The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES BREYER, District Judge
In this employment discrimination action, plaintiff Laura
Carrasco alleges that she was terminated in retaliation for
opposing the discriminatory treatment of a co-worker, Mary Glenn,
and also for filing a complaint about discrimination against
herself. Now pending before the Court is the defendant's motion
for summary judgment on all of plaintiff's claims. After
carefully considering the papers filed by the parties, having had
the benefit of oral argument, and having allowed plaintiff to
supplement the record post-hearing, the Court concludes that no
reasonable jury could find for plaintiff and therefore GRANTS
defendant's motion for summary judgment.
Defendant San Ramon Valley School District (the "District")
hired plaintiff Laura Carrasco as a custodian in 1983. In 1990,
defendant promoted plaintiff to Head Custodian at San Ramon
Valley High School (the "High School"). The High School's
principal or assistant principal supervised the custodians, including the head
custodian. From 1990 through September 2002 Carrasco had an
unblemished work history; indeed, in July 2002, Assistant Vice
Principal Lisa Ward wrote that "Laura does a wonderful job at
running our custodial program. . . . She is an extremely
important part of the success of SRVHS!" Declaration of Laura
Carrasco ("Carrasco Decl.") Exh. 2.
Mary Glenn was the District's Director of Custodial Services
and Child Nutrition and the District liaison to the District's
food services agency, Sodexho. Glenn was the only
African-American manager out of approximately 40 District
management employees. She was also the only female out of
approximately 10 classified management positions.
Carrasco was Glenn's "right hand person." Carrasco assisted
Glenn in writing the custodian manual and during the summer Glenn
supervised half of the 80 custodians while Carrasco supervised
the other half. When Glenn did not have time to perform certain
tasks, District officials would ask Carrasco to perform them.
In August 2002, Glenn notified the District that she intended
to file a lawsuit against it alleging discrimination in pay
because she was paid less than other managers supervising fewer
employees. The next month the District initiated an investigation
into Glenn based on allegations that she took money in return for
hiring certain custodians. Later that month Carrasco approached
Glenn and asked Glenn if she was aware that the District was
blaming Glenn for an $80,000 shortfall in the Sodexho budget.
Glenn took administrative leave in September, and in November
2002 she retired.
On October 8, 2002, Carrasco wrote and circulated a petition to
the Board of Education (the "Petition"). The Petition read:
We the custodians are asking you to look into our
manager's treatment by some of the district high
management. Thomas Jamison and John Caldecutt are
meeting with some of the custodians asking them to
say Mary Glenn took money for a job. We talked to the
same custodians and ALL OF THEM TOLD US THEY TOLD
THOMAS JAMISON AND JOHN CALDECUTT THAT THEY GAVE MARY
GLENN THE MONEY FOR BIRTHDAY AND FOR CHRISTMAS AS DO
EVERYONE ELSE DOES FOR THEIR MANAGER. SOME OF THE
CUSTODIANS SAID THAT THEY HAVE GIVEN GIFTS TO THOMAS
JAMISON AND TONY DORIA WHO WAS THE CUSTODIAN BEFORE
THE LAYOFF. WE FEEL AS THE BOARD YOU SHOULD LOOK INTO THE SODEXHO BUDGET SHORT FALL OF
80,000 DOLLARS. WE HAVE HEARD THAT THIS SHORTFALL IS
GOING TO BE BLAMED ON MARY GLENN. BESSIE ARGALLON
STARTED THIS RUMOR ON MARY GLENN BY GOING TO THOMAS
PLEASE CHECK INTO THIS MATTER. MAY GLENN IS ONE OF
THE BEST MANAGERS IN THIS DISTRICT. WE THINK YOU
SHOULD FIND OUT THE TRUTH.
Carrasco Decl. Exh. 1. Carrasco and several other custodians
signed the Petition.
B. The District's discipline of Carrasco following the
circulation of the Petition
In August 2002, Assistant Principal Sylvia Ryan took charge of
custodial services at the High School. At the time there were two
full time day-shift custodians, plaintiff and Emiliano Ochoa.
According to Ryan, in September or October 2002, Ryan asked
Carrasco to do something to which Carrasco loudly responded that
Ryan could not tell her what to do. Carrasco disputes that the
incident ever occurred. Shortly thereafter, Ryan became aware
that Carrasco and the other day-shift janitor, Ochoa, were having
problems. Ochoa said that Carrasco was always upset with him, and
was always complaining about his not finishing his work. For
example, he reported that Carrasco had yelled at him for helping
to unload some chairs from a truck, and that Carrasco spoke to
him too loudly. At the same time, Carrasco complained that Ochoa
was not picking up trash in his assigned areas. Ryan and the
principal, David Lorden, responded by admonishing Carrasco that
her behavior toward Ochoa constituted harassment and that she was
not to speak to Ochoa regarding performance issues. According to
Lorden and Ryan, Ochoa was doing his job and Carrasco was asking
him to pick up trash after his shift ended. Carrasco alleges that
Ryan and Lorden solicited the complaints from Ochoa.
In December 2002, Ryan, Lorden, and Jim Shannon (who replaced
Glenn) told Carrasco for the first time that she had to improve
her productivity. This "advice" arose out of an incident in which
Carrasco had spoken to the cafeteria manager about what had
happened to Mary Glenn. According to plaintiff, the manager was
spreading the rumor that Glenn had been fired and Carrasco
corrected her that Glenn had resigned. Ryan told Carrasco she was wasting her time in the cafeteria. Ryan also
told Carrasco not to speak to Ochoa at all.
Also in December, Shannon told Carrasco not to have her son
work as a substitute custodian.
On January 9, 2003, Carrasco attended a PTSA (Parent, Teacher,
Student Association) meeting for 15 to 20 minutes during the day.
Shannon had observed Carrasco attend a meeting the month before
and he had not said anything to her. At the January 9, 2003
meeting, Carrasco told the parents that she (Carrasco) does not
get much support from the administration about the trash issue.
Principal Lorden got angry at Carrasco for attending the meeting
and speaking negatively about the administration.
On January 15, a meeting was scheduled between Carrasco and the
High School's administration to discuss the PTSA incident;
instead of discussing the incident, Lorden, Ryan and Shannon
observed that Carrasco had hired her son as a substitute
custodian even though Shannon had specifically told her not to do
so. Carrasco subsequently executed a "Last Chance Agreement" in
which she acknowledged having improperly hired her son as a
substitute custodian and attending the PTSA meeting during work
hours without authorization. She also accepted a four-day unpaid
disciplinary suspension and stated, in writing, that she
understood that her failure to perform satisfactorily would
likely lead to dismissal.
The next month officials claimed that Carrasco had spent 40
minutes during work hours talking to a cafeteria employee. At a
meeting held on March 19, Carrasco was given the opportunity to
take a demotion to custodian. She declined and was told that the
District would provide her with an improvement plan in early May.
From March 19 through August 18 Carrasco went on medical ...