Male Coach’s Title IX Claim Is Dismissed

Sep 26, 2008

A federal judge from the Southern District of New York has sided with a school district in a case in which a male track coach of the boys’ track team alleged that that he was fired because he complained that the girls’ track program received preferential treatment.
Along other things, the court found that the coach failed to demonstrate that the defendants’ actions were pretext for the discriminatory actions he alleged.
Barry Bastian, 58, was a tenured educator and former head coach of the boys’ track and field program at Port Richmond High School in Staten Island, New York. On February 27, 2003, he was relieved of his duties as track and cross-country coach, a position he had held since 1977.
Bastian sued, filing claims of gender, age, and race discrimination and retaliation, pursuant to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq.; the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d); the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq.; and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., as well as a state common law contract claim, against Defendants New York City Department of Education and Joel I. Klein, Chancellor.
Specifically, he alleged disparate treatment and disparate impact arising from: (1) his allegedly inferior compensation as compared to female coaches; (2) the allegedly inferior funding of the boys’ track team in comparison to other girls’ sports teams; and (3) adverse actions taken against him by school management, including his termination as the boys’ track coach. He also alleged retaliation within the meaning of Title VII and Title IX based on: (1) his termination as the boys’ track coach, ostensibly for complaining about unequal funding; and (2) his reassignment to a non-teaching position and the filing of disciplinary charges, purportedly as retribution for his initiation of this lawsuit. Finally, he claims that, by taking such actions, the defendants breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
The defendants countered with a motion for summary judgment on all claims, contending that: (1) the various non-retaliation Title VII and ADEA claims are time-barred; (2) the equal pay claim is unsupported and frivolous; (3) Plaintiff’s Title IX discrimination and retaliation claims relating to his termination as track coach are not supported by credible evidence; (4) Plaintiff fails to establish a causal connection sufficient to support his Title VII and Title IX retaliation claims based on his reassignment; and (5) Plaintiff failed to satisfy the notice of claim requirements applicable to state common law claims brought against the DOE.
The defendants further maintained that the plaintiff was not subjected to any form of discriminatory treatment and that any subsequent actions taken against the plaintiff were for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons.
In analyzing the argument, the court agreed with the defendant on the “time-barred” argument. Turning to the Equal Pay Act claim, the court found that the plaintiff presented “no competent evidence of a single female comparator who was paid at a rate higher than he was paid. He makes only an unsubstantiated claim that he ‘received less pay and money to perform his job’. . . . Absent any other evidence that the plaintiff was paid less than a similarly situated female comparator, no reasonable jury could find for the plaintiff on his EPA claim. Consequently, the plaintiff’s EPA claim is dismissed with prejudice.”
As for the plaintiff’s Title IX claims, the court noted that Bastian “maintains claims under Title IX for both discrimination and retaliation.” Regarding the discrimination claim, the court wrote that the defendants “have established by admissible evidence — namely, the yearly PRHS athletic budget — that, between 2000 and 2004, PRHS’s boys’ and girls’ teams received proportionate, and very often equal, funding.
“Absent any countervailing evidence aside from Plaintiff’s self-serving and unsupported assertions, the court must conclude that these factors, not the gender of PRHS students, determined how the funds were allocated. Thus, Plaintiff’s Title IX discrimination claims are dismissed.”
As for the retaliation claim, the court found that the plaintiff failed to establish that the defendants’ proffered reasons for their actions “were pretextual. This suggests that the retaliatory spin Plaintiff gives these actions is entirely of his own creation; there is certainly no basis from which to infer that Rossi’s actions were motivated by an improper retaliatory motive.” The plaintiff “completely fails to link his termination to his complaints regarding funding,” according to the court.
Similarly, the court was unpersuaded by the plaintiff’s claim that the defendants “impermissibly retaliated against him in violation of both Title VII and Title IX when he was stripped of his teaching duties (in 2006).
“Here, the plaintiff fails to establish a requisite causal connection between his initiation of the present action–the protected activity–and his administrative transfer–the adverse action. He provides no reliable direct evidence of retaliatory animus.”
Barry Bastian v. New York City Department of Education et al.; S.D.N.Y.;
04 Civ. 7450 (PAC); 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57467; 7/29/08
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiff) Peter Jonathan Cresci, Cresci & Black LLC, Bayonne, NJ; (for defendants) David Scott Levine, Jonathan Michael Bardavid, Melissa Gail Shear, New York City Law Department, New York, NY; Ivan A. Mendez, Jr., NYC Law Department, Office of the Corporation Counsel, New York, NY.


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