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Callahan v. City of New Haven Board of Education

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 18, 2019

TACHICA CALLAHAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW HAVEN BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Tachica Callahan worked for the City of New Haven's public schools for five years before defendant City of New Haven Board of Education fired her in 2010 because of chronic attendance and tardiness problems. In August 2014, Callahan applied for a paraprofessional position with the Board, and she was hired yet again-but only for a few weeks before the Board's human resources department realized that she had previously worked for the school system and been terminated. On that basis, the Board fired her again.

         Callahan contends, however, that the Board discriminated against her for the proverbial kitchen sink of reasons-because of her race, because of her sex, because of her age, because of her marital status, and because of the fact that she had prior criminal convictions. Callahan also throws in a sponge of retaliation-that the Board fired her to retaliate for the fact that Callahan's mother (also coincidentally an employee of the New Haven school system) had filed discrimination complaints.

         The Board has moved for summary judgment. It argues that only after Callahan had been hired in 2014 did it figure out that she had previously been fired in 2010 and so terminated her on that basis. I conclude on the basis of the parties' respective statements of material fact that there is no genuine dispute of fact that the Board's account is correct and that it is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. I will therefore grant the Board's motion for summary judgment.

         Background

         Plaintiff Tachica Callahan has filed this action against defendant City of New Haven Board of Education. I take the facts pertinent to the Board's motion for summary judgment as follows principally from the parties' Local Rule 56(a) statements.[1]

         Tachica Callahan is an unmarried African-American woman who was born in 1982. Docs. #57 at 1 (¶ 3); #66-1 at 1 (¶ 3). Callahan worked for the Board as a paraprofessional teacher's aide at several New Haven public schools from 2005 until the Board terminated her employment in April 2010. Docs. #57 at 1-2 (¶¶ 2, 6); #66-1 at 1-2 (¶¶ 2, 6).

         While Callahan was working for the Board, she was convicted of crimes involving breach of the peace and assault in 2005 and 2006. Docs. #57 at 1 (¶ 3); #66-1 at 1 (¶ 3). The Board does not have a policy of precluding employment to people who have criminal backgrounds. Docs. #57 at 1-2 (¶ 5); #66-1 at 1-2 (¶ 5). All the same, the Board contends that that from 2005 to 2010, Callahan was frequently absent, missing multiple days of work. Doc. #57 at 2 (¶ 7). The Board also contends that her evaluations showed that her attendance needed improvement, and that the Board progressively disciplined Callahan for numerous instances of tardiness and absences- including multiple written warnings and suspensions without pay. Ibid. (¶¶ 8-10).

         Callahan denies these allegations, citing only to the same exhibits as the Board, and not indicating which evidence negates the Board's contentions. See Doc. #66-1 at 2 (¶¶ 7-10). The Board's exhibits show extensive evidence of chronic absences, poor evaluations, and disciplinary measures against Callahan. See Doc. #56 at 36-48, 58, 66, 68-69, 73, 77-78, 81-89, 112 (¶ 10).

         In short, the record supports the Board's position, and Callahan does not give any indication of how the same evidence refutes those facts. As a self-represented litigant, Callahan received the mandatory notice that must be served on a self-represented litigant of the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 and D. Conn. L. Civ. R. 56, see Doc. #58, and therefore I deem the Board's statements of fact admitted pursuant to D. Conn. L. Civ. R. 56(a)(3).[2]

         As this record shows, the Board's progressive disciplinary measures included multiple steps. The Board first tried to accommodate Callahan by permitting her to take a leave of absence in early 2006, then transferred her to a school with a later start time, then referred her to an employee assistance program, and then allowed her to transfer yet again to the school that her child attended. Doc. #57 at 2 (¶ 11).[3]

         On October 23, 2009, Callahan and the Board entered into a “last chance” settlement agreement. Docs. #57 at 3 (¶ 14); #66-1 at 3 (¶ 4). The last chance agreement stipulated that Callahan could return to work after a suspension and that she needed to report to work on time each day through the end of the school year. Docs. #57 at 3 (¶ 15); #66-1 at 3 (¶ 15).

         Around April 13, 2010, the Board terminated Callahan for continued absenteeism. Docs. #57 at 3 (¶ 16); #66-1 at 3 (¶ 16). She was in breach of the last chance agreement. Docs. #57 at 3 (¶ 19); #66-1 at 4 (¶ 19).[4]

         Callahan did not file any discrimination complaints arising from her 2010 termination. Docs. #57 at 3 (¶ 18); #66-1 at 4 (¶ 18). Callahan's mother was also a Board employee, and some years later in February 2013 her mother filed a complaint against the Board with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”) for reasons not shown to be related to Callahan's firing in 2010. Doc. #56 at 112-13 (¶ 15).

         In August 2014, Callahan applied for a part-time paraprofessional position in the New Haven public schools. Docs. #57 at 3 (¶ 20); #66-1 at 4 (¶ 20). The Board contends that on August 29, Early Childhood Director Tina Mannerino-who was a 50-year old married white woman with no criminal history-hired Callahan as a part-time paraprofessional at Wexler Grant Elementary School. Doc. #57 at 4 (¶ 21). According to the Board, Mannerino knew about Callahan's previous employment applications, age, sex, race, marital status, and prior criminal history. Ibid. (¶ 22). But Callahan denies this account, arguing that it was the Board's human resources department that made the August 29 hiring decision, that the human resources department was aware of her application details, and that the human resources department had assigned her to the same department where her mother worked. Doc. #66-1 at 4 (¶¶ 21-22). Here, however, Callahan supports this denial by citing generally to the same evidence as does the Board-a CHRO factfinding report that supports the Board's position. See Doc. #56 at 111 (¶ 4). Because this report is admissible evidence that supports the Board's factual contentions and because Callahan does not point to any other evidence supporting her denial, I deem these facts admitted in the Board's favor.[5]

         Callahan and the Board agree that while Callahan was working from August to September 2014, no employee or agent of the Board ever made any remarks related to her age, sex, race, or marital ...


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