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CARRASCO v. SAN RAMON VALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

December 1, 2005.

LAURA E. CARRASCO, Plaintiff,
v.
SAN RAMON VALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES BREYER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

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.

BACKGROUND

  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.

  A. The Glenn protest

  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 JAMISON.
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 ...


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