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Manguiat v. Board of Education of Prince George's County

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

May 18, 2015

BELLA MANGUIAT, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE JARROD HAZEL, District Judge.

This is a race-based and nationality-based discrimination and retaliation case brought by Bella Manguiat ("Manguiat") against the Board of Education of Prince George's County ("the School Board") for purported violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000-e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. In addition to Manguiat's civil rights claims, she also raises a breach of contract claim against the School Board. This Memorandum Opinion and accompanying Order address the School Board's motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 33, and its motion to strike declarations attached to Manguiat's opposition, ECF No. 42. A hearing is not necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (Md.). For the reasons stated below, the School Board's motion to strike is GRANTED and its motion for summary judgment is GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Manguiat, a Filipino woman, was a special education teacher employed by the School Board beginning in 2008 under an H-1B visa which was set to expire on November 4, 2011.[1] See ECF No. 33-2. Manguiat's employment arrangement was set forth in a contract between her and the School Board which required her to be placed on a mandatory two year probationary period. See ECF No. 36-10. The School Board could extend this probationary period for a third year if, at the end of Manguiat's second school year (2009-2010), she did not qualify for tenure. See id. But the probationary period could only be extended if the School Board provided Manguiat with adequate notice of its decision to extend this period. Specifically, the contract required the School Board to provide Manguiat with notice of its decision to extend her probationary period either before June 15, 2009 or sixty (60) days prior to the second anniversary of her start date - i.e. November 9, 2009. See id.

When Manguiat was initially hired by the School Board in January 2008, she was assigned to teach sixth grade special education math and science at Benjamin Foulis Elementary School. See ECF No. 3 at ¶ 13. In the summer of 2008, the entire special education program at Benjamin Foulis Elementary School was moved to Francis Scott Key Elementary School. See ECF No. 33-3 at 2. As a result, Manguiat was transferred to Francis Scott Key Elementary School where she was assigned to co-teach fifth grade special education math with a male colleague, Mr. Ruffins, and was supervised by the school's principal, Ms. Judie Strawbridge ("Strawbridge"), an African-American. See ECF Nos. 33-6 & 3 at ¶ 18.

On October 11, 2009, just one month into the 2009-2010 school year, Strawbridge conducted an interim evaluation of Manguiat for which she received an "unsatisfactory" rating. See ECF No. 33-5. Following Manguiat's evaluation, Strawbridge, Manguiat, and other School Board personnel participated in an interim conference on December 18, 2009 to address Manguiat's unsatisfactory performance. See ECF No. 33-6. During the conference, Manguiat expressed displeasure with her performance evaluation, but did not, at that time, claim she was being discriminated against based on her race or nationality. See ECF No. 3 at ¶ 29. She did, however, complain to Strawbridge (for the first time) about working with Mr. Ruffins. See ECF No. 33-3 at 9-10. According to Manguiat, Mr. Ruffins touched her inappropriately and, as a result, she no longer felt comfortable working with him. See id. Manguiat contends that Strawbridge did nothing to address her concerns. As such, on February 8, 2010, Manguiat filed an internal complaint of harassment against Mr. Ruffins. See ECF No. 33-19. After Manguiat filed her complaint, Strawbridge contends that she tried to mediate the issues between Mr. Ruffins and Manguiat but, when it became clear that they could no longer work together, she separated them. See ECF No. 33-4 at 5. Ultimately, Mr. Ruffins did not return to Francis Scott Key Elementary School the following school year. See id. at 6.

In early 2010, just weeks after Manguiat's interim conference with Strawbridge, Manguiat claims she started experiencing discrimination and harassment based on her race and/or nationality. According to Manguiat, in January 2010, Strawbridge refused to give her praise for her students' improved test results. See ECF No. 3 at ¶ 31. Additionally, Manguiat contends that on January 26, 2010, Strawbridge held a meeting with the fifth grade teaching team without giving Manguiat advanced notice. See id. at ¶ 32. Manguiat, who was unable to attend the meeting, was reprimanded the next day by Strawbridge. See id. at ¶ 33. That same day, Manguiat claims that Strawbridge recommended that Manguiat's probationary period be extended for an additional year. Manguiat reported this allegedly discriminatory and harassing behavior to the School Board's Equity Assurance and Compliance Department on February 2, 2010. See ECF No. 36-16 at ¶ 12; see also ECF No. 36-1 at 11.

