have to say that either. All I have to say is I deny your petition and let the Civil Service Commission ruling stand."
On appeal, we are presented with questions of law and fact. We will reverse the Board's factual determinations only if they are contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. Raintree Health Care Center v. Human Rights Commission, 275 Ill. App. 3d 387, 655 N.E.2d 944, 211 Ill. Dec. 561 (1995). We will consider questions of law, however, under a de novo standard. Illini Country Club v. Property Tax Appeal Board, 263 Ill. App. 3d 410, 635 N.E.2d 1347, 200 Ill. Dec. 764 (1994). Upon review, we find that the Board's and the trial court's rulings are erroneous as a matter of law and we reverse.
On appeal, the defendants claim that the District was contractually bound to pay Zambrzycki for associate level work. This argument rests upon interpretation of Work Rule 4.201, which provides that "if a position is filled in an acting capacity by an employee receiving a lower rate of pay, the employee shall be paid at the higher rate of pay for the period served in an acting capacity." The defendants contend that Work Rule 4.201 constitutes a contractual promise by the District under the Illinois Supreme Court's holding in Duldulao v. St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital Center, 115 Ill. 2d 482, 505N.E.2d 314, 106 Ill. Dec. 8 (1987), because: (1) the work rules expressly provide that they inform employees ...