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Stouter v. Smithtown Central School Dist.

February 12, 2010

MAURA OLGA STOUTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SMITHTOWN CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: E. Thomas Boyle United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court is the defendant's motion for summary judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, with respect to all of the claims alleged by the plaintiff in this action. Plaintiff opposes defendant's motion and asserts that genuine issues of material fact exist that necessitate a trial. For the following reasons, the defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

FACTS

The plaintiff, Maura Olga Stouter ("Stouter"), is a Caucasian female who, at the time of the filing of the Complaint in this action - July 5, 2007 - was fifty-nine years old. (Def. R. 56.1 Statement ("Def. 56.1") ¶¶ 6, 8; Pl. R. 56.1 Statement ("Pl. 56.1") ¶¶ 6, 8.) Plaintiff is a lesbian. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 7; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 7.)

Plaintiff was employed by the defendant, Smithtown Central School District ("Smithtown"), as a physical education teacher from 1970 to June 2003. (Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 3-4; Pl. 56.1 ¶¶3-4.) Plaintiff also served as a volleyball coach for Smithtown from 1970 to June 2006.

(Def. 56.1 ¶ 5; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 5.)

Plaintiff began coaching varsity girls volleyball at Smithtown in 1971. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 10; Def. 56.1 ¶ 10.) During her tenure as the varsity volleyball coach, plaintiff's teams won numerous local, county and regional championships. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 11; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 11.) Plaintiff also received numerous awards and accolades for her coaching achievements and was involved in several volleyball-related organizations. (Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 12-13; Pl. 56.1 ¶¶ 12-13.)

In or about May 2001, plaintiff submitted her resignation, for purposes of retirement, as a physical education teacher for Smithtown. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 14; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 14.) Plaintiff's retirement became effective July 1, 2003. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 15; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 15.) Plaintiff continued to coach volleyball for three years after her retirement. (Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 17, 42; Pl. 56.1 ¶¶ 17, 42.)

Beginning with the 2003/2004 school year, Patrick Smith ("Smith"), was appointed as Smithtown's Coordinator of Physical Education Athletics and Health Education.*fn1 (Smith Dep. 56.) In that capacity, Smith served as plaintiff's supervisor. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 20; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 20.) Smith was aware of plaintiff's sexual orientation. (Smith Aff. ¶ 8.)

At some point during 2004, plaintiff advised Smith of concerns she had concerning Smithtown's compliance with Title IX's requirements.*fn2 (Def. 56.1 ¶ 32; Smith Aff. ¶ 24.) Smith advised plaintiff that he would conduct an evaluation and assessment of Smithtown's Title IX compliance. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 33; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 33.) Smith's evaluation and final report concluded that Smithtown was in compliance with Title IX, such that it had substantially proportionate ratios of enrollment and corresponding athletic opportunities for boys and girls. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 34.) Plaintiff disagreed with Smith's findings and prepared her own assessment of Smithtown's Title IX compliance, entitled "A Stouter Perspective on the Thinning Opportunities in Smithtown Sports." (Def. 56.1 ¶ 36; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 36.) Plaintiff's assessment maintained that Smith's analysis was incorrect and that Smithtown was not in compliance with Title IX. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 37; Pl. 56.1 ¶ 37.)

On September 19, 2005, Smith sent plaintiff a letter, reprimanding her for interfering with another Smithtown athletic program - junior varsity girls volleyball - of which she was not the coach.*fn3 (Def. Ex. Q; Def. 56.1 ¶ 49.) In response to certain complaints that Smith had received from parents and athletic officials concerning plaintiff,*fn4 Smith's letter also warned that plaintiff's "continuous condescending remarks, bullying and inappropriate behavior... [was] unwarranted and unprofessional... and [would] not be tolerated." (Smith Aff. ¶ 55; Def. Ex. Q.) Smith advised plaintiff that her "varsity assignment [would] be closely monitored and evaluated at the conclusion of [the] season." (Def. Ex. Q.)

Plaintiff responded by letter dated September 29, 2005, asserting that Smith's September 19, 2005 letter contained "unsubstantiated and slanderous statements," which were "unwarranted." (Def. Ex. R. Plaintiff disputed Smith's assertion that she had interfered with the junior varsity girls volleyball team and asserted that Smith "wish[ed] to end [her] highly successful career with false statements and misrepresentations of events." (Def. Ex. R.) Plaintiff further asserted that Smith was "abus[ing]... [his] authority as Director of Athletics." (Def. Ex. R.) However, plaintiff suggested that she and Smith work to "rebuild [their] professional relationship" by employing the assistance of a mediator. (Def. Ex. R.)

By letter dated October 11, 2005, plaintiff revised her September 29, 2005 letter to Smith. (Def. Ex. S.) Plaintiff's October 11, 2005 letter reiterated essentially the same assertions as the September 29, 2005 letter. (Def. Ex. S.)

On or about February 16, 2006, plaintiff was advised by Smith that she would not be reappointed as a coach by Smithtown. (Stouter Aff. ¶ 59; Smith Aff. ¶ 59.) In or about July 2006, Smithtown hired Kelly Bebee ("Bebee") to replace plaintiff as the varsity girls volleyball coach. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 55; Def. Ex. T.) Bebee is a female and less than forty years old. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 55.)

Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on August 8, 2006 and received a Right to Sue letter dated April 17, 2007. (Compl. ¶¶ 5-6.) Plaintiff commenced the within action on July 5, 2007, alleging the following claims: (1) discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, as well as retaliation, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1694, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; (2) age discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.; (3) gender discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.; and, (4) discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation and age, as well as retaliation, pursuant to the New York Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 290 et seq..

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The burden is on the moving party to establish the lack of any factual issues. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The very language of this standard reveals that an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment will not be defeated because of the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). Rather, the requirement is that there be no "genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 248.

The inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts are to be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 588 (1986). When the moving party has carried its burden, the party opposing summary judgment must do more than simply show that "there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Id. at 586. Under Rule 56(e), the party opposing the motion "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials ...


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