Following the 2011 legislative overhaul that was Senate Bill 7, teacher performance evaluations—not tenure or seniority—dictate the order of teacher layoffs. Unsurprisingly, the result of SB7 has been a slew of litigation surrounding teacher reductions-in-force (“RIFs”) and recall rights.
As we reported in Frakes v. Peoria School District No. 150, 2014 IL App (3d) 10306, successfully defended by Stan Eisenhammer, Jeff Goelitz, and Tony Loizzi (see July 2014 Extra Mile), the appellate court upheld the RIFs of two tenured teachers who fell into Group 2 and who were not subsequently recalled when positions became available for the next school year. The court concluded that the School Code did not grant recall rights to Group 2 teachers (though that rule has been modified by subsequent legislation).
Relying heavily on the rationale in Frakes, another district of the appellate court recently upheld the dismissal of another tenured teacher classified as Group 2. In Segobiano-Morris v. Grayslake Community Consolidated School District No. 46, 2015 IL App (2d) 140822, the teacher was honorably dismissed as part of a RIF, along with 19 other teachers. When a vacant position opened that summer, the teacher was not recalled to it, and a Group 1 teacher filled the position instead. The plaintiff argued that she was not properly RIF’d because a position she could teach came open before the start of the next school year, and that she had superior rights to the Group 1 teacher and should have been recalled to the vacancy.
In denying the teacher’s claims, the court noted the distinction between the dismissal component and the recall component of the RIF process. The teacher was properly dismissed because she received timely written notice and was dismissed in order of groupings. Once properly dismissed, the Group 2 teacher had no recall rights, let alone any priority recall rights over a Group 1 teacher.
As the court noted, “nothing in section 24-12(b) provides for recalling a group 2 teacher either in general or based on grouping. That the district hired another teacher at the beginning of the 2013-14 school term was, therefore, irrelevant because plaintiff did not have the right to be recalled at all.”
This case reiterates that the validity of a RIF is not dependent on future staffing (at least absent evidence of bad faith) and that, once RIF’d, a teacher’s right to return to a vacant position is governed solely by the recall rules of Section 24-12(b).
Contact any of our “RIF Team” attorneys with your employee dismissal and reduction-in-force inquiries, or Stan Eisenhammer or Jeff Goelitz with questions regarding the impact of the Grayslake ruling on your school district.