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Trachtenberg v. Department of Education

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 3, 2013

CAROL TRACHTENBERG, Plaintiff,
v.
THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, THE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, Defendants

Decided April 2, 2013

Page 461

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 462

For Carol Trachtenberg, Plaintiff: Stewart Lee Karlin, Stewart Lee Karlin, Attorney-at-Law, New York, NY.

For The Department of Education of the City of New York, Defendant: Laura C. Rowntree, New York City Law Department, New York, NY.

The City School District of the City of New York, Defendant: Laura C. Rowntree, LEAD ATTORNEY, New York City Law Department, New York, NY.

OPINION

Paul A. Engelmayer, United States District Judge.

Page 463

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Carol Trachtenberg brings this action against the Department of Education of the City of New York and the City School District of the City of New York (the " BOE" ),[1] claiming that BOE employees subjected her to disparate treatment and a hostile work environment on account of her age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § § 621 et seq . (" ADEA" ). The BOE moves to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). That motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

A. Factual Background[2]

Trachtenberg is 65 years old. Am. Compl. ¶ 2. Before her retirement in 2011, she had been employed by the BOE as a teacher--specifically, a speech therapist--for 29 years. Id. ¶ ¶ 10, 23, 24. She had obtained tenure. Id. ¶ 12. According to Trachtenberg, she had always performed her job in a satisfactory manner and, before

Page 464

the 2009-10 school year, had never received an unsatisfactory performance evaluation. Id. ¶ ¶ 10, 14.

During the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, Trachtenberg alleges, she was " subjected to a continuing, deliberate, and intentional pattern of age discrimination." Id. ¶ 13. The alleged discrimination took several forms. Trachtenberg received unsatisfactory year-end performance reviews for both 2009-10 and 2010-11. Id. ¶ 14. These negative reviews, Trachtenberg alleges, were the product of " biased informal and formal observations" and coincided with " an avalanche of biased letters from the Principal." Id. ¶ ¶ 15-18. Trachtenberg claims that these negative reviews typically resulted in collateral consequences, such as teacher removal proceedings and ineligibility for certain types of work. Id. ¶ ¶ 14, 28.

Trachtenberg also alleges that the school's principal, Katy Rosen, mistreated her. She alleges that the school had a problem with chemicals, such that staff members had been advised to keep their windows open to increase ventilation. Id. ¶ 19. Trachtenberg alleges that, in an effort to harass her and force her to retire, Rosen " deliberately changed [Trachtenberg's] classroom and placed her in a room that had no windows and subject[ed] her to the PCB problem." Id.[3] Rosen also, allegedly, " would frequently stand in the area and stare at [Trachtenberg] in an effort to intimidate [her] and watched over [her] without any feedback whatsoever." Id. One colleague allegedly told Trachtenberg that Rosen was " out to get [her]." Id. ¶ 25.

Trachtenberg further alleges she " has been bullied and intimidated and her reputation damaged by scurrilous charges such as repeatedly falling asleep, . . . lacking social skills, . . . being angry and hostile . . . not doing work . . . not servicing children, . . . [and] having time management problems." Id. ¶ 20. Additionally, someone " forc[ed] teachers to write statement[s] against [Trachtenberg], and humiliate[ed] [her] by publicly scolding her in front of her students and coworkers." Id. Although the Amended Complaint does not specify who did these things, the Court infers that it thereby refers to Rosen and other administrators.[4]

These allegations, Trachtenberg claims, reflected " a pattern and practice of selecting and targeting the oldest teachers for discipline and negative observations in an attempt to force them to retire." Id. ¶ 21. Trachtenberg alleges that at least five other teachers were targeted because of their advanced age, whereas at least four younger teachers did not " face the same scrutiny." Id. ¶ ¶ 21, 23. On one occasion, Trachtenberg was compared unfavorably to a younger speech teacher, id. ¶ 18; Trachtenberg also allegedly did not receive the same professional training opportunities as younger teachers, id. ¶ 26.

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As a result of the actions outlined above, Trachtenberg alleges, she was " compelled to retire (constructively terminated)." Id. ¶ 22.[5] Had she not retired, Trachtenberg alleges, " teacher removal proceeding [sic] would have commenced." Id.

B. Procedural History

On December 13, 2011, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) received a charge of discrimination from Trachtenberg, dated December 9, 2011. Rowntree Decl. Ex. A. On July 20, 2012, the EEOC issued a notice of Trachtenberg's right to sue. Id. Ex. B.

On October 17, 2012, Trachtenberg filed this lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York. Dkt. 1, Ex. A. On October 25, 2012, the BOE removed the action to this Court. Dkt. 1. On December ...


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