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04/07/94 MARY K. WALLACE v. HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

April 7, 1994

MARY K. WALLACE, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION, THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS, AND AMERICAN AIR FILTER, DIVISION OF SNYDERGENERAL CORPORATION, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES.



Petition from the Illinois Human Rights Commission

Released for Publication June 7, 1994.

Cahill, Hoffman, Theis

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cahill

PRESIDING JUSTICE CAHILL delivered the opinion of the court.

This case began when Mary Wallace filed a charge of discrimination against her employer under the Illinois Human Rights Act (the Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 68, par. 1-101 et seq.). The Act allows an employee to file such a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (the Department). (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 68, par. 2-102(A).) The Department then must investigate to determine if substantial evidence supports the charge. If the Department so finds, it files a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission (the Commission). If the Department finds insufficient evidence, it dismisses the charge; the employee may then file a request for review with the Commission. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 68, par. 7A-102(D)(2).) If the Department fails to make a finding within 300 days after a charge is filed, a 30 day window of opportunity is opened by the statute to allow the employee to file a complaint on her own. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 68, par. 7A-102(G)(2).

We consolidate two appeals brought by Wallace. She first appeals the order of the Commission dismissing her discrimination complaint as untimely. The Commission dismissed Wallace's complaint filed on the 322nd day because the Department acted to dismiss her charge on the 316th day. Wallace argues that the Commission erred because: (1) the Department is precluded from acting during the 30 day window period when the employee may act on her own; (2) the Commission did not honor a stipulation between her and her employer to vacate the Department's dismissal and confer jurisdiction on the Commission; and (3) the Commission did not follow proper procedures.

Wallace separately appeals the Commission's decision to affirm the Department's finding that her charge lacked sufficient evidence.

We affirm both decisions by the Commission.

Wallace worked for American Air Filter as an assembler. This work required her to assemble filters, carry buckets of glue weighing 40 pounds, and use a hand stapler. In April 1989 Wallace sought medical care for cervical radiculopathy, a condition of the neck and upper extremities. She was treated by a doctor and excused from work. She returned to work on October 23, 1989. The doctor's restrictions were: "Not to lift more than 10-15 lbs. No excessive pulling and pushing."

To accommodate these restrictions American Air Filter did not require her to carry buckets of glue or push heavy carts. It transferred her from the special assembly line to a regular line where she had to carry die-cast boxes weighing less than two pounds each. Her production quota was 500 filters per day. When Wallace complained she could not meet the quota, her supervisor asked for medical documentation to verify that her medical condition prevented her from meeting the production requirements. Wallace did not do so. American Air Filter terminated Wallace in June 1990 because she failed to meet the quota. She was 44 years old.

On October 11, 1990, Wallace filed a charge of discrimination with the Department under section 2-102(A) of the Illinois Human Rights Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 68, par. 2-102(A)). She alleged American Air Filter did not accommodate her medical condition and discharged her because of her age and physical handicap. Wallace claimed American Air Filter had accommodated other, younger employees by assigning them to work in a warehouse where they did not have to meet quotas.

The Department dismissed the charge 316 days after Wallace filed it, on August 23, 1991. The Department concluded that Wallace's claims of handicap and age discrimination were not supported by substantial evidence. The Department found that American Air Filter reasonably accommodated Wallace when it modified her job duties on a regular line position to comply with her medical restrictions. The department further found that Wallace knew she had a quota of 500 filters per day, but failed to meet it, and that she did not give American Air Filter medical documentation to support her claim that her medical condition prevented her from meeting the quota. The Department also found that, although younger employees were given positions not offered to Wallace, those employees did not perform at her "subpar" level.

On August 29, 1991, six days after the Department dismissed the charge, Wallace filed a complaint directly with the Commission. She repeated the allegations contained in her discrimination charge. Wallace and American Air Filter then filed a joint motion before the Commission to vacate the dismissal of the charge by the Department and asking the Commission to assume jurisdiction of the complaint. The Commission denied the motion and dismissed Wallace's complaint with prejudice finding that the underlying charge of discrimination had already been dismissed.

Wallace also filed a petition for review with the Commission of the Department's decision under section 7A-102(D)(2)(a) of the Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 68, par. 7A-102(D)(2)(a).) The Commission affirmed the Department's dismissal of the charge. It found that the evidence established a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for her discharge based on failure to meet production requirements. It further found that American ...


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