Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rozsavolgyi v. The City Ofaurora

Supreme Court of Illinois

October 19, 2017

PATRICIA ROZSAVOLGYI et al., Appellants and Cross-Appellees,
v.
THE CITY OFAURORA, Appellee and Cross-Appellant.

          GARMAN JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Karmeier and Justices Kilbride and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          GARMAN JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 On November 13, 2012, plaintiff-appellant Patricia Rozsavolgyi filed a charge of discrimination on the basis of disability with the Illinois Department of Human Rights against the city of Aurora (City). Rozsavolgyi had been employed by the City from 1992 until she was involuntarily discharged on or around July 13, 2012. On November 18, 2013, Rozsavolgyi received a letter informing her that the time limitation for the Department of Human Rights to complete its investigation of the charge had expired and that she had the right to commence a civil action in the appropriate state circuit court. 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(G) (West 2014). On January 22, 2014, Rozsavolgyi filed a four-count complaint in the circuit court of Kane County for civil rights violations in employment under the Illinois Human Rights Act. (775 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq. (West 2014)). On the basis of three interlocutory orders, the circuit court certified three questions for permissive interlocutory review to the appellate court under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308 (eff. Jan 1, 2016). The appellate court allowed permissive interlocutory review and addressed each question. 2016 IL App (2d) 150493. Rozsavolgyi petitioned for rehearing or, alternatively, for a certificate of importance under Rule 316 as to only the third certified question. The appellate court denied Rozsavolgyi's petition for rehearing but granted her request for a certificate of importance to the Illinois Supreme Court. Ill. S. Ct. R. 316 (eff. Dec. 6, 2006). The Illinois Department of Human Rights (Department) was permitted leave to intervene as an additional appellant and to file a brief instanter. 735 ILCS 5/2-408(a)(2) (West 2014).

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Rozsavolgyi's claims are brought under the provisions of the Human Rights Act. 775 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq. (West 2014). The City is an "employer" under the Human Rights Act. See 775 ILCS 5/2-101(B)(1)(c) (West 2014). Count I of Rozsavolgyi's complaint alleges that the City refused to accommodate Rozsavolgyi's disability. Count II alleges disparate treatment. Count III alleges retaliation by the City for Rozsavolgyi's request for a reasonable accommodation. Count IV alleges a hostile work environment on the basis of Rozsavolgyi's disability.

         ¶ 4 The City's answer raised six affirmative defenses and sought the striking and dismissal of counts I through IV. On October 17, 2014, the circuit court struck and dismissed counts I and IV of Rozsavolgyi's complaint for failure to state a cause of action, "finding that disability harassment is not a cause of action under the Illinois Human Rights Act." The City voluntarily withdrew its affirmative defenses aimed at counts I and IV. However, on January 23, 2015, the circuit court granted plaintiff's motion to reconsider, reinstated counts I and IV, and gave the City leave to file amended affirmative defenses.

         ¶ 5 Relevant here, the City's third, fourth, and fifth affirmative defenses are based on the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Tort Immunity Act). 745 ILCS 10/1 et seq. (West 2014). The City is a "local public entity" for purposes of the Tort Immunity Act. 745 ILCS 10/1-206 (West 2014). The City's third affirmative defense invokes supervisory immunity under section 3-108 of the Tort Immunity Act as to counts I and IV. 745 ILCS 10/3-108 (West 2014). The City's fourth affirmative defense asserts discretionary immunity under section 2-201 of the Tort Immunity Act as to counts I and IV. 745 ILCS 10/2-201 (West 2014). The City's fifth affirmative defense asserts immunity as to all counts based on section 2-103 of the Tort Immunity Act, which provides that "[a] local public entity is not liable for an injury caused by adopting or failing to adopt an enactment or by failing to enforce any law." 745 ILCS 10/2-103 (West 2014).

         ¶ 6 Rozsavolgyi filed a motion to strike the City's amended affirmative defenses, and the City filed a motion for a Rule 308(a) finding. The circuit court ordered the parties to brief both motions and scheduled a hearing for April 22, 2015. On April 22, 2015, the circuit court denied Rozsavolgyi's motion to strike the City's first and second affirmative defenses (subject-matter jurisdiction and existence of employer policy) but granted the motion to strike the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth affirmative defenses. The circuit court, however, granted the City's motion for a Rule 308(a) finding and stayed counts II and III pending the interlocutory appeal. On April 29, 2015, the circuit court entered an order finding that the prior interlocutory orders dated October 17, 2014, January 23, 2015, and April 22, 2015, involved questions of law as to which there were substantial grounds for difference of opinion and that an appeal from these orders may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation. The circuit court certified the following questions for permissive interlocutory appellate review under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308:

