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Jones v. New York City Department of Education

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 21, 2018

ANTHONY R. JONES, Plaintiff,
NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, BERNARD GASSAWAY, individually and in his official capacity, JOHN DOES 1-10, and XYZ CORP. 1-10, Defendants.

          For the Plaintiff RUDY ARTIN DERMESROPIAN Rudy A. Dermesropian, LLC




         Plaintiff Anthony Jones brings claims against defendants New York City Department of Education (“DOE”), Bernard Gassaway, and unidentified defendants, alleging age discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”), Executive Law § 296 et seq., and the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”), Administrative Code § 8-101 et seq. Defendants move to dismiss the operative First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.


         1. Plaintiff's Employment at the Boys and Girls High School

         The alleged facts are as follows: plaintiff is a 63-year-old man who was employed as a track coach and math teacher with the DOE at the Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn. He worked as a volunteer Assistant Track and Field Coach from 1973 until 2002, when he was appointed to Head Track Coach for the Freshman and Sophomore Boys teams and began working as a per diem substitute math teacher. He was appointed as a full time math teacher in 2005 and Head Boys Track Coach in 2012. The team won a national title under his guidance in 2014.

         His employment status was disputed between 2008 and 2014, and he brought five successful grievances against the school arguing he was “coded” improperly-that is, the school was treating him as a substitute teacher even though he was full-time, affecting his pay, benefits, and ability to secure union representation. FAC ¶ 42.

         Plaintiff had a poor relationship with Bernard Gassaway, the school's principal, whom he accused of discriminating against older employees and instigating his coding problems. He also alleges that Gassaway refused to promote him to head track coach until he signed a letter stating he would not submit another grievance.

         2. Plaintiff's Alleged Profanity Towards a Student

         On May 29, 2014, during 7th period, plaintiff allegedly barged into another teacher's classroom, Room 381, and yelled “you are a fake ass runner” at a track student. FAC ¶ 53.

         Plaintiff alleges he was framed for this event. He claims he was in his own classroom, Room 340, meeting with Volunteer Assistant Coach Cassandra Clark at the time of the alleged incident. Furthermore, he alleges the student was in a different classroom, Room 423, during 7th period.

         Nonetheless, plaintiff was terminated on July 16, 2014. He was given a second chance by the substitute unit Executive Director Dr. Ianniello, who allowed him to be reinstated as a substitute after passing an anger management course.

         Gassaway, upon learning of this reinstatement, issued plaintiff an “Unsatisfactory” rating on which he allegedly forged plaintiff's signature. On August 28, 2014, Gassaway overrode the payroll system to deny plaintiff union protections and terminated him.

         3. Other Allegations

         Plaintiff compares his treatment to that of a younger coach, Jamaal A. Harvey, who was in his mid-30s. Harvey allegedly swore at Gassaway in a meeting but was not disciplined. Furthermore, under Harvey's watch, the entire girls' track team was suspended for fighting. However, he faced no disciplinary action.

         Plaintiff also alleges that in June 2013, the DOE gave 45 teachers over the age of 40 Unsatisfactory ratings and replaced them with 22 teachers under that age.

         Finally, plaintiff alleges that before he was terminated, he raised his complaints with coworkers. Several coworkers agreed with him that Gassaway “treats us old timers like crap, ” or “doesn't like old timers like you.” He also alleges that in 2013, after being demoted to a less important math class, he was told by Assistant Principal Whittingham that Gassaway “doesn't like you because you complain and file grievances, so they transferred you to me.”


         On May 28, 2015, plaintiff filed a claim with the New York State Division of Human Rights (“DHR”), which was then sent to the EEOC as a dual filing. After an investigation, his DHR complaint was dismissed on October 30, 2015, and his EEOC complaint was ...

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