United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
STRIKE AND MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
DENNIS SAYLOR, IV UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action alleging unlawful employment discrimination on the
basis of age and national origin. Plaintiff Sunita Eswarappa,
who is proceeding pro se, was employed as a teacher
at Community Action Inc./Head Start (“CAI”) for
approximately seven weeks. She alleges that she was
unlawfully terminated from her position because of her age
and national origin in violation of the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1)
(“ADEA”), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., and
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B § 4. She has also alleged
claims for discrimination based on a hostile work environment
moved for summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons
stated below, that motion will be granted.
otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed.
a private non-profit organization that provides resources and
opportunities for children living in poverty in the
Haverhill, Amesbury, and Newburyport areas. (Espinola Aff.
¶ 2). It offers a Head Start program that provides
services for infants, toddlers, and children through age
Eswarappa is a resident of Andover, Massachusetts. (Compl.
¶ 1). She is a 59-year-old woman who is originally from
India. She graduated from the University of Mysore in India
in 1982 with baccalaureate degrees in economics, political
science, and sociology. (Id. at 2). She also has
associate degrees in early childhood education and general
The Application and Hiring Process
between June and August 2011, Eswarappa applied for a
position as a teacher at CAI. (Paterniti Aff. Ex. B; Pl. Ex.
The Director of Children Services for the Head Start Program,
Christina Espinola, coordinated her interviews for the
position of preschool teacher. (Espinola Aff. ¶ 3).
Following the interviews, Espinola made a recommendation to
CAI's Policy Council that they hire Eswarappa, and the
Council approved her recommendation.
(Id.).Eswarappa contends that she was hired in a
full-time position, while CAI contends that she hired in a
seasonal position. (Pl. Ex. C; Espinola Aff. ¶ 4). It is
undisputed that she was hired in August 2011 and began work
in early September. (Compl. ¶¶ 4-5; Def. SMF ¶
Orientation and Training
a 90-day orientation period that is “intended to give
new employees the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to
achieve a satisfactory level of performance and to determine
whether the new position meets their expectations.”
(Paterniti Aff. Ex. O). CAI uses that orientation period to
“evaluate employee capabilities, work habits, and
overall performance.” (Id.). Either the
employee or CAI may terminate the employment relationship at
any time during or at the end of the orientation period, with
or without cause or advance notice. (Id.). All new
employees “work on an orientation basis for the first
90 calendar days after their date of hire.”
first-year teachers at CAI generally receive the same
training. (Espinola Aff. ¶ 7). Eswarappa received
training from September 6 through September 9, 2011. (Pl.
Dep. at 21-22, 42). She contends, without any detail, that
she did not receive the same training as other new teachers.
(Pl. SMF ¶ 7). On September 7, 2011, she signed a copy
of her job description, which indicated that her position was
“teacher.” (Paterniti Aff. Ex. C). On the same
day, she signed CAI's code of conduct. (Pl. Dep. at
36-37). Around the same time, she also received a copy of
CAI's employee handbook. (Id. at 35-37).
also contends that she did not receive a teaching manual that
CAI provided to other teachers. (Pl. SMF ¶ 4). CAI
contends that it does not have a teaching manual and did not
provide one to any new teacher. (Espinola Aff. ¶ 12).
Eswarappa's Employment and Performance
parties dispute the number of hours Eswarappa was hired to
work. Eswarappa contends that she was hired to work 40 hours
per week. (Pl. Ex. 2). CAI contends that she was hired to work 30
hours per week. (Espinola Aff. ¶¶ 4, 9). It is
undisputed, however, that she received two e-mails from
Espinola informing her that she was only supposed to work 30
hours per week and that if she continued to work more than 30
hours per week without prior approval, there might be
“serious discussion and possible disciplinary
measures.” (Paterniti Aff. Ex. G).
worked more than 30 hours every week she was employed at CAI.
(Paterniti Aff. Ex. F). She contends that she was not able to
complete all of her work in 30 hours. (Id.; Pl. Dep.
at 131). She never, however, sought prior authorization to
work such a schedule. (Espinola Aff. ¶ 10). CAI paid
Eswarappa for all hours submitted on her time sheets.
regularly assigns supervisors or administrators to observe
teachers in the classroom.(Id. at 18). Tiffany Ghrist, an
Education Specialist, was assigned to observe Eswarappa's
classroom on October 25 and 26, 2011. (Id. at
18-19). Ghrist shared her observation notes with Espinola,
and informed her that she was concerned about Eswarappa's
job performance. (Id. at 19).
October 25, 2011, Ghrist observed a child eat a carrot off of
the floor in front of Eswarappa with no intervention.
(Paterniti Aff. Ex. H). She also observed Eswarappa ask
several children to stack chairs without giving them any
instruction or direction. (Id.). While some children
were stacking chairs, the others sat and waited without any
activity to do. (Id.). Ghrist also observed
Eswarappa speak to her assistant teacher, Keyla Gandulla, in
a harsh tone in front of the children and a parent.
October 26, 2011, Ghrist observed Eswarappa lead her class in
an activity called track painting. (Id.). No
direction was given on what to do or how to use the
materials. (Id.). Ghrist observed that there was
“[n]o conversation or discussion on learning or what
was happening other than if the child wrote their names or
not and to correct what was happening.” (Id.).
One child appeared unsure what to do after leaving the
teacher-led activity, and Eswarappa did not provide any
assistance or help find another activity for that child.
(Id.). Two children who were playing at a water
table were told to leave because they had “been there
awhile, ” and Eswarappa did not provide any warning or
help finding another activity. (Id.).
addition to a report of Ghrist's observations, Espinola
also received input about Eswarappa's performance from
other teachers. (Espinola Aff. ¶ 20). Keyla Gandulla,
Eswarappa's assistant teacher, reported that Eswarappa
had told her “I'm in charge, I don't want to
hear from you, ” or words to that effect.
(Id.). Another teacher reported that she appeared to
not be a good fit for the job. (Id.).
also personally observed Eswarappa in the classroom.
(Id. at 21). According to Espinola, she was
concerned that Eswarappa was “not providing
developmentally appropriate instruction.”
(Id.). She observed an activity in which Eswarappa
would tap each child on the head, and, when tapped, they were
supposed to say and spell their names. (Id.). The
children were not able to follow the directions and do the
activity, but she persisted for more than ten minutes.
(Id.). Espinola ultimately stepped in to redirect
the children, and later explained that she intervened because
it became clear that the exercise was not developmentally
appropriate for the children. (Id.).