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Shakman v. Democratic Organization of Cook County

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 26, 2017

MICHAEL L. SHAKMAN, et al. Plaintiffs,


          SIDNEY I. SCHENKIER United States Magistrate Judge.

         On November 18, 2014, this Court appointed a Special Master to investigate and make recommendations with respect to the Illinois Department of Transportation's ("IDOT's") compliance with the 1972 Consent Decree in this case ("Shakman Decree") (doc. # 4020: Special Master Order). The Special Master was appointed due to "the pervasive misuse by IDOT of a position labeled as exempt-that of Staff Assistant-by hiring people into that position and then having them perform non-exempt work." Shakman v. Democratic Org. of Cook Cty., No. 69 C 2145, 2016 WL 7007507, at *1 (N.D. III. Nov. 28, 2016). The Governor has now filed a motion seeking an order clarifying how, when considering current or future applications by Staff Assistants ("SAs") for Rutan-covexed positions, IDOT should treat the knowledge and experience they gained while they were employed as SAs (doc. # 4993: Governor's Mot. to Clarify at 8).[1] On May 1, 2017, we invited counsel for the Shakman class plaintiffs, the Special Master and the union that represents many former SAs (Teamsters Local 916, or the "Teamsters") to file memoranda expressing their views on the issues raised by the Governor's motion (doc. # 5000). Plaintiffs and the Teamsters have filed responses to the Governor's motion; the Special Master has elected not to file a response memorandum.

         We grant the motion for clarification and provide below the Court's guidance on this issue.


         We begin with a brief review of the relevant federal court, state court, and IDOT proceedings that preceded the Governor's motion to clarify.


         As relevant here, the Shakman Decree permanently enjoined the Governor and other government agencies and their successors in office "from directly or indirectly, in whole or in part: (1) conditioning, basing or knowingly prejudicing or affecting any term or aspect of governmental employment, with respect to one who is at the time already a governmental employee, upon or because of any political reason or factor. . . . [and] knowingly, inducing, aiding, abetting, participating in, cooperating with or encouraging the commission of any act which is proscribed by this paragraph E, or threatening to commit any such act." Shakman, et. al. v. Democratic Organization of Cook County, et, al, 481 F.Supp. 1315, 1358 (N.D. 111. 1979) (69 C 2145: Consent Judgment, May 5, 1972, at ¶ E (Appendix)). This injunction was extended to prohibit government officials from conditioning hiring decisions on an applicant's political affiliation, with limited exceptions for policy-making positions. Shakman v. City of Chicago, 426 F.3d 925, 936 n.9 (7th Cir. 2005) (discussing history of Shakman Decree).

         In 2011, the Office of Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Illinois Governor ("OEIG") began investigating IDOT for hiring practices which violated Rutan (see doc. # 3944: OEIG Amicus Curiae at 7). After three-plus years of investigation, the OEIG's final report was published on August 22, 2014 (Id.). The OEIG concluded that "IDOT used a putatively Rutan-exempt 'Staff Assistant' position to improperly hire personnel in circumvention of the merit-based process required for hiring personnel into non-exempt (or Rutan-coveved) positions" (Id. at 8). Labeling the SA position as exempt allowed IDOT to fill the SA position based on political affiliation or other non-merit based considerations even though IDOT generally assigned persons in SA positions to perform duties outside those set forth in the SA position description, all or most of which would not support exempt status (Id. at 7-8).

         In her own investigation of IDOT's hiring practices, the Special Master has concluded that "certain individuals within the Governor's Office and a limited number of Elected Officials or their staff members manipulated the Rutan-exempt process to favor politic ally-connected candidates without regard to actual hiring need or candidates' qualifications to perform the stated duties of the Rutan-exempt jobs into which they were hired, " including, but not limited to, IDOT and the Staff Assistant position (doc. # 4988: Fifth Report of the Special Master (04/24/2017) at 88). The Special Master found that the Governor's office and IDOT have taken "significant steps toward eliminating some the problematic employment practices, " but that additional reforms and remedies are needed (Id. at 89). The Special Master continues to investigate and monitor IDOT's employment practices for potential Rutan violations and continues to monitor implementation of previous recommendations and make additional recommendations on an ongoing basis (see doc. # 5069: Sixth Report of Special Master (06/06/2017) at 1).


