officials indicated that they would do so only if she began taking classes required for obtaining the necessary certification. Plaintiff failed to do this; and consequently, the School District did not rehire her for the following year.
Plaintiff claims that defendant Maggi's conduct constitutes sexual harassment in violation of Title VII, specifically 42 U.S.C. § 20003-2 (a)(1). Plaintiff further claims that the School District's decision not to rehire her was also unlawful retaliation in violation of Title VII. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). She seeks to recover damages from both defendants for defendant Maggi's conduct, and from the School District for the alleged retaliation. For the reasons that follow, the court finds for the defendants on all of plaintiff's claims.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it "an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's . . . sex. . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Title VII also makes it unlawful "for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees . . . because he has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this title. . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a).
A. Sexual Harassment
A plaintiff seeking to recover for sexual harassment under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 (a)(1) must first establish, that she is a member of a protected class. In the present action, plaintiff's membership in a protected class is undisputed. As a woman, she is within a class of persons which Congress sought to protect from sexual harassment. Henson v. City of Dundee, 682 F.2d 897, 903 (11th Cir. 1982); Fair v. Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Inc., 742 F. Supp. 151, 155 (S.D.N.Y. 1990). Second, such a plaintiff must also show that but for the fact of her sex, she would not have been the object of harassment. Henson, 682 F.2d at 904 (citations omitted). In the present case, this is also undisputed.
A plaintiff charging sexual harassment may proceed under either, or both, of two theories: (1) quid pro quo or (2) hostile work environment. Meritor Savings Bank FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 64-65, 106 S. Ct. 2399, 2404-2405, 91 L. Ed. 2d 49 (1986). "Under the quid pro quo theory, the plaintiff-employee must establish that she was denied an economic benefit either because of gender or because a sexual advance was made by a supervisor and rejected by her." Kotcher v. Rosa and Sullivan Appliance Center, Inc., 957 F.2d 59, 62 (2d Cir. 1992). Plaintiff in the present action makes no such allegation, nor was any proof presented at trial which would tend to substantiate such a claim. It is clear from both the complaint and the trial record that plaintiff seeks to recover under a hostile work environment theory.
To establish her claim under the hostile work environment theory, plaintiff must prove that she was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment in the form of sexual advances, requests for favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, and that the harassment affected a term, condition or privilege of employment. Kotcher, 957 F.2d at 62; Babcock v. Frank, 783 F. Supp. 800, 808 (S.D.N.Y. 1992); Carrero v. New York Housing Authority, 668 F. Supp. 196, 201-02 aff'd in part, rev'd in part on other grounds, 890 F.2d 569 (2d Cir. 1989). She must prove that the offensive behavior was "sufficiently severe or pervasive to 'alter the conditions of [her] employment and create an abusive working environment.'" Christoforou v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc., 668 F. Supp. 294, 301 (S.D.N.Y. 1987). See Meritor Savings Bank, 477 U.S. at 67, 106 S. Ct. at 2405; Kotcher, 975 F.2d 58 at 62. The sexually harassing conduct "must be repeated and continuous; isolated acts or occasional episodes will not merit relief." Kotcher, 957 F.2d at 62, (citing Carrero, 890 F.2d at 577); See also Lopez v. S.B. Thomas, Inc., 831 F.2d 1184, 1189-90 (2d Cir. 1987). Finally, the conduct complained of must also be unwelcome. Meritor Savings Bank, 477 U.S. at 68, 106 S. Ct. at 2406; Kotcher, 957 F.2d at 62.
To determine whether the offending conduct rises to the level of a hostile work environment, the court must look at the totality of the circumstances. See Meritor Savings Bank, 477 U.S. at 69, 106 S. Ct. at 2406; Carrero, 890 F.2d at 577-8. If the evidence presented would lead a reasonable person in a similar situation to find the conduct offensive, then liability should attach under Title VII. Danna v. New York Telephone, 752 F. Supp. 594, 610 (S.D.N.Y. 1990); Bennett v. New York City Department of Corrections, 705 F. Supp. 979, 984 (S.D.N.Y. 1989); Barbetta v. Chemlawn Services Corp., 669 F. Supp. 569, 573 (W.D.N.Y. 1987). Finally, to hold the School District responsible for the hostile environment allegedly created by defendant Maggi must show that the School District either (1) provided no reasonable avenue for complaint or (2) knew of the harassment but did nothing about it. Kotcher, 957 F.2d at 63; Snell, 782 F.2d 1095 at 1103.
Turning to the merits, the court need not determine whether the conduct complained off by plaintiff rises to the level of actionable sexual harassment.
