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Maynard v. St. Stephen'S Reformed Episcopal Church

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 5, 2017

DOREEN MAYNARD
v.
ST. STEPHEN'S REFORMED EPISCOPAL CHURCH

          MEMORANDUM

          WILLIAM M. NICKERSON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Plaintiff Doreen Maynard's “Motion for Judgement upon the Pleadings, ” (MJP) ECF No. 75, and a Cross Motion for Summary Judgment (Cross Motion) filed by Defendant St. Stephen's Reformed Episcopal Church (Defendant or St. Stephen's). ECF No. 98. Also pending is Plaintiff's motion to strike declarations and many of the exhibits that Defendant submitted with its Cross Motion. ECF No. 103. All of the motions are now ripe. Upon review of the pleadings and the relevant case law, the Court determines that no hearing is necessary, Local Rule 105.6, and that Plaintiff's motions will be denied and Defendant's motion will be granted.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff brings three claims of retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., [1] against her former employer, St. Stephen's. The first claim arises out of Plaintiff's suspension, with pay, on October 9, 2014, and the second claim arises out of the termination of her employment three days later. In her third claim, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant continued to retaliate against her after her termination by contacting a potential employer and interfering with her efforts to find new employment. While the parties proffer different motives for the actions taken by the other, the facts and chronology of events that led to the suspension, termination, and contact with another employer are all well documented and generally undisputed. As detailed below, Plaintiff disliked some decisions made by her supervisor, responded to those decisions in a somewhat insubordinate manner, proceeded to violate a workplace policy and, when it became apparent that her job might be in jeopardy, raised an unsubstantiated claim of discrimination so that Defendant would be unable to terminate her employment without facing a claim of retaliation. The facts and chronology of events are as follows.

         St. Stephen's is a church located in Eldersburg, Maryland, which operates a school for students from kindergarten through eighth grade - the St. Stephen's Classical Christian Academy (SSCCA). The St. Anselm program is a program within the school that serves students with language-based learning differences. John Dykes is the headmaster of SSCCA and Johanna Judy is the Lead Teacher for the St. Anselm program. Eric Jorgensen is the pastor of St. Stephen's and the Chairman of the SSCCA Board.

         In September of 2013, Plaintiff was hired to work as a part-time teacher at SSCCA in the St. Anselm program. Johanna Judy was Plaintiff's immediate supervisor. As a part-time teacher working 4 hours and 45 minutes per day, Plaintiff was paid a salary of $15, 000 for the nine month school year. After requesting that she be moved to a full-time teaching position, Plaintiff signed a new contract on September 4, 2014, with a salary of $22, 000. Shortly after the start of the school year, however, in early October, Plaintiff requested that she be returned to part-time status.

         In response to Plaintiff's decision to return to part-time status and an increase in the number of students enrolled at SSCCA, Dykes decided to hire another part-time teacher. Dykes and Judy then began the process of revising the teaching schedule to accommodate Plaintiff's part-time status and the addition of the new part-time teacher. Plaintiff was not pleased with the proposed schedule and voiced that displeasure in a series of emails that quickly escalated in their level of contentiousness. On October 7, 2015, Plaintiff emailed Dykes and stated that, while she was “happy to hear” that a new part-time teacher would be hired, she wanted to take the opportunity to remind Dykes that they had previously discussed Plaintiff teaching four morning classes and the new teacher taking Plaintiff's afternoon classes so that Plaintiff's hours were not stretched out all day. Dykes Decl., Ex. E. She also requested that she be included in the scheduling process. The next afternoon around 1 o'clock, Plaintiff sent Dykes an email informing him that she had shared some of her ideas for a workable schedule with Judy and again asked to be allowed to give input into the scheduling changes. Id., Ex. F.

         Around 4:30 in the afternoon of October 8, 2014, Dykes responded and provided the schedule for the four classes that Plaintiff would be teaching, a schedule which would require her to be at the school from 9:00 to 1:40 each day. Id., Ex. G. About an hour later, Plaintiff responded by sending a lengthy email to Dykes taking issue with the proposed schedule. She expressed that she was “becoming concerned” that she was not included in the process of developing the schedule and protested that the proposed schedule was inconsistent with her “August offer to give up the raise you gave me in order to hire another PT person this Fall so I could work part time in the mornings from now on.” Id., Ex. H at 1. She also complained that, under this schedule, she would have a greater teaching load than Judy. She further complained that “there are a lot of misunderstanding happening about my offer” and, unless they can be work out as previously agreed upon, “it is only fair that I be given the opportunity to consider withdrawing my offer for now and remain working the full time hours and with the full-time pay that are currently on my contract.” Id., Ex. H at 2.

