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Francis v. Elmsford School District

May 23, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harold Baer, Jr., District Judge:*fn1


Plaintiff, Rose Francis, filed a complaint alleging, inter alia, discrimination in employment on the basis of age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et. seq. ("ADEA"). Defendants Elmsford School District ("School District"), the Elmsford Board of Education ("Board"), Principal Wayne Harders ("Harders"), and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol Franks-Randall ("Franks-Randalls") (collectively "Defendants") moved for summary judgment. This Court dismissed the complaint as time-barred. Plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeals found that the statute of limitations had not run because plaintiff had yet to receive a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and vacated and remanded for further proceedings as to the ADEA claim. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' original motion for summary judgment with regard to the ADEA claim is GRANTED, on different grounds.


The facts of this case are set forth in detail in my August 4, 2004 Opinion and Order, familiarity with which is presumed. Francis v. Elmsford School Dist., 2004 WL 1769980 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 5, 2004). The following facts, taken from the Complaint unless stated otherwise, are undisputed. In short, plaintiff, an African-American woman in her sixties during the relevant period, began employment as an elementary school teacher in the Elmsford School District in 1986. Throughout the course of her employment, plaintiff taught Grades 1 through 5 in various schools in the District. On July 24, 2002, after teaching second grade for three years, plaintiff, at this time 67 years old, was notified that she was reassigned to teach Academic Intervention Services ("AIS"), a program created for students who scored low on the state standardized tests. Plaintiff had no prior experience with this program and her transfer failed to provide a classroom assignment. A 25 year-old teacher was temporarily assigned to teach plaintiff's second-grade class. Defendant Harders, Principal of the Alice E. Grady School, told plaintiff that she was being transferred to the AIS class because there were concerns with her classroom performance. Plaintiff argues that she was transferred because of her age. Plaintiff also contends that, unlike the other teachers, she was not provided adequate supplies to work with, nor given a budget to purchase materials. However, after plaintiff complained about the lack of a budget, she was provided with a $100 budget for materials and additional supplies the following school year. As of the 2004-2005 school year, plaintiff taught AIS in a shared classroom. Francis Deposition Transcript, 42:17-20.

On February 5, 2003, plaintiff filed a State Department of Human Rights ("SDHR") complaint against the District that alleged a pattern of continuing age discrimination by Defendants. On December 29, 2003, the SDHR dismissed her complaint as insufficient to support her age discrimination claims. The plaintiff then filed her complaint with this Court on April 8, 2004 and expanded her allegations to include race and national origin discrimination.


Defendant moved for summary judgment. Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 56, the movant on such a motion must establish that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the undisputed facts are sufficient to warrant judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). The party opposing summary judgment "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). A disputed issue of material fact alone is insufficient to deny a motion for summary judgment, the disputed issue must be "material to the outcome of the litigation," Knight v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1986), and must be backed by evidence that would allow "a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In ruling on a summary judgment motion, the Court resolves all ambiguities and draws all inferences against the moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962) (per curiam); Donahue v. Windsor Locks Bd. of Fire Comm'rs, 834 F.2d 54, 57 (2d Cir. 1987).


Plaintiff brings age discrimination and hostile work environment claims against Defendants pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et. seq.

1. Age Discrimination Claim

The ADEA prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee "with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's age." 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). Employees of forty years of age or older are covered under this provision. 29 U.S.C. § 631(a). Thus, the plaintiff, in her sixties at the time of these events, qualifies.

This Circuit analyzes ADEA discrimination claims under the burden-shifting framework of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). See Jetter v. Knothe Corp., 324 F.3d 73, 75-76 (2d Cir. 2003). Plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of age discrimination. See McDonnell, 411 U.S. at 802. If the plaintiff sets forth a prima faciecase, the burden of going forward shifts to the employer to "articulate some legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the employer's rejection." Id. If the employer is able to do so, then plaintiff must show that the stated reason is pretextual. Id.

To establish a prima facie case of discrimination, plaintiff must show that she 1) is a member of a protected class, 2) was qualified for the position held, 3) suffered an adverse employment action, and 4) the surrounding circumstances gave rise to an inference of discrimination. Id. While the 67 year-old plaintiff is clearly a member of a ...

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