Illinois Court Rules Against Backpay Award

The Illinois First District Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling of the Illinois Labor Relations Board that overturned a $3 million back pay award to a firefighter’s union.

The case is complicated, one that took over eight years to develop. In 2008, IAFF Local 3405, Oak Lawn Professional Firefighters Association, filed an unfair labor practice charge against the Village of Oak Lawn for refusing to bargain over minimum staffing.

The city claimed staffing was a management prerogative because it was “an issue of inherent managerial authority.” The Illinois Labor Relations Board disagreed with the Village and the Illinois Court of Appeals affirmed concluding “’minimum manning plainly concerns the wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment of the employees in the unit’ and that even if it was a matter of inherent managerial authority, ‘the employees’ interest in bargaining significantly outweighs any burden that such bargaining would impose on [Oak Lawn’s] authority.”

Following that ruling an arbitrator “ordered the Village to pay $285,866.72 in back pay to the employees it did not call in for overtime to meet the minimum manning requirement. After the union sought enforcement of the arbitration award, a compliance officer found that the Village owed additional back pay and ordered the Village to pay back pay totaling $3,163,801.73.”

On review, the Labor Board reversed finding that the compliance officer mistakenly interpreted the arbitrator’s decision as requiring minimum staffing at 22 per shift instead of 21 per shift. Local 3405 appealed.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the Labor Board, concluded that the compliance officer misinterpreted the arbitrator’s minimum staffing award, leading to an improper calculation of damages.

Here is a copy of the decision: Oak Lawn Firefighters v IL LRB 2016

Here is a copy of the 2011 ruling that held that minimum staffing is a mandatory subject for bargaining: Oak Lawn Firefighters v IL LRB 2011

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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