APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD
F. HEALY, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE PERLIN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Defendants appeal from a decision of the circuit court of Cook County reversing an order and decision of the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Commission. The Commission had found that the Cook County Police and Corrections Merit Board committed an unfair employment practice by rejecting defendant, Dale Wingate, for employment because of his "unsatisfactory arrest record." The circuit court determined that Wingate was properly rejected.
The issue on appeal is whether defendant was wrongfully rejected in violation of the Fair Employment Practices Act. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 48, par. 853.
Dale Wingate submitted an application to the Cook County Police and Corrections Merit Board (hereinafter Merit Board) for a position as corrections officer or patrolman. The application was a printed form furnished by the Merit Board and inquired, inter alia:
"Were you ever arrested, detained for investigation or taken into custody in this state or elsewhere in connection with any criminal action? * * * If yes, provide the following information: (Date of incident; Charge; Location, City-State; and Court Disposition.)"
Wingate answered affirmatively and stated that he had been arrested on four occasions and had been charged with five offenses, three of which were dismissed. He had been convicted of resisting arrest and of public drunkenness and was required to pay a fine in each case. The Merit Board replied to the application in a letter stating:
"The Merit Board has found it necessary to reject your application for the reasons checked below:
X 6, Unsatisfactory arrest record."
Thereafter Wingate filed a charge with the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Commission (hereinafter the Commission) alleging that the rejection by the Merit Board was discriminatory insofar as he was never arrested or convicted of a felony. A complaint was issued and a public hearing was held.
At the hearing, Wingate testified that he applied for a position as corrections officer and was rejected due to his arrest record, that subsequent to the arrests in question he had served in the military and received an honorable discharge, and he had completed his education and received a degree in history. An investigator for the FEPC testified in regard to the procedure taken after Wingate filed his charge. An administrator for the Merit Board testified that Wingate applied for a position as patrolman, not corrections officer, and that the three-member board made the decision to reject him. He stated that the decision included a consideration of all the information supplied by Wingate, including the two convictions.
The hearing examiner filed a recommended order and decision. Subsequently the Commission followed the examiner's recommendation and entered an order and decision for Wingate. The Commission found that the Merit Board's application form and its policy of summarily rejecting applicants who have been arrested constitutes a violation of section 3 of the Fair Employment Practices Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 48, par. 853.) The Commission stated that the decision would be the same whether Wingate was applying for a position as patrolman or corrections officer. The Commission ordered, inter alia, that the Merit Board cease from inquiring on any of its written job applications whether an applicant has ever been arrested, that they cease from refusing to certify applicants as eligible for appointment because such applicants have ever been arrested for and/or convicted of criminal offenses, without giving full consideration in each case to all other factors bearing on the individual's fitness for such an appointment, and that the Merit Board permit Wingate to reapply for a position as corrections officer or patrolman.
Upon a complaint filed by the Merit Board for administrative review, a hearing was held and the trial court reversed the Commission's order. The Illinois Fair Employment Practices Commission and Wingate appeal from the trial court order.
• 1, 2 Section 3 of the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 48, par. 853) states that:
"It is an unfair employment practice:
(e) For any employer, employment agency or labor organization to inquire on a written application whether a job ...