Petition for Review of an Order of the Illinois State Labor Relations Board. Nos. S-UC-98-016; S-CA-98-198; S-CA-99-046
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hopkins
This case is on appeal from an order of the Illinois State Labor Relations Board (the Board), issued on June 15, 2000, in which the Board decided that all of the assistant appellate defenders employed by the State of Illinois Office of the State Appellate Defender (OSAD) qualified as managerial employees under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (the Act) (5 ILCS 315/1 et seq. (West 2000)), thus exempting them from collective bargaining through the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31 (the Union). The Board also dismissed the Union's unfair labor practices complaints, which alleged that OSAD had violated the Act by failing to bargain in good faith with the Union.
On appeal, the Union argues (1) that OSAD waived the argument that the assistant appellate defenders are managerial employees and (2) that the Board erred in finding that the assistant appellate defenders are managerial employees under the Act. We affirm.
In May 1988, the Union petitioned the Board and alleged that it should be named the exclusive bargaining agent for most of the OSAD employees, including the assistant appellate defenders. After a hearing, the hearing officer certified the Union as the exclusive representative of the bargaining unit of assistant appellate defenders. At the 1988 hearing, OSAD did not argue that the assistant appellate defenders were managerial employees or that they should be excluded from the bargaining unit. The hearing officer ultimately concluded that the assistant appellate defenders and certain other employees of OSAD constituted an appropriate collective bargaining unit. OSAD did not appeal the hearing officer's decision to the Board.
Following the certification of the bargaining unit, the parties entered into a series of collective bargaining agreements, with the final agreement ending on June 30, 1998. Prior to the end of the last collective bargaining agreement, OSAD filed a petition with the Board and sought to exclude all of the assistant appellate defenders from the bargaining unit certified in 1988.
At the hearing before the administrative law judge (the ALJ), OSAD argued that it had properly filed its petition under recent Illinois Supreme Court case law, which effectively changed the law concerning the bargaining rights of publicly employed attorneys such as the assistant appellate defenders. The Union opposed the petition on the grounds that OSAD had waived the argument by not raising it prior to the 1988 certification of the bargaining unit and that, if the argument was not waived, the assistant appellate defenders were not managerial employees excluded from collective bargaining under the Act.
While OSAD's petition was pending before the ALJ, the Union filed unfair labor practice charges against OSAD. The Union alleged that OSAD had violated the Act by failing to negotiate in good faith over the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and by implementing a new pay plan for assistant appellate defenders without giving the Union an opportunity to bargain about that plan.
On July 21, 1999, the ALJ issued a recommended decision and order. In that decision, the ALJ noted that a unit clarification petition, such as that filed by OSAD, may properly be filed in four types of situations, including when there has been a change in statutory or case law that affects the bargaining rights of employees. The ALJ determined that Illinois Supreme Court case law cited by OSAD constituted a change in the law since the bargaining unit was formed in 1988. The ALJ concluded that the assistant appellate defenders are managerial employees as defined by the Act. Accordingly, the ALJ recommended that the Board should find that the assistant appellate defenders are not covered by the collective bargaining provisions of the Act and that the Board should grant OSAD's petition for unit clarification. Finally, the ALJ found that since the bargaining unit was being clarified to exclude all of the employees in that unit, OSAD had no duty to bargain with the Union, and the ALJ recommended that the unfair labor practices complaints be dismissed.
The Union filed exceptions to the ALJ's recommended decision. On June 15, 2000, the Board issued its decision, following the ALJ's recommendations with certain modifications. The Board agreed with the ALJ's conclusion that OSAD's petition was properly filed on the basis of a change in the law concerning publicly employed attorneys such as the assistant appellate defenders, and the Board agreed with the ALJ's recommendation that the Union's unfair labor practices complaints should be dismissed. The Union filed this timely appeal from the Board's decision.
Judicial review of decisions of the Board is governed by the Administrative Review Law (735 ILCS 5/3-101 et seq. (West 2000)). City of Freeport v. Illinois State Labor Relations Board, 135 Ill. 2d 499, 507 (1990). Judicial review extends to all questions of law and fact presented in the record. The Board's findings of fact are held prima facie true and correct, but if those findings are against the manifest weight of the evidence or if it is clear that the Board should have reached an opposite conclusion, the court of review may reverse the Board's findings. City of Freeport, 135 Ill. 2d at 507. Where the issue before the reviewing court is one of law, such as the proper interpretation of a statute, as in the case at bar, the Board's findings are not binding on the court (City of Freeport, 135 Ill. 2d at 507) and our review is de novo (County of Cook v. Licensed Practical Nurses Ass'n, 284 Ill. App. 3d 145, 152 (1996)). Nevertheless, courts should accord substantial weight and deference to statutory interpretation by the agency charged with the administration and enforcement of those statutes. County of Cook, 284 Ill. App. 3d at 152.
OSAD filed its petition asking the Board to find that the assistant appellate defenders are managerial employees under recent Illinois Supreme Court case law. The Union contends that the cases to which OSAD refers do not change the law applicable to assistant appellate defenders and that, since the case law has not changed, OSAD has waived this ...