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Tollie Carter v. Chicago State University

August 24, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James B. Zagel


Plaintiff, Tollie Carter, suffers from sleep apnea and works as an Associate Professor of Accounting at Chicago State University. He brings various claims against Defendants alleging that they failed to accommodate his disability, discriminated against him on the basis of race and gender, and retaliated against him for participating in protected activities. Defendants now move for summary judgment on all claims. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted in part.


A. Overview

Plaintiff Tollie Carter ("Carter") is an Associate Professor of Accounting at Chicago State University ("CSU"). Defendants Bijesh Tolia ("Tolia") and Farhad Simyar ("Simyar") are also employees of CSU; Tolia served as the Chair of the Department of Accounting after January 2006, and at all relevant times, Simyar served as the Dean of CSU's College of Business.

CSU offers faculty the opportunity to teach summer school classes, and the Department of Finance and Accounting offers such summer courses. Faculty members are only assigned to teach summer courses if they make such a request. The availability of summer employment is contingent on factors such as the budget, program need, and the faculty member's placement on the department's rotation list. The rotation list is supposed to be a priority list that changes from year to year based on a previous year's course assignments, and program needs may supersede the rotation list. According to the Faculty Handbook, a faulty member must notify his or her department chair in writing by the date specified in the University Timetable of Personnel Actions. According to the University Timetable, for the 2005-2006 academic year, faculty were required to apply to their department chairs for Summer 2006 course assignments by September 15, 2005. Tolia scheduled faculty class assignments in the Department of Finance and Accounting, including summer class assignments. Tolia's recommendations were then made to Simyar.

B. Carter's Summer 2006 Request

On October 31, 2005, six weeks past CSU's due date, Carter submitted a request to Tolia asking that he be assigned two courses for the Summer 2006 term. Tolia was only able to assign Carter to one course for Summer 2006, and Carter protested this reduced assignment. In response to Carter's complaint that his assignment of one course was "totally unacceptable," Tolia explained that "[b]y the time I got your request, it was too late. This is all I have." Carter was assigned to one course for the Summer 2006 term.

Barbara Roper, an African-American female Accounting faculty member, received two course assignments as well as an advising assignment. Janet Grange, an African-American female Accounting faculty member, received one course assignment, as well as an assignment to serve as a UPI Officer.

C. Fall 2006 and Spring Terms

On February 8, 2006, Tolia sent Carter his tentative course assignments for the 2006-2007 academic year. Tolia's email asked Carter to inform him of any concerns regarding the schedule "at [his] earliest." According to these tentative assignments, Carter would teach the following courses during the Fall 2006 Term:

Accounting 111 on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:30-10:45 a.m.; Accounting 213 on Mondays and Wednesdays at 12:30-1:45 a.m.; Accounting 111 on Mondays at 6:00 - 8:50 p.m.;

Accounting 212 on Wednesdays at 6:00 - 8:50 p.m.

During the Spring 2007 term, Carter was scheduled to teach the following courses:

Accounting 111 on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.; Accounting 110 on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.; Accounting 213 on Thursdays at 6:00- 8:50 p.m.;

Accounting 315 on Tuesdays at 6:00 - 8:50 p.m.

Accounting 213 is a class titled "Intermediate Accounting" and is a prerequisite for Accounting 315, "Advanced Accounting." Carter regularly teaches Advanced Accounting.

On February 9, 2006, Carter told Tolia in an email that he "did not teach Accounting 213" and asked for two modifications. Regarding the Fall 2006 schedule, he asked that his 12:30 class be changed to begin at 11:00 a.m. Regarding the Spring 2007 schedule, Carter asked that the "night class for the Spring 2007 should be changed to Monday or Wednesday night" because "I have religious studies on Tuesday evenings." In response, Tolia rescheduled Carter's Tuesday evening class to Wednesday night. He did, however, require Carter to teach Accounting 213 because of "declining sections of all Accounting courses." During these discussions with Tolia, Carter did not inform him that he suffered any health restriction that would prevent him from fulfilling any of his course assignments.

