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Mohammad Y. Shaikh v. Board of Trustees of Community College District of Chicago No. 508 D/B/A City Colleges of Chicago

July 31, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Ronald A. Guzman


On June 30, 2009, Plaintiff Mohammad Y. Shaikh ("Shaikh") was terminated from his position as a part-time teaching assistant for Defendant City Colleges of Chicago ("CCC"). Shaikh, who is Pakistani, a practicing Muslim, and was over forty years old at the time of his termination, contends that he was terminated because of his age, religion, race, national origin, or a combination of those elements. Shaikh sued CCC for violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII").*fn1

CCC moves for summary judgment as to all of Shaikh's claims. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants CCC's motion.

I. Facts

Although the Court set a briefing schedule on CCC's motion for summary judgment on February 6, 2012 (Dkt. # 67), Shaikh, who is represented by counsel, failed to file a response as directed. Accordingly, the Court deems admitted all of CCC's properly supported facts. L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) ("All material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party.").

Shaikh's Work History at CCC

Shaikh was born in Pakistan on September 15, 1943 and is a naturalized citizen of the United States. (TAC, Dkt. # 79-1, ¶ 7; id., Ex. C, Dkt. # 79-3, EEOC charge). In 1971, Shaikh began working for Malcolm X College ("Malcolm X") as a full-time laboratory assistant in the chemistry department. (Def.'s Rule 56.1(a) Stmt., Dkt. # 92, ¶¶ 4-5.) Malcolm X is one of seven colleges that makeup CCC. (Id. ¶ 2.) In June 2003, Shaikh's position was terminated during a reduction in force ("RIF") initiative caused by budgetary constraints. (Id. ¶ 5.) Shaikh elected to retire, but CCC rehired him as a part-time teaching assistant in September 2003. (Id. ¶¶ 6-8.)

On June 27, 2007, Shaikh injured his hand while preparing a sodium hydroxide solution commonly known as lye. (Id. ¶ 9.) Although Shaikh knew the dangers of this caustic substance, he did not wear gloves or safety goggles. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) CCC retained Regulatory Compliance Management ("RCM"), a consulting firm, to investigate the incident. (Id. ¶ 13.) RCM determined that Shaikh had failed to wear protective equipment and did not exercise caution when dealing with the chemicals. (Id. ¶ 14.) Therefore, CCC concluded that the accident occurred because Shaikh failed to follow proper safety procedures and directed him to temporarily refrain from working with chemicals. (Id. ¶ 16.)

On July 2, 2007, Shaikh presented a doctor's note to CCC stating that he could return to work if he covered his injured hand. (Id. ¶ 17.) On approximately August 6, 2007, Ron Antoine ("Antoine"), CCC's Human Resources Administrator, sent Shaikh a letter requesting additional information about any accommodation that Shaikh required due to his injury. (Id. ¶ 18.) As of August 6, 2007, Shaikh stopped going to work and communicating with CCC. (Id. ¶ 21.) Accordingly, he was terminated in August 2007 under CCC's job abandonment policy. (Id. ¶ 21.) Shaikh's union filed a grievance, and Shaikh was reinstated with full back pay on February 4, 2008. (Id. ¶¶ 22-24.)

In 2006 and 2007, Shaikh and others were directed to relocate their workstations in order to accommodate newly hired faculty. (Id. ¶ 29.) Shaikh was instructed to move his workstation into the chemistry laboratory work area. (Id. ¶ 30.) When he complained about the air quality in the laboratory, CCC hired RCM to investigate Shaikh's complaint. (Id. ¶¶ 32-33.) RCM ran tests and concluded in a July 17, 2007 report that the air was safe. (Id. ¶ 33). However, when Shaikh returned to Malcolm X after he was reinstated in February 2008, CCC transferred Shaikh to the physics department because of his ongoing complaints about the air quality in the chemistry lab and his 2007 injury. (Id. ¶¶ 34-35.) Shaikh's new workstation was located in a room previously used for storage. (Id. ¶ 36.) Other employees also had their workstations in areas also used for storage. (Id.) Shaikh worked in the Physics Department for the duration of his employment at CCC. (Id. ¶37.)

Many positions at Malcolm X are funded through grants. (Id. ¶ 38.) Indeed, Shaikh's position had been funded through the Carl D. Perkins Grant ("Perkins Grant"). (Id. ¶ 42.) Alta Williams, Malcolm X's Dean of Career Programs, was responsible for preparing Malcolm X's Perkins Grant application for the 2010 fiscal year. (Id. ¶ 43.) In consultation with Malcolm X's Grant Analyst Latasha Johnson, Williams determined that the Perkins Grant could not be used to fund Shaikh's position. (Id. ¶¶ 44-45.) Since Malcolm X would lose the Perkins Grant if it improperly allocated the funds, Williams informed CCC that several positions, including Shaikh's, could no longer be funded through the grant. (Id. ¶¶ 41, 52.) Williams did not know Shaikh, does not recall ever speaking with him, and was not aware of his age, national origin, race, or religion. (Id. ¶ 47.) In light of other budgetary constraints at the time, the unavailability of the grant money meant that there were no other funds with which to pay Shaikh. (Id. ¶ 49.) Therefore, the administration decided to eliminate Shaikh's position as part of a RIF, in which other employees' positions were also eliminated (Id. ¶¶ 50, 52.) None of these individuals has been rehired by CCC. (Id. ¶ 53.)

Shaikh was notified of the situation in a May 29, 2009 letter in which he was also encouraged to look and apply for vacant positions on the CCC website. (Id. ¶¶ 56-57.) Shaikh was terminated by CCC as of the close of business on June 30, 2009. (Id. ¶ 56.) On December 14, 2009, Shaikh filed a discrimination charge against CCC with the EEOC. (Id. ¶ 64.)

Although CCC encouraged Shaikh to apply for a new position through its website, Shaikh failed to do so. (Id. ¶¶ 57-59.) Shaikh's only attempt to be rehired was to inform Antoine by letter that he would work as a teaching assistant. (Id. ¶ 61.) Up to the date of ...

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