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.

Filipek v. Oakton Community College

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

February 27, 2018

DANIEL M. FILIPEK, Plaintiff,
v.
OAKTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE, Defendant. DONALD A. KRZYZAK, Plaintiff,
v.
OAKTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE, Defendant. BARRY H. DAYTON, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated Plaintiff,
v.
OAKTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE, MARGARET B. LEE, JOIANNE SMITH, MICHAEL ANTHONY, KARL BROOKS, MAYA EVANS, TOM HAMEL, COLETTE HANDS, BONNIE LUCAS, and MUM MARTENS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MATTHEW F KENNELLY United States District Judge

         In November 2014, Oakton Community College announced that as of July 1, 2015, it would no longer employ any person receiving an annuity from the State Universities Retirement System (SURS). Affected SURS annuitants-all of whom worked at Oakton as part-time, or adjunct, faculty members prior to July 2015-filed three separate lawsuits against Oakton. Daniel Filipek and Donald Krzyzak have each alleged that Oakton's decision not to employ SURS annuitants violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 623, and the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), 775 ILCS 5/2-102. Barry Dayton has filed a related suit against Oakton and a number of past and present administrators on behalf of himself and a class of similarly situated persons. In addition to alleging violations of the ADEA, Dayton alleges that Oakton's decision not to employ any SURS annuitants violates section 5 of Article XIII of the Illinois Constitution. Dayton also asserts a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as a claim for retaliatory discharge under Illinois tort law.

         The Court consolidated all three lawsuits against Oakton and, in May 2017, granted Dayton's motion for collective and class certification. The certified class consists of "all part-time and adjunct faculty who were denied employment at Oakton Community College as the result of its policy not to employ or re-employ State Universities Retirement System annuitants and who are not 'affected annuitants' pursuant to 40 ILCS 5/15-139.5(b)(2)." Dayton v. Oakton Cmty. Coll., No. 16 C 6812, 2017 WL 2152419, at *7 (N.D. Ill. May 17, 2017).

         The defendants (collectively, "Oakton") have moved for summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Oakton's motion.

         Background

         Oakton Community College is a two-year community college with campuses in Des Plaines and Skokie, Illinois. Oakton employs both full-time and part-time faculty. Included within Oakton's part-time faculty are adjunct faculty members who generally teach at least six credit hours in a given semester and are represented via the 2014-2017 Adjunct Faculty Association Collective Bargaining Agreement. Through the department chairs and coordinators, the deans of Oakton's various academic divisions offer adjunct faculty course assignments on a term-by-term basis. The maximum number of lecture hour equivalents (LHEs) an adjunct faculty member can teach during the academic year is 27. In addition to course assignments, adjunct faculty members may receive tutoring assignments, for which they are compensated on an hourly basis. Tutoring assignments do not count toward adjunct faculty's LHEs. Adjunct faculty also may receive additional pay for substitute teaching and attending meetings.

         As a public community college, Oakton participates in the State Universities Retirement System. SURS provides retirement benefits to eligible employees of state universities and public community colleges. SURS-eligible employees make financial contributions to SURS until their retirement, at which point they may begin to collect a retirement annuity from SURS. Most SURS participants are not eligible to draw a SURS retirement annuity until they are at least 55 years old. See 40 ILCS 5/15-135. SURS participants who return to work for a covered university or community college after they have retired and begun collecting a SURS annuity ("SURS annuitants") are subject to earnings limitations. Under Illinois' Return to Work law, if a SURS annuitant who retired before reaching the age of 60 receives monthly compensation in excess of her monthly retirement annuity for "services performed after the date of retirement" for any employer covered by SURS, she is not entitled to the portion of her monthly annuity that is funded by employer contributions. See 40 ILCS 5/15-139(b). If, during any academic year after retirement, an annuitant who retired at age 60 or over receives compensation that exceeds the difference between her highest annual pre-retirement earnings and her annual retirement annuity, the portion of the monthly retirement annuity that is provided by employer contributions is reduced accordingly. Id.

