Instructor files age discrimination suit

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB — A College of Engineering and Engineering Technology instructor has initiated a lawsuit against NIU.

Bharat Thakkar, 76, was hired January 2001 as a part-time instructor and is suing the university for age discrimination, retaliation and hostile working environment. He alleges the curriculum he taught was reduced, according to March 28 court documents.

When Thakkar inquired why his courses were being cut back, Federico Sciammarella, interim chair of College of Engineering and Engineering Technology allegedly failed to give Thakkar a “true reason” for the reduced course load.

Thakkar filed a charge of discrimination against Sciammarella Oct. 31 at theEqual Employment Opportunity Commission at Chicago, a commission that enforces job applicant federal laws.

The complaint filed by Thakkar with the commission alleged Sciammarella reduced Thakkar’s course load “for teaching due to retaliation and my age of 76 … while [a]younger instructor that didn’t complain about their evaluation [was] treated better,” according to the court documents.

An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at Chicago investigator was unable to determine if the university violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 but did not conclude if the university was within compliance of the statute, according to a Jan.9 commission report.

Thakkar was given 90 days to initiate a lawsuit after the commission’s findings.

Thakkar is seeking to be reinstated to his original course loads, to be compensated in wages and benefits for time lost, attorney’s fees among other complaints.

The lawsuit alleges “ … Dr. Federico Sciammarella intentionally and maliciously retaliated against Plaintiff by subjecting Plaintiff to a materially adverse action wherein they created a retaliatory environment,” according to court documents.

However, no details about the retaliation allegation were presented in the lawsuit.

NIU Spokesperson Joe King said the university has a policy of declining comment on pending litigation. Thakkar’s lawyer did not return request for comment. NIU spokesperson Joe King said the university has not yet received a petition from Thakkar or his lawyer.