Corrections Officers Lack Standing To Challenge Sick Leave Confinement Policy

Written on 11/05/2022
Will Aitchison

Corrections officers for Cook County, Illinois are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local Union No. 700. In 2017, the Union and Sheriff’s Office agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement intended, at least in part, to address the Sheriff’s Office’s concerns over perceived attendance issues related to employees calling in sick or taking medical leave when they could not use preapproved vacation or personal time.

Section 8.2.H of the 2017 CBA imposed certain requirements if an employee called in sick. Most relevant, Section 8.2.H required employees to remain in their home for the duration of any missed shifts, report any time they left their home, allowed the Sheriff’s Of­fice to call the employee’s home or send personnel there to verify that they were at home, and imposed disciplinary pen­alties up to and including termination for those who did not follow the policy. Collectively, these requirements were known as the “home check” provisions of the sick leave policy.

In 2018, each member of a group of corrections officers who eventually sued the County over the policy took sick leave and was subjected to Section 8.2.H as well as related procedures implemented by the Sheriff to enforce it. In December 2021, Defendants and the Union reached agreement on a new CBA. The 2020 CBA kept the 2017 CBA’s home check provisions but made certain modifications. Instead of applying to any Officer or Investigator “who calls in sick,” the 2020 CBA’s home check provisions apply only to those “for whom a pattern of medical time misuse has been demonstrated” or who “call in sick on any one of up to 12 designated days during the calendar year” chosen by the Sheriff.

The corrections officers contended that the home check provisions violate their constitutional rights under the First, Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments by compelling them to stay home instead of, for example, exercising the right to vote, attending church, or traveling interstate. The officers sought an injunction prohibiting the Depart­ment from imposing the “home check” requirements.

A federal trial court found that the officers lacked standing to bring the suit. The Court found that “to establish Article III standing, a plaintiff must show (1) it has suffered an injury in fact that is concrete and particularized, actual or imminent, and not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3) it is likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.

“Here, Plaintiffs seek prospective declaratory and injunctive relief. To have standing for prospective injunctive relief, a plaintiff must face a real and imme­diate threat of future injury as opposed to a threat that is merely conjectural or hypothetical. A past injury alone is insufficient to establish standing for purposes of prospective injunctive relief.

“So, at this stage, Plaintiffs must put forward evidence showing, among other things, that a threatened injury is ‘certainly impending,’ or there is a ‘substantial risk’ that the harm will oc­cur. But the evidence shows only that, in 2018, Plaintiffs were all subjected to the 2017 CBA’s home check provisions. Although this may be sufficient to show a past injury under the 2017 CBA, it is insufficient to establish standing for prospective relief.

“Similarly, Plaintiffs do not put forward any evidence showing that they are at risk of being subjected to the 2020 CBA’s home check policies in the future, let alone that such a risk is substantial or that such a threat is certainly impending. The 2020 CBA’s home check provision applies only to officers/investigators for whom a pat­tern of medical time misuse has been demonstrated or to persons who call in sick on any one of up to 12 designated days which shall be designated by the Sheriff. ‘Medical time misuse is defined to mean (1) three or more instances of medical time use over a 60-day rolling period that are on the day before or the day after any scheduled benefit day off; or (2) three or more instances of medical time use over a 60-day rolling period, on the same week or weekend day, or use of three or more instances of medical time over a 60-day rolling period when the member has eight or less hours of accrued medical time.

“Plaintiffs cite no evidence in the record to support that any of them are at risk of being found to engage in medical time misuse as defined above or that they will take sick leave on any of the specific days designated by the Sheriff. In other words, Plaintiffs have not submitted any evidence that the 2020 CBA’s home check provisions are likely to be applied to them in the future. Thus, they have not met their burden to show that they have standing.”

Castro v. Dart, No. 1:2019cv00471 (N.D. Ill. 2022).

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