United States District Court, D. Colorado
A. BRIMMER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant’s Motion for
Summary Judgment [Docket No. 18]. The Court has jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
March 16, 2006, plaintiff Catherine Townsend began working
for defendant Adams 12 Five Star Schools, a public school
district in Colorado, as a construction project manager.
Docket No. 18 at 2, ¶ 1. Plaintiff has a business
management degree from the University of Phoenix as well as a
degree in construction management from Cal State Hayward.
Docket No. 18 at 8, ¶ 48. Her employment with defendant
was governed by a series of one-year contracts that were
renewed through 2014. Id., ¶ 2.
project manager, plaintiff oversaw various construction
projects throughout the school district. Docket No. 1 at 2,
¶ 10. She often worked closely with the Resources
Operations Department to facilitate the project bidding
process. See id., ¶ 12; Docket No. 18 at 8,
¶ 49; Docket No. 23-2 at 4, 49:24-52:22. Plaintif
f’s specific duties included preparing contracts, work
orders, and bidding documents for the projects to which she
was assigned. Docket No. 18 at 8, ¶ 49.
about May 14, 2015, defendant informed plaintiff that her
contract was not being renewed for the following school year.
Docket No. 18 at 7, ¶ 40. Defendant gave plaintiff a
proposed separation agreement. Id., ¶ 42. The
terms of the separation agreement were that plaintiff would
“resign effective May 13, 2015” and be placed on
paid administrative leave from May 13, 2015 to June 30, 2015,
during which time she would continue to receive her
“proportionate share of accrued temporary leave and
vacation . . . pursuant to the terms of the Administrative
Employees’ Compensation Program Handbook.”
Id., ¶ 43; Docket No. 18-8 at 2, ¶¶
1-3. The agreement also included an express waiver of
“any and all actions, causes of action, . . . and
liabilities . . . . aris[ing] out of, relat[ing] to, or . . .
based upon” plaintiff’s employment, including
claims arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964. Docket No. 18 at 8, ¶ 44; Docket No. 18-8 at 2-3,
¶ 5. Plaintiff reviewed the agreement for
several days before signing it on May 18, 2015. Docket No. 18
at 8, ¶ 45. She also consulted an attorney regarding the
terms of the agreement. Docket No. 18 at 8, ¶ 47.
filed this lawsuit on September 19, 2016, asserting claims
for sexual discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
Docket No. 1. On August 21, 2017, defendant moved for summary
judgment on both claims. Docket No. 18.
judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56 when the “movant shows 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);
see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248-50 (1986). A disputed fact is “material” if
its current and former directors, employees, board members,
under the relevant substantive law it is essential to proper
disposition of the claim. Wright v. Abbott Labs.,
Inc., 259 F.3d 1226, 1231-32 (10th Cir. 2001). Only
disputes over material facts can create a genuine issue for
trial and preclude summary judgment. Faustin v. City
& Cty. of Denver, 423 F.3d 1192, 1198 (10th Cir.
2005). An issue is “genuine” if the evidence is
such that it might lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict
for the nonmoving party. Allen v. Muskogee, 119 F.3d
837, 839 (10th Cir. 1997).
“the moving party does not bear the ultimate burden of
persuasion at trial, it may satisfy its burden at the summary
judgment stage by identifying a lack of evidence for the
nonmovant on an essential element of the nonmovant’s
claim.” Bausman v. Interstate Brands Corp.,
252 F.3d 1111, 1115 (10th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation
marks omitted) (quoting Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores,
Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1998)). “Once
the moving party meets this burden, the burden shifts to the
nonmoving party to demonstrate a genuine issue for trial on a
material matter.” Concrete Works of Colo., Inc. v.
City & Cty. of Denver, 36 F.3d 1513, 1518 (10th Cir.
1994). The nonmoving party may not rest solely on the
allegations in the pleadings, but instead must designate
“specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 324 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). “To
avoid summary judgment, the nonmovant must establish, at a
minimum, an inference of the presence of each element
essential to the case.” Bausman, 252 F.3d at
1115. When considering a motion for summary judgment, a court
must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Id.
argues it is entitled to summary judgment because plaintiff
knowingly and voluntarily released all claims arising out of
her employment with defendant when she signed the separation
agreement. Docket No. 18 at 8.
VII . . . employment discrimination claims may be waived by
agreement, but the waiver of such claims must be knowing and
voluntary.” Torrez v. Pub. Serv. Co. of New Mexico,
Inc., 908 F.2d 687, 689 (10th Cir. 1990). To determine
whether a waiver was knowing and voluntary, courts in this
circuit consider the totality of circumstances under which
the release of liability was signed, including:
(1) the clarity and specificity of the release language; (2)
the plaintiff’s education and business experience; (3)
the amount of time plaintiff had for deliberation about the
release before signing it; (4) whether [p]laintiff knew or
should have known his rights upon execution of the release;
(5) whether plaintiff was encouraged to seek, or in fact
received benefit of counsel; (6) whether there was an
opportunity for negotiation of the terms of the Agreement;
and (7) whether the consideration given in exchange ...