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

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

July 26, 2016

MABEL SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL, United States District Judge.

         In her one-count Complaint. Plaintiff Mabel Smith alleges that she suffered from retaliation in response to her complaints of age. gender, and national origin discrimination that she raised to her employer, the Board of Education of Prince George's County. Maryland (the "Board"), in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 et seq. Presently pending before the Court is the Board's Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 3. No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, the Board's Motion is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff was born in Jamaica. West Indies and has a distinct accent. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 11-12. She is employed by Prince George's County Public Schools and. as of the time of the events leading up to this case, was a middle school teacher at Kettering Middle School. ECF No. I ¶¶ 1- 13- Amin Salaam is the principal of Kettering Middle School, and was Plaintiffs supervisor from 2012 to 2015. Id. ¶ 14.

         According to the Complaint. Plaintiff has been the recipient of many teaching awards and her job performance ratings have been consistently high, but Salaam "has singled [Plaintiff) out for harsher treatment since he arrived at Kettering Middle School in 2012." Id. ¶¶ 10. 15. Specifically, during the 2012-2013 school year. Salaam assigned Plaintiff five classes-more than other teachers were assigned-and as many as sixty students at a time. Id. ¶¶ 16-19. Plaintiff was also not given a thirty-minute break for lunch. Id. ¶ 18. In September 2012. Plaintiff expressed her concern about being overworked in an email to Salaam and complained to her union. Id. ¶¶ 21. 24. Salaam responded by telling Plaintiff. "I'll give you an unsatisfactory. I am the principal and 1 can do so" and said "*[y]ou should be glad that you have a job." Id. ¶¶ 25-26.

         Plaintiff also alleges that Salaam "frequently came to [her] classroom, as she taught a class, with his IPod in hand" and "would take a seat and glare [at] |Plaintiff] without saying a word." Id. ¶ 30. Additionally, according to the Complaint, during the 2014 2015 school year. Salaam occasionally entered Plaintiffs classroom during class and "yell[ed| at her in a menacing tone." Id. ¶31. This conduct led Plaintiffs students to "express concern that she was in some kind of trouble." Id. Plaintiff alleges that she found this behavior to be intimidating. Id. ¶ 32.

         On several occasions. Salaam commented on Plaintiffs national origin. For instance. Salaam said to Plaintiff. "I know about you Jamaicans. 1 grew up in New York so I know you people." On another occasion. Salaam told Plaintiff. "1 told my wife about you and I told her I was having a hard time with you" and his wife's response was, "[y]ou know how these Jamaicans are."" Id. ¶¶ 27 29.

         On January 29. 2015, Plaintiff sent a letter to her union representative and to Tricia Hairston. Salaam's supervisor, complaining that Salaam was harassing her on the basis of her age, gender, and national origin. Id. ¶ 33. Then, on February 2. 2015. Plaintiff emailed Salaam requesting a meeting to address her grievance with him. Id. c 34. On February 3. 201 5, Plaintiff emailed Hairston informing her that she had requested a meeting with Salaam, and explaining that, in October 2014. Plaintiff met with her union representative to address the harassment she was facing and noted that she "ended up with panic attacks and stress related symptoms" as a result of Salaam's conduct. Id. ¶ 35. Plaintiff further explained that her October 2014 complaint was "partially resolved" but that another meeting was warranted "because . . . Salaam will not stop." Id.

         On February 4. 2015. during a meeting between Salaam, Plaintiff, and Plaintiffs union representative. Salaam said to Plaintiff:

I am going to give you a Letter of Reprimand because I am tired of you. When things don't go your way you email my supervisor and call in the union on me and I am going to put a stop to it today. I have a school to run and all these meetings are taking up my time. You fee! that you can call in the union on me any time you want but this is the last time. I am going to put a stop to it once and for all.

Id. ¶ 36. Next, on February 27. 201 5. Salaam accused Plaintiff of interfering with a security investigation involving a possible fight between two students, based on Plaintiffs claim that she had not seen the light. Because Plaintiff was assigned to hallway duty at the time of the incident and a security officer claimed she was there. Salaam accused Plaintiff of misleading him. Id. ¶ 37. At the time of the altercation. Plaintiff was monitoring students but did not see the altercation. Id. ¶¶ 38-39.

         On March 9. 2015. Plaintiff met with an Employee and Labor Relations attorney regarding her complaints against Salaam and explained that Salaam's harassment was having an adverse effect on her health. Id. ¶¶ 41-42. The following day. Salaam followed Plaintiff to her classroom '"with an angry expression on his face." Id. ¶ 43. During a meeting on March 11. 201 5. Salaam yelled at Plaintiff, called her a liar, and accused her of deliberately endangering a child's life. Id. ¶ 44. As a result. Plaintiff suffered a medical emergency and was sent to the hospital. On her doctor's advice. Plaintiff went onto extended medical leave for the remainder of the 2014-2015 school year. Id. ¶¶ 45-46.

         Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on March 16. 2015. Id. ¶ 48: see also ECF No. 3-2. Two days later, on March 18. 2015. Plaintiff received a "Letter of Professional Counseling for Misconduct. Willful Neglect of Duty & Insubordination" from Salaam. The letter indicated that, on February 27. 201 5. Plaintiff "decided not to tell the truth to the principal about a student security investigation." ECF No. 1 ¶ 49. On March 25. 2015. Salaam gave Plaintiff an interim job performance rating of "ineffective." Id. ¶ 50.

         On June 1 8. 201 5. Plaintiff visited the school to attend an award ceremony for her students. When Salaam saw her, he yelled at her in front of students, parents, and colleagues, saying that Plaintiff was not allowed to come in the building while she was out on sick leave, and that if she did not leave, he would have security escort her from the building. Id. ΒΆ 51. The following day. Salaam presented ...


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