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Bellinger v. Coos Bay School District

United States District Court, D. Oregon

November 5, 2014

LAURA S. BELLINGER, Plaintiff,
v.
COOS BAY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

Glenn Solomon, Attorney At Law, Portland, Oregon, Attorney for plaintiff.

Rebekah Jacobson, Garrett Hemann Robertson P.C., Salem, Oregon, Attorney for defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANN AIKEN, Chief District Judge.

Defendant Coos Bay School District moves for summary judgment on plaintiff Laura Bellinger's claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The Court held oral argument on October 14, 2014. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion is granted and this case is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

In October 2009, plaintiff began substitute teaching for Millicoma Intermediate School ("Millicoma"), located in defendant's school district. Millicoma's principal, Travis Howard, hired plaintiff for a temporary, full-time sixth grade teaching position for the 2009-2010 school year. At the end of the year, Mr. Howard provided plaintiff with a performance evaluation. Although she scored well on a formal in-class observation, plaintiff received an overall score of 69 out of 150 - the lowest evaluation score of any teacher at Millicoma that year. Nonetheless, plaintiff was rehired for a second temporary teaching position at Millicoma in November 2010 that lasted through the end of the 2010-2011 school year.

In 2012, defendant advertised two permanent teaching positions at Millicoma for the fifth and sixth grades. Plaintiff submitted applications for both jobs. She was 51 years old when she applied and had never held a permanent teaching position. Further, plaintiff neither had an advanced degree nor completed any continuing education since obtaining her undergraduate degree in 1997. Mr. Howard did not consider plaintiff for the fifth grade job opening because the position closed after the teacher who resigned decided to return. Although the sixth grade position remained open, Mr. Howard did not submit plaintiff's application to the hiring committee.[1]

The committee ultimately offered the sixth grade position to two younger applicants. The first individual was 37 years old, held a master's degree in teaching, and had three years of full-time, substitute teaching experience. The second individual was 29 years old, held a master's degree in education, and had six years of permanent teaching experience. In August 2012, after both applicants declined the position, the job was re-posted and plaintiff reapplied. Mr. Howard again did not forward plaintiff's application to the hiring committee. The committee ultimately hired a 28 year-old applicant with a master's degree in teaching and four years of full-time substitute teaching experience.

Plaintiff applied for several other permanent teaching positions in 2012, both inside and outside of defendant's district, including a part-time position in the Powers School District, a small, rural district with few students and small class sizes. When contacted by the superintendent of the Powers School District, Mr. Howard recommended plaintiff for the part-time position. Plaintiff received a job offer from the superintendent of the Powers School District, however, plaintiff declined that offer. Plaintiff was not offered any other permanent employment positions, although she did receive one interview with another school district. Plaintiff acknowledges that she did not receive a job offer in that instance because someone more qualified was hired; further plaintiff does not allege any discrimination associated with the other permanent teaching positions she applied for but did not receive.

On September 11, 2012, plaintiff filed a complaint with Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI). After investigating the complaint, BOLI found substantial evidence of an unlawful employment practice - i.e. failure to hire on the basis of age. On August 16, 2013, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court, alleging a claim for age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, affidavits, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, if any, show "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the [moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Substantive law on an issue determines the materiality of a fact. T. W. Elec. Servs., Inc. v. P. Elec. Contractors Ass'n , 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). Whether the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party determines the authenticity of a dispute. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

The moving party. has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party shows the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and identify facts which show a genuine issue for trial. Id . at 324.

Special rules of construction apply when evaluating a summary judgment motion: (1) all reasonable doubts as to the existence of genuine issues of material fact are resolved against the moving party; and (2) all inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the ...


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