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City of Cairo v. Fair Employment Prac. Com.

MAY 13, 1974.

THE CITY OF CAIRO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE AND CROSS-APPELLANT,

v.

FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES COMMISSION ET AL. — (JULIUS

v.

OATS, SR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT AND CROSS-APPELLEE.)



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Alexander County; the Hon. GEORGE OROS, Judge, presiding. MR. JUSTICE GEORGE J. MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The Fair Employment Practices Commission, hereinafter referred to as FEPC, on the petition of Julius Oats, Sr., found the City of Cairo's policy of excluding persons with arrest records from employment on the City's police force to be a racially discriminatory hiring practice forbidden by section 3(a) of the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 48, par. 853(a)). The circuit court of Alexander County reversed the FEPC. Oats and the FEPC appeal from the judgment of the circuit court. On cross-appeal the City of Cairo argues that the FEPC lacked jurisdiction to entertain Oats's petition.

In May of 1969, the appellant, Julius Oats, Sr., filed an application to the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners of the City of Cairo for employment on its police force. After written and oral examinations his name was placed on the list of persons eligible to be employed as a policeman. On August 13, 1969, the Board sent him a letter indicating that it had withdrawn his name from the eligibility list as a result of his arrest record which had been obtained from his state and federal "rap sheets". The F.B.I. document contained an entry which indicated that Oats had been arrested for army desertion in 1964 by the police of St. Joseph, Michigan, and that he had been charged with disorderly conduct in Chicago in 1968. The Illinois "rap sheet" showed only the Chicago charge. Neither sheet indicated the disposition of these charges. *fn1

Subsequently, Oats met with the Board on a number of occasions in an attempt to persuade them to change their minds. Having failed to effect a reversal of their previous decision, Oats filed a charge of unfair employment practice with the FEPC, claiming that he had been dropped from the eligibility list because of his race. A hearing before an FEPC Hearing Examiner was held on July 2, 1970.

The hearing examiner concluded that Oats was removed, in good faith, because of his arrest record, as indicated by the desertion and disorderly conduct charges. He recommended that the FEPC dismiss the complaint as there was no evidence of discriminatory intent.

Over 1 year later, on October 29, 1971, the Commission itself handed down its ruling and, in reversing its own hearing examiner, stated:

"The Commission therefore concludes that the denial by the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of the City of Cairo of employment to Mr. Julius Oats, Sr., after he had successfully passed both the written and oral examinations, based solely upon his arrest record was discriminatory to Mr. Oats because of his race. Consistent with the Supreme Court's decision in the Griggs v. Duke Power Co. case, the Commission further finds that the good intent or absence of discriminatory intent upon the part of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners does not overcome the discriminatory employment procedure."

On December 3, 1971, the above ruling was appealed to the Circuit Court of Alexander County pursuant to the provisions of the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.). The court reversed the Commission's order and found inter alia:

1. That the Fair Employment Practices Commission did have jurisdiction in the case.

2. That the findings of fact of the Hearing Examiner were supported by a preponderance of the evidence.

3. That as a matter of law of the State of Illinois, the Cairo Board of Fire and Police Commissioners had the authority to determine in 1969 whether to hire a policeman based on his arrest records, and the conclusion by the Fair Employment Practices Commissioners that it was against the law of the State of Illinois and the Constitution to drop police candidate, Julius Oats, from the police eligibility list on the basis of arrest records was in error.

4. That there was no showing on this record that the Cairo Police and Fire Board applied any different standard for a black man than a white man in removing police candidates from the police eligibility list because of arrest records.

We deal with the following issues:

I. Whether the FEPC had jurisdiction in this matter.

II. Whether appellant Oats was removed from the eligibility list solely on the ...


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