from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 16-MR-1368,
Honorable Bonnie M. Wheaton, Judge, Presiding.
BIRKETT PRESIDING JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the
court, with opinion. Justice McLaren concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
BIRKETT PRESIDING JUSTICE.
1 Plaintiff, Margaret Dynak, appeals the judgment of the
circuit court of Du Page County granting the motion for
summary judgment of defendant, the Board of Education of Wood
Dale School District 7, and denying plaintiff's
cross-motion for summary judgment. The issue presented here
is whether, under section 24-6 of the School Code (105 ILCS
5/24-6 (West 2016)), plaintiff was entitled to use 30 days of
her accumulated sick leave following the birth of her child.
Specifically, plaintiff gave birth to her child at the end of
the 2015-16 school year and defendant granted her 1.5 days of
sick leave; plaintiff then requested to use 28.5 days of sick
leave to begin the 2016-17 school year, and defendant denied
that request. Plaintiff also claimed that defendant owed her
attorney fees, pursuant to the Attorneys Fees in Wage Actions
Act (Wage Act) (705 ILCS 225/1 (West 2016)), and the parties
agree that this claim is tied to the outcome of
plaintiff's claim under the School Code. We affirm.
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 We summarize the pertinent facts appearing in the record.
Plaintiff has been a full-time teacher with defendant since
the beginning of the 2008-09 school year. By the end of the
2015-16 school year, plaintiff had accumulated 71 paid sick
days. At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, plaintiff
was awarded an additional 14 paid sick days, giving her a
total of 85 paid sick days.
4 On March 15, 2016, plaintiff submitted a letter to the
superintendent, Dr. John Corbett. Plaintiff wrote that she
was scheduled to have her child by caesarean-section on June
6, 2016, the last full day of the 2015-16 school year. June
7, 2016 was a half day. Thus, plaintiff stated that she would
be using 1.5 paid sick days on June 6 and 7. Plaintiff also
stated that she intended to take 12 weeks of leave under the
Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) (see 29 U.S.C.
§ 2601 et seq. (2012)), commencing on August
18, 2016, the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. Plaintiff
further stated, however, that she intended to take the first
28.5 days of that leave as paid sick days. Plaintiff
expressly tied her use of the sick days to section 24-6 of
the School Code, claiming that, under her reading, she could
take 30 consecutive paid sick days for the birth of her
5 On April 21, 2016, Corbett replied to plaintiff's
letter and approved plaintiff's request to use 1.5 paid
sick days at the end of the 2015-16 school year and 12 weeks
of FMLA leave at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.
Corbett denied, however, plaintiff's request to use 28.5
sick days at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.
Corbett stated that, because plaintiff's FMLA leave would
"begin 10 weeks after the birth of her child, she
[would] not be eligible to use sick days for the leave unless
additional circumstances exist[ed] that would normally allow
for the use of paid sick leave."
6 After defendant's denial of plaintiff's request to
use paid sick leave, Sylvia Rios, associate general counsel
for the Illinois Education Association, formally reiterated
plaintiff's request. According to Rios, section 24-6
entitled plaintiff to use up to 30 days of accumulated paid
sick leave for the birth of her child, without having to
provide medical certification, and this could encompass the
1.5 days at the end of the 2015-16 school year and the 28.5
days at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.
7 On May 20, 2016, defendant replied to Rios, again denying
the request to use the 28.5 paid sick days. On June 1, 2016,
Rios sent to defendant a final demand requesting that, before
June 15, 2016, defendant state its final position with regard
to plaintiff's request. Defendant did not respond to that
letter. On June 6, 2016, as scheduled, plaintiff gave birth
to her child.
8 On August 18, 2016, the 2016-17 school year began, along
with plaintiff's approved FMLA leave. On August 22, 2016,
Corbett e-mailed to plaintiff his congratulations, along with
two documents. One document was a letter confirming that, on
November 10, 2016, plaintiff would resume her duties
following the completion of her leave. The second document
was a summary of plaintiff's salary for the 2016-17
school year, showing that plaintiff would be docked 58 days
of pay coinciding with her leave and confirming that she
could not use any paid sick days for that period. At all
times relevant here, plaintiff had maintained more
accumulated paid sick days than the 28.5 days she requested
to use at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.
