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Goros v. County of Cook

September 25, 2006

LOUIS GOROS, TIMOTHY GORNIAK, REGINA BIOCIC, GEORGE NEGRON, MICHAEL KNAUS, JOSE DEL VALLE, WANDA BARNES, AND DAVID STANLY, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF A CLASS OF SIMILARLY SITUATED EMPLOYEES, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF COOK, COOK COUNTY SHERIFF, AND MICHAEL SHEAHAN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Louis Goros, Timothy Gorniak, Regina Biocic, George Negron, Michael Knaus, Jose Delvalle, Wanda Barnes, and David Stanly ("Plaintiffs"), filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against Cook County; the Cook County Sheriff's Department; and Michael Sheahan, in his official capacity as Cook County Sheriff ("Defendants"). Plaintiffs seek to represent a class of current and former Cook County Sheriff's Police Officers. Upon promotion to the position of Sheriff's Police Officer, an Officer's anniversary date is reset to the date of promotion for purposes of the Officer's progression to the longevity pay steps in the collective bargaining agreement's salary schedule. Plaintiffs complain that this practice deprives them of compensation, pensions and overtime pay without due process of law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and they seek injunctive relief and compensatory damages. Plaintiffs also bring state law claims for breach of contract and promissory estoppel. Defendants now move this court for summary judgment on all claims. Because neither the County's "Continuous Service" Ordinance, § 5-325 ("Ordinance 5- 325"), nor the Cook County Bureau of Human Resources Personnel Rules and Regulations ("Personnel Rules") creates a property interest in an Officer's years of service in another position with Cook County, Defendants' are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Statement of Facts

In order to become a Cook County Sheriff's Police Officer, an individual must work as a correctional officer or a deputy sheriff for at least two years, pass a written examination administered by the Cook County Merit Board, and submit to a series of interviews. (Defs. SOF ¶ 3.) Upon promotion to the Sheriff's Police Department, new officers are entitled to a raise and are designated PO1 on the salary schedule included in the collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") between the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, Chapter #201, and the Sheriff's Police Department. (Defs. SOF ¶¶ 6, 7, 9, 10.) A new officer's salary is determined by locating the step/wage rate at which the officer was located in his previous job, then moving him up two steps to a new hourly rate. (Defs. SOF ¶ 11.)

After this initial placement, the CBA provides with regard to advancement: Employees in the job classification set forth in Appendix "A" to this Agreement shall receive the monthly salary provided for in their grade and length of service in the job classification. Employees will be increased to the appropriate step upon completion of the required length of service in the classification. (Defs. Ex. 3.) Appendix "A" to the CBA, the County Police Compensation Plan, includes six salary steps, followed by five longevity pay increases. (Plfs. Ex. 7.) A Sheriff's Police Officer that began his employment with the Sheriff's Police Department at Step 1 would receive annual Step increases each year for six years until he reached the sixth step. (Defs. SOF ¶16.) After reaching the 6th step, a Cook County Sheriff's Police Officer receives longevity pay increases at 10, 15, 20, 25 and 29 years of service. (Defs. SOF ¶¶ 17, 19.)

For purposes of calculating an Officer's longevity, the Sheriff's Police Department begins counting an Officer's years of service from the Officer's first day with the Sheriff's Police Department. (Defs. SOF ¶ 21.) Any time that the Officer spent either as a Cook County correctional officer or a deputy sheriff is not counted. (Defs. SOF ¶ 22.) So, for example, an Officer who spends five years working as a correctional officer then is promoted to the Sheriff's Police Department, would not receive the 10-year longevity increase until the individual had worked a total of 15 years for Cook County (five years as a correctional officer and 10 years with the Sheriff's Police Department).

Standard of Review

Summary judgment will be granted if the pleadings, depositions, affidavits and admissions on file establish there is no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In determining whether a genuine issue of fact exists, the Court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. Bennington v. Caterpillar Inc., 275 F.3d 654, 658 (7th Cir. 2001); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The Court, however, will "limit its analysis of the facts on summary judgment to evidence that is properly identified and supported in the parties' [Local Rule 56.1] statement." Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trustees, 233 F.3d 524, 529 (7th Cir. 2000). Where a proposed statement of fact is supported by the record and not adequately rebutted, the court will accept that statement as true for purposes of summary judgment. An adequate rebuttal requires a citation to specific support in the record, an unsubstantiated denial is not adequate. See Albiero v. City of Kankakee, 246 F.3d 927, 933 (7th Cir. 2001); Drake v. Minnesota Mining & Mfg. Co., 134 F.3d 878, 887 (7th Cir. 1998) ("Rule 56 demands something more specific than the bald assertion of the general trust of a particular matter[;] rather it requires affidavits that cite specific concrete facts establishing the existence of the trust of the matter asserted").

DISCUSSION

Section 1983 provides an action against a person who, under color of law, deprives a citizen of any "rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws." 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see also Golden State Transit Corp. v. City of L.A., 493 U.S. 103, 105 (1989). Section 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive rights," but instead allows "a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred." Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n. 3 (1979). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants wrongly denied them their property interest in the wages and benefits to which they are entitled based on their years of service to Cook County. "Federal property interests under the 14th Amendment usually arise from rights created by federal statutes, state or municipal regulations or ordinances, and contracts with public entities." Ulichny v. Merton Cmty. Sch. Dist., 249 F.3d 686, 700 (7th Cir. 2001). As such, Plaintiffs bear the burden of establishing that a municipal ordinance or contract created a property right.

Plaintiffs argue that their property rights are created by the County's "Continuous Service" Ordinance, § 5-325, and a similar continuity of service provision in the Personnel Rules. Plaintiffs' state law contract and promissory estoppel claims also rely on Ordinance 5-325and the Personnel Rules. Defendants respond first that Plaintiffs' complaints must be resolved through the Grievance Procedures in the CBA. Second, the County repealed § 5-325by a later ordinance, § 00-O-8. Third, the Cook County Sheriff's Department's practice of step progression does not violate the Personnel Rules.

I. Grievance Procedure

The CBA defines a grievance as "a difference between an employee or the Chapter and the Employer with respect to the interpretation or application of, compliance with, the agreed upon provisions of the Agreement. (Defs. SOF ¶ 41.) If subject to the Grievance Procedure, Plaintiffs' claims must be resolved according to the methods set out therein. (Id.) The terms "length of service," "continuity of service" and "in the job classification" are not defined in Appendix "A" or elsewhere in the CBA. (Plfs. SOF ¶ 12.) Thus, whether it be under Ordinance 5-325, the Personnel Rules or the Position Classification and Compensation Plan, the Court must look outside the CBA to determine the proper calculation of "years of service" for purposes of step progression.*fn1 ...


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