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Irick v. Illinos Human Rights Commission

March 03, 2000


Administrative Review of the Illinois Human Rights Commission No. 1991SA0311

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cook


Petitioner, Gene A. Irick, filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights alleging that respondent, Christie Clinic (Clinic), had fired him because of his age and sex. The Clinic responded that Irick had been fired because he sexually harassed a student intern. An administrative law judge (ALJ) conducted a public hearing in February 1993. In November 1998, the Illinois Human Rights Commission (Commission) dismissed the complaint with prejudice. Irick appeals. We conclude the Commission's decision is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence, and we reverse and remand.


The ALJ found the following facts.

Petitioner, Gene Irick, born in 1942, was employed as an X-ray technician by respondent Clinic from April 1, 1967, until his termination on June 18, 1990. Irick worked in the radiology department at the Clinic. Irick's immediate supervisor was Katherine McCarthy.

McCarthy became radiology department administrative coordinator in 1986. The Clinic, through Kenneth Blount, administrative director of the radiology department, in consultation with McCarthy, developed a policy soon after 1986 whereby female X-ray technicians were allowed to perform "male-type" procedures, but male technicians were not allowed to perform "female-type" procedures, such as mammograms.

In 1986, after McCarthy became department administrative coordinator, she had several conversations with Julie Christians, an X-ray technician who worked at the Clinic. McCarthy told Christians that she would "get rid of" Irick if it was the last thing she did, and explained to Christians that Irick was "worthless" at least in part because he could not do mammograms. McCarthy made statements to Christians, such as, it had been so long since Irick had been to school that he did things differently than they did. At the time of Irick's discharge he was the only male X-ray technician of the nine employed by the Clinic and was the only one over the age of 40.

Irick testified that he had not received a job performance evaluation and raise by April 1, 1990, his anniversary date. He asked McCarthy about this in June 1990, and she said that just the younger technicians would get raises. Irick asked the Clinic's personnel director, Melodie Garland, about the situation, and she said she would contact Irick later. On June 18, Garland told Irick to come to her office. When Irick arrived, Richard Knierim, the Clinic's resource development manager, was present, along with Blount and Garland. Knierim told Irick that, as of that moment, Irick's employment at the Clinic was terminated.

At the time of his termination, Irick was not given any facts concerning the allegations against him and was not given an opportunity to respond to the allegations. The reason given for the termination was "inappropriate behavior during his working hours at Christie Clinic."

It developed that on March 26, 1990, Dr. Thomas Wagner, the director of radiologic technology at Parkland College, wrote McCarthy that a Parkland student had made a complaint about Irick. On January 29, 1990, Kathy Smith, a clinical instructor at Parkland, told Wagner that a student had told her that Irick had approached her, touched her on the leg, and made comments of a sexually suggestive nature. The student did not indicate that the incident was serious, but she had been upset by it. Wagner checked with other Parkland students and discerned that while several "such incidents of a verbal nature" had previously occurred, "they felt that it was in jest."

Wagner met with McCarthy and Smith to discuss the matter on February 6, 1990. Wagner told McCarthy he did not consider this to constitute a "serious matter," but did recommend McCarthy meet with Irick to insure that no such incidents reoccurred in the future.

Knierim placed Garland in charge of an investigation into the Parkland complaint and instructed her to meet with Parkland officials. Garland had previously met with McCarthy and Smith, and on June 7, 1990, met with McCarthy and Sue Martina, the complaining student. At that time, Martina signed the following statement:

"This is a statement by Susan Martina, made at 2:00 p.m. on June 7, 1990, presented to Katherine McCarthy, ...

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