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Teague v. Brennan

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 25, 2015

RUTH TEAGUE, Plaintiff,
MEGAN J. BRENNAN, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service, Defendant.


DENISE J. CASPER, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Ruth Teague ("Teague") has filed this lawsuit against Defendant Postmaster General Megan Brennan ("Brennan"), [1] alleging discrimination in her employment as the Postmaster of the Groton, Massachusetts Post Office ("Groton Post Office") on the basis of gender, in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count I), age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA") (Count II), and disability, in violation of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. (Count III).[2] D. 1. Furthermore, she alleges she was retaliated against on the basis of her prior Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") complaints (Count IV). Id . Brennan has moved for summary judgment. D. 24. For the reasons stated below, the Court ALLOWS the motion.

II. Standard of Review

The Court grants summary judgment where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the undisputed facts demonstrate that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "A fact is material if it carries with it the potential to affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law." Santiago-Ramos v. Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp., 217 F.3d 46, 52 (1st Cir. 2000). The movant bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Carmona v. Toledo, 215 F.3d 124, 132 (1st Cir. 2000); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets its burden, the non-moving party may not rest on the allegations or denials in its pleadings, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986), but must come forward with specific admissible facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Borges ex rel. S.M.B.W. v. Serrano-Isern, 605 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2010). The Court "view[s] the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing reasonable inferences in his favor." Noonan v. Staples, Inc., 556 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2009).

III. Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed and drawn from Brennan's statement of facts, D. 25, Teague's response, D. 33, and Brennan's response thereto, D. 36. Where noted, the Court cites relevant evidence in the record when facts are disputed yet clearly unsupported. See Rodio v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 416 F.Supp.2d 224, 227 (D. Mass. 2006) (deeming defendant's facts admitted where plaintiff disputed facts but failed to present supported facts that controverted assertions in defendant's statement of facts).

Teague began her employment with the United States Postal Service ("USPS") in 1979. D. 25 ¶ 1. She was the Postmaster of the Groton Post Office from 1993 until her retirement on July 31, 2012. Id . ¶ 2. This position was supervised by the central Massachusetts Post Office Operations Manager ("POOM"). Id . During the time of the alleged conduct in the complaint, Teague's POOM was Nicolas Francescucci ("Francescucci"). Id . ¶ 42. Francescucci knew Teague suffered from anxiety in the execution of her duties as it was discussed during the first meeting after he assumed the POOM position. Id . ¶ 47.

In 1994, Teague filed an administrative complaint alleging gender discrimination against her POOM at that time. Id . ¶ 7. She later withdrew the complaint. Id . In 1996 and 1997, Teague filed three EEO complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of her gender, age and disability (anxiety and panic attacks) by her then-POOM and another supervisor, on the basis of her failure to be selected as a Quality Consultant at USPS headquarters. Id . ¶ 8. These complaints were settled in 1998 while still pending. Id . In 2006, Teague filed an administrative complaint alleging gender, age, disability discrimination and retaliation. Id . ¶ 9. The complaint resulted in a lawsuit, which was resolved in 2009 at summary judgment in favor of the defendant. Id.

When Francescucci assumed the position of Central Massachusetts POOM in the fall 2011, he met with Teague and stated "I'm going to be your new POOM. I hope I am not going to have problems with you." D. 33 ¶ 7 (Teague's further statement of facts). Teague asked what Francescucci meant and he responded, "Because everybody knows all about you." Id . Teague asked whether he was referencing her prior EEO cases and her anxiety, to which he responded again, "I hope I don't have problems with you." Id.

In February 2012, Francescucci telephoned the Groton Post Office several times shortly after 8 a.m. in an attempt to reach Teague, but she had not yet arrived. D. 25 ¶ 14. The parties dispute whether Teague previously indicated to Francescucci whether she had adjusted her start time to 8:30 a.m. Id .; D. 36 ¶¶ 8-9 (Brennan's response to Teague's further statement of facts). Later that month, he called at approximately 8:25 or 8:30 a.m. as Teague pulled into the parking lot of the Groton Post Office. D. 25 ¶ 14. Francescucci yelled and screamed at Teague, told her that her shift was 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and asked why she was late. D. 33 ¶ 11 (Teague's further statement of facts). Teague told him that her hours were actually 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. because she needed to care for her grandchildren. Id . Following this call, the two agreed to these hours and also that Teague should try to work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. when possible. Id.

Also at some point in February 2012, Francescucci called the Groton Post Office at midday and was unable to reach Teague because she was out of the office delivering Express Mail. D. 25 ¶ 15. Teague returned to the office and called Francescucci, at which point he yelled at her and instructed her to assign the delivery of Express Mail to a clerk or a carrier so she could remain in the office. Id . Teague delivered Express Mail at midday approximately twenty to twenty-five times after this conversation when none of her carriers had returned from their routes. Id . ¶ 16. Following the conversations about hours and Express Mail delivery, Francescucci called the Post Office before 8:30 a.m. and at midday approximately twenty times. Id . ¶ 17.

On May 2, 2012 at 12:57 p.m., Teague emailed Peter Clarke ("Clarke"), a USPS marketing employee, and Wanda Santos-Dwyer ("Santos-Dwyer"), his supervisor, concerning a new USPS program, Every Door Direct Mail ("EDDM"), overseen by Clarke. Id . ¶ 18. Teague requested clarification about the proper EDDM procedure "asap" because a customer was waiting for a response. Id . ¶ 19. Clarke responded at 3:25 p.m., indicated that the delay in his response was due to his conducting a mandatory training on the EDDM program, and provided clarification about the procedure. Id . ¶ 20. Teague and Clarke had further correspondence in which Teague complained about the confusing changes in procedures and lack of communication about same to the postmasters. Id . ¶¶ 21, 22. Santos-Dwyer later forwarded the emails with the text "She's back..." to Francescucci's manager, Barry Begley ("Begley"). Id . ¶ 23.

Begley forwarded the email chain to Francescucci, who the following day forwarded the chain to Santos-Dwyer, Clarke and Teague, copying Begley. Id . ¶ 24. Francescucci apologized to Santos-Dwyer and Clarke "who work hard to deal with such non sense [sic], " and stated that Teague's email was "disrespectful and unnecessary" because Clarke was communicating with postal staff to address EDDM concerns, and that, therefore, "[i]f there is a communication problem perhaps it [is] you." Id . (second alteration in original). He referred to Teague's comments as "uncalled [for] and off target" and stated he would meet with her personally to review the matter. Id . After sending the email, Francescucci called Teague on her cell phone and yelled at her for two minutes and forty-one seconds. Id . ¶ 25. At the time, Teague was in her car returning after delivering an Express Mail package. Id . When she returned to the Post Office and read Francescucci's email, she asked a clerk to transport her to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with a panic attack. Id . The ...

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