United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MARLYNE M. CAMPBELL, Plaintiff,
BRISTOL COMMUNITY COLLEGE, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge.
an action for workplace discrimination and retaliation.
Plaintiff Marlyne M. Campbell, an African-American woman,
alleges that her former employer, defendant Bristol Community
College, discriminated against her on the basis of her race
and retaliated against her by firing her after she complained
about the use of a term she believed to be a racial slur.
was hired as a probationary employee in August 2012. Within
weeks, according to the college, there were significant
issues with her work performance, as well as questions about
her behavior. By December 2012, she had been terminated.
had been hired pursuant to a federal grant in support of a
program called Massachusetts Community College Workforce
Development Transformation Agenda, or MACCWFDTA. Apparently
due to the cumbersome name and unpronounceable nine-letter
acronym, people at the college (and elsewhere) referred to it
as the “Mack Daddy” program.
her arrival at the college, Campbell began objecting to the
use of the term “Mack Daddy” on the ground that
it represented a racial slur. According to the evidence,
“Mack Daddy” is a street slang word with several
different meanings, one of which is “pimp.” The
evidence that the term has a racial connotation is certainly
thin, and there is no evidence that any official or employee
of the college knew of any such connotation, or even that it
was an offensive term. In any event, whenever a college
official or employee used the term in her presence, she
complained, and there is no evidence that any such person
persisted in using the term after she did so.
now contends that she was discriminated against on the basis
of race, and that she was terminated because of her
complaints about the use of the term “Mack
Daddy.” For the reasons set forth below, summary
judgment will be granted to the college as to her claim for
discrimination, but denied as to the claim for retaliation.
facts set forth below are undisputed except as noted.
August 20, 2012, Marlyne Campbell was hired by Bristol
Community College as a “Career Development
Counselor.” (Def. SOF ¶ 8, 93). Campbell's
appointment was to run from August 20, 2012, to June 30,
2013. (Def. Ex. A at 40). Her appointment was subject to the
collective bargaining agreement between the Board of Higher
Education and the Massachusetts Community College Council.
The CBA provided, among other things, that for the first six
months of her employment, Campbell would be a
“probationary employee” who could be terminated
without cause. (Id. at 58).
Community College is a public community college that serves
more than 9, 000 students. (Def. SOF ¶ 1). The college
has campuses in Fall River, New Bedford, Attleboro, and
Taunton, Massachusetts. (Id.).
has a bachelor's degree in social work, a master's
degree in education, and a doctorate in theology.
(Id. ¶ 18). She was hired as part of the
Massachusetts Community College Workforce Development
Transformation Agenda (“MACCWFDTA”), an
initiative supported by a $20 million federal grant given to
community colleges in Massachusetts. The initiative was
intended to help provide certificate or degree programs for
unemployed or underemployed students. (Id.
¶¶ 9-10). Her job included providing various
academic services to students, supporting outreach to
unemployed and under-employed workers, and tracking and
reporting student participation and progress. (Id.
August 28, 2012, Anthony Ucci, the college's Associate
Vice President for Academic Affairs, asked Campbell if she
was “part of the ‘Mack Daddy' grant.”
(Id. ¶ 102). According to Campbell, she asked
Ucci if he knew what “Mack Daddy” meant; when he
said he did not, she told him that she found the term
offensive because she thought it referred to a black pimp.
(Id. ¶ 103-04). Ucci apologized to Campbell and
told her that he did not know the term carried that meaning.
(Id. ¶ 105).
has submitted an exhibit that provides definitions of the
term “Mack Daddy” from a variety of sources.
According to the exhibit, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary
defines it as a slang term meaning “a conspicuously
successful pimp”; “a slick womanizer”; and
“one that is the best.” (Pl. Ex. 7 at 2). The
exhibit also provides quotes and URL links to various other
online dictionaries (including slang and urban dictionaries)
and at least one blog. (Id. at 2-8). The sources
generally agree that the term refers principally to a
successful pimp or womanizer. (Id.).
