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Trina D. Taylor v. New York City Department of Education

November 30, 2012

TRINA D. TAYLOR,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Gleeson, United States District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Trina D. Taylor commenced this action against her employer, the New York City Department of Education ("DOE"), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2003 et seq. Taylor alleges that the DOE violated Title VII by discriminating against her on the basis of her race and retaliating against her for filing a union grievance and administrative complaints. The DOE moves to dismiss Taylor's amended complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Fed.R.Civ.P.") for failure to state a claim. I heard oral argument on November 20, 2012. For the reasons stated below, the DOE's motion to dismiss is granted.

BACKGROUND

A. Factual Allegations

Taylor's amended complaint sets forth the following factual allegations, which I accept as true for purposes of deciding this motion. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 71 (2d Cir. 2009).

Taylor is an African-American teacher employed by the DOE. Am. Comp. ¶ 3. She currently teaches at PS 43 MS ("PS 43"), which is located at 160 Beach 29th Street, Far Rockaway, New York. Id ¶¶ 3-4. She began her employment with the DOE in 1994, teaching kindergarten through sixth grade at PS 150 in Brooklyn. Id. ¶ 10. After approximately four years at PS 150, Taylor transferred to PS 327, also in Brooklyn, teaching the same grades for another seven years. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. During these combined 11 years of teaching, Taylor had an excellent employee record and never received an annual rating of unsatisfactory ("U"). Id. ¶ 12. A "U" rating in two consecutive school years is grounds for dismissal from employment from the DOE. Id. ¶ 25. Taylor transferred to PS 43 in June 2005, when her family moved to Far Rockaway. Id. ¶ 13.

In 2007 Taylor filed a complaint of racial discrimination in the workplace with her union.*fn1 Id. ¶¶ 1, 23. Since filing that complaint, Taylor has vocalized her opposition to what she believes to be racially discriminatory practices and policies at PS 43. Id.

Taylor received her first "U" rating at the end of the 2007-08 school year. Id. ¶ 24. She received a satisfactory ("S") rating at the end of the 2008-09 school year. Id. But on June 26, 2009, then-Principal John Quattrocchi*fn2 threatened to convert her "S" rating into a "U" rating unless she attended an optional workshop that summer. Id. Taylor received another "U" rating at the end of the 2009-10 school year.*fn3 Id.

At the start of the 2009-10 school year, Taylor was not assigned a classroom. Id.

¶ 15. Instead, she was "compelled . . . to sit in the teachers' lounge," where she shared a storage cart for her supplies and teaching materials with another teacher. Id. ¶ 16. This situation persisted through the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. Id. ¶ 15. As a result, staff and students at PS 43 refer to Taylor as "the teacher who works in the teachers' lounge." Id.

During the 2009-10 school year, Taylor was partnered with Eleanor Aguirie, who is Caucasian, to teach Science classes as part of the Collaborative Teaching Team. Id. ¶ 18. Taylor has a Master's degree in teaching reading; Aguirie is licensed to teach science. Id. ¶¶ 18, 20. As partners, Taylor and Aguirie "oftentimes taught the same science lessons." *fn4 Id. ¶ 36. Aguirie was permitted keys to the science lab, allowing her access to relevant educational tools and preparation materials. Id. ¶ 20. Taylor requested, but was denied, keys to the same science lab. Id. Taylor received unfavorable classroom evaluations as a result of her inability to utilize "demonstrative materials from the science lab." Id. ¶ 21. Throughout the school year, Taylor received unsatisfactory "U" evaluations of her lessons, whereas Aguirie received satisfactory "S" evaluations.*fn5 Id. ¶ 36. At the end of the 2009-10 school year, Taylor received a "U" rating whereas Aguirie received a "S" rating. Id. ¶ 19. Aguirie requested to "return to the general classroom fulltime" for the 2010-11 school year.*fn6 Id. ¶ 37. PS 43 granted her request, while denying the same request by Taylor. Id.

