CHERYL BARRALL, JANE BEYLER, NIKKI BORRENPOHL, DAVID COCHRAN, DAVID EVANS, MOLLY GROOM ALTER, and JENNIFER WATKINS, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF JOHN A. LOGAN COMMUNITY COLLEGE, Defendant-Appellee.
from the Circuit Court of Williamson County. No. 17-MR-275
Honorable Brad K. Bleyer, Judge, presiding.
Attorney for Appellants Loretta K. Haggard, Schuchat, Cook
Attorneys for Appellee Don E. Prosser, Rhett T. Barke,
Gilbert, Huffman, Prosser, Hewson & Barke, Ltd.,
JUSTICE CHAPMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Overstreet concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 The plaintiffs are tenured faculty members who were laid
off from their teaching positions by the defendant, the Board
of Trustees of John A. Logan Community College. Under section
3B-5 of the Public Community College Act (Act), tenured
faculty members such as the plaintiffs have a "preferred
right to reappointment" for a period of 24 months after
the beginning of the school year in which they are laid off.
110 ILCS 805/3B-5 (West 2016). Under the same provision,
"no non-tenure faculty member or other employee with
less seniority" may be hired during that period to
provide a service that a tenured faculty member with this
right is "competent to render." Id. The
rights conferred by this statute are commonly referred to as
"bumping rights." The primary issue in this appeal
is the meaning of the phrase "other employees with less
seniority." We also consider whether, under the
circumstances of this case, bumping rights apply only to
teaching positions or to individual courses as well.
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 The plaintiffs filed a petition for a writ of
mandamus, alleging that the defendant violated the
statute by hiring adjunct instructors to teach many of the
courses previously taught by the plaintiffs. The defendant
filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that under the Second
District's holding in Biggiam v. Board of Trustees of
Community College District No. 516, 154 Ill.App.3d 627,
634 (1987), adjuncts are not "employee[s] with less
seniority" within the meaning of the statute. The trial
court granted the motion. The plaintiffs appeal, arguing that
(1) Biggiam was wrongly decided, (2) under the plain
language of the statute, adjunct instructors are
"employees with less seniority" than the
plaintiffs, thus giving the plaintiffs a right to be recalled
before adjuncts are hired to teach their courses, and (3)
bumping rights apply to individual courses, which are
"services" the plaintiffs are "competent to
render." We reverse.
4 The plaintiffs filed their complaint in September 2017.
They alleged that the defendant voted in March 2016 to reduce
the number of full-time faculty members employed by John A.
Logan College beginning in August 2016. As a result of this
vote, 27 tenured faculty members were laid off, including the
plaintiffs. During the 2016-17 school year, the defendant
hired adjunct instructors to teach "many of the
courses" previously taught by the 27 laid-off tenured
faculty members. Six of the seven plaintiffs were recalled to
teach during the 2017-18 school year, but one plaintiff, Dr.
Jane Beyler, had not been recalled when the plaintiffs filed
their complaint. The plaintiffs alleged that during the
2016-17 school year, there was enough work available to
employ all seven plaintiffs full-time had the defendant not
employed adjunct instructors to teach their classes instead.
They further alleged that there was sufficient work available
to employ Dr. Beyler full-time during the 2017-18 school
5 The plaintiffs requested that the court enter a writ of
mandamus directing the defendant to reinstate Dr.
Beyler to a full-time teaching position. They also asked the
court to award them damages and to order the defendant to
make each plaintiff whole with respect to employment benefits
and credited service in their retirement system. Finally, the
plaintiffs sought a permanent injunction enjoining the
defendant from laying off tenured faculty and employing
adjunct instructors to teach their classes during the
two-year recall period.
6 The defendant filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to section
2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West
2016)). The defendant asserted two grounds for dismissal.
First, it argued that the plaintiffs' claims were
released pursuant to a "Memorandum of Understanding and
Settlement Agreement" entered into by the defendant and
the faculty association representing the plaintiffs. Second,
the defendant argued that under the Biggiam
court's interpretation, the relevant statutory provision
did not prohibit it from laying off tenured faculty members
like the plaintiffs and hiring adjunct instructors to teach
7 The trial court found that the plaintiffs' claims were
not barred by the parties' "Memorandum of
Understanding and Settlement Agreement." However, the
court concluded that it was "bound to follow Biggiam
v. Board of Trustees." As stated previously, that
case held that adjunct instructors are not "other
employee[s] with less seniority" and that they may
therefore be hired to teach the courses of tenured faculty
members during the statutory recall period. Biggiam,
154 Ill.App.3d at 643. The Biggiam court also held
that bumping rights apply only to teaching positions, not to
individual courses. See id. at 647. Because the
trial court found that it was obliged to follow these
holdings, it granted the motion to dismiss and entered
judgment in favor of the defendant. This appeal followed.
8 II. ANALYSIS
9 This appeal comes to us after a ruling on a section 2-619
motion to dismiss. Thus, we assume that all of the well-pled
allegations in the complaint are true. Ray v. Beussink
& Hickam, P.C., 2018 IL App (5th) 170274, ¶ 12.
We conduct a de novo review of the court's
ruling. Glasgow v. Associated Banc-Corp., 2012 IL
App (2d) 111303, ¶ 11. Resolution of the parties'
arguments requires us to construe section 3B-5 of the Act
(110 ILCS 805/3B-5 (West 2016)). Statutory construction is a
question of law, which is likewise subject to de
novo review. Solon v. Midwest Medical Records
Ass'n, 236 Ill.2d 433, 439 (2010).
10 Our primary goal in statutory construction is to determine
and effectuate the intent of the legislature. Nowak v.
City of Country Club Hills, 2011 IL 111838, ¶ 11.
The best indication of this intent is the express language of
the statute itself. Id. Where a statute is clear and
unambiguous, we must apply it as written without resorting to
extrinsic aids of statutory construction. Id. Only
if a statute is ambiguous may we look beyond its express
language and rely on extrinsic aids such as legislative
history or rules of statutory construction. Id.
¶ 13. In construing a statute, we must consider the
purposes of the statute and the problems it was intended to
remedy. People v. Davis, 296 Ill.App.3d 923, 926
(1998). We may also find guidance from judicial
interpretations of statutes that serve similar purposes, such
as the tenure provisions in the School Code. See Board of
Trustees of Community College District No. 508 v.
Taylor, 114 Ill.App.3d 318, 323 (1983).
11 The relevant statute governs layoffs resulting from a
community college board's decision to reduce the number
of faculty members it employs. The statute also governs the
recall of laid-off faculty ...