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Bucaro v. Forest Preserve District of Cook County

March 23, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer


After an incident in which Forest Preserve District officials concluded that Plaintiff, a maintenance superintendent, had made false statements on two time sheets, Plaintiff was notified he would be terminated and resigned in response. In this lawsuit, Plaintiff contends he was denied due process and deprived of overtime pay to which he is entitled. His original complaint asserted a "class of one" equal protection claim, as well, but he has withdrawn that claim. Defendants, the Forest Preserve District and two supervisory officials, now move for summary judgment. They argue that Plaintiff was exempt from Fair Labor Standards Act coverage; that he received all the process due him; and that the individual Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.


The Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois (the "District"), was created by Illinois law and charged with acquiring and preserving natural areas in Cook County and maintaining them for public use. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 1; 70 ILCS 810/0.01 et seq.) Plaintiff William Bucaro was employed by the District from 1980 until July 21, 2006, most recently in the position of Division Superintendent of Maintenance, responsible for maintenance of District properties and facilities. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 4.) Until the incidents in June 2006, described below, Plaintiff had never been disciplined in his 26 years with the District. (Pltf.'s 56.1 Add'l. ¶ 1.) Defendant Richard Bono was Assistant to the District's Maintenance Superintendent, and Defendant Jo Ann T. Robinson, the District's Human Relations/Hearing Officer, was responsible for discipline of District employees. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶¶ 2, 3.)

Plaintiff's Employment History

Plaintiff began his employment with the District as a Laborer who cleaned District property, picked up garbage, and cut grass. (Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff was represented by the Teamsters Local 726 in this position, and continued to be member of the bargaining unit as he earned promotions to the positions of Serviceman I and Serviceman II. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 8.) When he was promoted to the position of Division Superintendent in 1994, however, Plaintiff became a "boss" and was no longer represented by the union. (Id. ¶ 9, citing Deposition of William Bucaro, Exhibit 8 to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, [hereinafter "Bucaro Dep."] at 22.) In fact, as Division Superintendent, Plaintiff supervised all District Laborers and Servicemen, approved their requests for time off, and assigned them work. He also had the power to give disciplinary warnings and to recommend staff for promotions. (Id. ¶ 10, citing Bucaro Dep. at 29-30, 40, 51, 56-57, 59-60, 63, 146.) Plaintiff testified that he made daily inspections to determine the need to improve maintenance operations in his Division within the District and to ensure that facilities met the needs of the public. He also "mapp[ed] out work projects, formulated plans and schedules for future operations," "over[saw] personnel," and supervised cleaning operations, disposal of refuse, mowing, and trimming. (Id. citing Bucaro Dep. at 52-53.)

In January 2006, two of the Divisions of the District were merged into one, and Plaintiff was assigned to supervise the laborers and hourly employees within this new Division, one of eight in the District. He also supervised an Assistant Superintendent, Jimmie Bareto, and a clerk, and he shared an office with Bareto and with the Regional Superintendent, Jose Varella. (Id. ¶ 11, citing Bucaro Dep. at 34, 37, 39-40, 51, 146.) In this position, Plaintiff earned a bi-weekly salary of $2,373.36, and was responsible for scheduling his maintenance subordinates for work, taking into account their preferences, vacation schedules, emergencies, illness, and fairness. (Id. ¶ 12, citing Bucaro Dep. at 45-46, 58, 60.)

Process for Recording Work Hours

All employees within Plaintiff's Division were required personally to record their start time, quit time, and number of hours worked on a daily basis on one of two daily time sheets--one for Laborers and Servicemen, and a second for Plaintiff and his Assistant, Bareto. (Id. ¶ 14, citing Bucaro Dep. at 64-66, 68, 69.) At the end of each work day, Plaintiff or Bareto would remove the Laborers' daily time sheet from its clipboard, approve it, certify it as accurate by signing it, and send it to the District's headquarters for payroll processing. Jose Varella, the Regional Superintendent, reviewed and approved the separate time sheet on which Plaintiff and Bareto recorded their time. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 16, citing Bucaro Dep. at 50, 66, 67-68, 70-72.)

