An Illinois Appellate Court recently decided a case involving age discrimination and closed executive meetings. In Cipolla v. Village of Oak Lawn, a village employee was terminated after the village board met in a closed executive session. During the meeting, the former employee claimed that the board discussed her age, calling her “older.” The Board claimed that the employee was terminated due to budget concerns, specifically the village needed to cut $1.4 million. After the termination of the employee, however, the village hired a new budget director and gave raises to employees in the finance department.

In determining the veracity of the former employee’s claims, the court heard conflicting testimony as to whether the employee’s age was discussed. The court was ultimately able to hear the recordings of the closed session and determined that no discussion as to the employee’s age was conducted.

Nonetheless, the former employee still claimed that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support a finding that she was terminated due to budget reasons. Specifically, she claimed that the closed executive session was improper due to the fact that budget concerns were discussed and that the raises and hiring of employees proves that the budget concerns were just a pretext to terminate her employment.

The court disagreed. It found that numerous witnesses testified that the village was having financial issues and needed to make cuts from its budget. Additionally, the court also found that though there was conflicting testimony as to what was discussed in the closed session there was still enough evidence to support a finding that she was not terminated due to her age. For these reasons, the court upheld the decision that the budget concerns were not a pretext to the employee’s termination.

William C. Westfall

Authors: William C. Westfall, Jacob Caudill