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Raphael v. State of Connecticut Department of Children and Families

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 3, 2017

RUEL RAFAEL, Plaintiff,


          Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Ruel Rafael, a former employee of Defendants State of Connecticut Department of Children and Families ("DCF") and Connecticut Juvenile Training School ("CJTS") brings this action for employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. 43] is


         II. Background

         A. The Record on Summary Judgment

         "A party asserting that a fact... is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by ... citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). A party may also support their assertion by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence ... of a genuine dispute." Id. Cited documents must consist of either "(1) the affidavit of a witness competent to testify as to the facts at trial and/or (2) evidence that would be admissible at trial." Local R. Civ. P. 56(a)3; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(4).

         "The principles governing admissibility of evidence do not change on a motion for summary judgment." Schaghticoke Tribal Nation v. Kempthorne, 587 F.Supp.2d 389, 395 (D. Conn. 2008), aff'd, 587 F.3d 132 (2d Cir. 2009) (quoting Merry Charters, LLC v. Town of Stonlngton, 342 F.Supp.2d 69, 75 (D. Conn. 2004)). "[D]ocuments submitted in opposition to a summary judgment motion must be properly authenticated in order to be considered by the court at summary judgment stage." Barlow v. Connecticut, 319 F.Supp.2d 250, 257 (D. Conn. 2004), aff'd sub nom., Barlow v. Dep't of Pub. Health, Connecticut, 148 F.App'x 31 (2d Cir. 2005); see also Bazak Int'l Corp. v. Tarrant Apparel Grp., 378 F.Supp.2d 377, 391 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) ("[P]roper admission requires a determination on relevance and authenticity.").

         The Court need not consider any materials that the parties have failed to cite, but may in its discretion consider other materials in the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact, or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact, the Court may "consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion [and] grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials - including the facts considered undisputed -show that the movant is entitled to it." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see also Local R. 56(a)3 ("[F]ailure to provide specific citations to evidence in the record as required by this Local Rule may result in the Court deeming certain facts that are supported by the evidence admitted in accordance with [Local] Rule 56(a)1 or in the Court imposing sanctions, including ... an order granting the motion if the undisputed facts show that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.").[1] Because Plaintiff has filed no Rule 56(a) statement, the Court is not obligated to consider any of the facts Plaintiff asserts in his Opposition. However, the Court has nevertheless considered facts asserted in Plaintiff's Opposition where they are supported by admissible evidence elsewhere in the record.

         B. Factual Background

         Plaintiff began working as an instructional assistant for the Defendant CJTS in January 2007. [Dkt. 43-4, January 12, 2016 Deposition of Ruel Raphael ("Raphael Dep."), at 19-20, 22]. As an instructional assistant, Plaintiff's responsibilities included providing instructional support services to students working under the direct supervision of a classroom teacher. [Raphael Dep. at 22; Dkt. 43-5]. Plaintiff's direct supervisor was Barbara Mule, State School Department Head. [Meehan Aff. ¶ 12]. John Mattera, the principal of CJTS supervised Plaintiff indirectly. [Raphael Dep. at 27].

         Plaintiff was formally counseled or reprimanded numerous times between April 2007 and May 2011 for failing to report to work, failing to report absences, and failing to submit required medical certificates when taking sick leave. [See Dkts. 43-6, 43-7, 43-8, 43-9; Meehan Aff. ¶¶ 14-25]. He was also informed that failing to improve his attendance could result in an "unsatisfactory" performance rating, and that two such ratings could result in his termination. [Meehan Aff. ¶¶ 24; Dkt. 43-10].

         In August 2011, Plaintiff, his union representative, Principal Mattera, and the school superintendent Donna Gambria, entered into a "last chance agreement" in which Plaintiff agreed to "demonstrate immediate and sustained improvement in his attendance" in lieu of dismissal. [Raphael Dep. at 36; Dkt. 43-12 ¶ 1]. Plaintiff also agreed that several of his absences were unauthorized absences, and that the failure to produce a completed medical certificate after taking sick leave would result in his dismissal. [Dkt. 43-12 ¶ 4]. He also agreed not to seek "redress for the actions taken by the Department of Children and Families in any forum available to him including ... Federal Courts, " [Dkt. 43-12 ¶ 6] and he released Defendants from liability arising from the agreement. [Dkt. 43-12 ¶ 9]. In Sepember 2011, Plaintiff received a performance rating of "unsatisfactory, " based solely on his failure to comply with the attendance policy. [Dkt. 43-13; Meehan Aff. ¶¶ 39-40].

         In addition to excessive unauthorized absences, Defendants have offered evidence that Plaintiff misused state computer equipment by using his state email address to promote his music career. [Dkt. 43-14; Meehan Aff. ¶¶ 31, 32, 35, 37, 38]. This misuse of state equipment constituted "neglect of duty, " and following a thorough Labor Relations Adminstrative Investigation, Plaintiff was suspended for thirty days. [Dkt. 43-14; Meehan Aff. ¶¶ 33-38]. Plaintiff's suspension was imposed after a hearing at which Plaintiff had union representation. [Meehan Aff. ¶ 38]. In August of 2012, Mr. ...

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