United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
GABRIELLE WILLIAMS and TONYA O'DONOVAN, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated, known and unknown, Plaintiffs,
TGI FRIDAYS, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Williams and Tonya O'Donovan are two former employees of
TGI Friday's (TGIF). On behalf of a putative class of
ex-employees, the plaintiffs allege that TGIF violated the
Illinois Wage Payment Collection Act (IWPCA) by failing to
compensate them for unused paid vacation benefits they
contend they had accrued. Williams and O'Donovan have
moved to certify a class of similarly situated plaintiffs.
TGIF has moved for summary judgment on Williams and
O'Donovan's claim. TGIF has also asked the Court to
exclude the plaintiffs' expert witness.
operated restaurants in Illinois until November 2015. Between
2008 and 2015, it employed over 9, 000 hourly employees who
no longer work for the company. Two of those
employees-Williams and O'Donovan-contend that TGIF
violated the IWPCA by refusing to compensate them, upon their
termination, for earned but unused vacation pay.
2012, TGIF amended its vacation policy by changing the date
on which it began to measure an employee's annual hours:
previously it was the date the employee was hired; henceforth
it would be the first day of the fiscal year. But, on the
substantive points, the pre-2012 and post-2012 policies
otherwise concur: an employee is entitled to vacation pay in
the current year if, at the end of the previous year, that
employee was still employed and had worked in excess of 1,
300 hours in that year. Williams worked at TGIF from March
18, 2010 to April 14, 2012. She worked 1, 032 hours in her
first year of employment and 275 hours in her second year of
employment. O'Donovan worked at TGIF from January 10,
2014 to April 18, 2015. She worked 1, 781 hours in her first
year of employment and 466 hours during the second year.
Because O'Donovan worked more than 1, 300 hours in her
first year, she was eligible for paid vacation in her second
year. After she left TGIF, she was compensated for the unused
portion of that vacation time but not for vacation time that
she contends accrued during her second year of work for TGIF.
contends that TGIF violated the IWPCA by failing to
compensate her for vacation time she claims to have earned
during her tenure at TGIF. O'Donovan contends TGIF
violated the IWPCA by failing to pay her for paid vacation
she contends she accrued during her second year at TGIF.
O'Donovan also alleges that TGIF improperly delayed in
paying her the vacation compensation she was owed, but that
claim is not at issue in the present motion for partial
has moved for summary judgment on the plaintiffs' claims
except as noted above. The moving party is entitled to
summary judgment when there is "no genuine issue as to
any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
plaintiffs contend that TGIF wrongly deprived them of earned
vacation benefits when it concluded they did not meet the
program's requirements and were ineligible for paid
vacation. Within this contention by plaintiffs are two
assumptions that TGIF challenges: (1) the plaintiffs were
eligible to participate in TGIF's vacation program in the
first place, and (2) the plaintiffs earned the paid vacation
time in question, rather than being potentially eligible to
receive it as an incentive. The Court does not address the
second assumption because it concludes that TGIF is entitled
to summary judgment given the infirmity of the first
assumption. The plaintiffs were not eligible for the vacation
pay in question to begin with, so TGIF never owed them
vacation pay that would give rise to an IWPCA claim.
IWPCA requires an employer to pay an employee all final
compensation upon the employee's departure, 820 ILCS
115/5 (2018), but "[it] does not apply if there is no
final compensation to collect." Covinsky v. Hannah
Marine Corp., 388 Ill.App.3d 478, 487, 903 N.E.2d 422,
430 (2009). "Whether an employee [is entitled to] paid
vacation in the first place depends on the terms of the
employer's employment policy." McCaster v.
Darden Rests., Inc., 845 F.3d 794, 798 (7th Cir. 2017).
operates a vacation policy in which eligible employees are
entitled to paid vacation. To be eligible for paid vacation
in the upcoming year, an individual must have worked more
than 1, 300 hours in the previous year and must be employed
with TGIF when the vacation hours for the upcoming year are
disbursed. D.E. 77, Def.'s Ex. 4 (Pre-2012 Carlson
Policy); D.E. 77, Def.'s Ex. 5 (Post-2012 Carlson
Policy). The issue before the Court is whether the
plaintiffs-who worked fewer than 1, 300 hours during the
relevant years, were no longer employed when the vacation
benefits were disbursed, or both-were eligible to participate
in TGIF's paid vacation program.
McCaster, the Seventh Circuit affirmed a grant of
summary judgment against the plaintiff, finding that the
plaintiff did not have a viable IWPCA claim because she was
never eligible for vacation compensation as a part-time
employee. Id. at 799. Darden Restaurants, the
employer, extended vacation benefits only to full-time
employees, which it defined as employees who worked at least
thirty hours per week. Id. at 797. The plaintiff in
Darden argued that she earned vacation hours as a
part-time employee and that Darden failed to compensate her
for these hours. Id. at 797-98. The court concluded
that the terms of Darden's policy excluded part-time
employees like the plaintiff from participation in the
program altogether, so the court affirmed the entry of
summary judgment against the plaintiff. Id.
contends that the plaintiffs' claim is foreclosed by
McCaster. Like the employer in McCaster,
TGIF has eligibility requirements for its paid vacation
program. According to TGIF, the plaintiffs did not meet those
requirements, so they are not entitled to the vacation pay
they seek. Def.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. at
11-13. The plaintiffs argue that McCaster is
inapposite, because TGIF does not distinguish between
full-time and part-time employees in its eligibility
requirements. Pls.' Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. at 11-12.
plaintiffs' response misses the point. In
McCaster, the Seventh Circuit did not emphasize that
full-time employees were eligible for vacation
benefits, it emphasized that there were eligibility
requirements for vacation benefits. An employer is free
to set eligibility requirements for the vacation policy
employed beyond whether an employee is part-time or
full-time. As the court emphasized, an employee may only
present an IWPCA claim for paid vacation "earned in
accordance with such contract of employment or
policy." McCaster, 845 F.3d at 798
(quoting 820 ILCS 115/5) (emphasis in original). The terms of
the IWPCA do not constrain an employer from drafting a
vacation contract or ...