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Jeffries v. Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC

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

March 1, 2016

Sarah J. Jeffries, Plaintiff,
Westinghouse Electric Company, LLC, Defendant.



Defendant Westinghouse Electric Company, LLC (“Defendant”) moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff Sarah Jeffries’s (“Plaintiff”) discrimination claims regarding Defendant’s alleged failure to promote her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (2012) (“Title VII”), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. (“ADEA”), as well as on Plaintiff’s retaliation claims under both Title VII and the ADEA. (ECF No. 25.) This matter is before the court on the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation (“Report”) recommending that this court grant Defendant’s motion. (ECF No. 40 at 21.)[1]

For the reasons below, this court ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge’s findings and GRANTS Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 35).


Because Plaintiff’s claims arise under federal law, this court has personal and subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (2012). Venue is proper in the Columbia Division of the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (2012).


A. Magistrate Judge’s Report

The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court that 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). The court reviews de novo only those portions of a Magistrate Judge’s Report to which specific objections are filed, and it reviews those portions not objected to-including those portions to which only “general and conclusory” objections have been made-for clear error. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005); Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983); Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The court may accept, reject, or modify-in whole or in part-the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation or recommit the matter with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

B. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment should be granted “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). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or non-existence affects the disposition of the case under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). More specifically, a genuine question of material fact exists where, after reviewing the record as a whole, the court finds that a reasonable factfinder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Newport News Holdings Corp. v. Virtual City Vision, 650 F.3d 423, 434 (4th Cir. 2011).

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 123- 24 (4th Cir. 1990). The non-moving party may not oppose a motion for summary judgment with mere allegations or denials of the movant’s pleading, but instead must “set forth specific facts” demonstrating a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986); Shealy v. Winston, 929 F.2d 1009, 1012 (4th Cir. 1991). All that is required is that “sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties’ differing versions of the truth at trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. However, “mere unsupported speculation . . . is not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion.” Ennis v. Nat’l Ass’n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir. 1995).


Plaintiff is a 59-year-old, white American currently employed as a Planning Specialist at Defendant’s Columbia, South Carolina facility. (See generally ECF No. 32-1.) Defendant employer first hired Plaintiff on July 31, 2000, as a Health Physicist. (Id.) On May 29, 2012, Plaintiff applied for a Senior Engineer position. (Id. at 60.) Hiring managers of Defendant employer wanted the position to include engineering responsibilities so that Defendant could adapt to anticipated regulatory changes. (See ECF No. 32-10 at 13-14.) Defendant’s hiring managers hired Eris Speights (“Speights”), a black, Liberian 44-year-old female, who had been working for Defendant on a contract basis for eight years. (ECF No. 25-8 at 5.) Defendant stated that they hired Speights instead of Plaintiff because Speights had superior academic and work credentials, as well as a better work record. (ECF No. 25-1 at 11, 19.)

Between 2009 and 2010, Plaintiff complained to a supervisor about an alleged consensual romantic relationship Rosser had with a subordinate. (ECF No. 32-1 at 41-44.) After Plaintiff learned that Speights received the Senior Engineer position, Plaintiff contacted Human Resources. (ECF No. 32-1 at 45-46.) Plaintiff testified that she communicated to Human Resources “something to the effect of - - that there is inappropriate behavior” between one of her supervisors and his subordinates. (ECF No. 32-1 at 45.) Plaintiff alleges that the supervisor she reported to Human Resources must have learned that she reported him and that he, in retaliation, forced another supervisor to assign her a low performance review so that she would not get the Senior Engineer position in dispute. (ECF No. 32-1 at 76-77.) Plaintiff admits she has no ...

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