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Bottomley v. Boston Public Schools

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 19, 2018

BOSTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS, et al., Defendants.



         Bottomley filed suit against Boston Public Schools (“BPS”) on October 27, 2017, Doc. No. 1, and amended her complaint on January 29, 2018, Doc. No. 6. The Court denied BPS' first motion to dismiss, Doc. No. 13, without prejudice. BPS has now filed a second motion to dismiss, Doc. No. 21, that addresses the claims in Bottomley's complaint to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD complaint”), which was attached as an exhibit to her Amended Complaint. Bottomley has opposed. Doc. No. 25.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Bottomley's Amended Complaint against Boston Public Schools alleges “discrimination and retaliation resulting in lack of accommodation of disability, ” “intentional infliction of emotional injury, ” and “wrongful termination of older white woman in institution receiving federal funding.” Doc. No. 6 at 4. Bottomley claims that “[d]iscrimination” occurred “over a 7-year period, affecting most of the best, highly qualified, and beloved teachers, ” most of whom “suffered mental injuries requiring psychopharmac[e]uticals.” Id. Protests from “teachers and students” resulted in “no relief, only retaliation.” Id. Because of the discrimination, students “were told to go home repeatedly, because they did not have a teacher, ” and were “denied proper education as grades, attendance, [and] test scores” were “falsified by admin[istrators].” Id.

         Bottomley attached to her complaint as Exhibit 2 a December 20, 2017, decision by a Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents administrative judge in a worker's compensation claim apparently brought by Bottomley, also against Boston Public Schools. Doc. No. 6-2 at 2. In that claim, according to the administrative judge, Bottomley alleged “emotional distress resultant in a psychiatric disability as a result of stressful incidents during the course of her employment up until her exit from the workplace on February 25, 2013.” Id. at 5. The administrative judge ordered Boston Public Schools to pay various workers' compensation benefits to Bottomley. Id. at 18.

         Bottomley also attached to her complaint as Exhibit 4 a complaint she filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD complaint”). The MCAD complaint outlines facts to support her claim that she was “discriminated against on the bases of race, age, and gender.” Doc. No. 6-4 at 3. It claims violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”). Id. at 2.

         According to the MCAD complaint, Bottomley began working for Boston Public Schools in 1995 and at Boston Adult Technical Academy in 2003. Id. Sheila Azores became the school's headmaster in 2006. Id. Beginning in 2008, Bottomley began complaining to various Boston Public Schools officials about Azores' conduct toward her, including disparate treatment, negative comments to Bottomley and others, and disregard for district regulations with respect to Bottomley's position as Language Acquisition Team Coordinator. Id.

         The MCAD complaint alleges that these episodes culminated in February 2013 when Bottomley was dismissed from her teaching position in front of her students and placed on administrative leave. Id. The complaint alleges that Azores entered Bottomley's classroom and falsely told her students that Bottomley “did not want to teach them anymore because [she] had gotten a better job.” Id. It further alleges that, after Bottomley left the classroom, Azores and two other administrators told the students that Bottomley “was not a good teacher” and “had manipulated them.” Id. At some point thereafter, Bottomley's doctor informed BPS that Bottomley was “willing to take any job other than a teaching position” because of her post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from the dismissal. Id. Despite this request, and despite “a position open in the Assessment Center that [she] was qualified for, ” the complaint alleges, Bottomley was instead placed in a classroom teaching role in August 2013. Id. Finally, the MCAD complaint alleges that Azores had “been forcing older, white female teachers out of their positions, ” listing several teachers who had “also received unfairly negative evaluations and [had] left the school.” Id. at 3.


         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The court “must accept all well-pleaded facts alleged in the Complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff, ” Watterson v. Page, 987 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1993), “augment[ing] those facts with facts extractable from documentation annexed to or incorporated by reference in the complaint, ” Jorge v. Rumsfeld, 404 F.3d 556, 559 (1st Cir. 2005). This “highly deferential” standard of review “does not mean, however, that a court must (or should) accept every allegation made by the complainant, no matter how conclusory or generalized.” United States v. AVX Corp., 962 F.2d 108, 115 (1st Cir. 1992).

         Because, even in an employment discrimination case, “[t]he plausibility standard governs on a motion to dismiss, ” Garayalde-Rijos v. Municipality of Carolina, 747 F.3d 15, 24 (1st Cir. 2014), “[i]t is not necessary to plead facts sufficient to establish a prima facie case at the pleading stage.” Rodriguez-Reyes v. Molina-Rodriguez, 711 F.3d 49, 54 (1st Cir. 2013). “The prima facie standard is an evidentiary standard, not a pleading standard, and there is no need to set forth a detailed evidentiary proffer in a complaint.” Id. Nevertheless, the elements of the prima facie case are not “irrelevant to a plausibility determination in a discrimination suit, ” but rather “are part of the background against which a plausibility determination should be made.” Id. “Although a plaintiff must plead enough facts to make entitlement to relief plausible in light of the evidentiary standard that will pertain at trial-in a discrimination case, the prima facie standard-she need not plead facts sufficient to establish a prima facie case.” Id.

         Because Bottomley is proceeding pro se, the Court reads her complaint with “an extra degree of solicitude.” Rodi v. Ventetuolo, 941 F.2d 22, 23 (1st Cir. 1991). “Yet even a pro se plaintiff is required ‘to set forth factual allegations, either direct or inferential, respecting each material element necessary to sustain recovery under some actionable legal theory.'” Adams v. Stephenson, 116 F.3d 464 (1st Cir. 1997) (quoting Gooley v. Mobil Oil Corp., 851 F.2d 513, 515 (1st Cir. 1988)). “[I]n a civil rights action as in any other action subject to notice pleading standards, the complaint should at least set forth minimal facts as to who did what to whom, when, where, and why.” Educadores Puertorriqueños en Acción v. Hernandez, 367 F.3d 61, 68 (1st Cir. 2004).


         Boston Public Schools claims in its second Motion to Dismiss that Bottomley “has stated no facts or claims with her Amended Complaint that would entitle her to relief, and has failed to demonstrate a sufferance of cognizable damages or an adverse action.” ...

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