The District's payroll work week runs from Friday through Thursday, and the regular work day for maintenance staff during summer months ran from 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., including eight hours of paid time and a half hour unpaid for lunch. (Id. ¶ 17, citing Bucaro Dep. at 55-56.) Laborers and Servicemen were compensated for work in excess of 40 hours per week by way of compensatory time off. (Id. ¶ 18, citing Bucaro Dep. at 80, 107-08.) Although Plaintiff did not deny Defendants' assertion that managers, including Bucaro, did not receive "Comp. Credit" for working more than 40 hours in a work week, Plaintiff nevertheless contends that "AP" time was used to compensate managers for having worked more than 40 hours in a work week. (Id. ¶ 19, citing Bucaro Dep. at 77, 80; Pltf.'s 56.1 Add'l ¶ 3.) It is undisputed that Leroy Taylor, the District-wide Maintenance Supervisor, was responsible to approve overtime work for maintenance employees and to decide whether managerial staff, including Plaintiff, could receive "AP" pay for days on which they were absent from work. (Id. ¶ 20, citing Bucaro Dep. at 42, 50, 59, 93.)

June 2006 Time Sheets

For the two-week period from Friday, June 16 through Thursday, June 29, Plaintiff prepared the work schedule for himself and his maintenance staff; that schedule was subject to change. He scheduled himself to work on June 16 and 17, to be away on June 18 and 19, and then to return to work for June 20 and June 21, 2006. (Id. ¶ 21, citing Bucaro Dep. at 54; Pltf.'s 56.1 Add'l. ¶ 9, citing Bucaro Dep. at 46.) Plaintiff owns a time-share agreement that entitles him to use accommodations at the Fox River Resort for one week each year; in 2006, Plaintiff's time-share week was June 18-24. (Id. ¶ 22, citing Bucaro Dep. at 75-76, 117.) Plaintiff showed up for work on Friday and Saturday, June 16 and 17, but decided to take his family to Fox River Resort for the following week. (Id. ¶ 23, citing Bucaro Dep. at 74-76, 117.) Although Plaintiff had accrued vacation time and personal days available, he did not request to use such time, intending instead to use what he understood to be accrued but unused "AP" time. (Id. ¶ 24, citing Bucaro Dep. 91-92, 107, 109, Pl.s 56.1 Response ¶ 24, citing Bucaro Dep. at 77-80.)

To that end, on Saturday, June 17, 2006, Plaintiff completed two daily time sheets for June 20 and 21. Plaintiff does not dispute having completed those time sheets on June 17; he denies, however, "that the time sheets he completed showed him as working" and contends instead that had those time sheets "been submitted and approved," he would have received pay for those days as AP time. (Pltf.'s 56.1 Response ¶ 25, citing Bucaro Dep. at 77-80.) The court notes that the copies of the time sheets that appear in the record contain a column in which the "payroll action code" can be recorded, and a list of possible codes appears at the bottom of the page. "AP Absent with Pay" is one of the codes listed. Yet the only code that appears in that column on either of the two time sheets is a number 8, which appears to be a reference to the number of hours worked. (Exhibits 4 and 5 to Bucaro Dep., [Docket No. 64].) On each of the two time sheets, Plaintiff wrote a "start time" of 6:00 a.m. and a "stop time" of 2:30 p.m.. He signed his name in two places on each sheet, once in the place designated for the employee's signature "at the start of the work period" and a second time in the place designated for the employee's signature "at end of day." (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 26, citing Bucaro Dep. at 74, 97-98, and Exhibits 4 and 5.) Although he points out that neither he, nor anyone on his behalf, ever submitted the time sheets for approval, Plaintiff has admitted that he filled out and signed these time sheets for June 20 and 21, and that on their face, they indicate that he was present at work for a full eight-hour work day on each of those dates. (Pltf.'s 56.1 Response ¶ 26.) He admits, further, that had he been given permission to take June 20 and 21 off using "AP" time, the payroll code "AP" would have appeared in the "Payroll Action Code," column, there would be no indication that he had worked from 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and Plaintiff would not have signed the time sheets himself. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 34.)

At the time he completed the time sheets, showing him as working when he knew he would not be working those days, Plaintiff hoped to speak to Leroy Taylor about his understanding that the District "owed" him two days off for two occasions three weeks earlier. Specifically, on May 31 and June 1, 2006, Plaintiff had worked on his scheduled days off, but had taken May 29, Memorial Day, as a paid holiday. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶¶ 30-32, citing Bucaro Dep. at 86, 103, 104-05, 108-09, 148-49.) Although Plaintiff was not certain what direction Taylor would have given him, he recognized that Taylor would not be inclined to let him use "AP" time for June 20 and 21; Plaintiff recalled that two or three weeks earlier, Taylor had told him that the "big bosses downtown" were unhappy about employees being permitted to use "AP" time to be paid when absent from work. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 33, citing Bucaro Dep. at 77-78, 97; Pltf.'s 56.1 Response ¶ 33.) In fact, as of June 2006, neither Leroy Taylor nor any other manager had authorized Plaintiff to sign in and out on a daily time sheet ...

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