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School Board defeats former teacher’s claims

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//April 3, 2023

School Board defeats former teacher’s claims

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//April 3, 2023

Where the court previously held that the Prince William School Board did not discriminate or retaliate against a former high school teacher when it ended his employment, and the teacher then filed this suit alleging discrimination and retaliation in connection with his post-termination conduct, the suit was dismissed.


Bruce Pearson is an African-American man. He was employed by the Prince William County School Board as a high school teacher from November 2005 until he was dismissed on Sept. 9, 2019. In this suit, he asserts race discrimination claims under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981, retaliation claims under Title VII and § 1981, and several claims under state law. Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss.

Race discrimination

The court is not evaluating any allegations that relate to plaintiff’s claims of racial discrimination or retaliation that occurred when he was employed by defendant. Plaintiff brought those claims in a separate suit against the same defendant and final judgment was entered against him and in favor of defendant two years ago.

Plaintiff cannot proceed with a Title VII discrimination claim premised on post-employment conduct. While the antiretaliation provision of Title VII applies to post-employment conduct, courts have consistently held that alleged post-employment actions cannot serve as a predicate for a Title VII discrimination claim.

Plaintiff also appears to allege a race discrimination claim pursuant to § 1981. The plain language of § 1981 does not limit its application to employer actions in hiring, employing and firing employees. As a result, courts have applied § 1981 to non-employers.

Here, reading the allegations in a light most favorable to plaintiff, the complaint sufficiently sets forth facts rendering § 1981 applicable to defendant in this case. Plaintiff has alleged that he had a prospective job opportunity with South County High School that was contingent upon two references. That, when combined with the fact that his job offer was withdrawn due to South County’s inability to contact his references, makes it reasonable to at least infer that had plaintiff’s references provided good recommendations, he would have received an offer.

Because plaintiff brings his § 1981 claim against a state actor, he must also meet the requirements of § 1983. Section 1981 does not provide a private right of action against a state actor. This means that to vindicate his rights under § 1981, plaintiff must pursue a remedy under § 1983, which is the “exclusive federal remedy for violation of the rights guaranteed in § 1981.”

The complaint is devoid of any facts that show, or permit a reasonable inference that, defendant failed to provide a reference to South County High because of plaintiff’s race. There are simply no plausible allegations in the complaint that connect defendant’s failure to give a job reference to South County High to plaintiff’s race. Plaintiff has also not pleaded sufficient facts to meet the additional requirement that § 1983 imposes: that defendant violated his rights as a result of a “policy or custom.” As a result, his § 1981 discrimination fails for that reason, as well.


Defendant does not appear to contest that plaintiff engaged in a protected activity when he filed his EEOC charge in June 2019. Plaintiff has also adequately pleaded that defendant took a materially adverse action against him, which defendant appears to concede.

Plaintiff still must show a causal link between his protected activity and the adverse action he suffered. As a threshold matter, plaintiff has not even pleaded that the two administrators from whom he sought references knew about his protected activity; that alone is enough for his retaliation claim to fail.

Plaintiff pleads no facts showing direct evidence of a causal link. There is plenty of speculation on plaintiff’s part explaining why defendant failed to provide a job reference — but no substantive factual allegations. Plaintiff also cannot rely on temporal proximity to provide the causal link he needs.

Remaining claims

Plaintiff cannot maintain a claim under Va. Code Ann. § 40.1-27. First, there is no private right of action under that statute. Second, defendant is subject to sovereign immunity because it is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Nor can plaintiff’s claim pursuant to Va. Code § 8.01-46.1 survive defendant’s motion to dismiss. That provision explicitly applies to an employer who “furnishes information.” However, the gravamen of plaintiff’s claim is the inverse; that defendant did not disclose certain information, not that it disclosed false information.

Plaintiff also appears to bring an “interference with prospective contract” claim. But he has failed to plead facts sufficient to state a plausible claim.

Defendant’s motion to dismiss granted.

Pearson v. Prince William County School Board, Case No. 1:22-cv-377, March 14, 2023. EDVA at Alexandria (Alston). VLW 023-3-126. 19 pp.

VLW 023-3-126

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