Medical programs director says City Colleges fired him for complaining about qualifications of instructor appointed by superior

By Jonathan Bilyk | Sep 18, 2015

On the heels of a wrongful termination suit brought by his former supervisor against the leadership of Chicago’s Malcolm X College, that college’s former director of medical programs has also filed a complaint against the college, alleging the college fired him to retaliate against him for complaining leadership had selected an unqualified instructor to teach a course.

On Sept. 15, Kenrick Roberts filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against the City Colleges of Chicago, alleging a count each of retaliatory discharge, wrongful termination and violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Act.

Roberts had worked at Malcolm X College on the city’s Near West Side since March 2013, as clinical coordinator and director of the college’s Physician’s Assistance Program. In November 2014, the college promoted Roberts to Director of Medical Programs.

In that role, Roberts worked under the supervision of Micah Young, the college’s Dean for Health Sciences and Career Programs, until Young was fired in February 2015. In April, Young had sued the City Colleges alleging the firing had been improper, as he said it came in retaliation for his efforts to draw attention to the presence of unidentified human bodies stored improperly in an ‘unrefrigerated walk-in safe’ at Malcolm X and potentially others of the city’s community colleges. Young’s case is still pending in Cook County court.

Roberts’ case does not stem from the events surrounding Young’s firing.

However, like Young, Roberts said he lost his job in August for also allegedly pointing out alleged improper activities at the college.

According to the complaint, Roberts had never received any disciplinary actions or notices of concerns regarding his job performance.

However, Roberts said his relationship with a vice president at the college, identified in the complaint as Christopher Robinson-Easley grew frosty after Roberts sent an email in January and February complaining to college administration of the appointment of a nurse to teach a phlebotomy course Roberts believed the instructor was qualified to teach. He alleged in his emails the appointment was made by administration without his approval or review, even though he said it was his “responsibility … to review, evaluate and approve the recommendation of each faculty member that is approved to teach in a program” under his supervision.

He added he was “very concerned about the direction in which we are traveling” and asked administration to “address this matter.”

Roberts’ concerns were then echoed by Young in a separate email to administrators.

Ultimately, Roberts said he learned from students the “unqualified professor had abandoned her class and another unqualified professor was required to complete the remainder of the course.”

In response to the emails, Roberts said he was summoned to Robinson-Easley’s office, where he alleged he was informed Robinson-Easley was “very upset” about Roberts’ complaints, as he was “the individual who selected and assigned the unqualified professor” to teach the course.

Following the meeting, Roberts alleged he was blocked from participating in “important meetings, discussions and decisions regarding programs that were under his responsibilities as Director of Medical Programs.” And in June, Roberts said the associate dean over his department allegedly told him Robinson-Easley had “an axe to grind against” him.

In June, purportedly at the urging of the college’s president, Roberts filed an Equal Opportunity Complaint with the City Colleges, “claiming retaliation and hostile and intimidating work environment against” Robinson-Easley.

Roberts was fired Aug. 7.

Roberts’ complaint requests unspecified damages “that greatly exceeds the jurisdictional amounts” of the court.

Roberts is represented by attorneys with the firm of Holman & Stefanowicz, of Chicago.

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City Colleges of Chicago Holman & Stefanowicz, LLC

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