"1. Does section 2-102(A) of the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibit 'disability harassment' as a civil rights violation? Alternatively, do counts I & IV of Plaintiff's Complaint state cognizable civil rights violations under section 2-102(A) of the Illinois Human Rights Act?
2. If section 2-102(A) of the Illinois Human Rights Act permits a cause of action for disability harassment, does the statutory provision contained in section 2-102(D) of the Illinois Human Rights Act 'that an employer shall be held responsible for sexual harassment of the employer's employees by nonemployees or nonmanagerial and nonsupervisory employees only if the employer becomes aware of the conduct and fails to take reasonable corrective measures' similarly apply to a cause of action for disability harassment brought under section 2-102(A) of the Illinois Human Rights Act?
If yes, does the employee or the employer bear the burden of alleging and proving that the employer is: (a) aware of the conduct by its nonmanagerial and nonsupervisory employees; and (b) fails to take reasonable corrective measures?
If no, can an employer assert the 'Faragher-Ellerth' affirmative defense to a hostile work environment harassment claim brought under section 2-102(A) of the IHRA?
3. Does the Local Government[al] and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/1, et seq., apply to a civil action under the Illinois Human Rights Act where the plaintiff seeks damages, reasonable attorneys' fees and costs?
If yes, should this Court modify, reject or overrule its prior holdings in Streeter v. County of Winnebago, 44 Ill. App. 3d 392, 394-95 (2nd Dist. 1976), Firestone v. Fritz, 119 Ill. App. 3d 685, 689 (2nd Dist. 1983), and People ex rel. Birkett v. City of Chicago, 325 Ill. App. 3d 196, 202 (2nd Dist. 2001) that 'the Tort Immunity Act applies only to tort actions and does not bar actions for constitutional violations'?"

         ¶ 7 The appellate court allowed the City's Rule 308 petition for leave to appeal. A divided panel answered the certified questions as follows: (1) section 2-102(A) of the Human Rights Act prohibits hostile work environment disability harassment, and a reasonable accommodation claim may be brought as a separate claim under that provision; (2) section 2-102(D) of the Human Rights Act applies to hostile work environment disability harassment claims brought under section 2-102(A), and the employee always bears the ultimate burden of persuasion in such a case; and (3) the Tort Immunity Act applies to actions under the Human Rights Act, and the City can assert immunity with respect to plaintiff's request for damages but not to her request for equitable relief. 2016 IL App (2d) 150493, ¶¶ 77, 95, 115. The appellate majority also noted "that the supreme court has impliedly rejected our holdings that the Tort Immunity Act applies only to tort actions" and does not apply to other types of claims in Raintree Homes, Inc. v. Village of Long Grove, 209 Ill. 2d 248');">209 Ill. 2d 248, 261 (2004). 2016 IL App (2d) 150493, ¶ 97. Therefore, the majority did not follow appellate precedent in answering the third certified question.

         ¶ 8 Justice McLaren concurred in part and dissented in part, opining that the legislature did not intend for section 2-102(A) of the Human Rights Act to include any or all types of harassment beyond sexual harassment (id. ¶¶ 121-24) and that the third certified question was not a proper question (id. ¶¶ 125-28). Justice McLaren did not find reasonable grounds for a difference of opinion as to whether the Tort Immunity Act applies to a Human Rights Act claim and that the form of the question implies that the appellate court would be effectively overruling three of its prior decisions. The only reason to depart from appellate court precedent, according to Justice McLaren, would be if the Illinois Supreme Court overruled those actions. Justice McLaren disagreed that this court's opinion in Raintree Homes impliedly rejected previous holdings of the appellate court but that it rather declined to adopt or approve of the appellate court's reasoning. Id. ¶ 127 (citing Raintree Homes, 209 Ill. 2d at 261 ("[W]e do not adopt or approve of the appellate court's reasoning that the Tort Immunity Act categorically excludes actions that do not sound in tort ***.")).

         ¶ 9 Rozsavolgyi petitioned the appellate court for rehearing as to the third certified question. Alternatively, Rozsavolgyi requested that the appellate court certify the third certified question as involving a question of such importance that it should be decided by the Illinois Supreme Court. See Ill. S. Ct. R. 316 (eff. Dec. 6, 2006). The appellate court granted Rozsavolgyi's request for a certificate of importance as to the third certified question.

         ¶ 10 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 11 Rozsavolgyi and the Department argue that the third certified question should not have been answered by the appellate court and that the majority's answer should be vacated because the question was improperly certified by the circuit court under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308(a). Alternatively, if this court finds that the third certified question was properly certified, Rozsavolgyi and the Department assert that it should be answered in the negative and that Streeter v. County of Winnebago, 44 Ill. App. 3d 392 (1976), Firestone v. Fritz, 119 Ill. App. 3d 685 (1983), and People ex rel. Birkett v. City of Chicago, 325 Ill. App. 3d 196');">325 Ill. App. 3d 196 (2001), remain good law.

