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Mullen v. Waterbury Board of Education

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 7, 2017

EDDIE C. MULLEN, Plaintiff,
v.
WATERBURY BOARD OF EDUCATION, RON FROST; Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. 36]

          HON. VANESSA L. BRYANT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Eddie Mullen (“Plaintiff” or “Mullen”) brings this employment discrimination action against the Waterbury Board of Education and Ron Frost (collectively, “Defendants”) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging discrimination based on race and color. Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment wherein Defendants argue poor performance and misconduct as reasons for deciding not to rehire Plaintiff as a substitute teacher. [Dkt. 36]. Upon the Court's issuance of the Order to Show Cause, [Dkt. 37], Plaintiff has submitted a Response but did not include a D. Conn. Civ. L. R. 56(a)(2) Statement. See [Dkt. 38]. The Court thereafter held a telephonic conference where it instructed Defendants to submit additional evidence and Plaintiff to submit a Rule 56(a)(2) Statement. See [Dkt. 42 (Order on Tel. Conf.)]. Subsequently Defendants complied but Plaintiff did not. For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Background

         The foregoing facts are taken from Defendants' D. Conn. Civ. L. R. 56(a)(1) Statement and other evidence submitted on the record. Because Plaintiff has not submitted a D. Conn. Civ. L. R. 56(a)(2) Statement, the facts supported by admissible evidence are deemed admitted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         Plaintiff is an African American male who was previously employed as a substitute teacher by the City of Waterbury in 1989. [Dkt. 36-2 (D. Conn. Civ. L. R. 56(a)(1) Stmt) ¶ 2]. He filed with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) an employment discrimination claim against the City of Waterbury and Board of Education in 1993. [Dkt. 20 (Second Am. Compl. and Exs.) at 20 of PDF (indicating case number 9330379)]. He worked again for the City of Waterbury as a substitute teacher from 1995 through 2001. [Dkt. 36-2 ¶ 2]. During this time in 1997, Plaintiff withdrew his employment discrimination claim with the EEOC. [Dkt. 20 at 21 of PDF (accepting his withdrawal of Charge No. 16A931268 on March 24, 1997)].

         Plaintiff then worked as a Substitute Teacher in the Stratford school system from April 2003 until March 2005. Id. at 17 of PDF. Plaintiff has submitted annual letters from the Connecticut State Department of Education, Bureau of Human Resources, indicating that he “can accept this letter as a reasonable assurance that [his] name will remain on the list of approved Substitute Instructors for the upcoming school year” at WF Kaynor RVTS and WF Kaynor THS[1]; these letters were sent in late May and early June of years 2005 through 2008. Id. at 13-16 of PDF.

         Plaintiff applied for a substitute teaching position on November 15, 2011. [Dkt. 36-4 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 2, Foster Aff. and Exs.) at 7 of PDF]. At the time, Defendant Ron Frost was the Director of Personnel for the Waterbury Board of Education, which had standard procedures for processing teaching applications for people who had previously worked as substitute teachers in the school system. See [Dkt. 44 (Supp. D. Conn. Civ. L. R. 56(a)(1) Stmt) ¶¶ 1-3]. Under these procedures, the Director of Personnel was to contact principals at the applicant's former schools and, in circumstances in which the applicant was reported to have poor performance or unbecoming conduct, it was standard procedure not to rehire the individual. See Id. ¶¶ 3-4. Defendant Frost followed these procedures for Plaintiff's application and contacted Matt Larkin and Mike LaRusso, [2] two principals who formerly worked at a Waterbury public school called the North End Middle School. See Id. ¶¶ 5-6. Mr. Larkin reported Plaintiff came to work intoxicated, and Mr. LaRusso reported Plaintiff was found sleeping in a classroom and a stairwell. Id. ¶ 7. Defendant Frost elected not to rehire Plaintiff based on these reports. Id. ¶ 8.

         On April 2, 2012, Plaintiff filed an employment discrimination action against “City of Waterbury and Board of Education” (“CHRO Respondents”) before the CHRO. [Dkt. 36-4 at 5 of PDF (indicating CHRO Case No. 1230352 and EEOC/HUD Case No. 16A201200960)]. He alleged discrimination based on race, color, and his previous opposition, filing, testimony or assistance. Id.

         On June 12, 2012, CHRO Respondents submitted a Response to a Request for Additional Information, stating in relevant part that there existed no written policy, but the procedure for hiring a substitute teacher included the following: “Applicant fills out application and submits to a criminal background check, drug screening and verification of qualifications. The application is vetted for any problems or concerns. If acceptable, the applicant's name is placed on a substitute teacher list.” [Dkt. 36-4 at 13 of PDF]. CHRO Respondents also indicated that Plaintiff deemed not eligible “based on his poor performance issues and unbecoming conduct during his previous employment” and that “[h]is application was vetted when he previously applied in 2009. There was no reason to vet it again.” Id. at 15 of PDF.

         Plaintiff submitted a letter in reply on June 30, 2012. Id. at 19 of PDF. He challenged the Waterbury Board of Education's application procedure, stating, “I was turned away before I was able to submit these documents, ” i.e. the criminal background check, drug screening, and verification of qualification. Id. He argued that he submitted these documents in October 2009, wherein the drug test came back negative. He also argued,

The Board of Education Response was base[d] on poor performance issues and unbecoming conduct during previous employment. I can assu[r]e you that there is no perfect human being on earth. I have been a professional through out [sic] my carrel [sic] before and after any incident of Feb 5, 2002. If [sic] the arrogance of a man I once idolize[d], mottle larking, and another man whom I never met before Feb 26, 2002.

Id. He also stated, “In this Feb 26, 2002 meeting between my self [sic] and the higher ups, I believe collaboration took place between union president and the administration. I was not represented at any time even though I mentioned a medical problem I was having prior to the meeting.” Id. at 20 of PDF.[3]

         The CHRO initiated a Draft Finding of No Reasonable Cause on May 15, 2014.[4] Id. at 25 of PDF. Thereafter, the CHRO issued its Final Determination on June 13, 2014, dismissing the case on the merits for No Reasonable Cause. Id. at 37 of PDF. The determination informed Plaintiff that he could request reconsideration by the CHRO or appeal the disposition to the Superior Court of the State of Connecticut. Id. at 38 of PDF. Plaintiff thereafter received a Notice of Right to Sue letter from the EEOC on November 26, 2014. [Dkt. 1 (Compl. and Exs.) at 7 of PDF]. Plaintiff filed this case in January 2015. He denies being intoxicated at work and claims instead he had a seizure and was for diabetes and high blood. [Dkt. 20 at 4 of PDF].

         Legal ...


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