Robison v. Dana Corp.

Decision Date24 October 1995
Docket NumberNo. 27A05-9502-CV-54,27A05-9502-CV-54
Citation656 N.E.2d 540
Parties7 NDLR P 155 Glen ROBISON, Appellant-Petitioner, v. DANA CORPORATION and Indiana Civil Rights Commission, Appellees-Respondents.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court
OPINION

FRIEDLANDER, Judge.

Glen Robison appeals the trial court's determination that the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) correctly ruled that Dana Corporation (Dana) did not engage in unlawful discriminatory practices when it rejected his application of employment with the company.

We affirm.

The facts most favorable to the judgment are that Robison was born on April 25, 1965. He graduated from high school and has suffered from cerebral palsy since birth. Robison held several jobs which included work experience as a machine operator at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Marion during 1984-85, a janitor at a substance abuse center, and a groundskeeper at a mobile home park.

On September 14, 1988, Robison applied for a position with the Dana Corporation in Marion. Dana manufactures driveshaft components for automobiles and trucks. When Robison applied, there was an available opening for a machine operator. Robison qualified for this position, inasmuch as Dana required that its applicants have a high school diploma or its equivalent, along with prior work experience. While Dana hired only a handful of employees prior to 1988, three additional permanent employees were retained during the first six months of 1988, all of whom were placed in skilled trade positions. One of the new employees was blind in one eye.

On September 19, 1988, Charles Pritchett and Marliss Castle, the personnel specialists from Dana, interviewed Robison. While neither Pritchett nor Castle questioned Robison about his disability during the interview, Robison volunteered that he was handicapped when he entered the room. Robison was one of twenty people interviewed for the position. Although Robison qualified for the position along with all other applicants, he was not selected. On October 7, Robison received the following letter from Dana:

"Thank you for your interest in Dana Corporation, and for coming to the personnel office for your recent interview. We have reviewed the applications and notes from all the individuals, and have chosen several to be physicalled and possibly hired.

Even though you were not selected for future employment with Dana, we wish you much success in your job search. Again, thank you for your time...."

Record at 403.

On November 22, 1988, Robison filed a complaint with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC), alleging that Dana had discriminated against him because of his disability. Following a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on August 25, 1992 an order was issued in Robison's favor. This order provided that Dana's rejection of Robison's employment application was an unlawful, discriminatory practice, and it ordered Dana to do the following: 1) pay Robison the sum of $22,373.93 in lost back pay, 2) cease and desist from refusing to hire applicants because of handicap, and 3) place Robison on its payroll and treat him, for all purposes, as if he had been hired in October, 1988, and rehired in February, 1989.

On December 18, 1992, the ICRC reversed the ALJ's decision, and Robison petitioned for judicial review in the Grant Circuit Court. The trial court affirmed the ICRC's decision and issued an order which provided in relevant part as follows:

This matter is before the Court for judicial review of an administrative decision made by the Indiana Civil Rights Commission.

Petitioner, Glen Robinson [sic], filed an unlawful discrimination charge against Dana Corporation with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. Robinson [sic] alleged Dana unlawfully discriminated against him by failing to hire him, because he was handicapped. After hearings before a hearing officer and oral arguments, the Commission on March 26, 1993, entered a decision in favor of Dana Corporation.

Robinson [sic] filed his petition for judicial review on April 26, 1993.

FINDINGS OF FACT

Robinson [sic] was born April 25, 1965 with cerebral palsy.

On September 19, 1988, Robinson [sic] along with nineteen (19) other individuals, were [sic] interviewed by Dana Corporation to fill one (1) entry level position of machine operator. The people conducting the interviews for Dana testified that all twenty (20) applicants met the general requirements for the job. When that occurs they assess the applicants based on how well they interview. Dana interviewors [sic] testified they did not hire Robinson [sic] because he interviewed poorly. They said he appeared nervous and was not as responsive to questions as some of the other applicants.

Robinson [sic] filed an unlawful discrimination charge against Dana because they did not hire him. After several hearings, the Indiana Civil Rights Commission entered its decision on March 26, 1993 in favor of Dana. The Commission decided there was a legitimate business reason for Dana's refusal to hire Robinson [sic]. Consequently, Robinson [sic] did not meet his burden of proving Dana unlawfully discriminated against him.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

This is a judicial review of an administrative agency's decision. Therefore this Court may not reweigh evidence. Rather, this Court must determine only whether the agency's findings and decision are supported by substantial evidence.