         ¶ 12 The City contends that the third certified question should be answered in the affirmative and that this court should further hold that the City's tort immunity defenses bar Rozsavolgyi's requested damages relief. The City also argues that the first certified question should be answered in the negative, for counts I and IV to be dismissed, and that this court should hold that Rozsavolgyi's failure to plead and prove that she utilized and complied with the City's anti-harassment/reasonable accommodation policies absolutely bars her from recovering damages resulting from the alleged civil rights violations.

         ¶ 13 Essentially, we are asked to go beyond the third certified question because, under Rule 316, the whole case comes before the supreme court. See Hubble v. Bi-State Development Agency of the Illinois-Missouri Metropolitan District, 238 Ill. 2d 262');">238 Ill. 2d 262, 267 (2010) ("[U]nder Supreme Court Rule 316 [citation], the whole case comes before the supreme court and not only a particular issue."); Ill. S. Ct. R. 318(a) (eff. Feb. 1, 1994) ("In all appeals, by whatever method, from the Appellate Court to the Supreme Court, any appellee *** may seek and obtain any relief warranted by the record on appeal without having filed a separate petition for leave to appeal or notice of cross-appeal or separate appeal."). In response to the City's request that this court address the first certified question, both Rozsavolgyi and the Department ask this court to affirm the appellate court's answer to the first certified question.

         ¶ 14 The threshold question facing this court is to decide which issues presented, if any, to address. Before answering this question, however, we believe it prudent to first examine Illinois Supreme Court Rules 316 and 308, given the unique procedural posture of this case.

         ¶ 15 Illinois Supreme Court Rule 316

         ¶ 16 Illinois Supreme Court Rule 316 provides in relevant part that "[a]ppeals from the Appellate Court shall lie to the Supreme Court upon the certification by the Appellate Court that a case decided by it involves a question of such importance that it should be decided by the Supreme Court." Ill. S. Ct. R. 316 (eff. Dec. 6, 2006). Neither section 4(c) of article 6 of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 nor Illinois Supreme Court Rule 316 addresses the nature of cases that rise to the level of importance warranting review outside the normal appeal process. Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 4; Ill. S. Ct. R. 316 (eff. Dec. 6, 2006). However, albeit a different avenue for appeal to this court, Illinois Supreme Court Rule 315 provides some illumination upon the types of considerations that the Illinois Supreme Court affords weight when determining whether to allow review. Ill. S. Ct. R. 315 (eff. Mar. 15, 2016).

         ¶ 17 As a matter of course, the Illinois Supreme Court determines whether to grant review by exercising its "sound judicial discretion." Ill. S. Ct. R. 315(a) (eff. Mar 15, 2016). Illinois Supreme Court Rule 315 provides a nonexhaustive list of considerations that inform this court's appraisal, including: "the general importance of the question presented; the existence of a conflict between the decision sought to be reviewed and a decision of the Supreme Court, or of another division of the Appellate Court; the need for the exercise of the Supreme Court's supervisory authority; and the final or interlocutory character of the judgment sought to be reviewed." Ill. S. Ct. R. 315(a) (eff. Mar. 15, 2016); Johnson v. Ames, 2016 IL 121563, ¶ 25 (Thomas, J., specially concurring) ("In short, this court's decision to grant review turns largely on whether the issue involved warrants an authoritative resolution of statewide impact or whether it is the type of case whose final resolution we may entrust to the appellate court."). In deciding whether to grant a certificate of importance, an appellate court may do well to look to the factors set forth in Rule 315. See id. ¶ 26.

         ¶ 18 Illinois Supreme Court Rule 316 provides for an exceptional avenue of appeal to this court and should therefore be exercised rarely and only when unequivocally warranted. In re Marriage of O'Brien, 2011 IL 109039, ¶ 58 (Garman, J., specially concurring) ("[T]hat an appeal reaches this court as a matter of right, rather than as a matter of our discretion, does not negate the doctrines of mootness, ripeness, standing, or procedural default. Similarly, the certification of a question to this court does not require this court to answer the question if it is not squarely raised in the case."); John Crane, Inc. v. Admiral Insurance Co., 2013 IL App 093240-B, ¶ 73 ("It is well settled that the appellate court's power to certify a case to the supreme court should be used very sparingly. [Citation.] Our supreme court is in a better position than this court to determine whether it should accept this case for further review."); People v. Cherry Valley Public Library District, 356 Ill. App. 3d 893');">356 Ill. App. 3d 893, 900 (2005) ("While this case is one of first impression and of obvious importance ***, it is also a relatively straight forward case. Thus, we deem it best that defendant proceeds through usual channels and seeks leave to appeal from the supreme court."); People v. Lemons, 210 Ill. App. 3d 33, 40-41 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.