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Van Chase v. Clarksville-Montgomery County School System

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

March 20, 2015

VAN CHASE, Plaintiff,
v.
CLARKSVILLE-MONTGOMERY COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

TODD J. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Van Chase filed this action on September 13, 2013, against the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, asserting claims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation on the basis of his age and race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C.A. § 621 et seq ; and the Tennessee Human Rights Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-410(a)(1). He also asserts a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On March 4, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (Docket No. 28). Now before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment as to all claims set forth in the Amended Complaint. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court will grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The facts set forth herein are undisputed for purposes of Defendant's motion, unless otherwise indicated.

Plaintiff has been employed by Defendant as the Senior Army Instructor at Northeast High School since 1997. He was over 40 when he started the job and has maintained his same employment position since 1997. As the Senior Army Instructor, he is responsible for the entire Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) battalion within the high school. As a JROTC instructor, Plaintiff is licensed by the State of Tennessee and evaluated both by the State's teacher evaluation system and by the Army's evaluation system. Plaintiff is over age forty and is African American. For much of the time period at issue, Plaintiff's immediate supervisors were Galea Jefferies, the principal of the high school, and David Taylor, Director of Army Instruction. Ms. Jefferies and Mr. Taylor did not have final decision-making authority over employment decisions that could have affected Plaintiff's pay, job status, hiring, or firing.

Plaintiff alleges that starting around 2009, Defendant created a hostile work environment on the basis of his age and race, by the following actions, many of which are disputed by Defendant:

• Defendant blamed Plaintiff for problems occurring as a result of inadequate staffing. In particular, Plaintiff received a reprimand in the form of a Letter of Concern in October 2009 for issues Plaintiff considers to have been caused by Defendant's inadequately staffing the program.

• Defendant placed Plaintiff in situations in which he was destined to fail, such as requiring him to teach a course that was not part of the JROTC curriculum. He had to teach this course nine weeks without a course curriculum, and Defendant then disciplined him for his performance. Defendant also subjected him to three unannounced, untimely evaluations. First, on February 27, 2012, his co-worker was ill and had a substitute. This required Plaintiff to be responsible for both his class and his co-worker's class. Mr. Taylor came on this day to evaluate him and then sent Plaintiff a critical e-mail about his performance. On another occasion, Mr. Taylor interrupted Plaintiff's class and passed out a teacher evaluation before Plaintiff could finish his instructional time. On March 23, 2013, Ms. Jefferies came unannounced to evaluate him the day before spring break.

• Defendant treated Plaintiff differently with respect to his military rank. This included frequently calling him "Mr. Chase" in front of his cadets, which implied that he was a civilian and undermined his authority, and which did not happen to his co-worker.

Defendant frequently belittled Plaintiff. For example, while Plaintiff was fitting his cadets for uniforms, Ms. Jefferies told Plaintiff, in front of the students, that he should have already completed that process. Another time, after Plaintiff received a successful Final Inspection, Mr. Taylor made a statement Plaintiff interpreted to mean that if Mr. Taylor had been scoring the inspection, he would have given a lower score. Also, ROTC Camp Commander Colonel Harry Houchens was verbally abusive to Plaintiff.

• Defendant treated Plaintiff differently than other Army instructors. For example, Mr. Taylor changes Plaintiff's assignments at summer camp, which would alter the dates Plaintiff was required to be at camp. On one occasion, Mr. Taylor told Plaintiff to come to camp on a Saturday, but no one was there. Others did not arrive until Monday. This caused Plaintiff to miss the graduation of his cadets. No other employees were asked to come early to camp.

• In Spring 2012, Ms. Jefferies conducted secret meetings with students concerning Plaintiff.

• Defendant gave Plaintiff more difficult assignments and job duties, such as teaching non-JROTC classes, not allowing him to have enough practices or to use the meeting period provided for other school organization and activities for practices before Formal Inspection.

• Defendant treated Plaintiff differently than other similarly-situated employees of a different race or age. For example, in the 2009-10 school year, Defendant no longer allowed Plaintiff to leave during his planning period as he had previously done, but he saw other instructors leave during the planning period. Also, in 2013 Defendant gave Plaintiff a reprimand in the form of a Letter of Concern for not wearing the proper uniform. Plaintiff felt he should not have been reprimanded because it was Spirit Week at the school, which constituted an exception to the uniform policy. Plaintiff felt this was unfair because his co-worker, Mr. Love, was wearing the same uniform he was wearing. The parties dispute the race of Mr. Love. Plaintiff represents that he is Caucasian, but Defendant has provided a form that appears to be part of Mr. Love's personnel paperwork with the school system in which Mr. Love indicated that he is African American. Defendant also required Plaintiff to volunteer additional time and perform more job ...


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