APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, THIRD DISTRICT
536 N.E.2d 447, 180 Ill. App. 3d 766, 129 Ill. Dec. 607 1989.IL.338
Petition for review of order of Human Rights Commission.
PRESIDING JUSTICE WOMBACHER delivered the opinion of the court. SCOTT and STOUDER, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WOMBACHER
The Illinois Human Rights Commission (Commission) found that the respondent, International Harvester, had not terminated the petitioner's employment because of his age. The petitioner, James Kindred, appeals.
The record shows that on September 10, 1982, the respondent terminated the 52-year-old petitioner's employment after 30 years of service. The respondent had been suffering serious financial problems since 1980. The petitioner's termination was part of a massive workforce reduction which resulted in approximately 3,800 layoffs out of 4,350 total employees.
During his employment with the respondent, the petitioner worked in the plant protection department. Starting as a plant guard, he eventually worked his way up to chief of the department. After suffering a heart attack, he voluntarily stepped down in 1978 from the chief's post and worked as a lieutenant until his termination.
At the time of the petitioner's termination, his department had one chief and three lieutenants. Chief James Dickey was 41 years old. Lieutenants Morris Chambers and Lynn Klarkowski were, respectively, 40 and 30 years old. As part of the work-force reduction, one lieutenant's position was eliminated.
Tom Hansen, the respondent's director of human resources, discussed the situation with Dickey and decided to discharge the petitioner. He further decided to move Ronald Bjork, the 43-year-old plant safety supervisor, to the plant protection department. Hansen testified that he retained Bjork because, among other reasons, he had more experience in plant safety than did the petitioner. He retained Chambers because he had greater growth potential, had an advanced degree, had excellent writing and verbal skills, had developed the respondent's fire fighting plan, and had had better evaluations than the petitioner. He stated that he kept Klarkowski because she was promotable, was equally qualified with the petitioner, and was a woman.
The petitioner argued before the Commission that Hansen's reasons were pretextual and hid age discrimination. In support of his position, the petitioner presented evidence that he was more experienced and more qualified than several of the retained personnel.
The administrative law Judge found that the petitioner had proved a prima facie case of age discrimination and that the respondent had in turn articulated legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for the petitioner's discharge. The ALJ further found that the petitioner had failed to show direct evidence of age discrimination and had failed to show that the respondent's reasons were pretexts for age discrimination. The ALJ therefore recommended that the Commission dismiss the petitioner's complaint. The Commission subsequently dismissed the complaint with prejudice.
On appeal, the petitioner first argues that the Commission placed an improper burden of proof on him. The petitioner contends that instead of requiring him to prove his case by a preponderance of the evidence, the Commission required him to prove that his credentials were so superior that the reasons articulated by his employer were unworthy of credence.
In an age discrimination suit, the employee may prove his case with either direct or circumstantial evidence. (McNeil v. Economics Laboratory, Inc. (7th Cir. 1986), 800 F.2d 111.) In the indirect case, the employee must first prove a prima facie case of age discrimination. If the employer then articulates a lawful reason for the employee's dismissal, the employee has the burden of proving that the reason given by the employer is merely a pretext by showing that the discriminatory reason more likely motivated the employer or that the ...