Failure-to-Hire Discrimination Claim Dismissed; Plaintiff Was Not “Qualified” For Physics Teacher Position

In Qiu v. Board of Education of Woodford Cnty. Public Schools, Civil Action No. 5: 22-196-DCR, 2023 WL 6291896 (E.D.Ky. Sept. 27, 2023), the court, inter alia, granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s claim of employment discrimination (based on national origin) asserted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Generally, where (as here) a plaintiff attempts to establish discrimination through circumstantial evidence, the plaintiff must “first establish a prima facie case of disparate treatment under this framework,” which requires them to demonstrate four elements, namely, that: (1) they are a member of a protected class; (2) they are qualified for the job; (3) they suffered and adverse employment action or decision; and (4) an inference of discrimination.

This court’s decision focused on the second element:

As an Asian and of Chinese national origin, Qui is a member of a protected class. However, the Board disagrees with her claim that she was qualified for the physics teacher position. “A discrimination plaintiff’s generic testimony that she was qualified for a position, … does not suffice to withstand summary judgment on that qualification issue without specific facts supporting this general testimony.” Alexander, 576 F.3d at 560.

Qiu describes herself as “a certified chemistry teacher … highly Praxis qualified to teach physics and math,” and “qualified to be certified to teach physics.” [Record No. 25, pp. 1, 3] In support of her motion for summary judgment, she notes that she is “eligible to be certified to teach physics or math by Institute Alternative Route policy of the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB).” [Id. at 2] But Qiu’s only supporting evidence of her qualification consists of a page appearing to highlight her prior Praxis scores and what appears to be an EPSB explainer outlining the Option 7: Institute Alternative Route to teacher certification. This is insufficient to demonstrate that Qiu was a qualified candidate for the high school physics teacher position.

First, even if Qiu had submitted a certified copy of her Praxis scores demonstrating proficiency in physics, the scores provided had expired for purposes of teacher certification. Pursuant to 16 KAR 5:020, “A passing score on an assessment established at the time of admission shall be valid for the purpose of applying for admission for five (5) years from the assessment administration date.”5 The test upon which Qiu relies to demonstrate her proficiency in physics was taken May 7, 2013 (a date some seven years before applying for the vacancy here in issue). In addition, Qiu’s reliance on the Option 7: Institute Alternative Route for certification is misplaced because she is not eligible for this option. The Institute Alternative Route to certification is only available for initial certification, which is clearly stated on the EPSB explainer that she herself provided. [Record No. 28-2, p. 5] In short, Qiu already possesses a certificate for teaching chemistry so Option 7 is not available to her. See KRS 161.048(8). Despite Qiu’s attestation that she was a qualified candidate for the physics teacher position, the evidence provided indicates that she was not qualified.

the court thus concluded that plaintiff is “unable to establish a prima facie case of discrimination because she has failed to demonstrate that she was a qualified applicant,” noting that she can not “simply replace the conclusory allegations in [her] complaint with more conclusory allegations” at the summary judgment stage.

Share This: