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Crane v. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.

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

March 9, 2015

Mylinh M. Crane, Plaintiff,
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.; Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc.; Starwood Hotels & Resort Management Company, Inc.; SVO Myrtle Beach, LLC; and SVO MB Management, Inc., Defendants.



This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of the Magistrate Judge (ECF No. 41), recommending that this Court grant Defendants Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.; Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc.; Starwood Hotels & Resort Management Company, Inc.; SVO Myrtle Beach, LLC; and SVO MB Management, Inc.'s (collectively "Defendants") Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 9, 14). Plaintiff Mylinh M. Crane ("Plaintiff") filed Objections to the R&R (ECF No. 43).[1] Having reviewed the entire record, including Plaintiff's Objections, the Court finds that the Magistrate Judge fairly and accurately summarized the relevant facts and applied the correct principles of law. Accordingly, the Court hereby adopts the Magistrate Judge's thorough and well-reasoned R&R and fully incorporates it into this Order.


This employment-discrimination action arises out of Plaintiff's employment at [ADefendants' Starwood Broadway Plantation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Plaintiff, who was hired by Defendants in September 2010 as a sales associate "selling vacation ownership, " (Pl.'s Am. Compl. 3, ¶ 11, ECF No. 6), claims that she was discriminated against on the basis of her race and gender. More specifically, Plaintiff contends that she was the subject of discrimination because she was not promoted to a particular position despite being assured that she would be.

Plaintiff alleges that when a director of sales position became vacant in March 2012, she was named interim director of sales and assured that she would be appointed to the position on a permanent basis after she formally applied. Plaintiff further alleges that she submitted an application for the position, yet after interviewing seventy-six applicants, Defendants hired a white male from outside of the company to serve as director of sales. Plaintiff asserts that she "filed a charge of discrimination against Starwood in November of 2013, " and that as a "direct result" of filing that charge, [3] "Defendants then set about a course of retaliation and harassment designed to intimidate [P]laintiff and force [her] to resign her employment." ( Id. ¶¶ 21-22). Plaintiff avers that on February 4, 2014, "after tolerating the discrimination, harassment, retaliation[, ] and disparate treatment... Plaintiff was constructively discharged and terminated her employment." ( Id. ¶ 25).

On April 24, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant action against Defendants, alleging employment discrimination due to race and gender pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"); retaliation in violation of Title VII; and statelaw claims for promissory estoppel and constructive discharge. On May 21, 2014, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[4] Following briefing by the Parties and a hearing on November 21, 2014, the Magistrate Judge issued the R&R on December 2, 2014, recommending that this Court grant Defendants' Motions to Dismiss. Plaintiff filed her Objections on December 19, 2014, and Defendants filed a Reply on January 8, 2015. Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for consideration.


I. Magistrate Judge's R&R

A magistrate judge makes only a recommendation to this Court on dispositive matters heard pursuant to Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). Parties are allowed to make a written objection to the magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations within fourteen days after being served a copy of the recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). This Court is charged with conducting a de novo review of any portion of a recommendation to which a specific objection is registered, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify the Magistrate Judge's findings and recommendations in whole or in part. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Additionally, the Court may receive additional evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions. Id. A party's failure to object is accepted as an agreement with the conclusions of the magistrate judge. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985). In the absence of a timely filed, specific objection-or as to those portions of the Magistrate Judge's recommendation to which no specific objection is made-this Court "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 & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee note). Moreover, in the absence of specific objections to the recommendation, this Court need not provide any explanation for adopting the magistrate judge's analysis and recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983).

II. Motions to Dismiss[5]

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure examines whether the complaint fails to state facts upon which jurisdiction can be founded. Stated otherwise, a Rule 12(b)(1) motion raises the fundamental question of whether a court has the authority to adjudicate the matter before it. Figueroa v. Napolitano, 772 F.Supp.2d 741, 747 (D.S.C. 2010). Because this Court is a court of limited subject matter jurisdiction, it "must have both a constitutional and statutory grant of authority to exercise jurisdiction over the matter in question." Id. (citing Brickwood Contractors, Inc. v. Datanet Eng'g, Inc., 369 F.3d 385 (4th Cir. 2004)).

The burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction in response to a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is on the plaintiff, the party asserting jurisdiction. See Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). As in the present case, when the Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenge is raised not as to the sufficiency of the jurisdictional allegations in the plaintiff's complaint but to the underlying facts supporting those allegations, "the district court is to regard the pleadings' allegations as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Id. (citing Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982)). "Indeed, the trial court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case.'" Williams v. United States, 50 F.3d 299, 304 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977)); see also Clarke v. DynCorp Int'l LLC, 962 F.Supp.2d 781, 787 (D. Md. 2013) ("[T]he court may take judicial notice of the existence and contents of EEOC proceedings if necessary to decide issues like exhaustion of administrative remedies, but it may not take judicial notice of the truth of matters outside the challenged pleading." (citations omitted)). The court should grant the motion "only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law." Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).


In their Motions to Dismiss, Defendants contend that Plaintiff did not exhaust her administrative remedies as to her Title VII claims because she did not file a perfected, verified "Charge of Discrimination" with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") using the EEOC's Form 5 or any document containing a verified signature. In opposing Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, Plaintiff does not dispute that she failed to file a verified Charge of Discrimination on the EEOC's Form 5; however, she insists that her November 12, 2013 "Intake Questionnaire" constitutes and should be considered a timely charge. After entertaining extensive argument, the Magistrate Judge issued the instant R&R, which concludes that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies because she did not satisfy Title VII's verification requirement. Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge recommends dismissing Plaintiff's ...

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