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Wondrak v. Cleveland Metropolitan School District

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

December 6, 2019

DENNIS WONDRAK, Plaintiff,
v.
CLEVELAND METROPOLITAN SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court upon the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Rhodes College and Career Academy, Consuela Townsend, Lorenzo Russell, Alyssa Starinsky, Michelle Allen, Lareesa Rice, Natalie Santoro, Nanette Reilly, Hilda Velez, Wayne J. Belock and Joseph J. Jerse. (Doc. 14.) For the following reasons, the Motion is granted, in part, and denied in part.

         A. Background

         i. Factual History

         Plaintiff, a 46-year-old white male, was hired by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (“CMSD”) as a teacher in the “Emotional Disturbed” unit at Rhodes College and Career Academy (“RCCA”) during the 2017-2018 academic year. (Am. Compl. ¶¶6-7.) Plaintiff worked in his own classroom with support staff paraprofessional Michelle Allen. (Id. ¶¶14, 22.) Hilda Velez, a bilingual paraprofessional, worked in Plaintiff's classroom beginning in November 2017. (Id. ¶¶11, 22.) Paraprofessionals were responsible for providing administrative backup and support to Plaintiff. (Id. ¶22.)

         Plaintiff and Allen maintained a professional and productive classroom in August and September 2017. (Id. ¶29.) According to Plaintiff, in October 2017 Allen became disruptive and interfered with the classroom by arriving late, failing to attend to students' needs and failing to assist in lesson plans. (Id. ¶30.) Allen continued to exhibit disruptive behavior despite several attempts by Plaintiff to resolve the issues in the classroom. (Id. ¶33.)

         On October 6, 2017 Plaintiff filed a complaint regarding Allen's disruptive behavior with RCCA Principal Alyssa Starinsky. (Id. ¶ 36.) A number of meetings took place in an attempt to resolve Plaintiff's concerns over Allen's disruptive behavior. (Id., Ex. B.) According to Plaintiff, the structure of these meetings placed him “on the defensive and... in a bad light.” (Id. ¶38.) In a private discussion after one of these meetings, Plaintiff was told by Starinsky that his complaints would be taken seriously if he “‘was situated as Defendant Allen', i.e. a female African American.” (Id. ¶39.) According to Plaintiff, in an effort to retaliate against him, Starinsky attempted to change Plaintiff's schedule in December of 2017. (Id. ¶46.) Starinsky canceled the schedule change after Plaintiff contacted the Union to protest it. (Id. ¶47.) The next month, Plaintiff's schedule was again changed when a teacher at RCCA reported that she was “uncomfortable” with Plaintiff continuing to assist in her classroom. (Id. ¶¶47-48.)

         Plaintiff alleges that Consuela Townsend, Plaintiff's evaluator, submitted performance reviews that contained falsities and contradictions in an effort to harass and retaliate against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶50-53.) Plaintiff also alleges that Townsend falsely reported Plaintiff for disciplinary charges regarding falsifying time records. (Id. ¶56.) Plaintiff later won on appeal regarding the time records. (Id.) In the same time period, Plaintiff received the HEART award for teaching excellence and customer service. (Id. ¶61.)

         Plaintiff filed a complaint of hostile environment with CMSD's Legal Department in January 2018. (Id. ¶65.) Plaintiff met with Joseph Jerse, an attorney in the Legal Department, to discuss Plaintiff's complaints on February 14, 2018. The following day, several of Plaintiff's colleagues at RCCA filed witness statements complaining about Plaintiff. (Id. ¶67; Ex. B.)

         On May 11, 2018, Plaintiff received a non-renewal notice based on complaints made by RCCA staff. (Id. ¶68.) Plaintiff's non-renewal hearing was held on May 14, 2018. (Id.) Following the hearing CMSD decided to renew Plaintiff's contract but to transfer him to a different school. (Id. ¶69-70.)

         ii. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination based on sex and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on May 25, 2018. On May 30, 2018, the Commission issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights stating: “Based upon its investigation, the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes... No finding is made as to any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this charge.”

         On August 28, 2018, Plaintiff commenced this civil action against Defendants, alleging claims of retaliation and gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”), as well as supplemental Ohio state law contract and tort claims. (Compl., Doc. 1.) On April 10, 2019, Plaintiff filed his first Amended Complaint. (Doc. 13.) On April 24, 2019 Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss all eight Counts of the Complaint. (Doc. 14.) On May 7, 2019 Plaintiff filed a Brief in Opposition to Defendants Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 15.) On May 21, 2019 Defendants filed their Reply in Support of their Motion to Dismiss.

         B. Defendants' ...


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