9 On October 6, 2016, plaintiff made a written demand upon
defendant, seeking payment for the unpaid wages resulting
from defendant's denial of plaintiff's request to use
the 28.5 paid sick days. In the demand letter, plaintiff
sought $8, 074.91 in unpaid wages. However, the information
upon which this claim was based was incorrect, because
defendant had, in the summary of plaintiff's 2016-17
salary, used an incorrect pay rate. During the litigation,
plaintiff corrected the amount to $7, 991.46 and defendant
did not dispute the correction.
10 On October 13, 2016, plaintiff filed a three-count
complaint against defendant. In count I, plaintiff sought a
declaratory judgment that she was allowed to use paid sick
leave for the birth of her child, even though the leave would
occur after the summer break. In count II, plaintiff sought
attorney fees pursuant to the Wage Act. In count III,
plaintiff alleged that defendant violated section 14(a) of
the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (820 ILCS
115/14(a) (West 2016)) by denying plaintiff's request to
use paid sick leave. (Plaintiff represents that, after she
filed her complaint, she "became aware of binding
precedent" invalidating her claim in count III, and she
does not seek review of the trial court's dismissal of
11 On April 26, 2018, defendant filed a motion for summary
judgment on plaintiff's claims. On April 27, 2018,
plaintiff filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. On June
20, 2018, the cross-motions for summary judgment advanced to
argument before the trial court. The trial court orally
"In order to adopt the interpretation of the statute
urged by the plaintiff, the Court would have to find that the
conditions set forth in the definition of sick leave create a
vested right in the plaintiff and other similarly situated
persons regardless of when those conditions occurred.
The accident of giving birth in the summertime, I don't
believe creates any kind of a right in the plaintiff to sick
leave at a future period in time that is not covered by the
For instance, if there were a death in the plaintiff's
immediate family that took place on June 15th, after the
school year ended, she could not reasonably expect to have
three days of sick leave for that occurrence, but the sick
leave taking place after the school [year] started.
And the same could be said for any of the other occurrences
that are set forth in the definition of sick leave.
I believe that the interpretation urged by the defendant is a
proper interpretation of the law.
I believe that the condition[s] set forth in the statute have
to be read in peri [sic] materia, and that the
plaintiff is not entitled to the sick leave in addition to
the family medical leave."
12 The trial court granted defendant's motion for summary
judgment and denied plaintiff's cross-motion for summary
judgment. Plaintiff timely appeals.
13 II. ANALYSIS
14 On appeal, plaintiff contends that the trial court erred
by granting summary judgment in favor of defendant. Plaintiff
argues that section 24-6 of the School Code plainly and
unambiguously entitled her to use her accumulated sick leave
for the birth of her child even though the leave would occur
after the summer break. Plaintiff also makes the related
argument that, if she was entitled to use her sick leave,
then, under the Wage Act, she is entitled to the attorney
fees incurred in enforcing her rights. The interpretation of
section 24-6 will determine the outcome of plaintiff's
second contention. Therefore, we turn to the parties'
arguments regarding section 24-6.
15 A. Standard of Review
16 This case arises from the disposition of cross-motions for
summary judgment. Summary judgment is proper when the
pleadings, depositions, admissions, and affidavits show that
there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. 735
ILCS 5/2-1005(c) (West 2016). Where the parties have filed
cross-motions for summary judgment, they have conceded that
there are no genuine issues of material fact and have agreed
that only questions of law are involved. Nationwide
Financial, LP v. Pobuda, 2014 IL 116717, ¶ 24. In
such a situation, the parties request that the court decide
the issues as a matter of law. Id. We review de
novo the trial court's judgment on cross-motions for
summary judgment. Id.
17 B. Construction of Section 24-6 of the School Code
18 The central issue presented in this case is the
interpretation of section 24-6 of the School Code regarding
the use of accumulated sick leave ...