August 30, 2012, Campbell attended the college's annual
professional day. (Id. ¶ 107). During a
presentation, the college's President, John Sbrega, used
the term “Mack Daddy” to refer to the grant
program. (Id. 108).
Campbell was leaving, Dean Richard Driscoll asked Campbell if
she was “part of the ‘Mack Daddy'
grant.” (Id. ¶ 109). Campbell told
Driscoll that the term was a racial slur and Driscoll
responded that he did not know that. (Id. 109-110).
a week of the professional day, Campbell contends that she
spoke with Gloria Saddler, a BCC administrator, and told her
that she had been upset by Sbrega's use of the term.
(Campbell Dep. at 67-68).
September 5, 2012, Campbell attended her first staff meeting
with her supervisor, Kristen McKenna, and two other
co-workers, Dolores Gatley and Kayla Medeiros. (Id.
at 71).At the meeting, according to Campbell, she
asked McKenna why the MACCWFDTA grant had been referred to as
“Mack Daddy.” (Def. SOF ¶ 112). McKenna told
the group that she would bring concerns about the term to
Jennifer Freeman, the overall director of the program.
(Id. ¶ 114).
point in early September, McKenna raised concerns about the
term at a statewide meeting of the program's directors.
(Id. ¶ 115). McKenna decided to voice the issue
because of Campbell's concerns, and because each of the
colleges had been referring to the program by a different
name. (Id. ¶ 117). Although she did not believe
the term had a racial connotation, McKenna herself thought it
could be used to refer to a pimp, and therefore was
inappropriate. (Id. ¶ 118). The directors from
each of the 15 community colleges involved in the grant
program agreed to no longer refer to it by that term, and
resolved instead to calling it the “Transformation
Agenda.” (Id. ¶ 116).
September 7, 2012, Amilcar Ferreira, a vocational counselor
at the Fall River Career Center (where Campbell was at times
assigned to work) spoke about the “Mack Daddy
grant.” (Id. ¶ 120). Ferreira was not,
however, an employee of the college. (Id.). Campbell
told Ferreira that the term was “racial” and was
“very offensive” to black people. (Id.
September 10, 2012, Campbell told Tafa Awolaju, the
college's Vice President of Human Resources, about the
use of the term. (Id. ¶¶ 122, 126).
September 19, 2012, Campbell was at a student enrollment
meeting with approximately ten people when she again heard
the term “Mack Daddy.” (Id. ¶ 123).
She explained to everyone what the term meant to her, and
stated her view that the term was a racial slur because she
believed it was a reference to President Obama. (Id.
in September, McKenna “started to feel that [Campbell]
was not fulfilling [her] job duties.” (McKenna Dep. at
65). McKenna “started to feel that [she] was a
difficult person to work with” because, in her view,
she was “disruptive in staff meetings” and would
argue with her colleagues. (Id. at 66). In
particular, McKenna noted that Campbell would argue with
Dolores Gatley; McKenna soon became frustrated that she and
Gatley were “acting up.” (Id. at 66-69).
October 10, 2012, at a meeting with Medeiros, Gatley, and
Campbell, McKenna heard Gatley scream and gasp; when she
turned around, she saw Gatley's face had “sandwich
on it.” (Id. at 70-72). According to an
incident report filed by McKenna on October 21, 2012,
Campbell admitted that she and Gatley had had a disagreement,
and that she had “forced food” into her face and
“said something like ‘eat this.'” (Def.
Ex. B at 38). The incident report also stated that Gatley did
not want to share an office with Campbell after that event.
and Gatley also apparently had issues concerning the fact
that Gatley would address her by names other than “Dr.
Campbell, ” including “Dr. C, ” “Ms.
C, ” and “Marlyne.” (Def. SOF ¶ 29).