1. Fall 2006

On April 5, 2006, Carter received a Yearlong Faculty Work assignment form and signed this form "under protest." Accompanying the form was a memo from Carter to Tolia. The memo indicated that Carter was unhappy about being assigned to teach Accounting 213 and stated that he was "not qualified or interested in teaching Accounting 213." This memo did not indicate that Carter had any health restrictions that would prevent him from teaching during the year. Carter did not receive an amended Yearlong Faculty Work Assignment showing a change to his class schedule for the 2006-2007 academic year following the submission of his memo.

When the Fall 2006 semester commenced on Monday, August 21, 2006, Carter did not attend his Accounting 213 class scheduled for that day. The next day, Tuesday, Tolia emailed Carter about his failure to teach his Accounting 213 class. On Wednesday, August 23, 2006, Carter responded to Tolia and stated that he was "unaware [he] was still teaching this class." He also stated that he was not feeling well, would not be able to meet his Accounting 213 class, and asked to have his sick leave charged for the missed time. Tolia asked Carter to submit a doctor's excuse for his sick time. Carter did not teach his Accounting 213 class scheduled for that day, though Carter taught his other morning and evening classes scheduled on that day.

On Monday, August 28, 2006, Carter emailed Tolia and stated that "due to illness, I will be unable to teach this class [Accounting 213]. I will make every effort to attend my other courses. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause."

On September 5, 2006, Dr. Linus Ema filled out a "Return to Work/School Verification" form for Carter. This form stated that Carter had "a history of obstructive sleep apnea" and asked that Carter be allowed to have classes "spread out over more than 2 days." The form also indicated that Carter will have drowsiness and fatigue throughout the day. Carter did not provide CSU with any documentation of his obstructive sleep apnea before submitting Dr. Ema's note around September 5, 2006. Dr. Simyar taught Carter's Accounting 213 class at the beginning of the Fall 2006 semester, and following the submission of Dr. Ema's note, CSU hired a part-time instructor to teach Carter's Accounting 213 class. Carter did not teach Accounting 213 during the Fall 2006 semester.

CSU sanctioned Carter two days' pay ($736.69) for refusing to teach his Accounting 213 class on August 21 and August 28, 2006. Plaintiff alleges that in August 2006, he received a performance appraisal completed by Tolia, which rated him far below his actual performance

2. Spring 2007

Shortly before the start of the Spring 2007 semester, Carter received a new schedule which modified the schedule he had received in April of 2006 in two ways: (1) it moved Accounting 315 on Tuesdays from 6pm to 8:50 p.m. to Wednesdays during the same time slot; and (2) it added the Accounting 110 lab on Thursdays from 12:30 p.m. to 1:20 p.m.

On January 9, 2007, Carter asked Tolia to change his Spring 2007 course assignments, asking that his assigned Accounting 213 course be swapped with an Accounting 111 course assigned to another faculty member. Carter also requested that the Accounting 110-02 Lab be removed from his schedule, as it was never part of his Yearlong Assignment. The Accounting lab was taught Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:20 p.m. On January 16, 2007, Tolia responded that he could not change Carter's schedule to lower his workload. Carter's Spring 2007 course assignments were spread out over more than two days.

Carter called in sick and did not teach any classes on Thursdays between January 11, 2007 and April 5, 2007. Another instructor was paid to teach Carter's courses in his absence.

On January 18, 2007 and February 5, 2007, Tolia wrote to Simyar and informed him of Carter's refusal to teach his Thursday classes. On February 26, 2007 Tolia asked Carter to provide a doctor's statement for his sick leave absences on Thursdays of the Spring 2007 semester. On March 6, 2007, Dr. Ema filled out another "Return to Work/School Verification" form for Carter. In an accompanying letter, Dr. Ema wrote: "Please allow [Carter] to have his classes ...

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