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Dunbar v. Town of Stratford

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 7, 2018




         In this action, plaintiff Marjorie Dunbar alleges that defendant Town of Stratford discriminated against her based on her race or color and retaliated against her in violation of Title VII.

         Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's complaint. For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         A. BACKGROUND

         The parties have submitted statements of undisputed facts, exhibits and affidavits. Although plaintiff filed her Rule 56 statement late, the Court accepts the filing. These materials reflect the following factual background.

         Plaintiff is an African-American woman, who has been employed by defendant since 2000. She holds a non-union, at-will position of Finance Secretary, providing clerical and administrative support to the Finance Director. According to plaintiff's deposition testimony, plaintiff has had “pretty much the same” job responsibilities since 2003. When she performs additional duties, plaintiff receives extra pay or “stipends.” Plaintiff received regular annual pay increases from 2003 through fiscal year (“FY”) 2009. In FY 2010, then-Mayor James Miron sought raises for the non-union, at-will employees. This request was rejected by the Town Council.

         In 2010, the non-union, at-will employees were required to accept two furlough days and a wage freeze. All non-union, at-will staff were required to sign letter agreements, standardizing many of the terms and conditions of employment. These agreements provided, in relevant part, that (1) raises were at the Mayor's sole discretion and recommendation, subject to the approval of the Town Council; and (2) that at-will employees would receive limited sick leave and no pay for longevity. The agreements contained no provision conferring a benefit for an employee with perfect attendance.


         Plaintiff received a raise of about $1, 200 on January 1, 2012, bringing her annual salary to $57, 690. The raise, which occurred during FY 2013, was recommended by plaintiff's supervisor, Susan Collier, Director of Finance; it was approved by Human Resources Director Ronald Ing, Chief Administrative Officer Stephen Nocera, and Mayor John Harkins. Later, in November 2012, plaintiff asked Collier and Ing for another raise. Plaintiff also requested that she be allowed to cash out her vacation days, although she understood that non-union, at-will staff were not permitted to do so.

         Collier requested a 2.5% raise for plaintiff at the end of 2012. She knew that the proposal was not included in the Town budget; however, she submitted the request because she thought that money allocated for a vacant position could be directed toward plaintiff's raise.

         Mayor Harkins declined the request for the pay increase to plaintiff's salary. He asserted that he based his decision upon information that there would be a dramatic increase in health insurance costs; consequently, he did not want to ask the Council to approve a mid-year raise that had not been previously included in the Town budget. Collier was informed that the decision was due to budget constraints.

         In 2013, plaintiff signed a revised employee agreement dated March 26, 2013, which allowed her to carry over and to cash out her vacation time for the first time.

         On April 29, 2013, plaintiff filed a complaint to the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”), alleging that she had been denied a raise and was earning a different rate of pay due to a discriminatory animus.

         On July 1, 2014, plaintiff and other non-union, at-will employees received raises. The raise for plaintiff's position had been approved as part of the FY 2015 budget. According to defendant, the raise was approved by Ing, Collier, Nocera, and Mayor Harkins.

         Parking Space

         In November 2015, plaintiff found heavy equipment blocking her reserved handicapped parking space as well as those of other employees. Plaintiff, who possesses a handicap tag, parked in another handicap parking place. She asserts that members of the Town administration saw her park in the handicap space and called the police. Police Officer Donald Schuler called her and questioned her about the validity of her handicap tag. He did not give her a ticket.

         Plaintiff claims that she was denied a copy of the incident report regarding this situation and that the police have told her such report does not exist.

         Racial Remarks

         Plaintiff asserts that a year prior to filing her 2013 CHRO claim, a co-worker made a racial remarks to her. Plaintiff maintains that the co-worker complimented her hairstyle and then stated, “Black don't crack.” Additionally, plaintiff asserts that on another occasion, the co-worker said, “I am catching up to you, ” in reference to the co-worker's tan. According to Ing, plaintiff asked him what could be done about inappropriate comments from a co-worker.

         He recalls inquiring whether she wanted to file a complaint, and that she declined to do so at the time. ...

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