United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division
MYERSCOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint Pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) (d/e 32) filed by
Defendants Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois,
Karen Moranski, Jonathan GoldbergBelle, and Laura Alexander.
The Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Counts VI
and VII are dismissed without prejudice and with leave to
replead. Plaintiff Driss El-Akrich is also granted leave to
file an amended complaint clarifying which Defendant(s) are
named in which counts. Counts I, II, III, IV, V, VIII, and
Court has subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff's
claims are based on federal law: Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et
seq.; 42 U.S.C. § 1981; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; 42
U.S.C. § 1985; and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331 (“The district courts shall have original
jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States”).
The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over the State law
claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Venue is proper
because a substantial part of the events or omissions giving
rise to Plaintiff's claims occurred in this district. 28
U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2).
motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the
complaint. Christensen v. Cnty. of Boone, Ill., 483
F.3d 454, 458 (7th Cir. 2007). To state a claim for relief, a
plaintiff need only provide a short and plain statement of
the claim showing he is entitled to relief and giving the
defendants fair notice of the claims. Tamayo v.
Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).
considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
Court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff, accepting all well-pleaded allegations as true
and construing all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's
favor. Id. However, the complaint must set forth
facts that plausibly demonstrate a claim for relief. Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007). A
plausible claim is one that alleges factual content from
which the Court can reasonably infer that the defendants are
liable for the misconduct alleged. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Merely reciting the
elements of a cause of action or supporting claims with
conclusory statements is insufficient to state a cause of
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a defendant may
move for dismissal of a claim for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). When considering a Rule
12(b)(1) motion, this Court accepts as true all well-pleaded
factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in
favor of the plaintiff. Alicea-Hernandez v. Catholic
Bishop of Chi., 320 F.3d 698, 701 (7th Cir. 2003).
However, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving the
jurisdictional requirements have been met. Ctr. For
Dermatology & Skin Cancer Ltd. v. Burwell, 770 F.3d
586, 588 (7th Cir. 2014).
November 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Second Amended
Complaint against the Board of Trustees of the University of
Illinois (the University); Karen Moranski, the Associate
Vice-Chancellor of Undergraduate Education at the University
of Illinois-Springfield (UIS); Jonathan GoldbergBelle, the
Senior Director of International Programs and Internships at
UIS; Laura Alexander, the Senior Director of Human Resources
at UIS; and Donna McNeeley, the Director of the University
Ethics and Compliance Office at UIS. The claims against the
individuals are brought against them in both their official
and individual capacities.
Second Amended Complaint contains the following allegations,
which the Court accepts as true for purposes of the motion to
dismiss. Tamayo, 526 F.3d at 1081.
is a Doctoral Candidate from Morocco, who was, at the time of
the events in question, on a student visa. Plaintiff is
Middle Eastern/Arab and Muslim.
August 16, 2011, Plaintiff began his employment with the
University as a part-time adjunct instructor in the Intensive
English Program (IEP). The IEP provides high quality teaching
of English to speakers of other languages. The goal is to
provide non-native speakers the skills they need to study at
an American university.
15, 2013, Plaintiff was promoted to Interim Director of the
IEP. Plaintiff was in charge of strategic planning, including
program development, curriculum, and assessment. He was
charged with growing the program and setting up policies and
procedures required by the Commission on English Language
Program Accreditation (CEA). It was the University's goal
to obtain CEA accreditation for the IEP. Plaintiff was also
responsible for hiring, supervision, overall training, and
professional development for faculty and support staff. His
job duties included promoting and actively recruiting for the
IEP. The program grew under Plaintiff, mainly with Middle
Eastern/Arab Muslim students.
January 2014, the IEP hired Jacqueline Tanner as a Visiting
Clinical Instructor to develop the policies and procedures
necessary to obtain accreditation from the CEA. Plaintiff
alleges that Tanner made complaints of discrimination and
ultimately suffered from retaliation. Tanner has also filed a
lawsuit in this Court, Case No. 17-3039.
1, 2015, the IEP underwent a reorganization. On July 15,
2015, Defendant GoldbergBelle became Plaintiff's
immediate supervisor. Prior to the reorganization,
GoldbergBelle conducted an assessment of IEP. GoldbergBelle
met with Plaintiff and inquired about the program's
growth, the Middle Eastern/Arab Muslim students, and the
future goals of the program.
