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Brown v. Brennan

United States District Court, District of South Carolina

May 21, 2015

Diana Brown, Plaintiff,
Megan J. Brennan, Postmaster General United States Postal Service, Defendant.


Richard Mark Gergel United States District Judge

This matter comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (R & R) of the Magistrate Judge, (Dkt. No. 43), recommending that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Dkt. No. 25), be granted. For the reasons stated below, the Court ADOPTS the R & R and GRANTS Defendant's motion.


Plaintiff, an African-American female, worked as a Rural Carrier Associate for the United States Postal Service (USPS) from 2000 until 2010. This position was a part-time, non-career position. In the Fall of 2010, Plaintiff filed a grievance through the union, alleging that she had been improperly passed over for a full-time Rural Carrier position, raising the issue of whether the position was timely posted. Plaintiffs grievance was resolved on January 6, 2011, and Plaintiff was offered a full-time position at the Main Post Office in Florence with retroactive pay to November 20, 2010.

Back in 2008, Plaintiffs supervisor told her that her hours would be substantially reduced and suggested that she apply for partial unemployment benefits at the South Carolina Employment Security Commission (SCESC). Plaintiff applied for, and received, partial unemployment benefits from October of 2008 to October of 2009. In June of 2010, the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) received information from SCESC that Plaintiff and other postal workers had filed fraudulent unemployment claims that under-reported their income from USPS. OIG conducted its own investigation between July and November of 2010. That investigation revealed that Plaintiff had under-reported her income.

On January 27, 2011, several weeks after Plaintiffs promotion to a full-time position, Special Agents from the OIG of the Department of Labor interviewed Plaintiff Plaintiffs supervisors were unaware of the OIG investigation until this interview. In this interview, Plaintiff admitted that she reported to SCESC working only half of the time that she actually worked. The OIG released a report of its finding on February 10, 2011. On February 12, 2011, Plaintiff was placed on off-duty status. Later that day. Plaintiff contacted an EEOC counselor.

On March 22, 2011, Plaintiff was indicted on one count of violating 18 U.S.C. § 641. Plaintiff received a Notice of Removal on April 22, 2011, and she grieved the removal through the union. The grievance was denied at steps one, two, and three. At the final appeal. Plaintiffs grievance was withdrawn by the union. Her employment was then officially terminated, and she was removed from the rolls of the USPS on January 31, 2013. After her indictment, Plaintiff entered a pretrial diversion program, completed its requirements in July of 2013, and had the indictment against her dismissed without prejudice in September of 2013.

Plaintiff filed a formal Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC, and the EEOC Administrative Judge made a finding of no discrimination. This action followed, bringing race discrimination and retaliation claims. The Magistrate Judge recommended granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment, (Dkt. No. 43), and Plaintiff filed timely objections, (Dkt. No. 45).


A. Report & Recommendation

The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court, Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the R & R or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Ace. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)); accord Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).

B. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate "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 material facts-those "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law"-will preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is genuine, "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party, " Id.

At the summary judgment stage, the court must "construe the evidence, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from such evidence, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Dash v. Mayweather, 731 F.3d 303, 310 (4th Cir. 2013). However, "the nonmoving party must rely on more than conclusory allegations, mere speculation, the building ...

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