Robinson [sic] encourages the Court to reweigh the evidence. Indeed, this Court would have to reweigh the evidence to find in favor of Robinson [sic] and set aside the decision of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission.

There is substantial evidence in the record to support the findings and decision of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. Accordingly, this Court may not overturn that decision.

JUDGMENT

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED BY THE COURT, that the verified petition for judicial review filed April 26, 1993, by Petitioner Glen Robinson [sic] is denied.

Record at 159.

Robison appeals and presents the following restated issue:

Did the trial court err in concluding that the order of the ICRC was supported by substantial evidence when it determined that Dana did not engage in unlawful discriminatory practices by not hiring Robison?

Judicial review of administrative agency decisions is governed by Ind.Code 4-21.5-1-1, et seq. (Administrative Orders and Procedures Act). IC 4-21.5-5-14 provides in relevant part as follows:

"(a) The burden of demonstrating the invalidity of agency action is on the party to the judicial review proceeding asserting invalidity.

* * * * * *

(d) The court shall grant relief under section 15 [Ind.Code 4-21.5-5-15] of this chapter only if it determines that a person seeking judicial review had been prejudiced by an agency action that is:

(1) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law;

(2) contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity;

(3) in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority or limitations, or short of statutory right;

(4) without observance of procedure required by law; or

(5) unsupported by substantial evidence."

This court is limited in its review of an administrative agency decision inasmuch as we do not reweigh the evidence or judge the credibility of witnesses in the process of determining whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence. Indiana Dep't of Natural Resources v. United Refuse Co. (1993), Ind., 615 N.E.2d 100; Hamilton County Dep't of Pub. Welfare v. Smith (1991), Ind.App., 567 N.E.2d 165. As long as the decision of the ICRC is supported by substantial evidence, this court will not reverse even if we would have reached a different result. Indiana Civil Rights Comm'n v. Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co. (1995), Ind.App., 648 N.E.2d 674, trans. denied.

Under the Indiana Civil Rights Act, 1 the ICRC remains the ultimate authority in determining findings of fact. Upon judicial review, the trial court cannot weigh conflicting evidence. Indiana Civil Rights Comm'n. v. Kidd & Co., Inc. (1987), Ind.App., 505 N.E.2d 863, trans. denied. It is within the province of the ICRC to judge the credibility of witnesses, and neither this court nor the trial court will substitute its judgment for that of the Commission. Indiana Civil Rights Comm'n v. Weingart, Inc. (1992), Ind.App., 588 N.E.2d 1288. If the findings the Commission ultimately adopts have a reasonably sound basis of evidentiary support based on a review of the record in its entirety, the agency's decision will be upheld. Indiana Civil Rights Comm'n v. Wellington Village Apartments (1992), Ind.App., 594 N.E.2d 518, trans. denied.

Following the ICRC's determination that the ALJ erred, the case was remanded, and the ALJ modified his findings. Prior to modification, Dana had presented the following objections:

"2. The Hearing Officer improperly found (with no evidence being presented at the hearing to support such a finding) that:

Robison has proven by preponderance of the evidence that the asserted reason for Dana's refusal to hire him is unworthy of credence. In response to the Complaint, at a time closer to the events, Dana has indicated in its answer to ICRC that the reason Robison was not hired was that Dana had 'single applicants whose backgrounds were more closely related to the needs of our current job requirements.' This conflict between reasons asserted by Dana cast sufficient doubt upon the credibility of its currently asserted reasons to make both unworthy of credence.

. . . . .

9. The Hearing Officer improperly found (with no evidence being presented at the hearing to support such a finding) that as a matter of law...

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  • Fuller v. Allison Gas Turbine Div., General Motors Corp.
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • 26 Agosto 1996
    ...OF REVIEW Under the Indiana Civil Rights Act, the ICRC is the ultimate authority in determining findings of fact. Robison v. Dana Corp., 656 N.E.2d 540, 544 (Ind.Ct.App.1995); Ind.Code 22-9-1-6 (Supp.1996). When we review a decision of the ICRC, we are bound by the Commission's findings of ......

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