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Escarzaga v. Board of Trustees of Community College District #508

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

June 5, 2018

ELIZABETH ESCARZAGA, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT #508 d/b/a CITY COLLEGES OF CHICAGO, and MICHAEL ROBERTS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JORGE L. ALONSO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Carmen Escarzaga (“plaintiff” or “Escarzaga”)[1] filed against defendants Board of Trustees of Community College District #508 (“City Colleges of Chicago”) and Michael Roberts an amended complaint asserting claims arising from her employment with City Colleges of Chicago. The Court previously dismissed all of plaintiff's claims against defendant Michael Roberts and some of plaintiff's claims (including a claim for age discrimination) against City Colleges of Chicago. [Docket 21]. Defendant City Colleges of Chicago moves for summary judgment on plaintiff's remaining claims. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants defendant's motion [50] for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.[2]

         Defendant City Colleges of Chicago operates Harry S. Truman College (“Truman College”), where plaintiff started working in 1991. Plaintiff, who was of Mexican descent, was a part-time employee in the Cosmetology Department, where she taught until May or June of 2014, when she retired.

         Truman College offers students two types of classes: (1) courses for which a student could earn college credit (“credit courses”); and (2) continuing education courses (“non-credit courses”). Non-credit courses are taught by employees called adult educators. Credit courses are taught by either full-time employees called professors or part-time employees called adjuncts.

         Truman College's instructors were represented by three different unions. The adult educators (i.e., the instructors of non-credit courses) are represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, AFL-CIO and its Local 3506 (“AFSME”). Full-time professors are represented by the Local 1600 AFT, AFL-CIO, Chicago Illinois Faculty and Training Specialists. Finally, the part-time adjuncts are represented by the City Colleges Contingent Labor Organizing Committee-Illinois Education Association-National Education Association (“CCCLOC”). It is possible for an instructor to have more than one title, if, for example, she teaches both credit and non-credit courses.

         In Truman College's Cosmetology Department, instructors taught credit courses. Thus, the full-time professors (who were also called “training specialists”) were represented by Local 1600 AFT, AFL-CIO, while the part-time adjuncts were represented by CCCLOC.

         An instructor's pay is determined by the applicable collective bargaining agreement. Under the CCCLOC collective bargaining agreement, part-time adjunct instructors are paid per student contact hour (which essentially means per 50-minute class period). The pay per contact hour is based, in part, on the instructor's educational background. Adult educators, on the other hand, are paid by the hour.

         At some point during the first four months of 2013, plaintiff was given a contract as a part-time cosmetology adjunct. (The parties dispute whether that happened in January or April of 2013, but it does not matter when it happened.) Essentially, plaintiff's title was changed from adult educator to part-time adjunct. Plaintiff wondered why defendant was changing her title when she was “getting ready to retire.” At the time of the switch, plaintiff's students were happy with her teaching and she was not subject to discipline.

         The change in title had the effect of reducing plaintiff's pay. At some point in the first half of 2013, the payroll department ran an audit and determined that plaintiff had been overpaid. Specifically, plaintiff had been paid both as a part-time adjunct and as an adult educator. Defendant asked plaintiff to return the money, and she agreed to do so via payroll deduction. Plaintiff was not the only employee who was overpaid. Irene Bannister, who had been plaintiff's supervisor, was also overpaid. She, too, returned the money.

         At times during her employment, plaintiff thought she was treated unfairly. Three or four years before she retired, plaintiff was passed over for a promotion and was denied an opportunity to attend a seminar. At some point, because she was going to miss two days of a summer class, plaintiff was required to share the class with another instructor, which affected the total number of hours she worked.

         In addition, plaintiff did not like some things that Michael Roberts (“Roberts”) said to her. Roberts is (and was during 2013) the Human Resources Director at Truman College. Plaintiff was offended by comments Roberts made to her during meetings that took place in March, April and May of 2013. Specifically, Roberts said to plaintiff, “I do not understand you, ” “I am not understanding you, I will get a translator, ” and “I will call for an interpreter to make sure you are understanding me[.]” Roberts also said, “Do you understand me? Do you understand me?” Plaintiff testified that she spoke English “with a strong accent” and sometimes needed a translator for written English. Plaintiff's union representative translated for plaintiff during one meeting. Another thing plaintiff did not like was when Roberts said plaintiff “does not have the education to make that kind of money.”

         While she was working for defendant, plaintiff had diabetes. Plaintiff never told anyone at City Colleges of Chicago that she had diabetes. When plaintiff missed work for a few days, she told supervisor Irene Bannister only that she was sick. Plaintiff never asked for an accommodation for her diabetes.

         City Colleges of Chicago maintains a non-discrimination policy. City Colleges of Chicago prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of age, race, color, national origin, ethnicity and disability. City Colleges of Chicago has an EEO Office that investigates complaints of discrimination from students, employees and anyone else involved in activities related to City ...


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