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Public Access Opinion 22-009

Information Identifying Employees in Bargaining Unit Positions Exempt from Disclosure

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 22-009
Date: Thursday, June 30, 2022

On January 17, 2022, Requestor submitted a FOIA request to the City of Berwyn (City) seeking the following information for each city employee covered by the collective bargaining agreement with the SEIU Local 73: name, title, hire date, department name, work address, work email, and union. City denied the request under Section 7.5(zz) of FOIA, which exempts from disclosure “[i]nformation prohibited from being disclosed under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act.” The City asserted this exemption based on Sections 6(c-5), 10(a)(8), and 10(a)(9) of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (IPLRA). Requestor then submitted a Request for Review to the PAC.

Upon review, the PAC noted that Section 6(c-5) of the IPLRA prohibits a public body from disclosing certain employee information, including “any information personally identifying employee membership or membership status in a labor organization or other voluntary association affiliated with a labor organization or a labor federation.” The PAC found that Section 6(c-5) was specifically intended to insulate employees from third party communications concerning their union membership status, and thus the City sustained its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the responsive records were exempt from disclosure under FOIA Section 7.5(zz).

This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law. It’s lesson, however, is important for school districts because parallel exemptions and prohibitions appear in FOIA and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (IELRA). FOIA Section 7.5(yy) exempts from disclosure information that is prohibited from being disclosed under the IELRA, and Section 3(d) of the IELRA prohibits educational employers from disclosing certain employee information, including “any information personally identifying employee membership or membership status in a labor organization or other voluntary association affiliated with a labor organization or a labor federation.”