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Richard Behl and Gifty Smith v. Grace Hong Duffin

December 10, 2010

RICHARD BEHL AND GIFTY SMITH,
PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
GRACE HONG DUFFIN, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ACTING SECRETARY OF THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES; THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES; JAMES P. SLEDGE, DIRECTOR, THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CENTRAL MANAGEMENT SERVICES; AND
THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CENTRAL MANAGEMENT SERVICES, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES,
AND CAROL L. ADAMS, IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY; AND
MAUREEN O'DONNELL, IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY,
DEFENDANTS.



Appeal from Circuit Court Sangamon County No. 07MR149 Honorable Patrick W. Kelley, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Knecht

PRESIDING JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Steigmann and Pope concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

In February 2007, plaintiffs, Richard Behl and Gifty Smith, filed a class-action complaint, seeking mandamus, injunctive relief, and damages as a result of defendants' alleged unauthorized hiring of "contractual employees." Plaintiffs maintained the Personnel Code (20 ILCS 415/1 through 25 (West 2008)) did not authorize the hiring of contractual employees, but defendants had done so and denied those employees the benefits others received. Plaintiffs, who were contractual employees when they filed their complaint, asserted they should be reclassified as regular, full-time state employees and should be compensated for lost benefits.

In July 2008, plaintiffs filed their amended complaint and, in January 2009, a second amended complaint. In their filings, plaintiffs allege counts of mandamus, injunctive relief, equal protection, and due-process violations.

In March 2009, defendants moved to dismiss plaintiffs' second amended complaint under section 2-619.1 (735 ILCS 5/2-619.1 (West 2008)) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code). Defendants argued plaintiffs' claims for prospective relief were moot as Behl and Smith were no longer contractual employees. Defendants also maintained plaintiffs' complaints fail to state a cause of action and plaintiffs' claims are barred by sovereign and qualified immunities.

In September 2009, the trial court granted defendants' motion, finding certain claims moot and determining plaintiffs failed to state a claim for equal-protection and due-process violations. Plaintiffs appeal, arguing (1) their claims are not moot; (2) they stated claims for mandamus, injunctive relief, equal-protection violations, and due-process violations; and (3) their claims are not barred by sovereign and qualified immunities. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs have filed an initial complaint, an amended complaint, and a second amended complaint. The initial complaint, filed in August 2007, set forth three counts. In January 2008, the trial court ordered defendants to answer the latter two counts ("Equal Protection and Due Process Claims" and "42 U.S.C. 1983 Claim" (42 U.S.C. §1983 (2006))) and plaintiffs to reply to the motion to dismiss on the first count ("State Law Claim"). When the court, in June 2008, dismissed the first count, the court granted plaintiffs leave to file an amended complaint and granted leave to amend the other two counts to "the extent necessary to conform to the new counts."

In July 2008, plaintiffs filed their amended complaint. Two of the counts, counts I (mandamus) and II (injunctive relief), were dismissed with prejudice by court order in November 2008 as moot. In the same order dismissing these counts, the trial court found the remaining counts, with respect to prospective relief, also moot but allowed plaintiffs to replead for retroactive relief. In their January 2009 second amended complaint, plaintiffs pleaded four counts. In September 2009, the court dismissed two of the counts as moot and all four for failure to state a claim.

The allegations in the class-action complaint purport the following. Plaintiff Richard Behl is an adult male resident of Illinois and a "contractual employee" working at the Illinois Department of Human Services (Human Services). Plaintiff Gifty Smith is an adult female resident of Illinois working as a "contractual employee" at Human Services. Human Services was a state department created by the Illinois Constitution and was under the governor's jurisdiction. Plaintiffs brought this action on behalf of themselves and a class of those similarly situated, i.e., "contractual employees" who work in departments under the governor's jurisdiction.

Behl became a "contractual employee" for Human Services in February 2000. Smith began working as a "contractual employee" for Human Services in September 2001. The contracts ran from July 1 of one year to June 30 of the following year. Plaintiffs performed work also done by Illinois "regular, full-time employees." Defendants controlled the services performed by plaintiffs; set the work hours at 37.5 hours per week (the same as regular, full-time state employees); set times for work breaks; assigned the tasks to be performed; set the start and end time for each day; provided the office space, furniture, telephones, and state credit cards necessary to perform their jobs; provided state identification badges; presented plaintiffs as state employees; assigned personnel titles similar to those of regular, full-time state employees; supervised and monitored plaintiffs; and provided the same training as provided to regular, full-time state employees.

According to the complaints' allegations, "contractual employees" did not have the same benefits as regular, full-time state employees. Contractual employees did not have paid time off for holidays, illness, personal time, and vacations; health-insurance coverage; payments into the State Employees Retirement System; or the ability to apply for in-house posted state employment positions.

Two personal service contracts signed by Behl and Smith were attached to the amended complaint. According to the contracts, both plaintiffs agreed they were "not entitled to any employment benefits such as paid sick, vacation, holiday or personal leaves; retirement contributions; health and life insurance; or access to Personnel Code or Civil Service grievance procedures."

Neither Behl nor Smith continued to work as a contractual employee as of June 2008. In April 2008, Behl terminated his personal service contract with Human Services because he accepted a probationary appointment under the Personnel Code as a habilitation program coordinator with the Jacksonville Developmental Center. Smith's personal service contract expired in June 2008 and was not renewed.

Six counts are presented for our review. In count I (amended complaint), plaintiffs seek a writ of mandamus ordering defendants to reclassify plaintiffs as regular, full-time state employees to allow them to receive full benefits and to order defendant to provide them "full non-monetary benefits of state employment retroactively." In count II (amended complaint), plaintiffs seek injunctive relief, similar to their requests in count I. In counts III and IV (amended complaint and second amended complaint), plaintiffs assert an equal-protection claim and a due-process claim under the Illinois Constitution, seeking retroactive compensation and an order to reclassify plaintiffs and the class. In counts V and VI (second amended complaint), plaintiffs allege an equal-protection claim and due-process claim under the fourteenth amendment to our federal constitution, seeking reclassification and damages.

The trial court had not addressed the issue of class certification.

This appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

Defendants moved to dismiss plaintiffs' claims under section 2-619.1 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619.1 (West 2008)). Section 2-619.1 authorizes combined motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2008)) and for an involuntary dismissal based upon certain defenses (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2008)). This court reviews dismissals under these sections de novo. See Malcome v. Toledo, Peoria & Western Ry. Corp., 349 Ill. App. 3d 1005, 1006, 811 ...


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