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Meder v. City of New York

April 27, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Gleeson, United States District Judge



Victoria Meder, a former teacher with the New York City Department of Education ("DOE"), brings this action pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 290 et seq.*fn1 Meder claims her employer discriminated against her because of her age, created a hostile work environment because of her age, and took retaliatory action against her because she had previously filed a lawsuit against the DOE's predecessor agency. The defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.


Meder was born on July 26, 1939. At the time she filed this lawsuit, she had been employed as a teacher in the New York City public schools for 17 years.

In September 2001, Meder was transferred to P.S. 220 in Queens. On March 22, 2002, Meder filed a lawsuit against, inter alia, the New York City Board of Education, alleging discrimination and the creation of a hostile work environment on the basis of her age during the 2000-01 school year, when she had been assigned to P.S. 108. See Meder v. City Sch. Dist. of New York, 02-CV-1774 (CPS) (SMG) (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 22, 2002) .

Lawrence Pearlstein was appointed Principal of P.S. 220 in May 2002. Meder received a "satisfactory" rating on her annual performance evaluation by Pearlstein for the 2002-03 school year. In September 2003, Hope Monnes was appointed Assistant Principal of the school. In this action, Meder complains of conduct that she alleges took place during the 2003-04 school year, following Monnes's appointment.

Meder alleges a variety of harassing conduct. First, she claims that she was subjected to excessive scrutiny. Specifically, Meder contends that Pearlstein and Monnes visited her classroom frequently. They are required to visit classrooms and monitor teachers, but Meder alleges other teachers were not subject to such frequent visits. Meder further claims that Beth Segal, the Math Coach assigned to assist teachers with a new curriculum for the second grade, visited her classroom 20 to 25 times, more frequently than she visited other teachers. Segal once interrupted the lesson and began to teach it herself; she also reviewed Meder's students' notebooks, and tested them. Defendants assert that Segal's responsibility was to visit all teachers, but Meder believed only new teachers were subject to Segal's review. See Meder Dep. 152, June 28, 2006. Meder also contends that teams of parents, teachers and administrators assigned to visit classrooms pursuant to a Performance Assessment in Schools System ("PASS") Review conducted of the entire school spent a disproportionate amount of time in her classroom.

Second, Meder alleges that she was subjected to unfair criticism of her job performance. On October 29, 2003, after a formal evaluation, Monnes rated as unsatisfactory a literacy lesson taught by Meder. Meder believed that the evaluation contained false information. See id. at 201. The evaluation was bracketed by pre- and post-observation conferences between Meder and Monnes. Meder filed a grievance objecting to the evaluation, which was denied at all three levels of the grievance process. On November 10, 2003, Pearlstein put in Meder's personnel file a letter he had sent to her discussing her absence from part of a staff development meeting. Meder filed a grievance objecting to the letter, which was sustained. The letter was removed from the file the same day. On November 18, 2003, a parent of a student in Meder's class complained to Pearlstein that Meder had assigned a repetitive writing assignment. On December 16, 2003, Pearlstein sent Meder a letter informing her the assignment was not an approved disciplinary response. The same day, Monnes wrote Meder a memorandum stating Monnes had seen Meder leave students unsupervised in the school lobby and that it was inappropriate to do so. Meder denies she did so, and sent Monnes a response to that effect. On June 1, 2004, Pearlstein, Meder, and Meder's union representative met to discuss her punctuality. Pearlstein told Meder her time card indicated she had been late 15 times during the school year -- Pearlstein approved each incident except one. Pearlstein sent Meder a memorandum memorializing the discussion. The record reflects some dispute about whether Meder was in fact late on some of those occasions. See id. at 231. Finally, Meder claims Monnes criticized her unfairly for not timely completing certain testing of her students -- Meder alleges she was given insufficient time to complete the testing.

Third, Meder alleges that Pearlstein sent a Suffolk County Police Officer to visit her home when she was out sick from work. Defendants state, and Meder does not dispute, that the school secretary had been concerned for Meder's welfare on that day, as severe storms were reported, Meder had not reported to work, and the secretary was unable to reach her. Defendants state, and Meder does not dispute, that the secretary called the police to check on Meder out of concern for her safety.

Fourth, Meder claims several instances of harassment by Pearlstein. She alleges that he placed documents in her file that did not belong there; upon Meder's request, the documents were removed. She also claims that on October 24, 2003, Pearlstein denied her request to leave work a half-hour early a few days later. She further contends that Pearlstein assigned her a disproportionate number of students that were problematic; held up a tape recorder to her face when waiting for a response to a question; and shouted at her on at least two occasions in front of her students.

Fifth, Meder claims that in May 2004, Monnes sat next to her at a meeting and stared at her constantly, until she felt intimidated.

Sixth, Meder claims she received an undeserved rating of "unsatisfactory" on her annual performance evaluation. That evaluation, however, reflects that she received a satisfactory rating. See Bardavid Aff. Ex. BB, Oct. 20, 2006.

Meder points to two incidents that she claims demonstrate discriminatory animus. In February 2004, Pearlstein gave a speech at a faculty conference in which he mentioned that a former principal was retiring, and that "she's 61 years old and it's about time." Meder Dep. 141, June 28, 2006. At that point, Meder claims the principal looked directly at her and a co-worker. Meder also claims that while she was observing a co-worker's class, the co-worker told the students a story about a "grouchy" old woman who was "not nice." Id. at 207. In her complaint, Meder also claims that Pearlstein made a remark demonstrating retaliatory animus because ...

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