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City of Rock Island v. Illinois Human Rights Commission

July 09, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Slater


Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock Island County, Illinois,

No. 96--CH--171

Honorable Martin E. Conway, Jr., Judge, Presiding.

Plaintiff City of Rock Island (City) filed a complaint against defendants Illinois Human Rights Commission (Commission) and Dana Adams seeking an order of prohibition and a permanent injunction to prevent defendants from litigating Adams' discrimination claim. The circuit court granted the City's request for a temporary restraining order on January 3, 1997, and entered a preliminary injunction order on January 21, 1997. On May 14, 1997, the circuit court dismissed the City's complaint and terminated the preliminary injunction. The City's subsequent motion for a stay of the circuit court's order was denied. The City filed separate appeals from the court's May 14, 1997, dismissal of its complaint (No. 3--97--0395) and the denial of its motion for a stay (No. 3--97--0560), which were consolidated by this court. The primary issue raised on appeal is whether the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Commission over claims of discrimination is preempted by a collective bargaining agreement that includes an anti-discrimination clause and a grievance procedure culminating in binding arbitration. We believe that the Commission's jurisdiction is not preempted and we therefore affirm.


Defendant Adams was an employee of the City from June of 1979, until February 22, 1995, when he was discharged. Adams was a member of the bargaining unit represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, AFL-CIO, Local #988 (Union). The collective bargaining agreement (Agreement) between the Union and the City provided that it would be administered fairly and without regard to an employee's race, religion, sex, handicap or political affiliation. The Agreement also provided for a five-step grievance procedure, with binding arbitration as the fifth step.

After he was fired, Adams filed a grievance which proceeded through step four of the grievance procedure. The grievance did not, however, proceed to the fifth and final step of binding arbitration, for reasons which are not clear from the record. On July 6, 1995, Adams filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (Department). On December 2, 1996, the Department presented a complaint to the Commission alleging racial discrimination based on the charge filed by Adams. Thereafter, the City filed its complaint for an order of prohibition and an injunction to prohibit the Commission from proceeding on the complaint. The City claimed that the Commission was precluded from hearing the claim under the terms of the Agreement and pursuant to section 8 of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (Act). 5 ILCS 315/8 (West 1996). The circuit court dismissed plaintiff's complaint, finding that the Commission could proceed with the complaint because neither Adams nor the Union requested arbitration.


Under Illinois law, for an order of prohibition to be issued a party must show: (1) that the action sought to be prohibited is judicial in nature; (2) that the jurisdiction of the tribunal is inferior to that of the issuing court; (3) that the action sought to be prohibited is either outside the jurisdiction of the tribunal, or beyond its legitimate authority; and (4) that the party seeking the order of prohibition is without an adequate remedy. Board of Trustees v. Illinois Human Rights Comm'n, 141 Ill. App. 3d 447, 490 N.E.2d 232 (1986). The standard of review for a denial of injunctive relief based upon questions of law is de novo. Butler v. USA Volleyball, 285 Ill. App. 3d 578, 673 N.E.2d 1063 (1996).

The crux of this appeal centers around the third prerequisite for a writ of prohibition--that the action sought to be prohibited must be outside the jurisdiction of the Commission or beyond its authority. The City maintains that because the Agreement addresses racial discrimination, the sole and exclusive forum for determination of Adams' claim is governed by the Agreement. The Commission asserts that Adams' rights under the Agreement are distinct from his statutory rights. Thus, his claim before the Commission should not be prohibited. We agree with the Commission.

Section 8 of the Act requires that collective bargaining agreements contain grievance procedures which provide for binding arbitration unless mutually agreed otherwise. 5 ILCS 315/8 (West 1996). If a conflict arises between the provisions of the Act and any other law, "the provisions of [the] Act or any collective bargaining agreement negotiated thereunder shall prevail and control." 5 ILCS 315/15(a) (West 1996). In addition, the Illinois Human Rights Act states that it does not affect the rights of employees under a collective bargaining agreement. 775 ILCS 5/9-101(A)(2) (West 1996).

The City contends that the Act, when read in conjunction with the Agreement, mandates arbitration of a public employee's discrimination claim and deprives the Commission of jurisdiction over that claim. We disagree.

Section 8 of the Act does not require that all labor agreements must contain a mandatory arbitration provision. Instead, that section requires a grievance procedure which provides for binding arbitration "unless mutually agreed otherwise." 5 ILCS 315/8 (West 1996). In our opinion, the City and the Union have "agreed otherwise." ...

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