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Brummell v. Webster Central School Dist.

January 29, 2009

TERRY BRUMMELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WEBSTER CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Terry Brummell, ("Brummell"), brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq.), and the New York State Human Rights Law against her former employer Webster Central School District, ("Webster" or "the School District") claiming that she was retaliated against for complaining of gender discrimination. Specifically, plaintiff claims that after she complained to her supervisors of discriminatory treatment, she was subjected to retaliatory behavior which forced to her to quit her employment.

Defendant denies plaintiff's allegations, and moves for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's Complaint on grounds that plaintiff has failed to state a prima facie case of retaliation. According to the defendant, Brummell can not establish that she engaged in any protected activity, or that she suffered any retaliatory conduct. For the reasons set forth below, I grant defendant's motion for summary judgment, and dismiss plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Terry Brummell began working as a bus driver for the defendant Webster Central School District in 1984. Nineteen years later, in 2003, Scott Daniels, ("Daniels") the Manager of Transportation for the Webster Central School District, recommended plaintiff and another woman for promotions to two new positions created in the District. The positions were as Head Bus Driver/ Safety Coordinators, and plaintiff accepted the position in May, 2003. Though the job plaintiff accepted was a full-time position, it ran for only 10 months and 20 days out of the year, as opposed to a full 12 months.

Within six months of taking the position, plaintiff began lobbying to have the position changed to a twelve month position. According to the plaintiff, she sought the change because of her heavy workload. Eventually, during the 2004-2005 school year, plaintiff's position was changed to an eleven-month position, but at no time was the position changed to a twelve-month position. Although the position remained an eleven month position, plaintiff was entitled to receive overtime compensation, and indeed, between May 7, 2003 and April 29, 2005, plaintiff requested 490.95 hours worth of overtime, the equivalent of over 11 weeks of time based on a 40-hour work week.

Daniels believed that plaintiff's requests for overtime were excessive, and on April 29, 2005, Daniels informed Brummell that he was no longer authorized to approve her overtime requests. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff drafted a letter to Daniels, as well as to Daniels' supervisors complaining that she was being treated unfairly because her job was an eleven-month position, and not a twelve-month position. Plaintiff did not complain in the letter that she was being treated unfairly based on her gender, and in any event, plaintiff never sent the letter to anyone.

Throughout 2005, plaintiff investigated several job openings for twelve-month positions outside of the Webster Central School District. In February 2005, plaintiff sought information related to a newly-posted Director of Transportation position in Fairport, New York. The next month, plaintiff sought a position with an Albany, New York area school district. In July and August, 2005, plaintiff made inquiries into positions in the Red Creek, New York, and Byron-Bergen, New York, school districts.

In April, 2005, plaintiff contacted Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Personnel John Carlevatti (Carlevatti) to inform him that a female co-employee felt insulted by Daniels. Brummell, however, did not make any complaints on her own behalf about Daniels. Deposition Transcript of Terry Brummell at p. 138-139. In May, 2005, Brummell approached Daniels and accused him of treating her differently than other people in the office.

Deposition Transcript of Terry Brummell at p. 63, lns. 7-10, p. 64, lns. 12-16, p. 153, lns. 9-17.*fn1 Although Brummell did not explain to Daniels the basis for her accusation, she made the accusation after Daniels had allegedly: (1) rearranged files on her desk when she was out of the office; (2) removed personal articles from her desk; and (3) informed plaintiff that he could no longer approve her overtime requests. Deposition Transcript of Terry Brummell at pp. 56, 59, 62-63, 64. Brummell also contends that prior to the meeting, all of the office staff except for her and a male co-worker received new flat screen computer monitors. Deposition Transcript of Terry Brummell at p. 57, p. 157, lns. 10-22. Plaintiff admitted that she had not complained of Daniels' behavior to any manager or supervisor prior to meeting with Daniels. Deposition Transcript of Terry Brummell at pp. 65-67, p. 121, lns 5-19.

In September, 2005, plaintiff claims that she was asked by a co-worker to falsify test results for a bus driver, thus denying him certification. According to Brummell, Dick Swingly asked her to add five seconds to a timed test for bus driver John DeRoo, thus ensuring that he would not be able to pass the test and gain certification. Plaintiff claims that she was appalled by the request, and informed Assistant Superintendent Carlevatti of what she had been asked to do. Carlevatti initiated an investigation of plaintiff's claims, and even informed the local police regarding plaintiff's allegation. The police declined to investigate the matter, and Carlevatti was unable to substantiate plaintiff's claims. Deposition Transcript of John Carlevatti at p. 45.

According to the plaintiff, after she complained to Carlevatti about being asked to falsify test results, she was retaliated against by Daniels. Specifically, plaintiff stated that after she refused to falsify John DeRoo's test results "I felt that I was being retaliated against terribly." Deposition Transcript of Terry Brummell at p. 115. When asked when she believed the retaliation began, she stated that "[i]t happened after Dick Swingly had asked me to take over and do [John DeRoo's] Test, and I said no. And Dick ran in and told Scott [Daniels] that I said no. And that -- it all got really bad after that." Deposition Transcript of Terry Brummell at p. 146. See also Deposition Transcript of Terry Brummell at p. 157 ("After I told [Dick] Swingly no, and Dick told Scott [Daniels] I was refusing [to falsify test results] then every thing got really bad and continued through when I went to Carlevatti.") Plaintiff claims that after she refused to falsify John DeRoo's test results, Daniels informed her (but no other employee) that she could no longer eat at her desk. Deposition Transcript of Terry Brummell at p. 84.

Thereafter, at the end of September, 2005, Brummell complained to Carlevatti that Daniels treated her differently than other employees. Deposition Transcript of John Carlevatti at p. 42, 34. Carlevatti initiated an investigation of plaintiff's claims, and held a meeting with Brummell and Daniels. Deposition Transcript of John Carlevatti at p. 43, lns. 9-11. Carlevatti concluded that Daniels' expectations of Brummell were not unreasonable, and Brummell chose not to pursue a written complaint with respect to Daniels' alleged unfair treatment towards her. Deposition Transcript of John Carlevatti at p. 54, 48, 32.

Brummell continued to look for employment outside of the Webster School District, and in October, 2005, had an interview with A & E Transportation. Deposition Transcript of Terry Brummell at p. 108. On October 17, 2005, Brummell called in sick to work. That same day, however, she signed a tax withholding form with A & E Transportation indicating that she would begin work for them on October 31, 2005.*fn2 See Exhibit T to the Affidavit Colleen Heinrich. The next day, on October 18, 2005, plaintiff wrote a letter to the Webster School Board indicating that she was resigning from her employment effective October 31, 2005.

DISCUSSION

I. Defendant's Motion for ...


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