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12/24/87 Chromium Corporation, v. the Human Rights

December 24, 1987

CHROMIUM CORPORATION, PETITIONER AND CROSS-RESPONDENT

v.

THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION, RESPONDENT (JOSEPH LAROCCA, RESPONDENT AND CROSS-PETITIONER)



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FOURTH DIVISION

520 N.E.2d 723, 165 Ill. App. 3d 716, 117 Ill. Dec. 372 1987.IL.1918

Petition for review of order of Human Rights Commission.

APPELLATE Judges:

PRESIDING JUSTICE McMORROW delivered the opinion of the court. JIGANTI and JOHNSON, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE MCMORROW

Joseph LaRocca (LaRocca) filed a charge of unlawful age discrimination against his former employer, Chromium Corporation (Chromium), before the Illinois Human Rights Commission (the Commission). The Commission adopted and affirmed the decision of the administrative law Judge in favor of LaRocca, and Chromium appeals. We reverse on the ground that the evidence did not establish that Chromium terminated LaRocca's employment because of his age.

Background

Chromium is in the business of designing liners for locomotive engines. LaRocca's employment at Chromium began at the company's Chicago plant in November 1977 when he was 50 years old. The Chicago plant manager, Laux (then age 37), initially interviewed LaRocca and recommended that he be hired. Later, the company president interviewed and hired LaRocca to work as third shift foreman. As third shift foreman, LaRocca worked from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and supervised six hourly employees who did the honing and plating of the liners.

For approximately the first year and a half of his employment, LaRocca's immediate supervisor was Laux, the plant manager. Laux's initial review of LaRocca's performance, made in 1978, was positive. A year later, in May 1979, Laux's review of LaRocca was also complimentary, observing that LaRocca "handles hourly people much better in the past four months than ever before; 51 percent of goals completed."

Three months later, however, in August 1979, Laux gave LaRocca a poor evaluation. He stated that LaRocca showed "no motivation, does not know how to communicate with supervisors, peers or subordinates." Laux also said that he "[felt] the proper steps should be taken to replace this employee." Laux never discussed with LaRocca any of these evaluations.

When LaRocca began in November 1977, the other supervisory personnel at the Chicago plant were Gabryel (then age 56), day shift honing foreman; Fittanto (age 28), day shift plating foreman; Hendrix (age 50), maintenance foreman; Tavassoli (age 46), technical advisor; and Bemise (age 25), second shift foreman. In 1979, Laux and Bemise were transferred to Chromium's Texas plant. Gabryel replaced Laux as plant manager; Laux had suggested that Gabryel be given this promotion. Fittanto replaced Gabryel as first shift honing foreman and Mazzanti (age 33), took the position of first shift plating foreman. Sheehan (age 22), who began at Chromium as a hone operator in August 1977, was promoted to second-shift foreman. LaRocca remained as third shift foreman.

Gabryel's was written evaluations of LaRocca in 1979 and 1980 were positive. Gabryel considered LaRocca a good employee, with a good production and safety record. He admitted that LaRocca had a few problems with other supervisors, but added that LaRocca was responsive to Gabryel's concerns and made improvement in relations with his peers. Gabryel also noted that other foreman had similar problems.

In January 1981, Gabryel received written congratulations on his performance as plant manager. A month later, however, his employment with Chromium was terminated. No reason for the discharge appears in the record. Laux stated at the hearing that he did not participate in the decision to discharge Gabryel.

Laux was transferred back to Chicago to reassume his position as plant manager. Upon his return, he began weekly supervisors' meetings. LaRocca's attendance at these supervisors' meetings required that he return to the plant after completing his regular shift. Initially Laux refused to compensate LaRocca for time spent at the meetings. After LaRocca advised Laux that Fittanto was compensated for time spent at meetings held ...


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