Court rules in favor of Alameda Unified School District in terminated teacher’s discrimination case

By John Revak | Jun 5, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has granted a school district's motion for summary judgment in a discrimination case.

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has granted a school district's motion for summary judgment in a discrimination case.

The court found that plaintiff Judy Long was unable to create a dispute of material fact as to whether she was discriminated against because of her skin color when she was terminated.

According to the order dated May 22, Long was a teacher in the Alameda Unified School District who taught an adult ESL class. She was terminated, according to the district, in 2013 because of a failure to fulfill the obligations of her job. The plaintiff alleged she was fired because she African-American and filed a suit against the district alleging violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The court laid out the standard that a plaintiff must meet to establish a prima facie discrimination case under Title VII.

“Long bears the initial burden of proving her prima facie case of racial discrimination, i.e., that: (1) she belongs to a protected class; (2) she performed her job duties satisfactorily; (3) she was subjected to an adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated non-African-American individuals were treated more favorably than she was,” the opinion, written by Judge Jon S. Tigar, read.

The opinion stated Long failed to provide evidence that she was fired because of her race rather than her conduct at work. This, coupled with the evidence provided by the district that Long’s performance was subpar, was enough for the court to grant the motion.

The court stated Long could’ve survived the motion if she proved that, although conceding that her work performance was lacking, that the motivating factor in her termination was racial animus. However, her evidence never amounted to anything more than hearsay.

At the center of her argument was a claim that a superior referred to her by a racial slur during a phone call. However, the court refused to consider this claim, which was stated in the form of an affidavit, because it contradicted prior testimony. This violated the sham affidavit rule.  

“Long has not met her burden of offering ‘direct or circumstantial evidence that a discriminatory reason more likely motivated the employer, or that the employer's proffered explanation is unworthy of credence because it is internally inconsistent or otherwise not believable,'” Tigar’s opinion read, citing a previous case.

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