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Tawanna Young v. Illinois Human Rights Commission

June 26, 2012

TAWANNA YOUNG,
PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
ILLINOIS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION, THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS, AND THE CITY OF CHICAGO, DEPARTMENT OF STREETS AND SANITATION, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES.



Petition for Review from the Illinois Human Rights Commission. No. 2009 CN 1399

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cunningham

JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Connors and Harris concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 On October 24, 2008, respondent City of Chicago's department of streets and sanitation (the City) terminated petitioner Tawanna Young's (Young) employment. Young filed a discrimination charge against the City with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (the Department) under the Illinois Human Rights Act (the Act) (775 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq. (West 2006)),alleging that, due to her sexual orientation, the City: (1) denied her overtime work hours; (2) issued her a "written reprimand" and two-day suspension; and (3) discharged her. The Department dismissed Young's charge for lack of evidence. Young timely filed a request for review by the Illinois Human Rights Commission (the Commission). After the Commission vacated the dismissal and remanded the charge for further investigation by the Department, the Department dismissed Young's charge for the second time. Young subsequently filed a second request for review by the Commission. The Commission concluded that the Department properly dismissed Young's discrimination charge for lack of evidence.

¶ 2 On this direct appeal, Young seeks review of the July 5, 2011 order of the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

¶ 3 For the following reasons, we find that there was no substantial evidence to support a charge of discrimination and uphold the Commission's decision.

¶ 4 BACKGROUND

¶ 5 On June 30, 2006, Young, a homosexual, was hired to work as a laborer for the City. During the first year-and-a-half of her employment, Young began to have difficulties with one of her supervisors, Assistant General Superintendent Eric McKennie (McKennie), who placed a number of disciplinary actions against her, including a two-day suspension.

¶ 6 On October 24, 2008, the City terminated Young's employment after she was absent from work for three weeks. During this three-week period, Young was in jail for what she claimed to be false charges unrelated to this case.

¶ 7 On November 10, 2008, Young filed a discrimination charge against the City with the Department under the Act, alleging that she received less favorable treatment than similarly-situated non-homosexual employees. She claimed that, due to her sexual orientation, the City: (1) denied her overtime work hours; (2) issued her a "written reprimand" and two-day suspension; and (3) discharged her.

¶ 8 The statute provides the following procedure for a discrimination claim. A discrimination charge may be filed with the Department within 180 days after the date that a civil rights violation was allegedly committed. 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(A) (West 2010). The Department will serve a copy of the charge to the respondent, and the respondent will be required to file a verified response to the allegations. 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(B) (West 2010). When the Department accepts a discrimination complaint, a Department official investigates the allegations of the discrimination charge cited in the complaint. After analyzing the claim, the investigator prepares a written report recommending whether or not there is "substantial evidence" that an act of discrimination occurred. 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(A) to (C) (West 2010). Substantial evidence is defined as evidence that a reasonable person would accept as sufficient to support the complainant's allegations and that "consists of more than a mere scintilla but may be somewhat less than a preponderance." 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(D)(2) (West 2010). If, from the report, the Department's Director determines that there is a lack of substantial evidence, the claims must be dismissed. In cases involving charges filed on or after January 1, 2008, as in Young's case, the complainant may file a request for review with the Illinois Human Rights Commission or file a complaint in the state circuit court. 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(D)(2), (D)(3), 8-103(A) (West 2010). Here, Young first requested review with the Commission.

¶ 9 In the case at bar, after the City timely filed its verified response denying any discrimination against Young, the Department initiated an investigation of Young's claims. The Department's investigator issued a report containing statements made by: (1) Young; (2) Deputy Commissioner Vanessa Quail (Quail), another of Young's supervisors; (3) City Refuse Collection Coordinator Frank Canchola (Canchola); (4) McKennie; and (5) various individuals involved in the incident that was the basis of the written reprimand and the subsequent two-day suspension. The Department's report, dated November 10, 2008, does not indicate when, to whom, or in what manner each individual's statements were obtained.

¶ 10 The Department's investigator reported that Young claimed that she was denied the opportunity to work overtime because of her sexual orientation. Young stated that she applied for overtime whenever it was offered from June to September 2008, and her requests were denied. However, she could not provide the specific dates of these requests and denials. Young also stated that Canchola told her "the word was put out" by McKennie that she was not to receive overtime hours. She stated that other, non-homosexual employees were given overtime hours, but she was unable to specifically name any of these employees.

¶ 11 Additionally, Young stated that Canchola issued her a two-day suspension for delaying the timeliness of a van, which was to transport other employees to their work sites.

¶ 12 The investigator's report stated that Adorn Douglas (Douglas), the van driver, reported that Young departed the van to smoke a cigarette while passengers were loading and continued to smoke after the last passenger had entered, despite the fact that Douglas had informed Young that she was on a time schedule. The report stated that Douglas notified McKennie of the incident later that evening. The report also indicated that McKennie received a letter from an unnamed passenger, who was on the van the day of the incident, which stated that Young did enter the work van first but exited the van after it was loaded to smoke a cigarette, and that Young failed to exit the vehicle at her work location, thereby causing other passengers to be late.

ΒΆ 13 By contrast, Young claimed that she did not delay the timeliness of the van and alleged that McKennie had Canchola issue the suspension because McKennie did not "like the way she carried herself." Young claimed that other, non-homosexual employees had not been issued suspensions for interfering with others on the job site; however, she stated that she was not aware of any other employee who had interfered with others on the ...


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