The 2016 fiscal year began in Illinois on July 1, 2015. The Governor vetoed a budget passed by the Legislature, and the fiscal year began with no State budget in effect. As a result, there was no appropriation in place to authorize the payment of salaries to most State employees. However, State employees were directed to report to work, and they complied with the directive.

On July 2, several unions representing State employees filed a complaint in state court. The unions alleged that under their collective bargaining agreements, the State was required to pay union members in a timely manner. The unions further alleged that “notwithstanding the lack of budgetary appropriations, the State has sufficient funds to continue to pay State employees for their work.” The unions asked the Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) requiring the State to issue paychecks.

When a trial court issued the TRO, the matter quickly moved to the Illinois Court of Appeals. The debate before the Court was whether the unions were able to show the requisite “irreparable harm” necessary to sustain a TRO.

The Court of Appeals found: “Here, there is no real dispute that the unions, their members, and other State employees have a protectable right to be paid for work they perform. We also agree that State employees will suffer irreparable harm if the TRO is not granted. As the unions stated in their motion requesting the TRO, no one knows when the budget impasse will end.

“Courts have found that irreparable harm results from continuing transgressions. We also agree that the unions’ members have no adequate remedy at law. State employees cannot be expected to bring multiple lawsuits to attempt to protect their rights. There are consequences that flow from not receiving a paycheck, some of which are non-monetary in nature and cannot be adequately remedied by an award of damages. The loss of pay will, at the very least, cause State employees and their families a good deal of stress. Some may be unable to make payments on their homes, cars, or other debts. We find no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s determination that the unions met their burden of establishing that they have a protectable right, will suffer irreparable harm without the injunction, and have no adequate remedy at law.

“The State argues that it will be irreparably harmed if forced to make payments without an appropriations bill. Significantly, it does not contend that the State lacks adequate funds to pay employees, and the unions have alleged that the State does have adequate funds available. In other words, the only harm the State alleges it might suffer is that it might be ordered to pay salaries it is obligated to pay before an appropriations bill is passed authorizing the payments. This harm pales in significance compared to the harm that might be suffered by State employees and their families if the TRO is not granted.”

AFSCME et al. v. State of Illinois, 2015 IL App. (5th) 150277-U (Ill. App. 2015).