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K Mart Corp. v. Ill. Human Rights Com.

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 28, 1984.

K MART CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

ILLINOIS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Adams County; the Hon. Dennis K. Cashman, Judge, presiding. JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Issue: Employment discrimination because of race.

A complaint of civil rights violation was filed with the Human Rights Commission, alleging that K mart Corporation (K Mart) denied employment to Vickie Crider because she was black. The administrative law judge found in favor of Crider, and his findings were adopted by the Commission. The Commission ordered K Mart to employ Crider and pay her a sum equal to any lost wages resulting from the discriminatory action. K Mart appealed to the circuit court of Adams County, which reversed the Commission's order. Crider and the Commission (appellants) appeal from the judgment of the circuit court.

We affirm.

FACTS

A tedious recitation of the prolix facts is required.

At the hearing before the administrative law judge, evidence showed that Crider had been employed as a seasonal employee with K Mart during the Christmas seasons of 1978 and 1979. After the Christmas season of 1979, Crider, along with 12 other seasonal employees, was released because of a reduction in work force. Seven of the released employees expressed an interest in a regular position at the store if any became available during 1980. Among those expressing an interest in regular employment were Crider, Lynn Holbrook, and Ann Witsken.

In March 1980, two part-time cashier positions became available. Lorraine Bell, the personnel manager of K Mart, testified that Crider, Holbrook, and Witsken were equally qualified for these positions. Holbrook and Witsken were hired because Bell "needed someone for part-time, nights, weekends, and that is exactly what they wanted." Bell testified she hired Witsken and Holbrook on the basis of their preference for part-time work. She believed Crider would take a part-time position but preferred full-time work. Bell stated, however, that Crider never specifically told her that she preferred full-time employment to part-time employment.

Job applications of Crider, Holbrook, and Witsken were submitted into the record. Holbrook and Witsken filled out job application forms on January 3, 1980. The forms contained a section entitled Employment Interest and Skills. Under this title was the phrase "work schedule desired" and to the right of this phrase were seven boxes labeled "full-time," "part-time," "days," "evenings," "Saturday," "Sunday," and "seasonal." The only box marked on Holbrook's application was the box labeled "part-time." Witsken marked the boxes labeled "part-time," "evening," "Saturday," "Sunday," and "seasonal." Both Holbrook and Witsken were white females under the age of 18 and were attending high school at the time.

Crider filled out an application form on February 14, 1980. In the "work schedule desired" section of the form she marked the boxes labeled "full-time," "part-time," "days," "evenings," "Saturday," and "Sunday." Crider testified that she had met with Bell to inquire about a permanent position with K Mart on February 14, 1980. She stated that Bell told her she need not fill out an application form because Crider already had an application on file. At the meeting, Bell referred Crider to another K Mart store which was hiring at the time. The application which Crider completed on February 14 was apparently an application for this other store.

Crider was questioned at the hearing with regard to her preference in a work schedule after her release from K Mart in 1979. She states, "I didn't have no job, so I didn't care if it was full-time or part-time." She further testified that if a full-time job had been available, she would have preferred that to a part-time job, and if only a part-time job was available, she would have preferred a part-time job to no job.

At the hearing, Crider's attorney introduced into evidence the separation reports which were made on Crider, Holbrook, and Witsken when the three were released after the Christmas season of 1979. One of the questions on the report stated: "Would you re-employ? Yes____ No____." Holbrook's and Witsken's reports have a checkmark after "Yes." In Crider's separation report, there is no checkmark after either "Yes" or "No." Each report is signed by the store manager, by Lorraine Bell, and by the respective employee. Bell could not explain at the hearing why she had not answered the reemployment question on Crider's separation report.

Additional testimony at the hearing revealed that in October 1980, approximately seven months after K Mart hired Holbrook and Witsken, it hired three more part-time employees: Cheryl Dabney, Toni Fletcher, and Joyce Frericks. Fletcher and Dabney were under 18 years of age and were in high school. Dabney and Frericks were white, and Fletcher was black.

Dabney and Fletcher had filled out job applications in September and October 1980. In the "work schedule desired" portion of the application, Dabney had marked "part-time," "days," "evenings," "Saturday," and "Sunday." Fletcher had marked the boxes labeled "part-time," "evenings," "Saturday," and "Sunday." She also indicated that she desired 42 hours per week.

The application of the other employee, Joyce Frericks, had check-marks in both the full-time and part-time boxes. When Bell was asked why Frericks was hired for a part-time position even though she had marked full-time and part-time on the application, Bell responded: "Because she had worked for us also at one time." ...


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