         In August 2014, IDOT issued layoff notices to all employees who held SA positions (Mot. to Clarify at 3). Shortly thereafter, Teamsters Local 916 filed a lawsuit against IDOT and the Governor's office in state court to prevent the layoffs ("the Teamsters litigation"); during the pendency of that lawsuit, the implementation of the layoffs was suspended (Id.). The parties reached a settlement approved by the state court, as memorialized in the following agreements.

         The first agreement was concluded in September 2015 and adopted in a state court order (Mot. to Clarify, Ex. 1: 9/14/2015 Stipulation). The agreement provides that SAs would be allowed to continue their employment at IDOT during a "hiring period, " which would begin in September 2015 and continue until IDOT posted for hire and filled at least 60 Rutan-covered, Teamster Local 916 bargaining unit positions (Id., at ¶¶ 10, 13). The SAs would be allowed to bid and interview for these positions (Id., at ¶ 14). "If a Staff Assistant obtains a score equal to or greater than other applicants for a particular position, then the Staff Assistant shall be awarded the position" (Id.). However, if the SA was not selected after interviewing for a posted position and the SA's final score exceeded that of the selected candidate, the Teamsters could challenge the selection, and "[a]bsent extenuating circumstances, the remedy can include awarding the staff assistant the contested position" (Id., at ¶ 16). At the end of the hiring period, all SAs who were not selected for a position would be subject to layoff and the SA title would be abolished, but during a three year recall period, SAs would be notified of and entitled to bid and interview for "those open positions for which they are qualified" (Id., at ¶ 17).

         The September 14, 2015 stipulation stated that IDOT would not create new positions "solely for the purpose of aligning the duties of that position to the duties any Staff Assistant currently performs or otherwise give any Staff Assistant a real or perceived advantage in being hired for a position" (9/14/2015 Stipulation, at ¶ 8). In addition, SAs had no "right to be selected for a position based on duties performed during the hiring period" (Id., at ¶ 18). On September 21, 2015, IDOT and the Teamsters further agreed that any employee who was appointed or hired into a position at IDOT that was designated as Rutan-exempt at the time of appointment or hire and is covered under the collective bargaining agreement: "[s]hall not be transferred, voluntary reduced, job-assigned or promoted into any position that is Rutan-covered without bidding and interviewing for such Rutan-covered position" (Mot, to Clarify, Ex. 3: 9/21/2015 Mem. of Agreement).

         On April 8, 2016, the parties to the Teamsters litigation agreed to a Revised Stipulation (Mot. to Clarify, Ex. 2: Revised Stipulation). The Revised Stipulation stated, in relevant part, that the hiring period began on September 30, 2015, and would continue until the 60 Rutan-covered, Teamster Local 916 bargaining unit positions, plus ten additional such positions, were posted and filled (Id., at ¶¶ 10-12). SAs would be allowed to bid for these positions as stated in the original stipulation (Id., at ¶ 14). The Revised Stipulation stated that it was intended to fulfill the recommendations made by the Special Master, and that IDOT was not aware of any respect in which the Revised Stipulation was inconsistent with any actions taken or recommendations made by the Special Master (Id., at ¶ 6). In this opinion, we refer collectively to the stipulations and the memorandum of agreement in the Teamsters litigation as the "Teamsters Agreements."


         The Governor filed the instant motion to clarify after an individual, referred to by the parties as "John Doe, " applied and interviewed for a position as a Rail Operations Inspector (Mot. to Clarify at 1). In 2011, Doe's legal guardian was appointed to the Illinois Labor Relations Board by the Governor of Illinois. Later that year, though he had no relevant experience and no job opening was posted, Doe was hired to be an SA (Mot. to Clarify at 2, citing doc. # 4988: Special Master 5th Report at 52-53). Doe never performed the duties listed in the SA job description; instead, he performed mostly administrative duties until sometime between June 2013 and 2014, when he began performing the duties of a Rail Operations Inspector (Mot. to Clarify at 3). In August 2014, Doe received a layoff notice from IDOT (Id.). After the Teamsters litigation began, Doe's ...

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