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Willis v. The Illinois Department of Human Rights

September 21, 1999


Administrative Review of The Illinois Department of Human Rights No. 1997SA0916.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Myerscough

In June 1997, petitioner, L. Dean Willis, filed a complaint with the Department of Human Rights (Department) against respondent, United Parcel Service (UPS). Petitioner alleged that his employer, UPS, violated the Illinois Human Rights Act (Act) (775 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq. (West 1998)) by demoting him solely because of his age. In April 1998, the Department determined petitioner failed to present substantial evi- dence to support his claim. In October 1998, the chief legal counsel affirmed the Department's dismissal.

Petitioner now appeals the chief legal counsel's determination to this court on direct administrative review, arguing (1) the Act's pro- cedural framework violates due process; (2) the chief legal counsel's decision was arbitrary and capricious; and (3) the Department erred in refusing to hear evidence alleging a pattern of age discrimination against petitioner. We affirm. I. BACKGROUND In early 1996, UPS assigned petitioner to the position of business manager at UPS' facility in Quincy, Illinois. As business manager, petitioner became responsible for directing all activities at the facility.

According to the Department's investigative report, UPS district human resource manager Gary Finke stated that he visited the facility and conducted a "staff ride" in July 1996. A staff ride allows upper management to meet with the drivers and to evaluate the facility's condition. Finke stated that he "discovered that [the Quincy facility instituted] *** very little, if any, [of the] [b]est [g]roups [p]rogram" and Finke "told [petitioner] to correct this."

UPS implemented the "best groups" program in 1995. Under the program, groups of employees worked together to address significant issues such as safety and business development. UPS instituted the program at selected centers and sent a team to each center to educate employees about the program. According to the investigative report, petitioner once served on such a team. In November 1995, UPS sent a team to the Quincy facility for approximately four months to implement the best groups program.

According to the Department's investigative report, UPS district quality manager and division manager Karl Gramm stated that he and former division manager Mickey Wigley met with petitioner in August 1996. They repeated Finke's directive that petitioner schedule and conduct best groups meetings. They further told petitioner that they expected him to take an active role in the meetings and in planning best group initiatives. Wigley's notes of that meeting, appended to the investigative report, showed petitioner displayed a negative attitude with regard to the matters discussed during the meeting.

According to Finke, Wigley met with petitioner again in October 1996. Petitioner exhibited negative feelings toward UPS, and Wigley suggested petitioner improve his "negative attitude as it was going to adversely affect his credibility and his career."

In December 1996, Finke and Wigley visited the Quincy facility. According to Finke, they observed inadequacies in several training ar- eas. Supervisors complained they were not being properly trained and were generally dissatisfied with regard to petitioner's treatment toward them. Several drivers also approached Finke and Wigley with complaints about petitioner. The drivers requested that Finke and Wigley conduct a "focus group" meeting, whereby drivers could express their concerns. Finke scheduled a focus group meeting for January 7, 1997.

Finke also stated that 32 out of some 40 drivers attended the meeting. "Driver after driver complained about [petitioner], *** [stating petitioner] would not really listen to their concerns, *** refer[ring] to [them] as 'cost' rather than employees[.] [S]ome were afraid to approach [petitioner] and others did not because they knew he would not do anything anyway so why bother."

The Department's investigator spoke with several UPS employees, including drivers, supervisors, and managers, with regard to petitioner. Some stated they got along with petitioner and thought petitioner per- formed his duties well. However, many acknowledged that petitioner did not get along particularly well with some UPS employees. Of those interviewed, no one had or presented any reason to believe petitioner was transferred because of his age.

According to the investigative report, on January 27, 1997, Finke and Gramm met with petitioner. Petitioner stated that Finke told peti- tioner they were transferring him to UPS' industrial engineering de- partment in Decatur, where he would hold the position of supervisor. Petitioner stated that the move came as a complete surprise, and he re- ceived no forewarning that he was performing his duties inadequately. According to petitioner, Finke told petitioner to take a few days to re- flect on the situation before reporting to the Decatur facility.

Finke stated that he, along with Gramm and district manager Randy Franklin, decided to transfer petitioner because of his negative attitude and his unwillingness to properly implement the best group program, even after being specifically and repeatedly instructed to do so. Moreover, Finke stated that the complaints from drivers and supervisors with regard to petitioner were significant enough to warrant a change.

After transferring petitioner, UPS promoted Mark Collins, age 35, to the position of business manager. Finke testified that UPS chose Collins because of his work performance. Moreover, Collins had experi- ence as a supervisor of training and quality, which were areas Finke, Gramm, and Franklin felt needed improvement.

The investigator found a lack of substantial evidence existed to support petitioner's claim ...

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