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Jane Ewane-Sobe v. Rochester City School District

January 24, 2011


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



Plaintiff Jane Ewane-Sobe, (Ewane-Sobe) brings this action against defendant Rochester City School District (the "City School District" or "School District") claiming that the defendant discriminated against her because of her African origin. Specifically, she claims that she has been denied promotional opportunities within the City School District because she was born in the nation of Cameroon, on the continent of Africa.

The City School District now moves for summary judgment against the plaintiff on grounds that she has failed to establish that the City School District discriminated against her on the basis of her national origin, or in any other manner. Specifically, the defendant contends that the plaintiff has failed to present any admissible evidence to the court to suggest that the School District discriminated against people born in Africa, or any other country. The School District further contends that plaintiff received fair consideration with respect to all of her applications for promotions, but that she was not promoted because she was not as qualified as the ultimately-successful candidates. Defendant contends that the application process for the promotions was unbiased; that plaintiff has failed to rebut the defendant's reasons for not promoting her, and that plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that discrimination was the primary reason for her failure to receive a promotion.

The plaintiff opposes defendant's motion, and moves to amend the Complaint to add a cause of action for retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, claiming that discovery in this case has revealed that a School District employee, in retaliation for the plaintiff having filed a discrimination complaint and the instant lawsuit against the School District, pressured a school principal to refrain from promoting the plaintiff or recommending her for promotion.

For the reasons set forth below, I grant defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's failure to promote claim, and grant plaintiff's motion to add a claim for discriminatory retaliation.


Plaintiff Jane Ewane-Sobe was born on April 2, 1955 in Cameroon. In Cameroon, Ewane-Sobe worked as a teacher. In 1981, she emigrated to the United States, and ten years later, in 1991, plaintiff became employed by the defendant Rochester City School District as a school counselor. As of the filing of the instant case, plaintiff remained an employee of the defendant.

Plaintiff claims that from 2005 through 2008, she applied for approximately 15 job promotions including 12 vice principal positions, and one position in the central administrative offices of the School District. She contends that even though she is a naturalized citizen of the United States, she did not receive a promotion because she is from Africa, and the defendant discriminates against persons who were born in Africa.

The defendant contends that plaintiff was not discriminated against, but simply was not chosen for any of the promotions. According to the defendant, because the plaintiff is a school counselor, and not a teacher, her qualifications for the positions she sought were not as strong as the qualifications of the other applicants who applied for the positions. The defendant alleges that between 2005 and 2009, it received over 3,000 applications for 173 administrative positions. Of the 173 persons hired, 78 were Black or Hispanic, and 93 were White. The District does not keep statistics on the birthplace of its applicants.

In 2006 plaintiff filed an administrative complaint of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), claiming that the defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her national origin. The EEOC conducted an investigation into the plaintiff's claims, but found no basis to believe that discrimination had occurred. The EEOC issued a right to sue letter, and thereafter, plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed the instant action alleging discrimination on the basis of her race, color, and national origin. Following this court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss, plaintiff retained private counsel.


I. The Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment Rule 56©) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "should be rendered if 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." When considering a motion for summary judgment, all genuinely disputed facts must be resolved in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). If, after considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the court finds that no rational jury could find in ...

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