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The Forest Preserve District of Cook County v. Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

February 7, 2017


          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 15 CH 12836, The Honorable Kathleen M. Pantle, Judge, presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE HYMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Pierce and Mason concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council (Union) appeals an order of the circuit court of Cook County vacating an arbitrator's award that involved salary increases for newly promoted sergeants of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (District). The parties' collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was silent on the issue; the sole governing authority, the Cook County Personnel Rules (Cook County Personnel Rules (rev. Jan. 24, 2007)) (Personnel Rules), provided the method for determining the sergeants' salaries after promotions. The circuit court found that the arbitrator failed to properly apply the county Personnel Rules and instead, as to almost all employees, erroneously based the salary decision on the employee's length of service with the District. The circuit court found that because the arbitrator's award did not "draw its essence" from the CBA and there was no "interpretive route" to the arbitrator's award, the award must be vacated. We agree in all respects and affirm.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 The Union represents a bargaining unit of sergeants employed by the District. The Union filed two grievances regarding the placement of newly promoted patrol officers on the sergeant's salary schedule. The Union argued that newly promoted sergeants should be placed on the sergeant's salary schedule based on their years of service with the District. The District maintained the Personnel Rules governed. Those rules provide that a newly promoted sergeant's salary is comparable to a two step increase on the patrol officer's salary schedule, regardless of his or her tenure with the District.

         ¶ 4 The CBA between the parties applicable to these grievances did not include a provision addressing the placement of newly promoted sergeants on the salary schedule. But, the CBA's "District Rights" section states:

"The [Union] recognizes that the District has the full authority and responsibility for directing its operations and determining policy. The District reserves unto itself all powers, rights, authority, duties and responsibilities conferred upon it and vested in it by the Statutes of Illinois, and to adopt and apply all rules, regulations and policies as it may deem necessary to carry out its statutory responsibilities; provided, however, that the District shall abide by and be limited only by the specific and express terms of this Agreement, to the extent permitted by law. *** The powers and authority which the District has not specifically abridged, delegated or modified by this Agreement are retained by the District."

         ¶ 5 Under the Cook County Forest Preserve District Act, the District must follow the Personnel Rules. 70 ILCS 810/17 (West 2014).[1] Rule 2.07 of the Personnel Rules provides that "An employee who is promoted to a job in a higher salary grade shall be entitled to placement in the step of the new salary grade which will provide a salary increase at least two steps above the salary received at the time the promotion is made." Cook County Personnel Rule 2.07 (rev. Jan. 24, 2007). Rule 2.07 also states that "the effective date [of the promotion] will [constitute] a new anniversary date" (id.), and rule 2.04 requires employees "to work for a minimum of one year at each [salary] step" (Cook County Personnel Rule 2.04(a) (rev. Jan. 24, 2007)).

         ¶ 6 After the hearing, the arbitrator became ill and withdrew. The replacement, James R. Cox, reviewed the transcript, exhibits, and briefs and issued the award.

         ¶ 7 At the hearing, a human resources analyst testified that in administering rule 2.07 and determining the salary grade for newly promoted sergeants, human resources personnel would find the employee's salary grade on his or her current salary schedule, then move over two steps higher before matching the salary on the promoted salary schedule. An attorney for the District explained the process for an officer who had been with the District for 10 years at the time of promotion to sergeant. The officers' grade levels are referred to as "steps." In 2012, a 10-year patrol officer was at the seventh step and earning $27.018 per hour. When a 10-year patrol officer was promoted to sergeant, the human resource department calculated the new salary by moving over two steps on the patrol officer's scale, which provided for an hourly salary of $29.206 per hour. Then that salary would be matched to the next highest salary on the sergeant schedule, which at that time, was $29.791 per hour and was the sixth step on the sergeant schedule. Thus, although the employee was promoted and received a salary increase, his or her position on the grading scale went from 7 on the patrol officer scale to 6 on the sergeant scale.

         ¶ 8 Arbitrator Cox's decision and award sustained the Union's grievances. Arbitrator Cox acknowledged that the CBA "does not contain any reference to or application for placement of Employees on Salary Schedules after a promotion" and that the "Cook County Personnel Rules constitute the sole governing authority with respect to proper placement of promoted Patrol Officers on the Sergeant's Salary Schedule as well as their Step placement after each successive work anniversary." But, Arbitrator Cox found that rule 2.07 sets forth a "minimum increase, " because it states that the new salary grade will provide a salary "at least two Steps above the salary received at the time the promotion was made." (Emphasis in original.)

         ¶ 9 Arbitrator Cox also found that historically, with a few exceptions, the District based salary schedules on total longevity with the District, not on longevity as a sergeant. Thus, Arbitrator Cox concluded that in most cases, the District improperly applied rule 2.07 and ordered that the sergeants be placed on the schedule based on their longevity with the District. One exception was Sergeant Amanda Kennedy. Arbitrator Cox found that the District had properly followed rule 2.07 by placing Kennedy on the salary schedule two steps above her then current patrol officer salary. (It appears rule 2.07 was applied to at least one other newly promoted sergeant, and Arbitrator Cox noted there was no contention he "was not properly placed in the correct Step.")

         ¶ 10 The District filed a complaint to vacate the arbitrator's award, arguing that the award (i) does not "draw its essence" from the CBA but instead was based on his personal view that longevity with the District should be the deciding factor, and (ii) there is no possible interpretive route to the ...

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