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Maynard v. Stonington Community Center

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 2, 2018



          Robert N. Chatigny United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Doreen Maynard brings this action pro se against her former employer, the Stonington Community Center (“COMO”), alleging discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”). Both parties move for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 115, 120) and plaintiff moves to strike an affidavit defendant filed in support of its motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 116). For reasons that follow, plaintiff's motions are denied and defendant's motion is granted.

         I. Background

         The parties' submissions show the following. In September 2010, defendant hired plaintiff, a female, as an Assistant Teacher for a before-and-after-school program at Dean's Mill Elementary School (“DMES”). Suzanne Cutler, also female, personally hired and supervised plaintiff. Cutler also supervised plaintiff's three male co-workers: Bryan Primett, Scott Algiers, and Alex Walker. Walker was Head Teacher and Primett and Algiers held the same position as plaintiff. At the relevant time, Cutler was sixty-five, plaintiff was fifty-nine, and plaintiff's three male co-workers were under forty.

         A few weeks into the job, while plaintiff was being trained, she complained to Cutler that Primett had called her names. On one occasion, he allegedly stated, “You think you can remember that, granny?” According to plaintiff, Cutler did nothing in response to the complaints. She said plaintiff could not be too “thin skinned” at the “immature . . . boys club” over at DMES. According to defendant, Cutler did tell Primett to stop calling plaintiff names and followed up with other teachers. It is undisputed that Cutler did not conduct a formal investigation.

         Throughout the fall of 2010, plaintiff continued to complain about Primett. She reported that students heard the name-calling and had complained to her about it. Plaintiff encouraged one student, an eight-year old boy, to write down what Primett had said.[1] According to defendant, the boy's father, Jay, asked plaintiff to stop talking to the boy about her issues with Primett. Cutler also instructed plaintiff to stop talking to the boy about Primett. Plaintiff disputes that these conversations with Jay and Cutler took place. According to plaintiff, nothing about her conversations with the student was inappropriate; she had simply listened to the student's unsolicited complaints about Primett and asked the student to write them down.

         From December 2010 to February 2011, plaintiff reported to Cutler several incidents of alleged child abuse by Primett and Algiers. She also notified DMES faculty and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (“DCF”), believing she was required to do so as a mandated reporter. According to plaintiff, in addition to witnessing several incidents herself, she heard from students and parents about incidents of abuse. On one occasion in January, Primett allegedly kicked a student in the gym. Algiers scolded the student for whining. Plaintiff listened to the student's complaints about the incident and advised the student to tell his parents. Primett and Algiers complained to Cutler about plaintiff's handling of the situation. Cutler determined that the abuse allegation was false and called the student's mother to tell her it was an “accident.” Cutler then allegedly forbade plaintiff from telling parents or others about Primett's alleged abuses. Despite this instruction, plaintiff continued to notify the appropriate persons and organizations when she observed what she believed was child abuse.

         At some point, Cutler separated plaintiff and Primett for most of the forty-five minute before-school program. From 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., Primett supervised students playing sports in the gym and plaintiff supervised students doing crafts in a different area. They still interacted from 8:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., when the bell would ring and the students would go to their classes. According to defendant, Cutler separated the two because of the apparent tension between plaintiff and Primett, and because plaintiff had raised concerns that not all students participated in sports. According to plaintiff, Cutler separated the two solely because some students complained of abuse by Primett.

         In mid-February, plaintiff allegedly witnessed Primett physically and verbally abuse Jay's eight-year old son, the same boy who had written the letter detailing Primett's name-calling. Plaintiff reported the abuse to Jay, Cutler, DMES faculty, and DCF. On February 15, Cutler spoke to Jay via telephone.[2]According to defendant, Jay complained that plaintiff had continued to have inappropriate discussions with his son about her issues with Primett. According to plaintiff, Cutler called Jay and, at the behest of Primett, Algiers, and Walker, “incited” him to file a formal complaint. Jay had “no problem” with plaintiff prior to this phone call.

         On February 16, Jay encountered plaintiff at DMES. According to defendant, they had a verbal disagreement. Later, plaintiff had an “outburst” while speaking to Walker in front of students, parents, and staff. Plaintiff disputes this account. Jay “harassed” her and stated that he did not want her to involve his son in adult issues at COMO. She denied his accusations and told him about Primett's alleged abuse of his son. He said it must not have bothered his son because he had never mentioned it and there were no secrets between them. Plaintiff also contends that no “outburst” occurred in front of students, parents, and staff.