         Dykes responded at 8:01 that evening and stated that he had read 1/3 of the email but would not have time to read and decipher the rest until the next week. He also declared, that “[t]he schedule is already set, ” and that Plaintiff's plan, which had her coming in at 8:00 in the morning for a planning period, instead of 9:00 to teach, was unacceptable. Id., Ex. I. He stated that he did not recall any discussion over the summer where specific hours were discussed and that “[y]ou need to work when we have work and we will do our best to get you out as early as possible, ” which, under the proposed schedule was 1:40. Id.

         Plaintiff responded by email about an hour later. The email began:

I will not agree to sign a different contract, take less money or work any different employment terms than the ones I have now under my current contract until you find the time to read my emails and meet with me to work out this misunderstanding about my August offer.

Id., Ex. J. She further criticized Dykes for not reading her previous emails and considering her concerns and concluded:

Please let me know when you can find the time to meet and discuss my offer the way I presented it to you in August. I would appreciate it if you would read my emails before that meeting. Thank you for your attention to my legitimate and reasonable requests.

Id.

         One hour later, at 10:01 p.m., Dykes responded:

I will speak to you tomorrow concerning your email at 12:15 sharp in my office. Understand that you will not dictate the terms of your part time employment nor will you give me any directive as to the way that I must respond to you. Starting next quarter, you will be part time if you continue to serve at SSCCA. The tone of your email is inappropriate and will be addressed tomorrow at 12:15.

Id., Ex. K. Dykes copied the email to Judy and asked her to attend the meeting the next day.

         One hour later, at 10:54, Dykes sent another email. By this time, Dykes had read Plaintiff's long email of October 7, and responded that the option for Plaintiff to work full time had passed and that he had approved the schedule proposed by Judy because it serves the needs of the program. He concluded, “[w]e will discuss how you can meet our programs needs tomorrow and if we can come to an agreement I will issue you a new contract. . . .” Id., Ex. L.

         At 1:43 on the morning of October 9, Plaintiff emailed Dykes and indicated that she felt uncomfortable meeting with him alone, without a “neutral witness.” Id., Ex. M. She continued to complain that the proposed schedule was inconsistent with her August offer and concluded:

You left me no recourse but to stick with my current contract until you could make time to read my emails and meet with me about this matter like you did with Johanna. I don't believe my tone is cause for a disciplinary meeting like you claim just because I am asking for equal treatment in this matter.
I feel like you are retaliating against me now for making legitimate requests and responses to your action and decision that will adversely change the terms of my employment and ones which I never offered or agreed to.

Id. Later that morning, at 6:07, Plaintiff emailed Dykes and Judy and informed them that she was not feeling well enough to come in and teach and requested that they find someone to cover her classes. Id., Ex. N.

         At 9:37 a.m., Plaintiff sent an email to Jorgensen requesting “a confidential meeting with [him] as soon as possible to file a formal complaint of discrimination, harassment and retaliation against [Dykes and Judy].” Jorgensen Decl., Ex. A. She indicated that she would be bringing a tape recorder to record the meeting and requested that Stanley Frey, a member of the SSCCA Board, also be present at the meeting. Plaintiff repeated that she believed that she was being treated differently and, unlike Judy, was not permitted to have input into the new schedule. Without providing additional examples, she opined that “[t]his is not the first time I have been treated this way by Mr. Dykes and Johanna and have objected to their unilateral decisions for me that affect me (and my students) adversely and in a discriminatory way.” Id. Jorgensen responded one hour later that he could meet with her at 5:00 that evening. Jorgensen Decl., Ex. B.

         At 10:45 that morning, Dykes responded to Plaintiff's 6:07 a.m. email to him and stated that he found it “very disappointing” that Plaintiff did not comply with SSCCA policies and procedures which required her to find her own substitute should she be absent from school or to telephone the Headmaster in the case of an emergency absence when she cannot find a substitute. Dykes Decl., Ex. O. He then inquired:

I need to know when you plan to return to work. I will attempt to grant your request by having a Board member present when we meet, but you should know that you have blown this issue way out of proportion. You should read your email to me and ask yourself if any subordinate should address their superior in such a way as you have. Your allegations are unfounded and your deluded confabulations seem bizarre to me at best. It was your request to be part time that I was honoring by hiring another employee. We discussed this several weeks ago. If you had any other specific requests they should have been made at that time. Understand that requests are just that, they are requests. The students in the program will dictate the needs and hours you serve.

Dykes Decl., Ex. O.

         Dykes then forwarded this email, along with Plaintiff's 6:07 email, to Jorgensen and the other members of the SSCCA Board. Dykes adds an “FYI” to that forwarded email relaying that Judy had reported to him that she had “a peaceful environment to work in for the first time this year” and that she “does not want to see [Plaintiff] return.” Id.

         At around noon on October 9, Plaintiff forwarded Dykes' email to Jorgensen and instructed him to “[p]lease advice Mr. Dykes to stop sending me harassing emails like the ...


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