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Oak Lawn Professional Firefighters Association v. The Village of Oak Lawn

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

July 18, 2018

OAK LAWN PROFESSIONAL FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION, LOCAL 3405, IAFF, on Behalf of Its Members, and WILLIAM ROSER, TIMOTHY RADKE, and TODD STANFORD, Individually and on Behalf of All Similarly Situated Individuals, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
THE VILLAGE OF OAK LAWN, a Municipal Corporation, THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE VILLAGE OF OAK LAWN, TIM DESMOND, in HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, ALEX G. OLEJNICZAK, in His Official Capacity, ROBERT J. STREIT, in HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, TERRY VORDERER, in His Official Capacity, WILLIAM R. STALKER, in His Official Capacity, MIKE CARBERRY, in His Official Capacity, MAYOR SANDRA BURY, in Her Official Capacity, and VILLAGE MANAGER LARRY DEETJEN, in His Official Capacity, Defendants-Appellants.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 16 CH 9908 The Honorable Sanjay T. Tailor, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE FITZGERALD SMITH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Cobbs and Justice Lavin concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          FITZGERALD SMITH JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 This appeal involves an action for declaratory judgment and for review of an award in interest arbitration proceedings under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (Labor Relations Act) (5 ILCS 315/1 et seq. (West 2016)). It arises out of the negotiations for a 2015-2017 collective bargaining agreement between the Oak Lawn Professional Firefighters Association, Local 3405, IAFF (Union) and the Village of Oak Lawn (Village). During those negotiations, the Union and the Village were unable to agree on a residency requirement for employees to be covered by the collective bargaining agreement. Their failure to agree led to the issue being submitted to interest arbitration. While that was pending, the Union and three of its members filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment that section 10-2.1-6.3(c) of the Illinois Municipal Code prohibited the Village from imposing residency requirements on current employees covered by the collective bargaining agreement. 65 ILCS 5/10-2.1-6.3(c) (West 2016).

         ¶ 2 After this case was filed but before the trial court ruled on the declaratory judgment, the interest arbitrator issued an award providing that covered employees were required to live within the state of Illinois. However, the award further provided that, in light of this litigation, if the court ultimately held that Illinois law permitted covered employees to reside outside of Illinois, the provision of the award requiring such employees to live within the state would be null and void. The trial court ultimately granted the declaratory judgment sought by the plaintiffs and ruled that section 10-2.1-6.3(c) of the Municipal Code prohibited residency requirements from being imposed on covered employees who were hired prior to the issuance of the interest arbitrator's award. The trial court thus reversed the interest arbitrator's award requiring in-state residency for covered employees. This appeal followed.

         ¶ 3 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 The plaintiffs in this case are the Union and three of its members. The three individual plaintiffs are residents of Indiana, and each of them has been employed by the Village in its fire service for over 20 years. The defendants in this case are the Village, its board of trustees, and various of its officers. For ease of reference, the defendants collectively will be referred to as "the Village."

         ¶ 5 Since 1981, the Union and the Village have been parties to a series of collective bargaining agreements. None of those collective bargaining agreements has ever included residency requirements for firefighters. As the Union and the Village were negotiating the terms of their 2015-2017 collective bargaining agreement, the Village presented various proposals seeking to add a residency requirement for firefighters. The Union rejected all the Village's proposals. Instead, the Union insisted upon the continuation of the status quo, which was that the collective bargaining agreement remain silent on the issue and therefore contain no residency requirements.

         ¶ 6 As the parties were not able to reach an agreement on this and other issues, they proceeded to compulsory interest arbitration as provided by section 14 of the Labor Relations Act. 5 ILCS 315/14 (West 2016). At the outset of those proceedings, the Union disputed that residency requirements were an issue about which it had a duty to bargain. Its position was that the issue of whether residency requirements could be imposed on current employees who were not previously subject to them was a matter specifically provided for by section 10-2.1-6.3(c) of the Municipal Code. 65 ILCS 5/10-2.1-6.3(c) (West 2016). The pertinent provision of that statute states, "Residency requirements in effect at the time an individual enters the fire service of a municipality cannot be made more restrictive for that individual during his or her period of service for that municipality, or be made a condition of promotion ***." Id.

