Ex-Elmhurst University music instructor sues, saying school discriminated against him because he is Jewish

Elmhurst College changes its name to Elmhurst University, effective July 1.

A former instructor for Elmhurst University is suing the school, saying it did not rehire him because he is Jewish.

Louis Yoelin of La Grange Park filed the suit in federal court Feb. 22. It names the university and James Hile, chairman of the university’s music department, as defendants.

The lawsuit alleges Elmhurst discriminated against him because of his race and religion.

A university statement said officials could not comment on “personnel matters or pending litigation.”

“The university stands behind our policies against discrimination and harassment,” the statement said.

“We reiterate that there is no place for antisemitism or any form of discrimination at Elmhurst University,” the statement read.

According to the suit, Yoelin had yearly contracts for 11 years until fall 2023.

Yoelin first filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It did not rule one way or the other on the claim, but allowed him to file the federal suit.

Yoelin is a professional songwriter and composer. The lawsuit said he has composed music and songs for TV shows such as “How I Met Your Mother,” “The Kardashians,” “The Voice” and “American Idol,” as well as commercials and films.

The lawsuit says he was an adjunct professor of music theory and composition and that he had received “exemplary” performance reviews.

The lawsuit says Hile became acting director of the music department around July 2022 and that he practices a religion “other than Judaism.”

The lawsuit says Yoelin was active with a group called “Fighting Online Antisemitism,” including responding to Facebook posts from people involved in what he considered hate groups. Some of the people he engaged with sent emails to Hile and the university, saying Yoelin had acted inappropriately, according to the lawsuit.

Yoelin said in the complaint that one Facebook poster directly threatened his employment, saying in an online discussion that she had written to Yoelin’s supervisor to report that he had harassed her.

Yoelin said he asked to see the emails, but Hile refused. In his lawsuit, Yoelin said the emails were slanderous.

The lawsuit says Yoelin was told his services were no longer needed because the university had hired a full-time, tenure-track associate professor for the department.

But Yoelin says in the lawsuit that the person hired did not have the same level of composing experience Yoelin does. Yoelin also said in the suit that the person did not have any teaching experience.

“It is no coincidence that his annual teaching contract was not renewed after being targeted for his work in antisemitic advocacy,” his lawyer in the EEOC case wrote.

A different law firm is representing Yoelin in the federal case.

The lawsuit’s exhibits include a response the university filed for the EEOC complaint. In that document, the university said Yoelin worked in the applied music program. It said he taught “traditional” theory and composition courses three times from 2012 to 2023 and that his primary duties were to provide applied-music lessons, as needed, to individual students. He provided those lessons to 33 students, the university said.

It denied discriminating against him on the basis of race or religion and said it has a co-chaplain who is Jewish.