Based on the evidence presented at trial, the court finds that plaintiff's credibility has been eroded, and further that she has failed to prove her allegations. Plaintiff at all times has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that her claim, and the elements that comprise that claim are true. This must be done by the presentation of credible evidence at trial. During the instant trial defendants proved that on various occasions during the course of her employment, plaintiff lied about several facts material to both the School District's decision to hire her, and its decision to continue her employment. Defendants proved that plaintiff deceived them regarding the status of her certification to teach in the field of special education and the required physical examination, and that she had not received permission from her supervisors to be late to work when she had previously indicated to the contrary.
The court, in its role as fact-finder on plaintiff's Title VII claims, finds that significant doubt was cast upon plaintiff's credibility.
Plaintiff has failed to convince the court that defendant Maggi by words or actions violated the prescriptions of the statute involved. Thus, the court concludes that plaintiff has failed to prove the existence of a hostile work environment by a preponderance of the evidence, and therefore, need not reach the issue of respondeat superior liability. Accordingly, the court finds for the defendants on plaintiff's sexual harassment claim.
B. Retaliation Claim
Plaintiff also contends that the defendant School District failed to rehire her in retaliation for filing a claim with the EEOC. Claims of this nature involve the three step burden shifting approach from McDonnell Douglas Corporation v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S. Ct. 1817, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668 (1973). To fulfill the initial burden, plaintiff must prove a prima facie case of retaliation. Such a prima facie case consists of the following elements: (1) that plaintiff engaged in protected activities under Title VII, (2) that the employer was aware of this activity, (3) that the employer took adverse action against plaintiff, and (4) that a causal connection exists between the protected activity and the adverse action. Kotcher, 957 F.2d at 64 (citing Johnson v. Palma, 931 F.2d 203, 207 (2d Cir. 1991)); Sumner v. United States Postal Service, 899 F.2d 203, 208-9 (2d Cir. 1990).
Once plaintiff has proven a prima facie case, the burden then shifts to the defendant to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment decision. "The defendant must clearly establish through admissible evidence the reasons for plaintiff's termination. 'The explanation must be legally sufficient to justify a judgement for defendant.'" Tunis v. Corning Glass Works, 747 F. Supp. 951, 960 (S.D.N.Y. 1990) (quoting Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 256, 101 S. Ct. 1089, 1095, 67 L. Ed. 2d 207 (1981)), aff'd, 930 F.2d 910 (2d Cir. 1991). "The defendant need not persuade the court that it was actually motivated by the proffered reasons. . . . It is sufficient if the defendant's evidence raises a genuine issue as to whether it discriminated against the plaintiff." Burdine, 450 U.S. at 255. 101 S. Ct. at 1094.
If the defendant meets its burden, the analysis shift to the third step where plaintiff must prove that the proffered reason was not the true reason for the adverse action. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 256, 101 S. Ct. at 1095. In other words, plaintiff must show that the reasons advanced were pretextual. Kotcher, 957 F.2d at 64-65. See also McDonnell Douglas, supra. However, in the final analysis, plaintiff retains the ultimate burden of persuading the court that she was the victim of sexual discrimination. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 256, 101 S. Ct. at 1095. See also Saint Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, U.S. , 125 L. Ed. 2d 407, 113 S. Ct. 2742 (1993).
The court has serious doubts as to whether plaintiff has established a prima facie case of retaliatory discrimination since there is insufficient evidence proving a causal connection between the protected activity and the School District's failure to rehire her. Nevertheless, even assuming that plaintiff has made out a prima facie case of retaliation, the School District has proven a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for failing to rehire her. Her documented tardiness and absenteeism, her lying to School District officials, and her failure to obtain the necessary certification all combine to show that the decision not to rehire her was legitimate and non-discriminatory. Plaintiff has failed to disprove these reasons; and she has simply failed to satisfy her ultimate burden of proving that the decision was motivated by her complaints of sexual harassment.
Additionally, plaintiff's case against the School District fails because she did not show by a preponderance of the evidence that she was qualified to teach during the ensuing school semesters. No evidence of recertification or other licensing was offered. This further supports the School District's decision not to rehire her. Therefore, the court must find for the defendant School District on the issue of retaliation.
Plaintiff has failed to prove that defendant Maggi's actions constituted sexual harassment under Title VII. Therefore, plaintiff's claim against defendant Maggi for sexual harassment, as well as the claim against defendant School District for allowing such harassment to continue, must be dismissed. Plaintiff was also unable to meet her ultimate burden of proof with regard to her retaliation claim against defendant School District. Accordingly, plaintiff's retaliation claim must also be dismissed.
Based upon this decision, the court's rulings during trial, and the verdict rendered on June 15, 1993, the Clerk is hereby directed to enter judgment in favor of the defendants on all counts in the complaint.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated at Binghamton, New York
August 14, 1993
Thomas J. McAvoy
Chief U.S. District Judge