SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS
545 N.E.2d 684, 131 Ill. 2d 172, 137 Ill. Dec. 31 1989.IL.1512
Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Third District; heard in that court on petition for review of an order of the Illinois Human Rights Commission.
JUSTICE STAMOS delivered the opinion of the court.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE STAMOS
Plaintiff, Fred Zaderaka, brought this suit against defendant Freeman United Coal Mining Company (Freeman), alleging age discrimination in employment in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 68, par. 1-101 et seq.). After a three-day hearing, an administrative law Judge concluded that Zaderaka failed to prove his claim of age discrimination and recommended that the complaint be dismissed. The Illinois Human Rights Commission (Commission) affirmed and adopted the ALJ's recommended order and decision and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The appellate court reversed and remanded. (171 Ill. App. 3d 626.) We granted the petitions for leave to appeal filed by Freeman and the Commission, and the actions were consolidated for purposes of review.
The central issue raised by both appeals is whether the Commission's finding, that Freeman's articulated reason for failing to hire Zaderaka was not a pretext for discrimination, is against the manifest weight of the evidence. We answer this question in the negative and accordingly reverse the appellate court's judgment reversing the Commission's order.
The record reveals the following facts, which are largely undisputed. In November 1981, Freeman solicited applications for employment at its new mine in Industry, Illinois (the Industry mine). Freeman sought to fill 52 hourly positions. It received 2,800 applications for employment; 2,500 of these were for hourly positions.
Zaderaka, then 60 years of age, submitted an application for employment as a welder. He had extensive employment experience as a welder and had been previously employed in that position at another of Freeman's mines. Of the 52 available hourly positions, four were for welder positions. Zaderaka was not hired.
Warren Hattendorf, director of employee relations at Freeman, was responsible for reviewing, sorting, and culling the applications. He testified to the process he used in narrowing down the large number of applicants. He testified that he reviewed and sorted the 2,500 applications for hourly positions into skilled and unskilled groups. This process resulted in a pool of 500 applicants for skilled positions. Forty-one of the 52 hourly positions were skilled positions. Approximately 100 of the pool of 500 applicants sought welder jobs.
Hattendorf further testified that where there was a large pool of applicants for a particular skilled position and a substantial number of those applicants were unemployed, he eliminated those individuals whose applications revealed them to be already employed in "full time, permanent type positions." Hattendorf explained that this was done for two reasons. First, there were many unemployed skilled workers with relevant experience because a number of mines in the area had closed down. Second, Freeman wished to hire those individuals who could begin work immediately. Since there was a large number of applicants for the four welder positions, Hattendorf eliminated applicants for those positions if they had full-time, permanent employment.
Hattendorf also testified that there were approximately 100 people working for contractors who were constructing the Industry mine site, and that "probably all of them" applied for employment with Freeman at the mine. He testified that Freeman hired some of these individuals because they had been observed on a daily basis at the mine site by Freeman supervisors, and because they would be unemployed once the construction of the site was completed.
For the welder positions, after eliminating those employed in a full-time, permanent position, Hattendorf checked employment references of the remaining applicants. Next, applicants were interviewed by members of Freeman's management and were given a performance test. The applicants who were not ...