A federal district court in Illinois has granted the Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU) motion for preliminary and permanent injunctions, ordering the Chicago Board of Education (CBOE) to rescind its recent economic layoff of tenured teachers and to promulgate, in negotiation with CTU, layoff and recall rules for tenured teachers. The court concluded that CBOE’s resolution authorizing the “honorable termination” of tenured teachers as part of an economic layoff of nearly 1,300 teachers violated the tenured teachers’ Fourteenth Amendment rights because it deprived them of property without due process. It found that the Illinois School Code imposed a mandatory obligation on the CBOE to establish procedures on layoff and recall of tenured teachers.
The district court rejected CTU’s claim “that Appendix H of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement or Section 504.2 of the Chicago Public Schools Policy Manual applies to tenured teachers subjected to economic layoffs.” It pointed out, “Appendix H does not, on its face, apply to broad-based economic layoffs, [a]nd more importantly, the notion of en masse economic layoffs is inconsistent with Appendix H’s retention procedure ….” Instead, the court found that Illinois School Code subsection 34-18(31) (105 ILCS 5/34-18(31)) is the location of the property interest providing tenured teachers with their due process right. Under that provision, the Illinois General Assembly gave the school board the power “[t]o promulgate rules establishing procedures governing the layoff or reduction in force of employees and the recall of such employees.” It also noted that the section ”contemplates not only rights concerning layoffs, but rights concerning recall procedures as well.”
As a result, the district court concluded: ”Section 5/34-18(31) provides tenured teachers some residual property rights in the event of an economic layoff.” While conceding that the statute only creates the statutory authorization/requirement for rules, it determined that without such rules the court “can do no more than read 5/34-18(31) as vaguely providing a property interest in some sort of retention procedure.” Nonetheless, the district court refused to allow CBOE to avoid the “reach of the Due Process Clause by simply ignoring its statutory obligation to frame the property interest that the legislature says teachers possess.” Acknowledging its lack of “institutional competence to draft the missing rules and regulations,” the district court ordered CBOE ”to promulgate, in consultation with the Teachers Union and after good-faith negotiation, a set of recall rules that complies with Section 5/34-18(31).”
Chicago Teachers Union v. Bd. of Education of the City of Chicago, No. 10-4852 (N.D. Ill. Oct.4, 2010)
[Editor's Note; In August, 2010, the Chicago Tribune reported that CTU had filed suit in federal court against CBOE seeking to halt further teacher layoffs. CTU’s suit alleged that the teachers’ rights were violated under the Illinois school code and the union contract because at least some layoff decisions were not made based on seniority. The article also notes the CTU ’s due process claim. A summary of the article is available below.
The Fourteenth Amendment's protection against government denial of life, liberty or property without due process of law has been interpreted to include a wide variety of property interests, including government entitlements. In public employment cases, the property interest protected is usually continued employment, rather than the procedures themselves. Here, the court found "residual property rights in the event of an economic layoff," and a vague interest in some sort of retention procedure. Although the Supreme Court has long recognized that a Fourteenth Amendment's property interest "may take many forms," Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 576 (1972), the court's decision in this case leaves the property interest unclear.]