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December 2, 1994


Administrative Review of the Human Rights Commission. No. 1988SF0580.

As Corrected January 9, 1995. Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied February 1, 1995.

Justices: Honorable Carl A. Lund, J., Honorable Frederick S. Green, J., Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lund

JUSTICE LUND delivered the opinion of the court:

This case arises from a complaint filed with the Illinois Human Rights Commission (Commission). The complaint alleged Caterpillar discriminated against Lula Fitzpatrick on the basis of her sex, race, and physical handicap when it failed to accommodate her request for a transfer from the third shift to the first shift. Fitzpatrick is a black female welder who suffers from a sleeping disorder. Caterpillar denied any discrimination against Fitzpatrick and asserted her sleeping disorder is not a physical handicap under the Illinois Human Rights Act (Act) (see 775 ILCS 5/1-103(I) (West 1992)).

On September 18, 1992, Fitzpatrick and Caterpillar filed a joint motion to continue the public hearing and attached to the motion the following stipulation:

"IT IS HEREBY STIPULATED that the reason Respondent did not accommodate Complainant by placing her on a first shift position when she attempted to return to work is because the third shift position was the only position to which Complainant was entitled under the seniority provisions of the Labor Agreement between Caterpillar[,] Inc.[,] and the United Auto Workers, including the Local Supplement between the Decatur Plant and Local Union 751.

Accordingly, it is hereby stipulated that in order for Complainant to prevail in this action, the Commission would have to order that Respondent, Caterpillar[,] Inc., had a duty to accommodate Complainant by transferring her from a third shift to a first shift position, notwithstanding the seniority provisions of said Labor Agreement which precluded such a transfer.

In light of the above Stipulation, IT IS AGREED by and between the Complainant and Respondent, by their respective attorneys, that there is a determinative issue of law which can be presented to the Commission by a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Respondent, without the requirement of an evidentiary hearing. Accordingly, the parties jointly agree that the hearing scheduled for September 22, 1992[,] in this matter should be continued until after the Respondent has an opportunity to file its Motion for Summary Judgment and the parties have had an opportunity to file briefs with respect to the issue."

In its summary judgment motion, Caterpillar argued (1) Fitzpatrick's claims were preempted by Federal labor law; (2) the collective-bargaining agreement between Caterpillar and Local 751 precluded Caterpillar from transferring Fitzpatrick; and (3) pursuant to Illinois law, Caterpillar had no duty to accommodate Fitzpatrick's handicap.

In response to Caterpillar's summary judgment motion, Fitzpatrick attacked the accuracy of the stipulation. In support of her argument, Fitzpatrick attached two unsworn letters purportedly signed by a local union representative and a copy of a decision of an arbitrator denying Fitzpatrick's workers' compensation claim. Fitzpatrick did not file any counteraffidavits in response to Caterpillar's motion.

On January 19, 1993, Caterpillar filed a reply. Caterpillar argued (1) Fitzpatrick was bound to the stipulated facts, and (2) Fitzpatrick's exhibits were insufficient to defeat the summary judgment motion because they were not supported by affidavits.

In ruling on the summary judgment motion, an administrative law Judge (ALJ) for the Commission recommended the Commission dismiss Fitzpatrick's complaint. (In re Fitzpatrick (May 25, 1993), Ill. Hum. Rights Comm'n Rep. (HRC No. 1988-SF-0580) (hereinafter ALJ's recommended decision of May 25, 1993).) The ALJ held, pursuant to the stipulation, Caterpillar's decision to not transfer Fitzpatrick was based upon seniority provisions of the labor agreement, not sex, race, or handicap status. Thus, there was no evidence of discrimination in denying Fitzpatrick's request. In the alternative, the ALJ found Fitzpatrick's claim was preempted by Federal labor law. The ALJ noted "where, as here, the parties have stipulated that the reason that the Respondent [(Caterpillar)] did not accommodate Complainant's [(Fitzpatrick's)] transfer request was due to the terms of the Labor Agreement, any dispute over Respondent's [(Caterpillar's)] failure to accommodate Complainant's [(Fitzpatrick's)] request is a matter of Federal law." (ALJ's recommended decision of May 25, 1993, slip decision at 12.) Accordingly, the ALJ recommended the Commission dismiss Fitzpatrick's complaint.

Fitzpatrick filed exceptions to the ALJ's recommendation and Caterpillar filed a response. In November 1993, a three-member panel of the Commission dismissed the complaint with prejudice. (In re Fitzpatrick (Nov. 8, 1993), Ill. Hum. Rights Comm'n Rep. (HRC No. 1988-SF-0580) (hereinafter HRC's order of Nov. 8, 1993).) The Commission specifically declined to rule on the Federal preemption issue. The Commission noted Caterpillar, Inc. v. Human Rights Comm'n (1987), 154 Ill. App. 3d 424, 506 N.E.2d 1029, 107 Ill. Dec. 138, makes it clear there is no cause of ...

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