Illinois Professor Files Employment Discrimination Claim

Illinois Professor Files Employment Discrimination Claim

What does employment discrimination based on race and national origin look like in practice? This type of workplace discrimination can arise in a wide variety of scenarios, but we would like to discuss a recent incident concerning a University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) professor who has alleged that “he experienced years of discrimination and retaliation due to his race and national origin,” according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune. What else should you know about this case and how its outcome may impact other employment discrimination claims in Illinois and across the country?

Allegations of Discrimination Based on Race and National Origin

In order to have a better understanding of the professor’s case, we want to take a closer look at the facts. According to the article, Seung-Whan Choi is a Korean-born U.S. citizen who is employed as an international relations professor at UIC. He argues that “he was discriminated against because he is from Korea.” Specifically, the professor argues that he has faced discrimination based on race and national origin, both of which are prohibited by state law under the Illinois Human Rights Act and by federal law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

How did the discrimination occur? According to Choi, he faced discrimination in multiple contexts. Most immediately, he alleges that UIC discriminated in its promotion practices. UIC, he alleges, denied him “raises comparable to his peers in the department of political science.” In addition, Choi argues that UIC required him to teach courses in areas that he is not qualified to teach, which could prevent him from being promoted and earning tenure. He alleges that he was required specifically to teach statistics courses—as a scholar of international relations—because one of the department officials said that “Asians, especially Koreans, are very good at mathematics and statistics.” Similarly, Choi argues that he was also forced to teach a Korean politics course, which is another area in which he has no formal training.

Choi also contends that “he was wrongfully accused of being lacking in academic contributions and not providing sufficient service to the department, and was denied a promotion to full professor.” In addition to the discriminatory language cited above, Choi also contends that the previous head of his department said, “many Koreans are stubborn and do not understand American culture of compromise when dealing with their boss” after the department head changed a grade Choi had given without first consulting him.

Complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Choi filed a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in October, according to the article, and soon thereafter received a right to sue notice. In order to prevail, Choi must be able to provide enough evidence that he was discriminated against, based on race and national origin, which is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Generally speaking, Choi will have the burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination under the federal statute.

To prove his case, Choi will need to show that he was qualified to receive a promotion yet did not receive it as a result of discrimination. Such cases can be difficult to prove, and plaintiffs must rely upon specific evidence in conversations and emails, as well as testimony from witnesses. If Choi wins his case, it could be a useful gauge for similar cases in the future.

Contact a Chicago Employment Discrimination Lawyer

If you have questions about filing an employment discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an experienced Chicago employment discrimination lawyer can assist you. Contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline today for more information.