CBS 2: Fired Muslim Instructor Sues For Discrimination

CAIR-Chicago is litigating this case on behalf of Ms. Smiley pro-bono

CBS 2 ChicagoA Palestinian Muslim instructor filed a federal discrimination lawsuit Monday against Columbia College Chicago, claiming she was terminated after a student falsely reported she made an anti-Semitic comment in class.

Suriya H. Smiley filed the suit after being fired from the college for allegedly making an anti-Semitic remark to a student.

According to the student, Smiley said to him, “I should have known you were Jewish by the size of your nose,” the suit claims.

The suit alleges Smiley was treated less favorably than similarly situated employees who were not Palestinian or Arab when accused of “false allegations of misconduct,” the suit said.

Smiley, a woman of Palestinian national origin and Arab ancestry, was employed as a part-time faculty member in the Radio Dept. for 14 years, according to the suit. She was notified of the student’s complaint on Dec. 4, 2008, although officials would not give her specifics about the incident.

According to the suit, a teacher’s assistant and eight other students were present in class at the time and confirmed that Smiley never made the remark or any anti-Semitic statements.

Despite no evidence, the college refused to conduct an investigation into the student’s allegations and swiftly fired Smiley, the suit said. No witnesses were contacted or questioned.

After several meetings with school officials, she was told of the nature of the complaint when she met with officials and a union representative on Jan. 13, 2009, the suit said. She denied the allegations and asked if assistant provost Louise Love or department chair Barbara Calabrese had questioned other students. Love later claimed she could not involve students in the matter.

On the day after the meeting, Love sent Smiley a letter informing her of her termination, the suit said. After receiving the letter, she requested a copy, although the IT department could not locate the document until days later.

She met with Love once again on Feb. 6, and was told she could not file an appeal due to her part-time status, the suit alleges.

The three-count federal suit — which claims one count of national origin discrimination and two counts of race discrimination — seeks all wages and benefits she would have received, in addition to compensatory and punitive damages.

It also seeks an order mandating Smiley be returned to her former position or receive pay in lieu of reinstatment, as well as attorney fees and any additional relief.

Copyright © Chicago Sun-Times News Group 2009.