Ill.: Employers Are Not Required to Pay Part-Time Workers Vacation Pay

By By SHRM Online staff May 21, 2015

A part-time restaurant employee was not entitled to vacation pay under state law when she left her job, a federal district court in Illinois held.

Demikos McCaster and Jennifer Clark were former employees of Darden Restaurants, which operated an Oliver Garden restaurant. They brought suit, claiming that when their employment ended they were not paid all their earned vacation pay as part of their final compensation, a violation of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA). Darden moved for summary judgment on the claim brought by Clark.

Darden argued that Clark was not eligible to receive vacation benefits and thus was not denied any benefits owed to her when her employment ended. It is undisputed that Clark was employed at Darden’s Olive Garden restaurant on two separate occasions. She was employed first between July 2004 and October 2008, and she admitted that, upon her separation, she received a final paycheck that included the amount owed for vacation pay.

In June 2008, the vacation policy at the Olive Garden was changed to provide vacation benefits only to employees that worked at least 30 hours per week on average. Clark admitted that she was rehired at the Olive Garden in September 2009 after the alteration of the Olive Garden vacation policy.

The former employees alleged that when Clark's employment at Olive Garden ended for the second time in June 2012, Clark's final paycheck did not include vacation pay. However, it is undisputed that Clark's manager "told her in 2010, that she was not eligible to receive vacation pay because she was not working enough hours." It is further undisputed that Clark never averaged 30 hours per week after she was hired in September 2009. Thus, Clark was not eligible to receive vacation benefits.

The employees contended that even if Clark did not meet the hourly requirement to be an eligible employee for vacation benefits, the imposition of the hourly requirement itself violated the IWPCA. They argued that for such past service-based policies, Darden was required by law to pay employees a pro rata share of vacation benefits and cannot impose any additional criteria, such as a minimum hourly requirement.

The court disagreed, noting that Illinois public policy would not be promoted by the employeesposition because any employee would be entitled to vacation benefits no matter what contractual agreement that employee knowingly entered into with an employer. Clark understood that if she worked fewer than 30 hours a week, she would be a part-time employee and not entitled to vacation benefits. Clark admitted that she was a part-time employee and despite her agreement with Darden she sought benefits that were never promised to her. The court concluded that the employees cited no authority that required employers to provide vacation benefits to part-time employees. Darden did not violate the IWPCA when it refused to pay Clark vacation benefits. The court granted Darden’s partial motion for summary judgment on the claim brought by Clark.

McCaster v. Darden Rests., Inc., N.D. Ill., No. 13 C 8847 (March 24, 2015).

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