         ¶ 7 The Village's position was that its residency proposal was an issue about which the Union had a duty to bargain. Its position was that the issue was controlled by section 14(i) of the Labor Relations Act, which provides in pertinent part that, with respect to firefighters, "the arbitration decision shall be limited to wages, hours, and conditions of employment (*** including residency requirements in municipalities with a population under 1, 000, 000, but those residency requirements shall not allow residency outside of Illinois)." 5 ILCS 315/14(i) (West 2016). The Village's position was that because section 14(i) lists residency requirements as one of the topics to which an interest arbitrator's decision "shall be limited" and prohibits an arbitrator from issuing an award allowing residency outside Illinois, this section governed the issue.

         ¶ 8 According to the rules and regulations of the Illinois Labor Relations Board, an interest arbitrator's award is not to consider an issue if one of the parties objects in good faith to the presence of that issue before the arbitrator on the ground that the issue does not involve a subject over which the parties are required to bargain. 80 Ill. Adm. Code 1230.90(k) (2003). However, an exception to that rule exists, whereby the arbitrator has the option to consider an issue to which one party objects if the general counsel of the Illinois Labor Relations Board issues a declaratory ruling that the issue is a subject over which the parties are required to bargain. Id. Thus, after the Union objected that the Village's proposed residency requirement was not a subject over which the parties were required to bargain, the Village filed a unilateral petition to obtain a declaratory ruling from the general counsel of the Illinois Labor Relations Board about whether the Labor Relations Act required the parties to bargain over this issue. 80 Ill. Adm. Code 1200.143(b) (2016).

         ¶ 9 The general counsel issued a declaratory ruling determining that the Village's proposed residency requirement was a mandatory subject of bargaining. The general counsel concluded the Village's proposed residency requirement would not contravene section 10-2.1-6.3(c) of the Municipal Code. The general counsel interpreted that statute as only prohibiting a municipality from establishing residency requirements that are more restrictive than residency requirements "in effect" at the time an individual enters the fire service. It reasoned that the absence of any residency requirement "cannot reasonably be construed as an affirmative 'requirement' that is 'in effect' under the terms of the Municipal Code." Thus, it concluded that the Village's proposed residency requirement could not be considered more restrictive than any prior residency requirement in effect, as no such requirement had ever existed within the Village. For these reasons, the general counsel determined that the Village's proposed residency requirement did not seek the Union's waiver of statutory rights its members had under the Municipal Code.

         ¶ 10 The general counsel's declaratory ruling went on to address the Union's proposal to maintain the status quo of silence in the collective bargaining agreement on the issue of residency. It reasoned that contractual silence on the issue would amount to no restriction on residency at all. It ruled that if the interest arbitrator were to grant the Union's proposal, the arbitration award would effectively be allowing residency outside of Illinois and would therefore contravene section 14(i) of the Labor Relations Act. 5 ILCS 315/14(i) (West 2016).

         ¶ 11 Pursuant to the general counsel's declaratory ruling that the Village's residency requirement was a subject over which the parties were required to bargain, the issue became one that the interest arbitrator could consider despite the Union's objection. 80 Ill. Adm. Code 1230.90(k) (2003). The parties thus proceeded with the interest arbitration. After the general counsel issued its declaratory ruling and the hearings in the interest arbitration were completed, but before the interest arbitration award was issued, the plaintiffs filed this action. In their complaint, the plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the Village was precluded from imposing residency requirements on covered employees hired prior to the issuance of the arbitrator's award, based on the statutory rights provided to them under section 10-2.1-6.3(c) of the Municipal Code. 65 ILCS 5/10-2.1-6.3(c) (West 2016).

         ¶ 12 After this case was filed, the interest arbitrator issued his award. It provided that the following language would be incorporated into the parties' collective bargaining agreement: "1. All Bargaining ...


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