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Crowley v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

March 31, 2014

JENIFER CROWLEY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO; DAVID VITALE, President; JESSE RUIZ, Member; HENRY BIENEN, Member; MAHILIA HINES, Member; DEBORAH H. QUAZZO, Member; CARLOS ASCOITIA, Member; ANDREA ZOPP, Member; BARBARA BYRD-BENNETT, Chief Executive Officer, and the ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendants-Appellees. DARLYN PRUITT, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO; DAVID VITALE, President; JESSE RUIZ, Member; HENRY BIENEN, Member; MAHILIA HINES, Member; DEBORAH H. QUAZZO, Member; CARLOS ASCOITIA, Member; ANDREA ZOPP, Member; BARBARA BYRD-BENNETT, Chief Executive Officer, and the ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendants-Appellees

Page 1102

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 12 CH 10424. Honorable Mary Lane Mikva, Judge Presiding.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 12 CH 29314. Honorable Diane J. Larsen, Judge Presiding.

SYLLABUS

Two Chicago school teachers were properly terminated for failing to abide by the school board's residency requirement, notwithstanding their contention that the residency requirement had become " stale" and unenforceable due to the lack of vigorous and equal enforcement, since employers may change from a lax enforcement policy to a stricter policy when the change is made clear to the employees, as in the instant case where the board's announcement of second warning resolutions negated any basis for relying on the past nonenforcement policy, and under those circumstances, the termination proceedings were not stale.

For appellants: Jenifer Crowley, Darlyn Pruitt, Poltrock & Giampietro, Chicago, IL; Kurtis Hale, of counsel.

For appellees: James L. Bebley, Lee Ann Lowder, of counsel, Board of Education of the City of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

JUSTICE DELORT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hoffman and Cunningham concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

DELORT, JUSTICE.

Page 1103

[¶1] Residency requirements for public employees generate considerable litigation, usually involving highly fact-based disputes over whether an employee is a bona fide resident of the jurisdiction in question. These consolidated cases present an unusual spin on that pattern. The employees in question, teachers for the Chicago Board of Education (Board),[1] admit that they live outside of Chicago--in fact, outside of Cook County. Their main contentions here are that the Board's residency requirement became " stale" and unenforceable because the Board failed to vigorously enforce it until recently, and the Board enforced the policy unequally. We agree with the circuit court judges who found otherwise and declared that the Board correctly terminated the teachers' employment. We therefore affirm the judgments below.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] Facts Common to Both Cases

[¶4] The Board's standing policy regarding employee residency states:

" All employees hired on or about November 20, 1996, will be required to be actual residents of the City of Chicago within six months from the day their employment begins, except where the employee has been granted a waiver in accordance with the provision of this Policy."

The policy also provides that a teacher who violates the residency rule can be discharged if she fails to establish Chicago residency after receiving a warning resolution from the Board.

[¶5] Waivers are governed by a different Board policy, which states, in part:

" The Board may grant special needs waivers ('special needs waivers') of the residency requirement for new employees hired to positions designated by the Board as special needs positions. Special needs waivers provided for under this section may only be granted at the time of the employee's hire and shall not be granted to existing employees except where the existing ...

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