WILLIAM R. SEEMAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
WES KOCHEL, INC., Defendant-Appellee.
from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will
County, Illinois, Appeal No. 3-15-0640 Circuit No. 14-MR-1925
Honorable John Anderson, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE McDADE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justice Holdridge specially concurred, with opinion.
1 Plaintiff, William R. Seeman, appeals from the trial
court's order granting summary judgment for defendant,
Wes Kochel, Inc. Plaintiff argues the court erred in granting
defendant's motion for summary judgment because the
court's ruling was not supported by the Volunteer
Emergency Worker Job Protection Act (Volunteer Act) (50 ILCS
748/1 et seq. (West 2014)) or the common law and
public policy. We affirm.
3 Plaintiff filed a complaint that alleged two claims of
retaliatory discharge. The first count alleged retaliatory
discharge based on a violation of the Volunteer Act
(id.). The second claim alleged retaliatory
discharge based on the common-law theory that plaintiff's
discharge was in contravention of public policy.
4 In count I of the complaint, plaintiff alleged that he was
hired by defendant in July 2012. Plaintiff was also a
volunteer firefighter for the Rockdale Fire Protection
District (District). On the morning of January 15, 2014,
plaintiff was scheduled to work for defendant. Before
plaintiff's shift, he responded to a fire call, and
afterwards he reported for his shift. Wes Kochel, a relative
of defendant,  informed plaintiff that his employment
with defendant had been terminated for being tardy. Plaintiff
told Kochel he could not be terminated based on his actions
as a volunteer firefighter because he was protected by the
Volunteer Act. Kochel said he did not care and continued the
termination process. Plaintiff alleged that he was terminated
for engaging in an activity protected by the Volunteer Act
and sought reinstatement and a monetary judgment in excess of
5 In count II, plaintiff realleged many of the allegations
from count I, including that defendant terminated his
employment after he attended a fire call on January 15, 2014,
and, as a result, was tardy for work. Plaintiff further
alleged that he was "retaliated against because of his
protected activity" and his "termination was in
violation of public policy of the State of Illinois."
Due to his unlawful termination, plaintiff suffered loss of
earnings and benefits and sought a judgment in excess of $10,
6 Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment that alleged
there were no genuine issues of material fact. 735 ILCS
5/2-1005(c) (West 2014). In the motion, defendant argued that
plaintiff was not protected by the Volunteer Act because he
received more than $240 in compensation from the District and
he was not discharged in violation of public policy.
7 In support of its motion, defendant attached, as
defendant's exhibit A, plaintiff's response to
defendant's Illinois Supreme Court Rule 213 (eff. Jan. 1,
2007) interrogatories. In the interrogatories, plaintiff said
he began volunteering for the District on March 3, 2011.
Plaintiff was paid "incentive pay" in the following
amounts: $492.50 in 2011, $842.50 in 2012, $1142.50 in 2013,
and $1035 in 2014. Plaintiff said the pay was based on the
number of calls he responded to and the training he attended.
On January 15, 2014, at 6:45 a.m., plaintiff notified
defendant via pager that he was attending a fire call.
Plaintiff was scheduled to work for defendant at 8 a.m.
Plaintiff returned to work around 12:30 p.m.
8 Defendant's exhibit B included plaintiff's response
to defendant's request to produce documents. The
documents included plaintiff's 2014 W-2 from the
District, which showed he received "Wages, tips, other
comp" in the amount of $1035. The documents also
included a letter from the District that stated the District
compensates each volunteer firefighter for training and calls
attended and, at the end of the year, each firefighter
receives a check for "their time served." In
response to a subpoena, the District provided its 2013 and
2014 payroll report for plaintiff and a copy of a check
issued to plaintiff.
9 The court granted summary judgment for defendant finding it
was "bound by language of [the Volunteer Act] and [the
Fire Protection District Act (Protection Act) (70 ILCS 705/6
(West 2014))]; it is not the court's role to rewrite
statutes to make them more equitable or sensible. That is the
legislature's role." Plaintiff appeals.
11 I. Summary Judgment
12 Plaintiff argues summary judgment was inappropriate
because (1) the court's ruling was based on an erroneous
and restricted view of the Volunteer Act and (2) at the time
of his termination, plaintiff was engaged in an activity that
is protected under the common law. We reject both arguments
13 Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings,
depositions, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law." 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(c) (West
2014). "[S]ummary judgment is not appropriate: (1) if
'there is a dispute as to a material fact'
(Jackson v. TLC Associates, Inc., 185 Ill.2d 418,
424 (1998)), (2) if 'reasonable persons could draw
divergent inferences from the undisputed material facts'
(id.), or (3) if 'reasonable persons could
differ on the weight to be given the relevant factors' of
a legal standard (Calles v. Scripto-Tokai Corp., 224
Ill.2d 247, 269 (2007))." Seymour v. ...