August 3, 2015, Plaintiff met with Defendant Moranski,
GoldbergBelle's supervisor, and reported discriminatory
behavior by GoldbergBelle and his Program Coordinator,
Barbara Sykes, against exchange students in the Proyecta
program from Mexico and discriminatory behavior against
Plaintiff. The discriminatory actions included GoldbergBelle
initially refusing to issue visas for the Mexican students
claiming, “it was too much work.” GoldbergBelle
later stopped Plaintiff from collecting fees in cash from the
Mexican students, even though cash was the only method of
payment available to these exchange students. When
GoldbergBelle learned that Plaintiff was collecting fees from
the students and taking the cash to the cashier's office,
GoldbergBelle insisted that his Business Administrative
Assistant, Linette Hughes, and his Staff Clerk, Ashley Towel,
accompany Plaintiff to verify that Plaintiff was giving all
of the cash to the cashier's office. GoldbergBelle would
also not allow Plaintiff to pay for the transportation of
Mexican students to the St. Louis airport out of the funds
collected from the Mexican students, but GoldbergBelle always
provided transportation to his Asian exchange students.
Moranski did not investigate Plaintiff's complaints.
September 2015, GoldbergBelle presented his Assessment
Report. As part of the Report, GoldbergBelle took over most
of Plaintiff's Interim Director duties. GoldbergBelle
decided, contrary to IEP procedures, that he (GoldbergBelle)
would conduct all IEP faculty meetings. GoldbergBelle also
decided that all hiring in the IEP would be done under his
direction, contrary to the CEA guidelines. Plaintiff's
duties were now to be conducted jointly with either
GoldbergBelle or Tanner. The only job Plaintiff could do
unsupervised was to conduct a Faculty Development Seminar
where there would be several white faculty members present to
October 2015, GoldbergBelle indicated that he, GoldbergBelle,
would be in charge of issuing visas for all IEP students and
directed all teachers to send absences and grades to him.
This action obstructed Plaintiff's ability to perform his
responsibilities. GoldbergBelle also decided that he would be
responsible for terminating those IEP students who failed to
make satisfactory progress in the IEP program.
alleges that GoldbergBelle treated him with suspicion, even
though Plaintiff was following the same procedures for
reporting student absences as his white, Jewish predecessor.
GoldbergBelle and Moranski refused to address Plaintiff as
the Interim Director of IEP. Plaintiff also alleges that
GoldbergBelle was very concerned about the Middle
Eastern/Arab Muslim students and their absences, telling
Plaintiff that Plaintiff should have deported a Middle
Eastern student who missed more than one class. However,
GoldbergBelle was not concerned when two Chinese students
were gone for almost an entire semester or when a Vietnamese
student took a placement test in the summer of 2015 and then
disappeared until the fall semester.
the first session in the fall of 2015, Plaintiff reported to
Defendants GoldbergBelle and Moranski insubordination by Sue
Alexander, an adjunct professor. Sue Alexander told
Plaintiff she was reporting absences to GoldbergBelle and not
to Plaintiff because it was a matter of “Homeland
Security” and “it was the American Way.”
October 2015, GoldbergBelle's Business Administrative
Assistant, Hughes, opened mail addressed to Plaintiff without
his permission. Hughes took tuition checks and did not notify
Plaintiff so that he could balance the student accounts.
fall of 2015, Plaintiff met with Defendant Moranski and
reported that GoldbergBelle was not following established
procedures under the CEA guidelines. Plaintiff also
complained that he was being marginalized by GoldbergBelle,
who had created a hostile environment and made it difficult
for Plaintiff to do his job. Plaintiff reported that Hughes
would not allow Plaintiff to purchase routine items for the
IEP department unless approved by GoldbergBelle. Moreover,
Plaintiff was kept “out of the information loop.”
Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 43.
learned of complaints that Middle Eastern/Arab Muslim
students made to Tanner against adjunct professors Rebecca
Damery (Damery) and Sue Alexander, alleging disparate
treatment, including: (1) Damery's refusal to allow a
Middle Eastern/Arab Muslim student to attend her class, even
though he was on the class roster, and ordering him to obtain
a note from the IEP office to verify that he was correctly
placed her in class, even though she knew there was no staff
in the office available to provide him with such a note; and
(2) disparity between the grades and progression reports
received by two Middle Eastern/Arab Muslim students and a
female Vietnamese student in Sue Alexander's class.
November 25, 2015, during a bi-weekly meeting, Plaintiff
reported students' complaints of discrimination to
Defendants Moranski and GoldbergBelle. Plaintiff also raised
concerns about the inexperience of the present IEP faculty in
teaching CEA accredited programs. Plaintiff believed that
Moranski and GoldbergBelle agreed to hire three new CEA
experienced facility for spring of 2016 and that the adjunct
professors' hours would be reduced. Plaintiff was
ultimately informed, however, that it was too late to hire
asked Plaintiff to prepare a schedule for spring of 2016.
Plaintiff submitted for approval a preliminary class schedule
that did not include Sue Alexander and Damery. On December
23, 2015, Plaintiff was informed that Moranski decided to
give Sue Alexander and Damery one course each. That schedule
was amended to give Sue Alexander and Damery one course each.
