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Sutton v. Vilsack

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

August 20, 2014

TOM J. VILSACK, Secretary of Department of Agriculture, Defendant.


DAVID C. NORTON, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant's Report and Recommendation ("R&R") that this court grant Secretary of Agriculture Tom J. Vilsack's ("the Secretary") motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff Orlando Sutton ("Sutton") filed written objections to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts the R&R and grants the Secretary's motion for summary judgment as to Sutton's breach of settlement agreement and retaliation claims. However, because the Secretary has not moved for summary judgment on Sutton's racial discrimination claim, this order does not affect that claim.


A. Procedural History

On May 24, 2012, Sutton filed this action against the Secretary asserting claims for breach of settlement agreement, as well as racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The Secretary moved for summary judgment on January 30, 2014. Sutton responded on March 10, 2014 and supplemented his response on March 12, 2014. The magistrate judge issued an R&R on June 25, 2014, recommending that this court grant the Secretary's motion for summary judgment. Sutton filed objections to the R&R on July 15, 2014 and supplemented his objections the next day. This matter is now ripe for the court's review.

B. Factual Allegations[1]

Sutton is an African-American male who was at all relevant times employed as a district ranger for the Department of Agriculture ("the Department"). Compl. Ex. A. Sutton complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") that the Department was discriminating against him on the bases of race, color, and sex. Id. At some time thereafter, Sutton entered into a settlement agreement with the Department that resolved the issues raised in his initial filing with the EEOC. Compl. ¶ 7. The settlement agreement stated that Sutton would receive certain training during 2010, provided the training was available and that he coordinated the training with his supervisor. Id. Sutton understood that completing such training would not guarantee him a promotion. Id.

Sutton asserts that he has not received the training as set out in the settlement agreement. Compl. ¶ 8. Additionally, he alleges that he has been retaliated against by Department employees on numerous occasions since complaining that the Department had breached the settlement agreement. Id. Specifically, he alleges that: he was not allowed to attend various fire training exercises, even though Caucasians were allowed to attend; he was not reimbursed for private automobile mileage, even though Caucasians were reimbursed for such mileage; and the Department refused to process his worker's compensation claim in a timely matter because of his race and prior protected activity. Compl. ¶¶ 8-10.


A. Objections to R&R

This court is charged with conducting a de novo review of any portion of the magistrate judge's R&R to which specific, written objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). A party's failure to object is accepted as agreement with the conclusions of the magistrate judge. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-50 (1985). In absence of a timely filed objection to a magistrate judge's R&R, this court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must "only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note). The recommendation of the magistrate judge carries no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination rests with this court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). This court may accept, reject, or modify the report of the magistrate judge, in whole or in part, or may recommit the matter to him with instructions for further consideration. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

B. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper "if 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). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is genuine, ' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. At the summary ...

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