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Department of Corrections v. Adams





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Harold A. Siegan, Judge, presiding.


Complainant, Leroy Adams (Adams), and the Human Rights Commission (Commission) appeal from an order of the circuit court of Cook County reversing a final administrative decision by the Commission. The Commission's decision held that the Department of Corrections (Corrections) racially discriminated against Adams when Corrections failed to promote Adams to the position of Activity Program Supervisor of Stateville Correctional Center (Stateville).

On appeal, both Adams and the Commission contend that the circuit court failed to apply the proper standard of review of the Commission's decision. In addition, Adams contends that the Commission's decision that Corrections discriminated against him was not against the manifest weight of the evidence, but that the Commission's decision that Adams was not constructively discharged by Corrections where he was refused promotion to the position of Activity Program Supervisor a second time was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

We reverse the decision of the circuit court of Cook County on the issue of discrimination, and remand the issue of constructive discharge for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


On June 12, 1981, Adams, a black man, filed with the Department of Human Rights (Department) a complaint alleging employment discrimination. Adams alleged that because of his race Corrections denied him a promotion, and that Greg Pattison, a less qualified white applicant, was given the position of Activity Program Supervisor at Stateville instead of Adams. Upon investigation of the charge, the Department filed with the Commission a civil rights action pursuant to the provisions of the Illinois Human Rights Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. State. 1983, ch. 68, par. 1-101 et seq.). Corrections defended the claim asserting that it selected the better qualified candidate without regard to race.

The Commission appointed an administrative law judge to convene a hearing to determine the factual questions regarding Adams' claim. The administrative law judge held that Corrections had indeed hired the better qualified candidate and filed with the Commission a recommended order that Adams' complaint be dismissed. The Commission reviewed the administrative law judge's recommendation, finding it to be against the manifest weight of the evidence, and that the reasons cited by Corrections for not promoting Adams were pretextual, rather than the true reasons.

The undisputed facts of this case are as follow. In June 1980, the position of Activity Program Supervisor at Stateville became available when the Activity Program Supervisor, Jessie Vail (Vail), left Corrections. The only two applicants for Vail's position were Adams, a black man, then employed by Corrections, and Pattison, a white man. Both men received a grade of "A" on the competitive promotional examination administered by the Department of Personnel.


Adams was first employed by Corrections on August 1, 1967. At that time, he was assigned to the Sheridan Industrial School for Boys as an educator. In March 1969, he was transferred to the Illinois Youth Center at Joliet where he worked as a physical-education instructor and coordinated physical therapy. In June 1974, Adams was transferred to Stateville, where he was assigned to the leisure-time-activities department under the immediate supervision of then Activity Program Supervisor, Vail. Adams occasionally acted as Activity Program Supervisor when Vail was absent, and his performance evaluation for the period from August 1, 1976, to May 15, 1978, stated:

"Leroy Adams has developed into one of the top Leisure Time Activity persons in the State. He has a great ability to lead residents in group activity. He has done an excellent job coaching the institution basketball team. Mr. Adams has demonstrated the ability to assume a superior role."

Adams attended Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma, and received a bachelor of science degree in agriculture in 1964. He completed six hours of post-graduate work in education at the National College of Education in Evanston, Illinois, in 1968. In 1972, he completed several hours of education and drivers-education courses at Chicago State University in Chicago. In 1973, he completed two courses in criminology at Northern Illinois University in De Kalb, Illinois. In 1979-1981, he completed 15 hours of leisure-time-service courses at Governor's State University in Park Forest South, Illinois.


Pattison was educated at Illinois State University where he earned a bachelors degree and a masters degree in health, physical education, and recreation. His work experience included two years as a recreational worker responsible for programming sports and physical activities at Pontiac (Illinois) Correctional Center, a maximum-security center under the direction of Corrections. While there, Pattison introduced music and passive leisure activities into the activity program. In addition, for nearly four years Pattison coordinated leisure activities for five prerelease correctional centers as Recreation Director for Community Corrections — Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Region. Immediately prior to applying at Stateville, Pattison was a Life Skill Specialist, spending 40% of his time chairing a Statewide committee on leisure-time programming and standards for the Wisconsin Division of Corrections.


A screening committee was chosen by assistant Warden O'Leary to interview both men. The panel consisted of O'Leary and Superintendent Boles and Venegone. Boles was the superintendent in charge of the leisure-time-activity department and Venegone held the same position immediately prior to Boles. All three members of the panel were white.

According to the administrative law judge's findings of fact, allegedly based upon a preponderance of the evidence, during the course of the interviews, Pattison presented the panel with an organized program expanding leisure-time activities beyond athletics and pointed to a variety of facilities he would utilize and programs he would modify and improve. Adams, on the other hand, stated that he could maintain the status quo if permanently appointed Activity Program Supervisor. Based on the above, the panel recommended to Warden DeRobertis that Pattison be hired as Activity Program Supervisor since Pattison's goals were allegedly more in line with Corrections' desire to expand leisure-time activities beyond athletics, and because Pattison's credentials were allegedly superior to Adams. Accordingly, on October 20, 1980, DeRobertis appointed Pattison to the ...

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