United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
SONIA S. BLACKWELL, Plaintiff,
TONI ANN GAITHER, et al., Defendants.
J. CONRAD, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on initial review of the
Amended Complaint, (Doc. No. 4). Plaintiff is proceeding
in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 3).
se Plaintiff filed this action on September 12, 2018,
pursuant to the Age Discrimination Employment Act
(“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 623 et seq.,
and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e et seq.
an African American woman over the age of 40, has filed this
action against her former employer, FairView Kids Care, and
its Administrative Director Toni Ann Gaither. Plaintiff
claims that she was discriminated against, received unequal
terms of employment, and was harassed and retaliated against
based on her age and race. She claims that she was treated
differently from white employees and was ultimately
terminated from her employment.
alleges that she was hired to work as a 3-year-old teacher on
February 1, 2016, with a co-teacher. During her interview,
Gaither made a comment that an employee named Wanda, whom
Plaintiff later discovered was Black, would “jump off a
bridge” if Gaither told her to. (Doc. No. 4-1 at 1).
Plaintiff worked in the 3-year-old class for a month and a
half then was moved to a 2-year-old class with a co-teacher
named Colleen. One morning when the breakfast was pancakes,
Colleen asked the kids if they know about “Aunt Jemima,
I know Ms. Sonia does.” (Doc. No. 4-1 at 3). Plaintiff
mentioned the incident to Gaither, who asked Plaintiff if she
wanted Gaither to address it and Plaintiff said no because
she thought it might be a one-time event. Plaintiff continued
working with Colleen and noticed how mean Colleen was to the
kids and even harmed them at one point. Plaintiff did not
report Colleen because she was new and “was beginning
to see how things went” at the school. (Doc. No. 4-1 at
about two months of employment while Plaintiff was still new,
Plaintiff came inside with her half of the class and left one
of the children outside with other teachers. Another teacher
reported the incident to Gaither and Plaintiff received a
started working in a 4-year-old class in September with
co-teacher Ashley Porter. Although co-teachers'
responsibilities were supposed to be shared, Porter would not
help clean the room and take out the trash. Plaintiff
mentioned this to Gaither who said she would take care of it.
Porter called in a lot without having time to use and
Plaintiff was left alone in the class with an occasional
floater. When Porter was present, she would often go down the
hall to talk to Gaither, leaving Plaintiff alone with the
kids. Plaintiff continued to do her job and the kids liked
her. When Porter became pregnant her laziness got worse and
she started spitting in the classroom trash can. Plaintiff
mentioned this to Gaither, who “did not like it,
” and told Plaintiff to talk to Porter herself. (Doc.
No. 4-1 at 4).
September 20, 2016, Porter and Plaintiff received a warning
letter from Gaither about keeping proper paperwork in the
classroom which was both teachers' responsibility.
Plaintiff went to see Gaither because she was new, had never
touched the paperwork because Porter had been completing it,
and Plaintiff saw no reason to check her work. (Doc. No. 4-1
at 4). Gaither seemed to understand but later claimed this
was Plaintiff's second write-up. Plaintiff sought and
received instruction on how to complete the paperwork from
Tommie Dean then made sure the paperwork was completed and
correct from that point onward.
heard that Porter said that she and Plaintiff did not like
each other. Plaintiff confronted her and Porter said that
they were not working together as a team. Plaintiff said she
was trying to be a team player but Porter brushed her off.
Porter then started keeping notes on Plaintiff and reported
to Gaither about her.
work schedule was 8:30 to 5:30 and Porter's was 9:00 to
6:00. Plaintiff occasionally switched schedules with Porter
so that Porter could take her daughter to dance class when
Plaintiff's part-time job schedule permitted. Plaintiff
was unable to switch work hours with Porter on one occasion,
Porter reported this to Gaither, and Plaintiff was called
into an office for a meeting with Pastor Paul Hill, Gaither,
and Sandy Jennings. Plaintiff explained that she would cover
Porter when she was able but that it was not her
responsibility to do so. Plaintiff was told that she might
need to decide which job was more important to her and that
she needed to change the hours of her part-time job.
Plaintiff was told that Porter has more education than
Plaintiff and that she should defer to Porter's choice of
schedule despite Plaintiff's seniority. The next day,
Pastor Hill told Plaintiff he agreed with her that she should
not have to change her schedule to accommodate Porter. Porter
was unhappy that Plaintiff would not help her with the
schedule and continued to document notes on Plaintiff and
report them to Gaither.
December 2016, Plaintiff was accused by a parent of pulling a
child off the toilet, causing him to bite his tongue.
Plaintiff was called into a meeting and Gaither started to
tell her she was fired. Plaintiff explained that Porter had
taken the kids to the bathroom that day. Porter was called
into the meeting and admitted she took the children to the
bathroom. Nothing was done to Porter. Later, Plaintiff found
out that Porter had told another teacher that Plaintiff was
going to get fired that day, which Porter would not have
known unless she and Gaither had discussed it.
Porter stopped working at the school, Wendy Dickens was hired
as Plaintiff's co-teacher. Plaintiff could tell by the
way Dickens acted that she was keeping an eye on Plaintiff.
Dickens left Plaintiff to clean the room and spent a lot of
time out of the classroom talking to Gaither as Porter had
done. Gaither told Plaintiff she noticed this on classroom
cameras but did nothing about it.
March 28, 2017, Plaintiff was asked about an incident where
another teacher said she heard Plaintiff say “shout
up” to a child. (Doc. No. 4-1 at 6). The child's
parents did not say anything about the incident or treat
Plaintiff differently. Plaintiff said she was overwhelmed in
the class because she had no help, and the child was making
fun of another who had spilled milk, then they were walking
through it without Dickens doing anything to help. Gaither
told Plaintiff to address the issue with Dickens and
Plaintiff said it was a “race issue.” (Doc. No.
4-1 at 7). Gaither said she is not prejudiced. Plaintiff
explained she ...