On May 3, 2016, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed an order of the trial court which granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s age and disability discrimination employment discharge claims brought under the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”). Kreczko v. Triangle Package Machinery Co., 2016 IL App (1st) 151762 (5/3/2016). This was an employment discrimination case under the IHRA, Illinois’ state anti-discrimination law, rather its federal counterpart, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). The defendant discharged the plaintiff after receiving several customer complaints about his job performance. Four months later, the defendant replaced the plaintiff with a newly hired younger Hispanic employee. The plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and subsequently filed a lawsuit in state court in which he alleged age, race, and disability discrimination. The trial court dismissed the race discrimination claim, and granted summary judgment on the age and disability claims. The plaintiff did not establish a case of unlawful discrimination because he failed to meet the defendant’s legitimate performance expectations, and the defendant offered a reason for his discharge (unsatisfactory job performance) that was not pretext for unlawful discrimination.
Illinois courts apply a three-part analysis of employment discrimination claims brought under the IHRA that is similar to but not exactly the same as the burden-shifting McDonnell Douglas analysis which federal courts use for Title VII claims. Under Illinois law: (1) a plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of unlawful discrimination by a preponderance of the evidence; (2) to rebut the presumption of unlawful discrimination, the employer must articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its employment decision; and (3) if the employer establishes a legitimate reason, the plaintiff must prove that the reason was merely a pretext for unlawful discrimination. To establish a prima facie case of age discrimination under Illinois law, a plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) he or she is a member of the protected age class; (2) he or she was performing his or her job satisfactorily; (3) he or she was discharged despite the adequacy of his or her work; and (4) a similarly situated employee outside of the protected age class was not discharged. The plaintiff in this case could not establish that he was satisfactorily performing his job or that a similarly situated younger employee was not fired and, therefore, he failed to establish his age discrimination case. To establish a disability discrimination case under the IHRA, a plaintiff must prove that: (1) he or she is disabled within the meaning of the IHRA; (2) his or her disability was unrelated to his or her ability to perform his or her job functions; and (3) an adverse employment action was taken against him or her related to his or her disability. The Illinois Appellate Court concluded that the plaintiff’s disability discrimination claim also failed because the defendant stated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for his employment termination that was not pretext for unlawful discrimination, as the reasons for firing the plaintiff were legitimately based on his poor work performance.