For example, on the evening of October 10, 2012, Campbell
sent an e-mail to Gatley with the subject line “Re:
Civility” that stated, in part:
I'm not sure what to do in this situation, but: you
continue to call me out of what I prefer to be called, IT
MUST STOP. On many occasions I've told you how I like to
be addressed. Not sure, if this is how you bully a Black
women, [sic] but the intimidation is not working.
I'm not flinching. Are you condescending towards the
students? I hope not.
I'D LIKE TO MAKE A RECOMMENDATION: Maybe our
Transformation Agenda grant will provide CULTURAL COMPETENCY
AND OR CULTURAL SENSITIVITY AWARENESS TO THE STAFF? Diversity
must be prevalent and valued before one may be considered
culturally competent . . .
(Def. Ex. B at 35).
point in October, Campbell sent a letter to McKenna.
(Id. at 30). The letter included various complaints
about her work experience, and apparently referred to the
fact that Gatley did not call her by her preferred title.
(Id.). The letter also requested a meeting to
discuss the issue with McKenna. (Id.).
responded by letter, and told Campbell, among other things,
that Gatley would start calling her “Dr.
Campbell.” (Id. at 31). McKenna apparently
addressed the issue with Gatley, and Gatley apologized to
Campbell. (Def. SOF ¶ 29).
November 5, 2012, McKenna sent Campbell an e-mail stating
“I need you to update your calendar on a regular
basis.” (Campbell Dep. at 111).
November 15, 2012, McKenna sent an e-mail to Campbell and
Gatley stating that her supervisors, Aguilar and Menard,
“want[ed] to see more progress.” (Def. Ex. A at
48). In addition, the e-mail stated that Campbell and Gatley
would need to complete counseling note templates for each
student they worked with so that Aguilar and Menard could see
how many students they were serving each week.
November 19, 2012, McKenna sent Campbell a letter after
meeting with Joe Vianna, the Director of the Fall River
Career Center, and Amilcar Ferreira, a Vocational Counselor
at the Center. (Id. at 44). The Career Center was a
“partner” of the college, and Campbell was
assigned to work at the Center between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. (Id.).
Among other things, the letter advised Campbell that the
Center had “concerns” about her performance,
including “difficulty placing students with [her] for
appointments because [it] [was] not certain where [she]
[was]” at times. (Id.). To help resolve the
issue, she was asked to sign in every day at the Center's
front desk. (Id.). In addition, the letter advised
Campbell that she would be required to go to the Attleboro
and Taunton campuses on December 5, and 6, respectively. The
letter also reminded Campbell of the importance of regularly
contacting students, attending counseling meetings, and
collaborating with co-workers. It also asked her to stop
using the title of “pastor” on her business
cards. (Id. at 45). McKenna concluded the letter by
saying, “[p]lease make every attempt to meet the above
requirements over the next 30 days, and at that time we will
reevaluate how our mutual and beneficial partnership is
November 23, 2012, McKenna sent Campbell another e-mail that
stated, among other things, that she needed to focus on
being on time and accessible to the career center staff,
getting the invites for orientation out, calling students,
promoting [the college's] programs, documenting your
counseling notes, writing down your questions and preparing
your weekly report, attending the Friday meeting and above
all meeting with clients and students.
(Id. at 49).
November 26, 2012, McKenna sent an e-mail concerning
Campbell's performance to Aguilar and Lisa Tarantino, the
Associate Director of Human Resources for the college. (Def.
Ex. B at 34). The e-mail stated that Campbell “exhibits
some unstable behavior, ” was “very
undisciplined, unorganized, lost, and confused, ” and
was not “qualified” for the job. (Id.).
McKenna also stated that since her e-mail on November 19,
Campbell had been “extremely emotional and
unstable.” (Id.). She concluded, “I am
very sensitive to employee's rights and I want to be
respectful of the process. However . . . I think we may want
to consider if this is working out to the benefit of the
grant and the college.” (Id.).
December 2, 2012, McKenna e-mailed Gatley and Campbell and
essentially relayed the message that Menard wanted them to
increase their “contact ...