December 7, 2016

Contact:  Eric W. Boyer, Esq.
Managing Partner
305.670.1101 Ext. 1023


Labor and Employment Law – Race, Age, Retaliation, Discrimination Claims


Anthony Schumann

CHICAGOAnthony L. Schumann, a partner with Quintairos, Prieto, Wood and Boyer, P.A., secured a defense verdict in a bench trial on behalf of a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) subcontractor who provided elevator, escalator, moving walkways and lift maintenance at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago Illinois. The MBE subcontractor (100% African American owned) had been sued pursuant to the Illinois Human Rights Act on plaintiff’s claims of harassment/hostile environment based on race (African American) and age, discrimination in failing to promote plaintiff based on his race and age, and retaliation. The case was tried for four days before the Honorable John C. Griffin in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.
The plaintiff sued both the general elevator maintenance contractor as well as the MBE subcontractor for the same claims. The general contractor obtained a pretrial dismissal on the failure to promote discrimination claims and the retaliation claim when the court determined that plaintiff pled in his complaint that the MBE subcontractor was his employer during the time the alleged claims took place. The court however denied the general contractor’s motion for dismissal on the harassment/hostile environment claim, finding that plaintiff adequately pled that the alleged harasser was an employee of the general contractor. The general contractor subsequently settled with plaintiff on behalf of both the general contractor and subcontractor as to the harassment/hostile environment claim days before trial commenced.
Plaintiff testified at trial regarding his personal belief that he was more qualified for the promotion to the position of mechanic than the person who was promoted and that he was laid off by the subcontractor in retaliation for his complaining of harassment and not being promoted to the general contractor’s Human Resource Department and his later filing of a Charge of Discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.
However, the court found that the MBE subcontractor presented facts supporting that the general contractor’s foreman actually assigned the subcontractor’s employees’ their day to day duties and supervised their work while they performed maintenance at the airport. This arrangement had been the practice at the airport for more than 20 years, of the subcontractor providing equipment maintenance employees to various general contractors. It had also been the long standing practice of the various general contractors to add to, subtract from, and recommend promotion of the subcontractors’ employees based on the MBE requirements of the agreement between the general contractor and the City of Chicago Department of Aviation.
The subcontractor presented testimony that the nondiscriminatory reason for the promotion choice was because the general contractor recommended the person that was promoted and they did not consider plaintiff. The subcontractor followed this recommendation because their foreman was in a better position to observe employee’s work ethic at both companies. Furthermore, the court found that plaintiff failed to prove a causal connection between complaints of adverse action and his ultimate lay off by the subcontractor. The court found that the agreement between the general contractor and subcontractor provided the subcontractor no choice, but to lay off plaintiff when the general contractor eliminated plaintiff’s position for the subcontractor and that the two employees that remained were the subcontractor’s original employees that had worked at the airport for 20 and 16 years respectively.

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