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Kelley v. Lawrence Public Schools

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 27, 2018



          Denise J. Casper, United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Ivette Kelley (“Kelley”) has filed this lawsuit against Defendants Lawrence Public Schools and the City of Lawrence, Massachusetts (collectively, “Defendants”). D. 1. Following this Court's ruling on Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, Kelley's remaining claims are for wrongful termination (Count I) and a violation of the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-54 (“FMLA”) (Count IX). D. 32. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on both counts. D. 57. 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 PR. Wireless Corp., 217 F.3d 46, 52 (1st Cir. 2000) (quoting Sánchez v. Alvarado, 101 F.3d 223, 227 (1st Cir. 1996)). 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 her pleadings, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986), but “must, with respect to each issue on which she would bear the burden of proof at trial, demonstrate that a trier of fact could reasonably resolve that issue in her favor.” Borges ex rel. S.M.B.W. v. Serrano-Isern, 605 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2010). “As a general rule, that requires the production of evidence that is ‘significant[ly] probative.'” Id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249) (alteration in original). 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 drawn primarily from Defendants' statement of material facts, D. 60, Kelley's statement of disputed facts, D. 64, Kelley's memorandum in opposition of Defendants' motion for summary judgment, [1] D. 62, and other supporting documents and are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         Kelley was hired as a full-time counselor for the Lawrence Public Schools for the 2011-2012 school year. D. 60 ¶ 1; D. 20 at 1. During Kelley's first year in the position, she took medical leave for approximately five months, from late November through early May. D. 60 ¶ 2; D. 20 at 1-2. After returning from leave in May 2012, she was reappointed for the 2012-2013 school year. D. 60 ¶ 3; D. 62 at 6. During that school year, she sometimes attended follow-up medical appointments during the school day. D. 20 at 2; D. 62 at 6. Kelley provided Defendants with notes from her doctor regarding the necessity of these appointments. D. 62 at 10; D. 63-13; D. 63-14. At the end of the 2012-2013 school year, Kelley received a negative performance evaluation. D. 62 at 3; 7. She was not placed on a “Personal Improvement Plan.” Id. at 3. According to Kelley, a Personal Improvement Plan is required before the school can take adverse employment against an employee covered by the teachers' contract with Lawrence Public Schools. Id. On June 4, 2013, Kelley was notified in writing that she would not be reappointed when her current appointment ended on June 24, 2013. D. 60 ¶ 4; D. 60-2.

         In 2014, Kelley applied for another position with the Lawrence Public Schools. D. 60 ¶ 5. Lisa Conran, the principal of the school to which Kelley applied, informed Kelley on December 1, 2014 that “[t]he Human Resources Department called to inform [Conran] that there [was] a ‘do not rehire' document for [Kelley] so [Conran] [was] unable to hire [Kelley] . . . .” D. 60 ¶ 5; D. 60-3; D. 63-1. In connection with Kelley's application, Conran submitted an Employee Information Sheet (“EIS”) to the Lawrence Public School Central Office. D. 60 ¶ 6; D. 60-4; D. 60-5 at 3. A Lawrence Public School Central Office staff member wrote “nonrenewed / can't hire” on the EIS. D. 60 ¶ 7; D. 60-5 at 3. According to Defendants, the EIS is an internal document and neither the EIS nor the internal communications between Conran and the Central Office were disclosed to any other school district. D. 60 ¶ 8.

         After Kelley was not reappointed in 2013, she became an interim adjustment counselor for Salem Public Schools in Salem, Massachusetts. D. 62 at 3. Subsequently, Kelley worked as a behavior specialist for Salem Public Schools for about one year, after which time she resigned. Id. at 3-4. Since that time, Kelley has sought but has not been able to find work as a school counselor. Id at 4. According to Kelley, her failure to obtain a position as a counselor is the result of Defendants “using a ‘Do Not Hire' directive to keep [Kelley] from gaining employment.” Id. Also according to Kelley, this Do Not Hire directive “misrepresents] her medical situation, ” Id. at 9, but Kelley did not discover the “false statements” in the Do Not Hire directive until around the time she filed the complaint in June 2016, D. 1 at 7.

         IV. Procedural History

         Plaintiffs instituted this action on June 18, 2016. D. 1. Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings on October 13, 2016, D. 10, which the Court allowed in part and denied in part. D. 32. The Court heard the parties on the Defendants' pending motion for summary judgment and took the matter under advisement. D. 68.

         V. Discussion

         A. Count I: ...

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