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Belton v. Hagel

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

May 22, 2015

Mary Virginia Belton, Plaintiff,
v.
Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense, Army & Air Force Exchange; Donald Sydik; and Leatrice Peyton Defendants.

ORDER AND OPINION

J. MICHELLE CHILDS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Mary Virginia Belton ("Plaintiff") filed this action pro se asserting claims against Defendants that the court construed as alleged violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17. (ECF No. 1.)[1] Defendants Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense, Army & Air Force Exchange, Donald Sydik, and Leatrice Peyton (collectively "Defendants") deny that Plaintiff has complied with administrative prerequisites to file suit (ECF No. 25). This matter is before the court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), or, alternatively, Defendants move for summary judgment per Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d) and 56. (Id.)

In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2) D.S.C., the matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett for pre-trial handling. On February 9, 2015, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation in which she recommended that the court grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, for Summary Judgment based on Plaintiff's failure to timely exhaust her administrative remedies. (ECF No. 31.) Plaintiff filed an objection to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation based on the untimeliness of Plaintiff's appeal to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (ECF No. 34.) For the reasons set forth below, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's recommendation and GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND TO PENDING MOTION

The facts as viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff are discussed in the Report and Recommendation. (See ECF No. 31.) Upon independent review, the court concludes that the Magistrate Judge's factual summation is accurate and incorporates it by reference. The court will only reference herein facts pertinent to the analysis of Plaintiff's claims.

Plaintiff alleges she suffers from tinnitus and gaze palsy and that these conditions prevented her from timely appealing the agency's decision to the EEOC. (ECF No. 25-7 at 1-2.) Plaintiff requested that the EEOC reconsider the dismissal of her appeal, but the EEOC denied the request per 29 C.F.R. § 1614.405(c). (ECF No. 25-8 at 1 ¶¶ 1, 3.) Thereafter, on June 2, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Complaint pro se in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, alleging retaliatory and wrongful termination of employment. (ECF No. 1 at 1, 5.) On October 14, 2014, Defendants made a Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 25 at 1.) Plaintiff issued a response with attachments regarding her initial contact with the EEOC. (ECF No. 28 at 1-2 ¶¶ 1-3.) On February 9, 2015, the Magistrate Judge issued the aforementioned recommendation that the court grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 31 at 1.) On February 24, 2015, Plaintiff objected to the Report and Recommendation, requesting that the court not grant the dismissal. (ECF No. 34 at 1.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation

The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with this court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). A district court need only undertake a de novo review of those portions of a magistrate judge's report to which "specific written objection" has been filed. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005). However, where there are untimely filings of objections, objections to strictly legal issues, or mere "general and conclusory objections, " a magistrate judge's recommendation is only reviewable for clear error. Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the magistrate judge or recommit the matter with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

B. Motions to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of the facts alleged in the plaintiff's complaint. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A legally sufficient pleading must include a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The court may also look to documents outside the complaint when they are integral to and explicitly relied on in the complaint without converting a 12(b)(6) motion into one for summary judgment where the authenticity of the documents is not challenged. E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir. 2011) (internal citation and quotations omitted).

In order to defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A complaint should contain enough factual matter, which when accepted as true, states "a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Facial plausibility exists when "the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id . All factual allegations within a complaint must be accepted as true when considering a motion to dismiss. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). A pro se litigant is entitled to "special judicial solicitude, " but a court is not mandated to recognize vague claims or complaints that fail "to allege anything that even remotely suggests a factual basis for the claim." Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).

C. Motions for Summary Judgment Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56

When issues outside the pleadings are presented to and considered by the court, a Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c) motion is treated as a motion for summary judgment per Rule 56. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Summary judgment should be granted to the moving party when 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). Parties may support or refute that a fact is not genuinely disputed by citing to specific parts of materials in the record or by showing that cited materials "do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence in support of that fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Where there is only some alleged factual dispute, a motion for summary judgment will not be defeated; there must be no genuine issue of material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in ...


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