APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR
L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE LORENZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied October 24, 1975.
Defendant, Cleotha Williams, appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County reversing a decision in his favor by the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Commission (Commission). Defendant contends that he was discharged because of his race in violation of the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Act. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 48, par. 851 et seq.
On November 19, 1971, defendant filed a charge of unfair employment practice with the Commission against plaintiff, his employer. He alleged that he had been the victim of racial discrimination and had been terminated without cause. After informal attempts to reach a conciliation failed, the Commission held a public hearing before a hearing examiner on October 4, 1972, at which time defendant Cleotha Williams testified on his own behalf.
He had been employed by plaintiff as a paint sprayer for 11 years. He is black. On October 8, 1971, his foreman, Edward Krok, approached him and told him to stop talking. Although Krok threatened to give him a letter of reprimand, he continued to talk. Krok gave him a letter and he threw it on the table. Krok then sprayed him with a mace-like substance in his one good eye. He reached for Krok and they struggled. Thereafter he was taken to Corbett Clinic and treated for burns on his eye, chest and leg. During a subsequent visit to the clinic he was told to call Miss Beck, a secretary for plaintiff, who notified him of his termination. Plaintiff never contacted him about his version of the fight. On cross-examination, he admitted that he had received two prior letters of reprimand.
Veodis Jones testified for plaintiff
He is the quality control inspector for plaintiff and the union steward for defendant's union. He is black. He was on good terms with defendant and he had assisted defendant once when defendant's job was in jeopardy. On the morning of October 8, 1971, Krok told him that he intended to give defendant a letter of reprimand. Later he saw defendant push Krok and saw Krok fall to the floor. Defendant kicked Krok when Krok was on the floor. While defendant was holding Krok's leg, Krok reached into his pants' pocket, pulled out a can, and sprayed defendant. After the fight Krok's shirt was off, his glasses were smashed and he had blood around his mouth. He did not see Krok hit defendant at any time. On cross-examination, he admitted that he had given a prior inconsistent statement to an insurance company in which he said Krok had hit defendant.
He was the foreman of defendant's department. He is white. On the morning in question defendant was "shouting and disturbing the whole department" causing other workers to stop their duties and look up to see what was happening. He verbally warned defendant once. After presenting the letter to defendant and while walking back to his office, he was struck from behind. He felt his shirt being torn. As he turned around he was struck in the face and his glasses were broken. He was kicked in his back, chest and kidneys and grabbed by the legs and twisted. Thereupon, he reached in his pocket and sprayed Protect-U behind him at defendant. He was off from work completely for 10 days and was on part-time for a few months after the altercation. He had previously allowed defendant to report to work early to avoid the parking problem. He had bought defendant soft drinks. He is not covered by the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement because he is management personnel.
He is plaintiff's plant superintendent. He talked to defendant approximately one week before the fight about defendant's decreased production of painted parts. He issued the termination letter after he had talked to both Jones and Krok. Jones told him that defendant approached Krok from behind. He also talked to defendant, but cannot remember the substance of the conversation. He answered a union grievance letter in this matter. The union did not appeal to arbitration. He confirmed that a supervisor is not subject to the union contract.
On November 29, 1972, the hearing examiner filed his "Recommended Order and Decision," specifically finding that defendant "after receiving the letter of reprimand, made physical contact with Edward Krok and that Krok thereafter sprayed petitioner with a chemical substance." He determined that an inference of discrimination arose when plaintiff relied upon the word of a single white when most of the employees were black and recommended that defendant be reinstated with all lost wages paid and all seniority restored.
On December 12, 1973, after plaintiff petitioned the Commission to review the decision of the hearing examiner, the Commission entered its own Order and Decision upholding defendant's charge of discrimination and ...