CHICAGO – A federal judge has granted judgment to The City Colleges of Chicago in a lawsuit brought by a professor who alleged she was fired because of her gender, but who the school says was terminated, in part, for her decision to require students to buy a book she had edited and published.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall issued a 14-page ruling on Sept. 5, in the case brought by Sharari Moore.
Moore, a former professor at Olive-Harvey College, one of the community collegs operated through the City Colleges system had workd as a full-time faculty member at Olive-Harvey since 2001, teaching in the African American Studies Department and eventually becoming the department chair in 2014.
The judge's decision noted Moore also had "verbal and written warnings for failure to complete mandatory Ethics Training in 2010, and discipline for a verbal altercation in 2012."
Moore was also "the editor, publisher, and copyright owner of Violets: A Collection of Inspirational Poems by the Women of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated." According to court documents, Moore receives 70 percent of the revenue from sales of the book.
In 2014, the judge noted, Moore made Violets "required reading for the Afro-American Studies 101 courses and, as a result, sold 208 copies to Olive-Harvey students, netting her an estimated $4,400.57 during the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 semesters." Her justification for adopting the book as a required reading was that "most texts concerning African American studies were 'beyond the reading levels of the students, many of whom arrived at [Olive-Harvey] with only a sixth-grade reading level.'"
After being informed about Moore's own book being assigned, City Colleges initiated a pre-disciplinary procedure, "to determine whether Moore's actions violated portions of the Ethics Policy or Work Rules as a conflict of interest or self-profit," the ruling stated.
Claiming conflict of interest, City Colleges' hearing officer declared that Moore "violated the work rules and recommended termination," the ruling said. Moore was fired on Feb. 27, 2015.
Moore filed a grievance with her union, which made an adjustment that turned her termination into suspension without pay. After an arbitration procedure, City Colleges was found to have "had just cause to discipline Moore because of explicit ethics policy and rules violations for requiring the use of her book in the Intro to African Studies courses," the document said.
Following recommendation, Moore was reinstated as a professor at Kennedy-King College, on Dec. 13, 2015.
Four months prior to the reinstatement, on Aug. 2015, Moore filed a discrimination charge "alleging sex-based discrimination from her discharge," stating that "other faculty members, including one female professor, three male professors, and one other male Chair/professor all assigned or used books of which they had self-interest."
In her decision, Judge Kendall stated that there is no dispute of the facts that led to Moore's termination.
"Moore violated the Ethics Policy and the Work Rules, and no factual dispute exists to the conclusion - as made by a pre-disciplinary Hearing Officer, by the Olive-Harvey administration, and by the Arbitrator - that Moore violated legitimate work policies," Kendall said. The judge added "Moore provides insufficient evidence to demonstrate that City Colleges' stated reason was a pretext for discrimination."
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Case number 16C5208