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Moore v. Syracuse City School Dist.

March 31, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge



Plaintiff's complaint*fn1 asserts causes of action for (1) Title VII disparate treatment and racial and gender discrimination; (2) racial and gender discrimination pursuant to New York Executive Law §§290-301 ("Human Rights Law"); (3) Title VII hostile work environment; (4) racially motivated treatment and demotion under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out of his employment and later dismissal as a daily substitute teacher.

In a Memorandum-Decision and Order dated June 8, 2005, this Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. At present, the following claims remain: (1) Title VII claims for a) racial and sexual discrimination, b) hostile work environment, and c) retaliation*fn2 against Defendant Syracuse City School District ("SCSD"); (2) a § 1983 equal protection claim against Defendant SCSD based on the hiring of football coaches, see Memorandum-Decision and Order dated June 8, 2005, at 6; (3) a § 1983 equal protection claim against Defendant Williams,*fn3 Director of Personnel of Defendant SCSD, based on the letter of dismissal dated May 6, 2003, see id. at 7; and against Defendant Cecile, the former principal of Shea Middle School,*fn4 based on his request to Defendant Williams that Plaintiff not return to the school, see id. at 8; and (4) a § 1983 retaliation claim against Defendants SCSD, Williams and Cecile. See id.*fn5 On January 11, 2007, the remaining Defendants moved for summary judgment on the merits of these claims.*fn6


Plaintiff was employed as a daily substitute teacher, paid on a per diem basis without a contract or tenure, for Defendant SCSD. Plaintiff, in his complaint, alleges that, during the course of his employment, he had difficulty with Defendants' failing to enforce the school's dress code. He also alleges he was subject to hostile students and racially insensitive remarks of students, teachers, and Defendants Williams and Cecile.

Plaintiff alleges that in April 2003, during a disagreement with several teachers at Shea Middle School over his discipline of some students, one of the teachers made discriminatory comments about his race. Plaintiff claims that it was after this incident that Defendant Cecile, Principal of Shea Middle School, made a request to Defendant Williams that Plaintiff not be allowed to return to the school, which led to Defendant Williams sending Plaintiff a letter of dismissal in May 2003.


A. Summary Judgment Standard

"Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Holcomb v. Iona College, 521 F.3d 130, 137 (2d Cir. 2008) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). First the moving party must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact; then, the opposing party must present evidence, beyond the pleadings, to satisfy every element of the claim and to show a genuine issue for trial. See id. (citations omitted). The court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible inferences in favor of the opposing party.See id. (citation omitted). In employment discrimination cases, the Second Circuit "has... expressed the need for caution about granting summary judgment to an employer in a discrimination case," which turns on the employer's intent. Id. (citations omitted). However, "a plaintiff must provide more than conclusory allegations to resist a motion for summary judgment." Id. (citation omitted).

B. Remaining Claims

1. Title VII Claims against Defendant SCSD

a. Plaintiff's Title VII Racial Discrimination Claim*fn7

Title VII discrimination claims follow the McDonnell Douglas burden shifting test. See Cruz v. Coach Stores, Inc., 202 F.3d 560, 567 (2d Cir. 2000) (citing McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. [792,] 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817 [(1973)]).Initially, Plaintiff must meet a minimal burden to establish a prima facie case "by demonstrating membership in a protected class, qualification for the position, adverse employment action, and circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination." Id. (citation omitted).Since Defendants do not pursue the point, the Court assumes for the purposes of resolving this motion that Plaintiff has made a showing of a prima facie case of discrimination.

If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the defendant must produce a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for his termination. See id. Defendant Cecile states that he received three complaints about an incident that occurred on April 10, 2003, involving Plaintiff and that he requested Plaintiff not return to his school in the future based on these complaints and his investigation of the incident. See Affidavit of David Ceciledated January 18, 2007 ("Cecile Aff."), at ¶¶ 5-6 & Exhibit A. Defendant Williams received and investigated complaints from six principals requesting that Plaintiff not return to their schools. See Affidavit of Randolph Williams dated January 18, 2007 ("Williams Aff."), at ¶ 6 & Exhibit A. Defendants assert that Defendant Williams terminated Plaintiff's employment on the basis of these complaints and not because of his race or gender. See id. at ¶¶10-12. The Court finds that this evidence satisfies Defendants' obligation to articulate a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for their actions.

If the defendant articulates a legitimate non-discriminatory reason, the plaintiff must then demonstrate that the defendants' stated reason is a pretext for discrimination. See Cruz, 202 F.3d at 567 (citations omitted). Based on its review of Plaintiff's submissions, including his long and disorganized Memorandum of Law,*fn8 the Court has determined that Plaintiff is asserting that the following demonstrates pretext: (1) the scope of Defendant Cecile's investigation of the April 10, 2003 incident; (2) differential treatment of Plaintiff based on his enforcement of Defendant SCSD's dress code; (3) Plaintiff's lack of opportunity to respond to the ...

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