United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Z. LEE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lu Aku (“Aku”) filed this pro se lawsuit
against his former employer, the Board of Education of the
City of Chicago (“the Board”), and D'Andre
Weaver (“Weaver”), the principal at the school
where Aku taught until 2014. In his initial complaint, Aku
also named thirteen other defendants, a broad range of
parties that included, among others, the Chicago Teachers
Union, Aku's former medical provider and former
attorneys, two third-party claims administrators for the
Board, and the Illinois Department of Human Rights
(“IDHR”). All of those additional defendants have
since been dismissed except the IDHR.
amended complaint, Aku claims that the Board, Weaver, and the
IDHR discriminated against him based on his age, sex, color,
race, national origin, and disability, in violation of Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title
VII”); and based on color, national origin, and race,
in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. He
further alleges that the Board discriminated against him on
the basis of disability in violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and on the basis of age
in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
(“ADEA”). Aku also claims that all Defendants
retaliated against him for asserting his rights under these
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”)
12(b)(6), the Boardmoves to dismiss the complaint in part, and
the IDHR moves to dismiss Aku's complaint in full. For
the reasons given below, the Court grants in part and denies
in part the Board's motion and grants the IDHR's
African-American man born in 1967, began teaching science at
Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy
(“Brooks”), a public school in Chicago, on August
27, 2007. Am. Compl. Ex. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”) Charge, at 2, ECF No. 182-2.
began to experience challenges at Brooks starting the summer
before the 2013-14 school year. The Board's control group
(“BCG”) told Aku in May 2013 to prepare for a
2013-14 teaching assignment as an Advanced Placement
(“AP”) environmental science teacher and informed
him that it would arrange for him to attend AP professional
development training that summer. Am. Compl. at 5, ECF No.
182. The BCG, however, failed to respond to any of Aku's
inquiries about the AP training, and he was unable to
participate in the training. Id. at 5-6.
series of changes in Aku's teaching schedule followed. On
August 7, 2013, the BCG emailed Aku to inform him that he
would be teaching physics and biology, rather than
environmental science. Id. at 6. Aku learned at a
department meeting on August 20, 2013, that a young, white,
female teacher would be teaching AP environmental science
instead of him. Id. When he expressed surprise that
he would be teaching biology, the science department
chairperson told him to be happy he had a job. Id.
August 23, 2013, the BCG told Aku that a new science teacher
had been hired. Id. The new teacher was white and
under 40 years old. Id. The BCG then reassigned
Aku's physics sections to the new teacher and assigned
Aku to four honors environmental science classes, but it did
not notify Aku of the change until the morning of the first
day of classes, August 26, 2013. Id. Aku's new
schedule also did not allow him to take part in the science
department's common planning time. Id. at 7.
months later, on November 23, 2013, the BCG held a staff
meeting to which only African-Americans were invited (the
“November Meeting”). Id. During the
meeting, BCG told the staff that their jobs were not in
danger. Id. Aku complained to a Chicago Teachers
Union (“Union”) field representative about the
November Meeting, but the field representative did not take
any action. Id. Nor was any action taken by the
Union when Aku emailed Union leadership and requested that
they report the November Meeting to the EEOC and the IDHR.
April 3, 2014, the BCG summoned Aku to the hallway while he
had a class in session and suggested that he leave the field
of teaching. Id. at 8. A week later, on April 11,
2014, the BCG assigned Aku's biology and environmental
science students to another teacher for tutoring and
retesting, causing Aku to lose overtime opportunities and
negatively impacting his next teaching performance
evaluation. Id. at 7. The teacher who was assigned
to tutor and retest those students was not endorsed in the
relevant subjects. Id. at 8.
April 30, 2014, Aku filed a Complainant Information Sheet
(“CIS”) with the IDHR regarding the November
Meeting. Id. That same day, Aku emailed the
Board's Equal Opportunity Compliance (“EOC”)
Administrator, Donna Leaks, about the meeting, stating that
he was targeted because of his race. Id. Leaks did
not respond to the email. Id.
Aku had injured his right ankle at Brooks on October 7, 2013.
Id. at 7. On December 31, 2013, he visited a
podiatrist, and an x-ray showed no broken bones. Id.
Around June 17, 2014, Aku reported the injury to the Board
and to Sedgwick Claims Management Services
(“Sedgwick”). Id. at 8. Sedgwick
generated a workers' compensation claim and told Aku that
an adjustor would contact him within two weeks. Id.
Around the same time, Sedgwick notified the Board's Legal
Department of Aku's claim, and after the Board's
Legal Department told Sedgwick not to contact Aku, no
adjustor contacted him about his claim. Id.
26, 2014, the BCG called Aku and told him that (1) his
science teacher position was “being closed”; (2)
Brooks' math and science departments would be replaced
with a Science Technology Engineering and Math
(“STEM”) department for the 2014-15 school year;
(3) STEM-position candidates needed to be dually endorsed in
math and science; (4) because Aku did not hold a math
endorsement, he did not qualify for any STEM positions; and
(5) as a result, Aku could apply for unemployment insurance.
Id. at 8-9. During the call, Aku asked
Weaver which math and science teachers had been
notified of the dual endorsement requirements prior to him;
Weaver did not answer the question, but he told Aku he could
apply for the school's STEM vacancies that summer.
following day, June 27, 2014, Board Senior Management Analyst
Lauren Clair-McClellan told Aku that he was being laid off
because he did not possess the credentials necessary to
remain on staff at Brooks. Id. at 9. Three days
later, she told him that all STEM department teachers needed
to be dually endorsed in some combination of math, science,
and computer science. Id.
