Cook County Record

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Arab-American ex-DePaul professor OK to press racial discrimination case vs university; Bulk of suit dismissed


By Karen Kidd | Dec 13, 2019


CHICAGO — An Arab American former DePaul University instructor suing the university alleging he was harmed during investigation of a student's sexual assault claims may continue racial discrimination portions of his case after most of it was dismissed.

In his 21-page memorandum opinion and order, U.S. District Court Judge Robert M. Dow Jr. kept alive Laith Al-Saud's federal claim of racial discrimination, but dismissed all other claims against DePaul University.

The university had argued Al-Saud had failed to state a claim under federal law for which he could possibly receive damages because his complaint didn't state that his race had been the "but-for" cause of any adverse action taken against him.

The university maintained its real motivation had been to "protect its own legal and public relations interests," Dow said in his opinion.  

Dow disagreed, saying that Al-Saud's complaint "meets the low bar for pleading" under applicable federal law.

"It alleges that plaintiff is an Arab American, that he and a white male professor were both visiting assistant professors whose positions were eliminated, that both were offered an adjunct position with the opportunity to request pay, and that plaintiff’s 'comparator' was offered an adjunct position, but Plaintiff was 'treated disparately' and not offered an adjunct position," the opinion said. "That is close enough to 'I was turned down for a job because of my race' to state a claim."

Dow dismissed all other claims in Al-Saud's complaint over how DePaul's investigation into a student's sexual misconduct allegations against Al-Saud factored into its decision not to rehire him.

In June 2017, a former DePaul student filed a complaint alleging Al-Saud coerced her into sex. Al-Saud has consistently denied the student's allegations and maintained his relationship with her had been consensual.

"Around the same time, DePaul told the two visiting assistant professors in the Religious Studies department - Plaintiff and a white male - that their positions were being 'shifted' due to 'budgetary reasons'," Dow said in the background portion of his opinion.”

In his own lawsuit against DePaul filed last June, Al-Saud claimed the university botched its investigation, failed to defend him in the student's civil suit, and improperly chose to not rehire him.

Al-Saud is represented in the action by attorney Christina W. Abraham, of Abraham Law & Consulting LLC, of Chicago.

DePaul is represented by attorney Brian P. Paul and others with the firm of Michael Best & Friedrich, of Chicago.

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Organizations in this Story

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of IllinoisMichael Best & Friedrich LLCDepaul University

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