         In 2012, the Illinois legislature amended the Return to Work law. The amended version of the law imposes a number of reporting requirements on SURS-covered educational institutions related to the employment and compensation of SURS annuitants. Specifically, covered institutions that employ or re-employ SURS annuitants are required to determine whether they are "affected annuitant[s]" under the statute. 40 ILCS 5/15-139.5(a). An employee who receives a SURS retirement annuity of at least $10, 000 per year[1] "becomes an 'affected annuitant' on the first day of the academic year following the [first] academic year in which the annuitant" returns to work for a covered institution and earns compensation (excluding certain types of grants) in excess of 40 percent of her highest annual pre-retirement earnings. 40 ILCS 5/15-139.5(b)(2)-(3). A covered university or community college that employs an affected annuitant after August 1, 2013 is required to make an "employer contribution" to SURS equal to 12 times the amount of the gross monthly retirement annuity payable to that annuitant. 40 ILCS 5/15-139.5(e). Once an employee becomes an affected annuitant, she remains an affected annuitant unless she returns to active service and stops receiving a SURS annuity or receives a SURS annuity that is less than $10, 000 for the year. 40 ILCS 5/15-139.5(b).

         Until July 1, 2015, Oakton often employed as adjunct faculty members retirees who had previously worked for Oakton or other covered educational institutions and thus were receiving a SURS retirement annuity. In response to the changes in the Return to Work law, however, the college decided not to employ or re-employ any affected annuitants as of the fall of 2014. Oakton's human resources department was tasked with monitoring SURS annuitants' earnings limitations and course loads for compliance with the Return to Work law. To this end, Craig Ahrndt, assistant to the chief human resources officer, created a spreadsheet to monitor identified annuitants' course loads and track their earnings limitations, including the new limit on earnings in excess of 40 percent of an annuitant's highest annual pre-retirement earnings (the 40 percent limitation). Mercedes Lizalde, a human resources specialist, began monitoring annuitants' earnings in spring or summer of 2013. Instead of monitoring both the overall earnings limitation and the 40 percent limitation for each annuitant, Lizalde monitored only the overall earnings limitations for annuitants who retired before the age of 60. Consequently, Oakton unwittingly employed three affected annuitants after September 1, 2014. In October 2014, Lizalde discovered these errors and informed Mum Martens, Oakton's chief human resources officer, that the college would be required to pay SURS approximately $75, 000 in employer contributions as a result.

         Sometime thereafter, then-president Margaret (Peg) Lee decided that Oakton would no longer employ any SURS annuitants, regardless of whether any individual annuitant posed a risk of becoming an affected annuitant for purposes of the Return to Work law. The President's Council-which consisted of Oakton's vice presidents for academic affairs, student affairs, information technology, and business, the assistant vice presidents, and the chief human resources officer-discussed the issue at a meeting. The council specifically discussed the fact that some SURS annuitants were not at risk of becoming affected annuitants under the Return to Work law in light of the caps on adjunct compensation and the number of LHEs adjunct faculty were allowed to teach per semester. The council also discussed, however, the concern that it would be fiscally irresponsible to continue running the risk that a monitoring error could again result in the employment of an affected annuitant, potentially costing Oakton thousands of dollars. The council ultimately agreed that it was too great of a burden to employ any SURS annuitant, regardless of whether he or she was likely to become an affected annuitant.

         In November 2014, the college announced its decision to discontinue the employment of all SURS annuitants effective July 1, 2015, except where the college's president determined that there was a specific and unique need. In a November 2014 e-mail to all SURS annuitants employed by the college, Martens explained that the decision was based on "challenges" in maintaining a system to monitor annuitants' earnings and "concerns about SURS' administration and enforcement" of the Return to Work law. Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts Ex. K at 104. A number of adjunct faculty members who were SURS annuitants, but not affected annuitants, urged the college to reconsider its decision and subsequently filed grievances through the Oakton Community College Adjunct Faculty Association (OCCAFA). They were unsuccessful. Ultimately, over 80 SURS annuitants-all of whom were age 55 or older-lost their jobs at the college as a result of the decision.

         Plaintiffs contend that the defendants' decision to terminate the employment of all SURS annuitants based on their status as annuitants violates the ADEA, IHRA, and the Illinois Constitution. They also assert a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a retaliatory discharge claim. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all claims.

         Discussion

         Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed R. Civ. P. 56(a); Nicholson v. City of Peoria, 860 F.3d 520, 522 (7th Cir. 2017). On a motion for summary judgment, the Court views all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. Carson v. Lake County, 865 F.3d 526, 532 (7th Cir. 2017). Courts must be especially cautious in applying the summary judgment standard to employment discrimination cases, because such cases often will turn on intent and credibility issues. See Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000). Nonetheless, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties" is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986)). "[A] genuine issue of material fact exists only if there is enough evidence that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party." Brown v. Advocate S. Suburban Hosp., 700 F.3d 1101, 1104 (7th Cir. 2012).

         A. ADEA and IHRA age ...


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.