January 4, 2016, Plaintiff met with the Provost, Lynn Pardie,
and reported in detail the discrimination faced by the Middle
Eastern/Arab Muslim students and by himself in the IEP
Department. He complained about the hostility, suspicion, and
harassment perpetuated by Defendant GoldbergBelle and his
staff, as well as the insubordination of the adjuncts, Sue
Alexander and Damery. He reported that all of this made it
difficult for him to perform his duties.
January 6, 2016, Plaintiff was advised by Defendant Laura
Alexander, Senior Director of Human Resources, that Sue
Alexander and Damery had complained because their hours had
been reduced for the spring semester in retaliation.
Defendant Laura Alexander wanted to meet with Plaintiff.
GoldbergBelle told Plaintiff not to respond to or contact
Laura Alexander until he, GoldbergBelle, had a chance to
discuss it with his supervisor, Moranski. Moranski also
instructed Plaintiff to follow GoldbergBelle's advice.
January 19, 2016, Defendant Donna McNeely, Executive Director
of the Ethics and Compliance Office, contacted Plaintiff to
schedule a meeting to address concerns with the IEP. On
January 25, 2016, Plaintiff met with McNeely and Traci Roth,
Associate Director of Ethics, about the IEP program and the
class scheduling process. Defendant McNeely wanted to know
why Sue Alexander and Damery's hours were reduced.
Defendant McNeely also asked Plaintiff about the growth of
the program with Middle Eastern/Arab Muslim students.
response, Plaintiff read Defendant Moranski's email to
Defendant McNeely in which Moranski stated that she would
make the final determination regarding the spring of 2016
schedule. Plaintiff also reported the students'
complaints against Sue Alexander and Damery and reported the
discrimination and hostile environment created by Defendants
GoldbergBelle and Moranski against Plaintiff and the Middle
Eastern/Arab Muslim students.
February 4, 2016, Defendant GoldbergBelle refused to give IEP
Program Assistant Badaria Luteify, a Middle Eastern/Arab
Muslim, University credit cards, despite the fact that the
same cards were previously provided to white, Christian IEP
Program Assistants in the IEP department. Plaintiff reported
this to the Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs, Ryan
Croke. Plaintiff also informed Croke of discrimination
against Middle Eastern/Arab Muslim students by Defendant
GoldbergBelle's Program Coordinator, Barbara Sykes, who
complained (the Second Amended Complaint does not state to
whom she complained) that she feared for her safety when
Middle Eastern men were dropped off in the driveway in front
of the Brookens library at UIS.
February 23, 2016, Plaintiff complained to Moranski about
GoldbergBelle's treatment of Luteify and complained that
the environment was too hostile for him to perform his
duties. Plaintiff stated he was going to go to the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Defendant Moranski
turned red and stated she would not support Plaintiff if he
went to the EEOC.
February 29, 2016, Moranski and GoldbergBelle gave Plaintiff
a letter stating that Defendant McNeely had found Plaintiff
guilty of retaliation and that Plaintiff was being placed on
administrative leave immediately. Plaintiff was told to have
no contact with anyone from the University, not even for his
March 3, 2016, Plaintiff met with Defendants Alexander and
Moranski in the Human Resources Office and shared the
students' complaints. Defendant Laura Alexander wanted to
know why Sue Alexander and Damery were not on the preliminary
schedule and why their hours were reduced to one course each
in spring of 2016. Plaintiff read Moranski's email, which
stated that Moranski was going to decide who to hire for
spring of 2016. Plaintiff also shared the Middle Eastern/Arab
Muslim students' complaints about Sue Alexander and
Damery. Plaintiff told Laura Alexander that he did not have
independent authority to hire anyone without GoldbergBelle
and Moranski's approval.
March 18, 2016, Plaintiff received Defendant Laura
Alexander's Recommendation Letter in which she found that
Plaintiff was solely responsible for retaliation against Sue
Alexander and Damery. Laura Alexander recommended that
Plaintiff be terminated immediately. Laura Alexander praised
Defendants Moranski and GoldbergBelle and stated it was only
by their intervention that Sue Alexander and Damery were able
to teach any courses in spring of 2016.
March 21, 2016, Plaintiff and Tanner met with Deanie Brown,
Associate Chancellor, Office of Access and Equal Opportunity,
about their complaints of discrimination against Plaintiff by
Defendant GoldbergBelle, the discrimination against the
Middle Eastern/Arab Muslim students, and the pre-textual
retaliation claim brought against Plaintiff and Tanner for
April 27, 2016, Defendant Moranski sent an email to Plaintiff
informing him that he may return to active work status
through the completion of his contract on May 15, 2016. His
duties would, however, be separate from IEP and his contract
would not be renewed. Plaintiff was directed to work from
home and obtain prior approval from Moranski for all visits
to the campus. He was not to contact anyone in IEP and was
directed to forward all emails and contacts to GoldbergBelle.
alleges that the wrongful ethics violation on his record has
caused significant harm to Plaintiff's career and
professional reputation. He has been unable to procure ...