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Court dismisses part of Hatch’s lawsuit, but not all

January 12, 2017

By David Nordby The Brillion News

GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Division of the federal District Court made their first action on the Ann Hatch v. Brillion School District lawsuit on November 21, 2016.

The court granted the school’s motion to dismiss part of the complaint, but not all. The court dismissed the idea that Hatch worked in a hostile work environment. Judge William Griesbach denied the motion to dismiss the suit in all other respects, though also stated Hatch “minimally sets forth a claim.”

Hatch had claimed that Brillion Superintendent Dominick Madison called her “stupid” and “pathetic.” The court responded that the alleged comments, while rude, weren’t enough to lead to the inference that Hatch was viewed unfavorably because of her age or gender, which she also claims.

The court also didn’t view an alleged comment from Madison about menopausal women being in the same room as pubescent boys as enough to “connect the dots” to Hatch’s argument.

Griesbach ruled that Hatch’s stated examples – like a crude email from Madison to Hatch including an expletive or the denied use of a district van – were not enough to establish that Hatch worked in a hostile environment.

The court’s response came a week after Hatch filed an amended complaint that provided further details of her allegations.

The school responded to the amended complaint in December denying the majority of Hatch’s claims. The narrative of the case, originally filed in June 2016, remained the same with Hatch claiming hostile behavior from Madison based on age and gender and that the Brillion School Board did not do anything when Hatch brought her concerns to them.

Hatch’s amended complaint has alleged details of a timeline from the summer of 2011 when she brought her concerns to the school board to her non contract renewal in 2012. One of the allegations is that Cathy Prozansky, the elementary principal, told Hatch that Madison bragged how he always finds out when people go to the school board and that he always gets the last laugh. The district denies this.

Hatch claims that in the spring of 2012, Hatch and Madison had verbal altercations in Hatch’s office regarding Hatch meeting with the school lawyer. Hatch claims that after one meeting, when Madison left her office, the school’s guidance counselor checked to see if she was alright after she heard Madison yelling. The district denies this.

Madison returned to Hatch’s office and told her that she would be “insubordinate” if she “refused” to meet with the district’s attorney. The district denies this.

Hatch claims that she was so “shaken by his hostile behavior” that she cancelled her meetings and asked her secretary to let her know if she saw Madison coming, and to open the door if he came into Hatch’s office. She also asked that the secretary position herself near the door in the event that Madison would threaten Hatch. The district says they lack sufficient knowledge and information to form a belief on the allegations.

Less than two months later, Hatch received a preliminary notice of the non-renewal of her contract.

Hatch’s amended complaint adds new alleged comments from others, including former high school principal Paul Nistler.

Hatch alleges that Nistler made the remark to her, “I don’t know if it’s that you’re a woman, or that you are gay, but Dominick [Madison] treats you differently than us,” referring to himself and the elementary school principal at the time, Tiffany Nigbor.

The district denies this but it’s worth nothing, because Hatch’s original complaint did not make mention of her sexual orientation. Hatch also claims that on multiple occasions Margie Bauknecht left the office in tears because of the verbal abuse Madison would subject her and the other women in the office to. Hatch alleges that Bauknecht stated to her, Madison “treats his dog better than he treats me.” The district denies both of these claims.

The amended complaint attempts to use other’s relationships with the Brillion School District and show how they were different from Hatch’s. In August 2008, Nigbor was hired as the principal for the elementary school while still in her twenties and carrying no administrative experience.

The district admits that Nigbor had a salary similar to Hatch’s.

The district also admits that Prozansky – Nigbor’s replacement – was given a higher salary than Hatch. The district says that Prozansky’s higher salary, as well as Nistler’s, was because of their experience.

The district maintains that they chose not to renew Hatch’s contract because she was failing at her job. They deny that Hatch met expectations and that she was an effective principal and administrator, which is why she was also the only employee to have a mid-year review in 2011.

Hatch claims that the school never said anything of the sort until she complained of Madison’s abusive and discriminatory behavior.

Hatch is still seeking, among other things: reinstatement, back pay, all other compensation, benefits, compensatory damages and punitive damages.

The Brillion School District’s affirmative defenses include that they had legitimate, non-discriminatory business reasons for the non-renewal of Hatch’s contract, that she cannot establish any discriminatory conduct based on age or gender and that no punitive damages are available against the district since it is a local government agency.

This story was featured in the January 12, 2017 edition of The Brillion News. 



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