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Bozkurt v. City of Lawrence

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 27, 2019



          F. Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge

         This case arises out of the termination of a library employee. Plaintiff Kemal Bozkurt was employed at the Lawrence Public Library for 18 years, eventually rising to the position of Assistant Director. In early 2017, he was issued warnings by his supervisor for insubordination and abuse of authority. Later that year, he appeared before the library's Board of Trustees for a disciplinary hearing. He was then dismissed for deficient performance.

         Bozkurt filed suit, asserting three claims that all allege, in substance, that defendant the City of Lawrence violated Section 4 of the municipal administrative code by failing to make a “reasonable effort” to correct his performance before dismissing him. Defendant has moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The facts are set forth as described in the complaint and attached exhibits.

         Kemal Bozkurt began working for the Lawrence Public Library as an Assistant Librarian on August 30, 1999. (Compl. ¶ 3). He was promoted to Assistant Director in January 2015 and became Acting Director in September 2015. (Id.). Soon after, he returned to his position of Assistant Director after a permanent Director, Jessica Valentin, was hired. (Id.).

         On March 29, 2017, Bozkurt received a “warning letter” from Valentin. (Compl. Ex. A).

         The letter stated that Bozkurt had received a “verbal warning for insubordination for failure to acknowledge and/or meet [Valentin's] request for meetings.” (Id.). It described the “insubordination” as follows:

On two occasions, you were sent meeting requests via email to meet with your supervisor and failed to comply. On the first occasion, you did not acknowledge the meeting invitation but later cited that you were ‘working the second shift.' On the second occasion, today, you acknowledged the meeting request but once again cited that you were ‘working the second shift' and responded by saying we could meet during the timeframe you proposed. Furthermore, your reason for not being able to meet with me due to you scheduling yourself for later in the day is not consistent with your text communication today stating that you were at an appointment in Manchester and might be in a little late.

(Id.). Valentin further warned that Bozkurt, as Assistant Director, was expected to “make [himself] available for regular meetings and special requested meetings.” (Id.). In addition, she stated that “as a salaried employee, [Bozkurt was] expected to work outside of a regular hourly schedule and make every attempt to meet requests made by [Valentin].” (Id.). The letter concluded by indicating that Valentin “agreed to meet with [Bozkurt] on a bi-weekly basis to provide feedback & guidance.” (Id.). On April 5, 2017, Bozkurt signed the letter acknowledging that he had received the warning. (Id.) However, the complaint adds that Bozkurt sent Valentin an email “reminding her that he was working second shift and she agreed.” (Compl. ¶ 8).

         Valentin sent Bozkurt a second “warning letter” on April 18, 2017. (Compl. Ex. B). The letter stated that Bozkurt had committed an “abuse of power.” (Id.). Specifically, the letter stated:

On Friday, April 7, you made me aware via email that you'd be using flextime on Wednesday, April 12 morning and would be coming in at 1:00 p.m. You mentioned that Elvin Fabian [a subordinate employee] had cancelled an appointment and would be available to cover you. On Tuesday, April 11 . . . I . . . asked for a confirmation that you'd be in at 1:00 p.m. the following day. You hesitated and said that you'd try to be here at that time. On Wednesday, April 12 morning, you texted me to inform me that your uncle had passed away and that you wouldn't be coming in at all. [Later], I called the front desk to inform the staff that I was on my way and to get a heads up if anyone called out sick for coverage purposes. [Fabian] informed me that he noticed you were out and then made the following connection: [h]e said that you called him on his day off on Friday, April 7 and asked him to change his medical appointment because he was ‘really needed at work on Wednesday.' He did not know the reason but complied with your request. On Wednesday, he understood that you had him change[] his approved time off to accommodate your schedule which as an administrator, is an abuse of power.

(Id.). Moreover, the letter stated that while Bozkurt had been approved to take time off on April 13 and 14, 2017, he had failed to ensure that someone would cover his payroll duties for those days. (Id.). In response, Bozkurt stated that the library had historically been “flexible” in changing schedules and that he directed Fabian to work on April 12 to ensure that there was coverage in the morning that day. (Compl. ¶ 14). ...

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