Manguiat claims that after she reported this behavior, Strawbridge and the School Board starting taking retaliatory actions against her. Specifically, Manguiat contends that after reporting this activity, her probationary period was extended for an additional year when, on April 20, 2010, the Superintendent of Prince George's County Public Schools wrote a letter to Manguiat indicating that she "did not qualify for tenure at the end of [her] second year based on established performance evaluation criteria." ECF No. 33-17. Manguiat contends that this action was not only retaliatory, but also in violation of her contract because the School Board failed to provide her with timely notice of its decision to extend her probationary status. Additionally, Manguiat contends the School Board breached the contract and treated her differently than other non-Filipino teachers by failing to provide her with a mentor, as was required for teachers whose probationary period had been extended. See ECF No. 36-10. Manguiat also alleges that the School Board treated her differently than non-Filipino teachers when, at the end of the 2009-2010 school year, she did not receive an end-of-the-year evaluation. See ECF No. 3 at ¶ 47. Manguiat further contends that, in addition to the alleged disparate treatment and retaliation, she experienced a racially hostile work environment during the 2009-2010 school year when she was called "stupid" and humiliated by school staff; was referred to as Ms. Natividad - who was another teacher at Francis Scott Key Elementary School; and was told to go back to her country. See ECF No. 3 at ¶¶ 24-26.

According to Manguiat, the 2010-2011 school year was not much better. Manguiat claims she was not provided supplies to start the year, was still not given a mentor, and continued to receive negative performance reviews. See ECF No. 36 at 13. Regarding her performance, Manguiat was formally observed on four occasions during the 2010-2011 school year: November 29, 2010 and February 28, 2011 by Strawbridge; December 6, 2010, by Ms. Diane Reisenger, Assistant Principal; and March 7, 2011 by Ms. Margaret Stroman, Area III Instructional Specialist. See ECF No. 43-4. Based on the observations from November and December 2010, the School Board, on January 10, 2011, issued Manguiat an interim evaluation indicating that her performance was either unsatisfactory or needed to improve in five out of twelve categories concerning Manguiat's teaching preparation. See ECF No. 33-7. Not long after Manguiat received this unsatisfactory interim evaluation, Manguiat met with Ms. Tricia Hairston, Area Assistant Superintendent, and Strawbridge on January 28, 2011, during which a performance improvement plan was developed. See ECF No. 43-4. Ultimately, following two more observations in February and March 2011, the School Board determined that Manguiat failed to demonstrate significant progress in a number of areas and was given a final evaluation on March 8, 2011, which reflected six unsatisfactory ratings in the areas of learning climate, instruction, and professionalism. See ECF No. 33-8. As such, Manguiat received an overall "unsatisfactory" rating on May 27, 2011. Then, on June 23, 2011, the School Board lowered Manguiat's teaching certificate to "second class" which, according to her, meant she would not be eligible for a salary increase. See ECF No. 36-1 at 14. But at no point during Manguiat's employment with the School Board did her salary or benefits ever decrease. See ECF No. 33-3 at 18-19.

Prior to the start of the 2011-2012 school year, the School Board agreed to a voluntary debarment[2] from sponsorship of H-1B visa applications for its employees as part of a settlement of a wage and hour dispute with the Department of Labor. See ECF No. 33-9 at 2-4; see also ECF No. 33-11. As a result of the debarment, the School Board could not sponsor any visa renewals as of July 2011, and continuing until March 16, 2014. See ECF No. 33-12. Thus, Manguiat's H-1B visa, which was set to expire in November 2011, could not be renewed by the School Board. As such, Manguiat's employment with the School Board ended on November 4, 2011 when her visa expired. See ECF No. 33-13; see also ECF No. 33-14.

Ultimately, Manguiat filed suit against the School Board alleging that she was the victim of (1) race-based and nationality-based discrimination; (2) a racially hostile work environment[3]; and (3) retaliation for complaining of the alleged discrimination and harassment. Manguiat also contends that the School Board breached its contract with her by failing to provide her with a mentor and by failing to provide her with the requisite notice before extending her probationary period. The School Board has filed a motion for summary judgment. See ECF No. 33. For the reasons discussed more fully below, the Court will grant the School Board's motion for summary judgment as to Manguiat's discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment claims, and will deny the motion as it relates to her breach of contract claim.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Strike

Prior to addressing the School Board's motion for summary judgment, the Court must first address the School Board's motion to strike. See ECF No. 42. In her opposition to the School Board's motion for summary judgment, Manguiat submitted, among other items, three declarations from former co-workers. See ECF Nos. 36-7, 36-23, 36-24. Two of the declarants, Clarette Harrison and Joyce Pullen, were identified in interrogatory responses as individuals with knowledge of Manguiat's job performance and were discussed in deposition testimony. See ECF No. 44 at 1-2. The third, Carolyn Brooks, was never previously disclosed in interrogatory responses. The School Board has moved to strike these ...


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