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07/07/88 Northtown Ford, v. the Human Rights

July 7, 1988





525 N.E.2d 1215, 171 Ill. App. 3d 479, 121 Ill. Dec. 908 1988.IL.1069

Petition for review of order of Human Rights Commission.


JUSTICE McCULLOUGH delivered the opinion of the court. KNECHT and SPITZ, JJ., concur.


Northtown Ford (Northtown) appeals a determination of the Illinois Human Rights Commission (Commission) which found Northtown had discriminated in sick leave benefits and in salary against Delores Troyer, a former manager, on the basis of her sex. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 68, par. 2-102.) Northtown argues: (1) the Commission erred in allowing amendment of Troyer's initial charge; (2) the Commission's determination that Troyer had established discrimination in pay was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence; (3) the sick-pay benefit claim was untimely; (4) recovery for sick-pay benefits should be limited to compensation for unpaid sick days falling within 180 days of the charge filing; and (5) the Commission abused its discretion in awarding attorney fees.

We affirm.

On April 27, 1981, Troyer filed a form discrimination charge with the Department of Human Rights. On the form she checked sex and retaliation as bases of the discrimination. In the box marked "date most recent discrimination took place," she stated May 1980 continuing to February 27, 1981, and February 27, 1981. Troyer, in her statement of particulars, stated she was hired as a bookkeeper but promoted to business manager/secretary-treasurer of Northtown in 1979. In May 1980, her salary was reduced. She also alleged she was not paid full sick leave while a similarly situated male manager was paid full sick leave.

On February 22, 1982, the Commission issued a complaint of civil rights violation. Count I alleged Northtown discriminated in salary reduction in May 1980. Count II alleged retaliatory discharge. On July 16, 1982, the Commission issued a second complaint, alleging that from late September 1980 until early November 1980, complainant was on medical leave. Northtown paid her for one week medical leave. A similarly situated male employee on medical leave for six weeks in late 1979 was paid his full salary. The complaint further alleged Northtown failed to pay Troyer for her February 23, 1981, absence due to illness.

Northtown filed a motion to dismiss count I of the February 22, 1982, complaint as untimely. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 68, par. 7-102(1).) The equal pay discrimination charge based upon the May 1980 reduction in salary was dismissed as untimely. However, the administrative law Judge allowed Troyer leave to amend her complaint to state facts which would establish a continuing equal pay violation if one existed.

In Troyer's amended complaint, she alleged she was promoted to business manager/secretary-treasurer in September 1979. She was paid less than her male predecessor. The lesser amount was not reasonably related to any seniority system, merit system, or system related to quantity or quality of production or any factor unrelated to her sex. In counts II and III, Troyer realleged her retaliatory discharge and discrimination in sick pay claims.

The parties stipulated to the following facts: (1) Troyer, a female, was hired by Northtown on May 5, 1979, as a bookkeeper; (2) in September 1979, Troyer was given the duties and responsibilities of business manager/secretary-treasurer, which position she held until termination; (3) on February 27, 1981, Northtown terminated Troyer's employment; (4) Troyer was on medical leave in 1980; and (5) Northtown paid Troyer only one week sick pay while she was on medical leave.

Troyer and Edward Hazelhurst were the principal witnesses at the hearing. Troyer testified that after she was promoted in 1979, she supervised office personnel, pulled statements, kept the books, completed sales tax forms, completed wage tax forms, computed bonuses, and managed the business functions of the office. Initially, she was paid $1,600 per month plus a .5% audited net, end-of-the-year bonus. She also received the use of a company car and a gasoline allowance. Donald Nelson, her predecessor, had received $1,750 per month and a 1.5% audited net, end-of-the-year bonus. He also received the use of a company car and a gasoline allowance. Nelson was guaranteed $25,000 a year.

Troyer and Hazelhurst agreed that Troyer's duties were identical to Nelson's duties. Troyer stated she had prior business manager experience. Hazelhurst stated he was unaware of her managerial experience. Hazelhurst discussed a sliding scale compensation plan with Troyer prior to her promotion. She chose the larger salary, less bonus, scheme. She did not indicate that she thought her salary was unfair to Hazelhurst at that time. However, both plans were for a lower salary amount than Nelson earned. Troyer was not offered a guarantee.

Troyer agreed she had a choice between two plans but was not sure she ultimately was paid the salary she agreed to work for. At the time she agreed to the compensation plan, she did not believe she was being discriminated against or that the plan was unfair.

Nelson, who worked with Northtown less than a year, received a $3,000 bonus when he left in 1979. He was paid for a week's absence. Troyer did not receive a bonus in 1979. The end-of-year audited net showed a business loss in 1979. However, an accounting change occurred that year. This accounting change increased the loss figure for the year. Hazelhurst testified that Nelson received a part of his guaranteed salary rather than a bonus when he left. However, the business records for Northtown show that Nelson was paid "a bonus" amount of $3,000. Nelson was guaranteed his salary regardless ...

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