August 6, 2014, Aku took the Illinois Licensure Testing
System math test, seeking a math endorsement. Id.
That same day, Weaver interviewed Aku for a Brooks STEM
teacher vacancy. Id. Weaver did not ultimately offer
him a job. Id. at 16.
about August 25, 2014, the Board began rehiring teachers who
had been laid off in June 2014 Brooks's math and science
department. Am. Compl. Ex. IDHR and EEOC Charge #15W0909.15
(“Charge 15”) at 2, ECF No. 182-5. The Board
recalled similarly situated non-black employees and employees
who were younger than 40, but it did not recall Aku.
Id. at 1-2. No. African-American science and math
teachers over the age of 40 remained in the department,
although one Asian science teacher over 40 retained her
position. Am. Compl. at 16. The BCG had also earlier named
three people to leadership positions in the STEM department.
None was African-American, disabled, or had any open
workers' compensation claims, and two of the three were
under age 40. Id. at 9.
Aku's April 30, 2014, IDHR CIS had not been rejected or
converted into a charge. Id. at 8. But after he was
dismissed from Brooks, Aku filed a series of IDHR charges of
discrimination. He filed his first IDHR charge on July 7,
2014, claiming that he was terminated from Brooks on June 26,
2014, due to age discrimination. Am. Compl., Ex. IDHR and
EEOC Charge #15W0707.03 (“Charge 03”) at 1, ECF
No. 182-3. Two months later, on August 7, 2014, Aku filed a
second IDHR charge, alleging harassment and unequal
treatment, based on age and race, from August 2013 to May
2014, Am. Compl. Ex. IDHR and EEOC Charge #15W0807.07
(“Charge 07”) at 1-3, ECF No. 182-4, and
discrimination and retaliation from May 2014 to August 2014,
due to race and the filing of an earlier discrimination
charge, id. at 3-4.
September 10, 2014, Aku filed a third IDHR charge, claiming
that he was not recalled back to Brooks due to his age, race,
and national origin. Am. Compl. Ex. IDHR and EEOC Charge
#15W0909.15 (“Charge 15”) at 1-3, ECF No. 182-5.
Aku then worked as a substitute teacher in September 2014 for
one day, before being offered a bogus job offer and fired
that same day. Am. Compl. at 7. As of October 29, 2014, he
had not received pay for that work. Am. Compl. Ex. IDHR and
EEOC Charge #15W1027.16 (“Charge 16”) at 2, ECF
No. 182-6. Aku proceeded to file a fourth IDHR charge on
October 29, 2014, alleging harassment and unequal pay from
April 30 to October 3, 2014, in retaliation for filing
discrimination charges. Id. at 1.
October 6, 2014, Leaks, the Board's EOC Administrator,
called Aku and told him that the Board's Legal Department
had notified her that he had filed a complaint. Am.
Compl. at 10. According to Aku, the IDHR had
violated its policies by notifying the Board of Aku's
filings, so Aku emailed her to ask for detail on the
complaint's filing date, the nature of the complaint, and
the date she had been notified of the complaint. Id.
Leaks responded that the Board's EOC Office would meet
with Aku to discuss the allegations in his April 2014 CIS.
Id. She also told him that any complaints he filed
with an outside agency would be handled by Board's Legal
Department, rather than the EOC Office. Id.
November 19, 2014, the Board told the Union president that
Brooks' STEM teachers were required to possess dual
endorsements in math and science, math and computer science,
or math and Spanish. Id. This was different than
what Aku had been told in June, as Spanish had not been
discussed as an option for dual endorsement. Compare
Id. at 8-9 with Id. at 10. The Board also told
the Union president that all remaining teachers in the Brooks
STEM department were dual-endorsed. Id.
January 16, 2015, Aku aggravated his earlier ankle injury
while substitute teaching. Id. at 13. On February
13, 2015, Aku's attorney had Sedgwick generate a second
workers' compensation claim for the incident.
Id. at 11. The attorney also filed two complaints on
Aku's behalf with the Illinois Workers Compensation
February 27, 2015, Aku submitted another CIS to the IDHR,
asserting discrimination and retaliation, some of which was
related to his contention that the April 2014 IDHR CIS had
been forwarded to Leaks. Id. According to Aku,
during a March 12, 2015, fact-finding conference, IDHR charge
investigator Judith Weingartner informed Aku that
African-Americans were not a protected class under the
Illinois Human Rights Act and his race-based discrimination
claims therefore had no merit. Id. In response to
Aku's questions, Weingartner referred him to the IDHR
Chicago Intake Supervisor, who then referred him to the IDHR
Director Rocco Claps. Id. Aku then sent multiple
letters to Claps on March 14 and March 15, 2015, asking about
the agency's mishandling of the fact-finding conferences
and the protection of African-Americans under the Illinois
Human Rights Act. Id. Claps never responded,
although two months later, Charge Processing Division Manager
Brent Hartzman responded to one of the letters. Id.
The response did not answer all of the questions and
hypotheticals in Aku's letters to Claps. Id.
April 28, 2015, Leak contacted Aku to discuss Aku's
allegations of discrimination. Id. at 12. Aku
referred Leak to the IDHR and warned her that if she
contacted him again, he would complain that she was harassing
contacted IDHR Intake Program Administrator Raquel Guerra on
May 1, 2015, and requested the agency's determination
regarding an additional CIS that he had filed on March 16,
2015, which included allegations that the Union and Sedgwick
were aiding and abetting the Board's discrimination and
retaliation. Id. Guerra responded that the IDHR
could not investigate the manner in which Sedgwick processed
its claims and told Aku that the IDHR had ignored ...