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Kalina v. Imagine Schools Incorporated

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 17, 2014

Margaret E. Kalina, a single woman, Plaintiff,
Imagine Schools Incorporated, a Virginia corporation; et al., Defendants.


G. MURRAY SNOW, District Judge.

Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 52), Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 59), and Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions (Doc. 66). For the following reasons, these Motions are denied.


This case arises from Defendant Imagine Schools, Inc.'s ("Imagine Schools") termination of Plaintiff Margaret Kalina. On July 22, 2005, Defendant hired Kalina to be a fifth grade teacher at its West Gilbert charter school. (Doc. 5 ¶ 10.) Defendant awarded Kalina a new one-year contract and raise in July 2006, May 2007, and May 2008. ( Id. ¶ 11.) Kalina's May 2008 contract was to expire on June 9, 2009. ( Id. ¶ 13.) On or around May 21, 2009, the Defendant's school's Principal Linda Horner and Assistant Principal Mary Lanigan informed Plaintiff that Defendant would not renew her contract. ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges that she asked Horner and Lanigan why the decision had been made and that they told her they did not have to provide a reason. ( Id. ) Plaintiff claims that Defendant advised the students and parents at the school that Plaintiff's contract had not been renewed due to Plaintiff's "personal reasons." ( Id. ¶ 14.) Two days later, Plaintiff returned to the school to complete the remaining portion of her contract. ( Id. ¶ 15.) She asserts that Horner and Lanigan terminated her employment and asked her to leave in front of staff and students, causing Plaintiff to feel humiliated. ( Id. ¶ 15.)

Plaintiff was in her late forties at the time she was terminated. ( Id. ¶ 8.) A week after her termination, she claims that Defendant advised two other teachers, Sherri Nelson and Todd Nelson, both in their early fifties, that their contracts would also not be renewed. ( Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff claims that she was replaced for the following school year by a man in his early twenties who had no teaching experience at the time he was hired. ( Id. ¶ 17.) She claims that both Sherri Nelson and Todd Nelson were also replaced by teachers in their early twenties with no teaching experience. ( Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff asserts that Defendant terminated her and failed to renew the Nelsons' contracts because of their age. ( Id. ¶ 21.) She claims Defendant terminated her willfully and with reckless disregard for whether the termination violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). ( Id. ) Plaintiff filed the present action against Defendant, alleging a violation of the ADEA and seeking a declaratory judgment, damages, back pay, and other relief. (Doc. 5 (Amended Complaint)).

Plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on her ADEA count, excluding the amount of damages. (Doc. 52.) Defendant also moves for summary judgment. (Doc. 59.) Additionally, Plaintiff moves for spoliation sanctions to preclude Defendant from offering evidence of her 2008-09 school year performance. (Doc. 66.) The Court will consider each Motion in turn.


I. Summary Judgment

A. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

Substantive law determines which facts are material and "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "A fact issue is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Thus, the nonmoving party must show that the genuine factual issues "can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.'" Cal. Architectural Bldg. Prods., Inc. v. Franciscan Ceramics, Inc., 818 F.2d 1466, 1468 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250). Because "[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge, ... [t]he evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor" at the summary judgment stage. Id. at 255 (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 15859 (1970)). Furthermore, the party opposing summary judgment "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [the party's] pleadings, but... must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Brinson v. Linda Rose Joint Venture, 53 F.3d 1044, 1049 (9th Cir. 1995).

B. Application

"[T]o establish a prima facie case of an ADEA violation, the plaintiff must show he was: (1) a member of a protected class [age 40-70]; (2) performing his job in a satisfactory manner; (3) discharged; and (4) replaced by a substantially younger employee with equal or inferior qualifications." Wallis v. J.R. Simplot Co., 26 F.3d 885, 891 (9th Cir. 1994) (quoting Rose v. Wells Fargo & Co., 902 F.2d 1417, 1421 (9th Cir. 1990)). Once a prima facie case has been made, the burden of production shifts to the defendant, who must offer evidence that the adverse action was taken for other than impermissibly discriminatory reasons. Id. at 889 (citing Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 254 (1981)). Here, assuming Plaintiff has established her prima facie case, the parties dispute the factual basis for Defendant's alleged legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for her termination.

Plaintiff moves for summary judgment on her claim. (Doc. 52.) She asserts that she received only positive performance reviews during her time working at Defendant school and that the only documented critique of her performance were two unsupported Counseling forms she received in March 2009. Plaintiff notes that Defendant alleges she was terminated due to her unprofessional behavior at ...

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