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Employment Law/Progressive discipline ,and part time municipal employees


I am a fireman employed part time by a suburban fire department. Every employee is hourly and part time. We have recently experienced some discipline issues, during to course of which the chief of the department hands out a 2 month suspension. An arbitrary amount, not based on the severity of the infraction and certainly not based on previous issues with this employee. I am aware that illinois is an at will state ? But was curious if the village and it's department heads were held to any standard when it comes to progressive discipline . Thanks for your time , Dave

Wow.  Two months for anything seems pretty stiff.  But there is no state or federal law directly regulating progressive discipline for public or private employers in Illinois.  You would need to have either a union contract or another employment contract containing that type of rule, or else it's as you said--employment at will.

Nevertheless, it's possible there could be ways to rein in a chief who imposes excessive discipline, if in fact it was excessive--I don't know the facts so I can't offer any opinion there, beyond what I said before.  I am not currently up to speed on the different forms of Illinois municipal government, as it's been 30 years since I did any work in that field, but the fire chief reports to someone, and is probably answerable in some fashion to the village board or council, as well as the mayor.  And there's always the option of unionizing your department.  I know Illinois law protects the rights of municipal employees to join unions.  Just a thought.

I hope this is helpful to you.  

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Frank C. Magill


I can answer questions about any U.S. labor or employment law question. I cannot answer questions about non-US law. I am not a specialist in employee benefit law (ERISA and HIPAA) or Workers' Compensation law, but will do my best to point questioners toward good resources availabe online. Expertise includes, without limitation, EEO/Affirmative Action/Employment discrimination (Title VII, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, GINA, Fair Credit Reporting Act as applied to employment); Fair Labor Standards Act; Texas labor code; Family Medical Leave Act; employee compensation; discipline and dismissal; force reductions, severance pay programs and administration; collective bargaining, union representation, grievances and arbitration, National Labor Relations Act and National Labor Relations Board; employee handbooks; staffing; dispute resolution outside of traditional labor agreements; employee communications; employment policies and compliance programs; codes of ethics; employment or labor litigation.


30+ years experience as corporate counsel for a Fortune 100 telecom company, specializing in labor and employment law issues. In addition to providing day-to-day advice to my company's internal HR leadership and staff, I've represented the company in numerous labor arbitration cases and at the bargaining table.

Texas, Illinois and Missouri state bars

J.D. 1979, Harvard Law School. B.A., Summa Cum Laude, 1976, Illinois Wesleyan University.

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