In December 2009, then-Principal Quattrocchi yelled at Taylor in the presence of her union representative. Id. ¶ 27. Quattrocchi informed Taylor that she "just did not fit in as a teacher at PS 43." Id. Quattrocchi advised Taylor to leave PS 43 and warned her that if she chose to remain at the school, "things would be extremely bad" for her when she returned for the spring semester. Id. The union representative requested that Quattrocchi reverse Taylor's "U" rating for the 2007-08 school year and Quattrocchi agreed to do so if Taylor applied to leave PS 43. Id.

Taylor then applied for a transfer to PS 14 on Staten Island, where she presently resides. Id. ¶ 28.Taylor's interview with the Principal at PS 14 went well; the Principal informed her that she was a "sure in" for a teaching position in the 2010-11 school year. Id. In the spring of 2010, Taylor contacted Ms. Bae,*fn7 the Superintendent for District 27, to inform her of Quattrocchi's agreement to reverse Taylor's "U" rating, a necessary condition for Taylor's transfer to PS 14. Id. ¶ 30. Ms. Bae informed Taylor that a reversal of her "U" rating was a decision "solely up to . . . Quattrocchi and out of her jurisdiction to effectuate." Id.

Quattrocchi did not reverse Taylor's "U" rating for the 2007-08 school year. Id. ¶ 32. He also communicated "damaging things" about Taylor to the Principal at PS 14. Id. As a result, Taylor was denied the teaching position at PS 14. Id. When Taylor asked the Principal at PS 14 about the transfer, the Principal informed her that "based on what was told to her by . . . Quattrocchi, [she] just could not take the risk of hiring [Taylor]." Id.

On June 23, 2010, five days before the end of the school year, Quattrocchi cited Taylor for failing to have a hallway display of her students' work. Id. ¶ 35. No other teachers had hallway displays of their students' work and no other teachers were cited for failing to have such displays. Id.

As mentioned above, Taylor received a "U" rating at the end of the 2009-10 school year. Id. ¶ 34. As supporting documentation for the rating, Quattrocchi submitted an unfavorable evaluation Taylor had received on November 6, 2008. Id. On that day, Taylor was asked to cover a class for Ms. Mullings, a Caucasian teacher who was late for school. Id. Ms. Adler, another Caucasian teacher, had already placed Ms. Mullings' learning objective on the board.*fn8 Id. Taylor received a "U" evaluation for this class. Id. Neither Ms. Mullings nor Ms. Adler received "U" evaluations for the class. Id.

Taylor filed a charge with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("SDHR") on August 26, 2010. Id. ¶ 42. She filed a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on September 8, 2010. Id. ¶ 43.

In September 2010, Taylor received a warning from assistant principal Frank Farino to expect to receive another "U" rating at the end of the 2010-11 school year. Id. ¶ 40. Taylor's file contained documentation of a "pre-observation" evaluation of Taylor's classroom lesson on September 7, 2010, which was deemed unsatisfactory. Id. September 7, 2010 was the first day that teachers returned to school for the 2010-11 school year and teachers were attending workshops and cleaning classrooms that day. Id. Taylor received another "U" rating at the end of the 2010-11 school year. Id.

On April 27, 2011, the EEOC issued Taylor a right-to-sue letter. Id. ¶ 44.

B. Procedural History

Taylor filed the original complaint, naming as defendants the DOE and individual supervisors at PS 43, on July 26, 2011. See Compl. (ECF No. 1). On February 28, 2012, the DOE and assistant principals Maureen Abernethy, Donna Estro, and Gayle Holmes (collectively, the "City Defendants") filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. See DOE Mot. Dismiss Compl. (ECF No. 14); see also DOE Mem. in Support (ECF No. 15). On the same day, assistant principal Frank Farino and then-principal John Quattrocchi filed individual motions to dismiss in which they adopted the arguments of the City Defendants in full. See Farino Mot. Dismiss Compl. (ECF No. 16); Quattrocchi Mot. Dismiss Compl. (ECF No. 17). I heard oral argument on the motions on April 20, 2012.

On August 2, 2012, I issued an order granting the motions to dismiss but giving Taylor 30 days' leave to replead with greater factual assertions to support her claims under Title VII. Taylor v. New York City Department of Education, No. 11-CV-3582, 2012 WL 3150388 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 2, 2012). That order dismissed with prejudice certain claims ...


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