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Weiss v. Dartmouth College

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

October 17, 2014

Lys Ann Weiss,
Dartmouth College.

ORDER Opinion No. 2014 DNH 221.

LANDYA McCAFFERTY, District Judge.

The Plaintiff, Lys Ann Weiss, was - and remains - employed by the Defendant, Dartmouth College. In this lawsuit, Ms. Weiss alleges that she was the victim of unlawful discrimination and harassment on the basis of her age and gender, and that her superiors retaliated against her for voicing her concerns. Now, Dartmouth has filed a motion for summary judgment which, for the reasons that follow, is GRANTED.

Factual Background[1]

Ms. Weiss was hired in 2009 (at the age of 56) as the Managing Editor of the publishing department at Dartmouth, which operates under the trade name University Press of New England ("UPNE"). Compl. ¶ 4. As Managing Editor, Ms. Weiss was principally responsible for ensuring that UPNE publications were thoroughly checked for errors, that UPNE had all of the necessary legal permissions to publish its materials, and that all indexes and manuscripts were prepared accurately and in a timely fashion. Dartmouth's Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. ("Dartmouth's Mem.") 2, Document No. 12-1.

Ms. Weiss reported directly to Eric Brooks, the Assistant Director of Design and Production. Compl. ¶ 5. Mr. Brooks, in turn, reported to Michael Burton, the Press Director. Id . Another employee, Phyllis Deutsch, was UPNE's Editor-in-Chief and also reported to Mr. Burton, making her a peer of Mr. Brooks. Id.

The allegations in this case largely involve the purported favoritism of young, female employees by Mr. Brooks, and the refusal by Ms. Deutsch and Mr. Burton to remedy the situation. The complaint alleges many examples of this favoritism:

• At a meeting in April 2011, Mr. Brooks so "lavishly praised" the work of a young, female production assistant that meeting attendees were made to feel "uncomfortable." Id . ¶ 9. Mr. Brooks later expressed his "personal devastation" when this same production assistant announced her impending departure from UPNE. Id.
• At another meeting attended by the same young, female production assistant, Mr. Brooks admonished Ms. Weiss and another attendee to "keep quiet" because the young production assistant "want[ed] to say something." Id . ¶ 10.
• Mr. Brooks "spent a considerable amount of time" with another young, female assistant. Id . ¶ 11.
• In July 2011, Ms. Weiss asked Mr. Brooks if a young, female production assistant could mail an envelope, but Mr. Brooks said that Ms. Weiss should mail it herself because the young production assistant's time was "more valuable." Id . ¶ 14.
• In March 2012, Mr. Brooks informed Ms. Weiss "testily" that a young, female designer would be allowed to temporarily store page proofs in her office, a departure from standard office procedure. Id . ¶ 19.
• In April 2012, Mr. Brooks defended the work of a young, female production assistant when confronted by Ms. Weiss with perceived shortcomings in the work. Id . ¶ 23.
• At approximately the same time, Mr. Brooks told Ms. Weiss to "butt out" when Ms. Weiss came to him with concerns about email correspondence between a young, female designer and a freelance editor. Id . ¶ 24.
• At a meeting in July 2012, Mr. Brooks "doted on [a young, female production assistant's] recent experience at volleyball camp." Id . ¶ 31.
• Mr. Brooks allegedly held doors for other employees, but not for Ms. Weiss. Dartmouth's Mem. 4.

The complaint alleges that Ms. Weiss initially brought her concerns regarding the perceived favoritism to the attention of Ms. Deutsch, who indicated that she had observed the behavior herself, and who promised that she would address the situation with Mr. Burton. Compl. ¶ 12. Separately, Ms. Weiss raised the issue directly with Mr. Burton at a meeting in May 2011; Mr. Burton allegedly indicated that the favoritism was already on a list of issues to discuss with Mr. Brooks.[2] Id . ¶ 13.

Prior to the first of these events, Mr. Brooks had expressed concern to Ms. Weiss regarding her unsatisfactory attendance and failure to meet deadlines. In November 2010, Mr. Brooks wrote an email to Ms. Weiss, stating "I'm just starting to get a little bit concerned about people in the department not being here by 9:00 at the latest on a more consistent basis and wanted to share my general expectations with you." See Exh. H to Aff. of Eric Brooks, Document No. 12-16. Then, in May 2011, Ms. Weiss received an annual review that noted that "[w]hereas, in general, [Ms. Weiss] and her staff have done a very good job adhering to schedules, there have been a few spells and a few ...

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