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Drs Corrine Cristofaro v. Lake Shore Central School District

February 10, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court



Plaintiff Corrine Cristofaro commenced this employment discrimination action by filing a Complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York. (Docket No. 1.) Therein, she alleges that Defendants Lake Shore Central School District and Terrance Redman subjected her to a hostile work environment, discriminated against her based on her gender (female), and retaliated against her for filing a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (hereinafter, "Title VII") and the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. EXEC. L. §§ 296 et seq. (hereinafter, "NYHRL").

Presently before this Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment seeking dismissal of the Complaint in its entirety.*fn1 (Docket No. 24.) Plaintiff opposes the motion.*fn2

For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted.


A. Facts

Lake Shore Central School District (hereinafter, the "District") is made up of seven public schools. (Def.'s Ex. 4.). Plaintiff was hired by the District in 1993 as a business teacher at Lake Shore High School. (Pl. Dep. 22:1; Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 1.*fn3 ) She was granted tenure in November 1996. ( Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff remained in her position until resigning in 2006. (Id. ¶ 30.) Plaintiff was a member of the teacher's Union throughout her employment. (Id. ¶ 32.)

Defendant Terrance Redman (hereinafter, "Redman") became the principal of Lake Shore High School in 1999 and remained in that position throughout the relative time period. (Id. ¶ 9.) As principal, Redman was Plaintiff's supervisor. (Id. ¶ 10.)

1. Hostile Work Environment

Plaintiff avers she was sexually harassed by Redman over a period of seven years. The incidents she alleges as the basis of her hostile work environment claim include:

(1) On two occasions, in September 1999 and June 2000, Redman made remarks to the effect that she was looking good and looking fit. (Pl. Dep. 28, 30.) On one of those occasions he crooked his finger to call Plaintiff over to talk to him. (Id. 30:3-4.) Plaintiff did not make a complaint or grievance on either occasion. (Id. 34:11-22.)

(2) In September 1999, Vice Principal Kevin Eberle told Plaintiff that co-workers in the men's lunchroom took bets on "places and times [she] or Mr. Redman will have a conversation involving sexual references." (Id. 39.) He stated Redman was present at the time of the conversation. (Id.)

(3) In spring 2004, when Plaintiff arrived late to a faculty meeting, Redman folded up the meeting agenda and threw it at her. (Id. 66, 127-28.)

(4) Redman falsely told an Assistant Principal that Plaintiff used the weight room when she had not. (Id. 109:12-16, 118:5-11.)

(5) In November 2004, Redman approached Plaintiff in the school library, asked her where in the building she was supposed to be, and touched the side of her body with his. (Id. 160-61.)

(6) In spring 2005, Plaintiff was running with a female co-worker and Redman yelled to them to "keep up the good work girls." (Id. 123.)

(7) In September 2005, Redman commented that Plaintiff gained weight over summer vacation. (Id. 64.) Plaintiff told him his comment was embarrassing and hurt her feelings. (Id.69.)

(8) In April 2006, Redman came into Plaintiff's classroom and said something "derogatory." (Id. 168.)

Plaintiff believes Redman engaged in this conduct because she refused to participate in the "bet" and because he was attracted to her. (Id. 81.) Plaintiff admits she did not make a formal grievance or complaint about the bet, stating that she did not know how to go about doing so. (Id. 48:8.) At that time, Plaintiff was grievance chairperson for her Union.*fn4 (Id. 47-51.)

2. Discrimination

Plaintiff also asserts that she was subjected to discriminatory treatment throughout her employment at Lake Shore High School.

a. February 2000 and April 2002 Evaluations

For instance, Redman prepared Plaintiff's professional evaluations in February 2000 and April 2002. (Defs.' Ex. 16, 17.) Plaintiff believes he purposefully underrated her because she did not respond to his comments. (Pl. Dep. 59-60, 101-102, 136-37.)

b. Failure to Promote Plaintiff to Chair of the Business Department

In June 2000, Plaintiff applied for the position of Chairman of the Business Department. (Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 36.) To become Chair, a candidate must first win a vote among the department faculty, then be approved by the building Principal and Superintendent. (Redman Dep. 60:8-12, 17-19.) The Superintendent then notifies the Board of Education, which must approve the recommendation. (Murphy Dep. 25:7-9.) Generally, teachers who receive the advisory vote are recommended by the Principal and Superintendent, and given the position by the Board of Education. (Id. 25:20.)

Plaintiff won the departmental vote, but Redman did not recommend her for the position. (Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 36, 37; Pl. Dec. ¶ 14.) Instead, Redman recommended a male teacher on the grounds that he had more experience in curriculum development and got along better with the faculty. (Pl. Dep. 76-79.)

c. E-mail to Plaintiff about Lesson Plans

On September 13, 2004, while Plaintiff and a male teacher were in her classroom, Redman told them both that they needed to hand in their lesson plans. (Id. 111-12.)

Plaintiff's plans were in fact late. (Id. 113:1-2.) On September 14, Redman sent Plaintiff an e-mail requesting that her lesson plans be submitted by the end of the day. (Id. 113-114; Defs.' Ex. 21.) Three male teachers received identical e-mails, on the same date, reminding them to hand in their lesson plans as well. (Defs.' Ex. 23, 24, 25.)

d. Counseling for Writing an E-mail about a Student

On September 20, 2004, Plaintiff sent an e-mail from a classroom computer to a guidance counselor, which referred to a student by name and characterized him as "intellectually challenged-severely." (Pl. Dep. 84; Bair Dec., Ex. 19.) The student saw the e-mail on Plaintiff's computer and reported it to his mother, who made a complaint. (Pl. Dep. 87.)

Assistant Principal Walsh met with Plaintiff on September 22 to discuss the incident. (Id. 96:1-9.) He handed Plaintiff a "counseling memorandum" he had prepared, which stated she used poor judgment and showed a lapse in professionalism by composing such an e-mail, especially when a student was present. (Defs.' Ex. 20.) Plaintiff then presented her justification, after which it was determined the memorandum would be withdrawn and would not be placed in her personnel file. (Pl. Dep. 91, 98.)

Plaintiff told her Union representative that she was written up because Redman had feelings for her and was looking for excuses to discipline her. (Id. 144-45.) Union President Rosemary Murphy advised Plaintiff to bring her complaint to ...

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