         Later on February 16, plaintiff called Cutler to complain about being “harassed” by Jay and her male coworkers. She requested a meeting with all involved, but Cutler declined.[3]Cutler told her not to come to work the next day because she was too “upset.” After the call, plaintiff emailed James Truscio, COMO's executive director, whom she had never met.[4] She outlined her grievances and asked for a meeting. She also stated that she planned to report to work unless he said otherwise because she did not want to lose pay and believed Cutler's instruction was “retaliatory.” Truscio did not respond to the email.

         The next day, February 17, plaintiff arrived at DMES at 7:00 a.m. Plaintiff contends that she went to DMES to obtain job reference letters from parents.[5] Later in the day, Truscio held a meeting with plaintiff and Cutler. Truscio stated that the purpose of the meeting was to investigate complaints against plaintiff regarding the events of the previous day and her conversations with Jay's son. He told her that her job was in jeopardy. Plaintiff complained that she had requested relief from Primett's “bad mouthing” but never received it. She also complained about how they were handling the allegations against her, in particular, that they denied her requested meeting with everyone involved. She threatened legal action if Truscio decided to discipline or terminate her. Truscio told her she would be paid for the rest of the week but that she should not come into work. The COMO program did not operate for the following two weeks due to DMES's winter break.

         On February 28, Truscio held another meeting with plaintiff and Cutler.[6] He said that he had looked into the issues discussed in the February 17 meeting and decided to terminate plaintiff's employment. He handed her a letter providing four reasons for her termination: (1) “Insubordination, ” based on plaintiff's reporting to work on February 17 despite Cutler's instructions; (2) “Unprofessional behavior, ” based on her alleged “outburst” in front of students and staff; (3) “Serious lack of judgment, ” based on her discussions with the eight-year old student about Primett's name-calling; and (4) “Willful refusal to follow directions, ” based on her continued discussions with the student despite Cutler's instructions.

         Plaintiff disputed each of the allegations and asked for proof. When Truscio failed to produce witnesses or documentation, plaintiff stated that he needed to support his findings with “competent evidence” and could not rely on “hearsay.” At various times, Truscio and Cutler stated that plaintiff was an at-will employee and they were not required to produce this kind of proof.

         Plaintiff accused them of violating state and federal labor laws by following up on her male coworkers' complaints against her but not her complaints against them. She read passages from the COMO employee handbook regarding workplace discrimination. She complained that she did not receive a meeting regarding her complaints that Cutler, Primett, Jay, and others had harassed her.[7]

         After the meeting, plaintiff's position was given to a woman in her twenties. She continued to work at DMES, where she was employed as a librarian, but eventually requested and received a transfer to the district's high school because of her toxic relationship with Primett.

         On May 12, 2011, plaintiff filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”), claiming that COMO discriminated against her based on her age and gender. After an investigation and factfinding proceeding, the CHRO determined in November 2013 that there was no reasonable cause to believe COMO discriminated against her. The CHRO found that most of plaintiff's claims were unsubstantiated or refuted by the evidence, which included a signed statement by a DMES cafeteria worker confirming that plaintiff had an “outburst” in front of students and staff on February 16. Plaintiff then brought this suit.[8]

         II. Plaintiff's Motion to Strike

         Plaintiff moves to strike Cutler's affidavit. “An affidavit or declaration used to support or oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). A court may strike an affidavit, or portions of an affidavit, that does not comply with Rule 56. See Hollander v. American Cyanamid Co., 172 F.3d 192, 198 (2d Cir. 1999). None of plaintiff's arguments require the Court to strike Cutler's affidavit.[9]

         Plaintiff argues that Cutler's affidavit has “technical deficiencies.” But the affidavit was “[s]ubscribed and sworn” before a notary public, Def. Ex. A. (ECF No. 115-3), which meets the requirements of Rule 56, see Lamoureux v. AnazaoHealth Corp., No. 3:03CV01382 WIG, 2010 WL 3801611, at *1 (D. Conn. Sept. 22, 2010) (“To be admissible in a summary judgment proceeding, an affidavit must be sworn to before an officer authorized to administer oaths, such as a ...

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