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Wilson v. Richland County

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

June 14, 2016

Phyllis A. Wilson, Plaintiff,
Richland County, Defendant.



         The plaintiff, Phyllis A. Wilson, a self-represented litigant, filed this employment action alleging race discrimination pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., and age discrimination pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621, et seq., against Defendant Richland County. This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.) for a Report and Recommendation on the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 65.) Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), Wilson was advised of the summary judgment and dismissal procedures and the possible consequences if she failed to respond adequately to the defendant’s motion. (ECF No. 68.) Wilson filed a response in opposition, (ECF No. 78), and the defendant filed a reply (ECF No. 79). Having carefully considered the parties’ submissions and the record in this case, the court concludes that Richland County’s motion for summary judgment should be granted.[1]


         The following facts are either undisputed or are taken in the light most favorable to Wilson, to the extent they find support in the record. Wilson, who is African-American, began working at the Richland County Assessor’s Office in October 1978. Wilson was hired by Richland County Assessor John Cloyd, who had recently been appointed to his position at the time he hired Wilson. The assessor’s office was organized into several sections: commercial and residential appraisal, ownership records, and mapping. Wilson’s first position with the assessor’s office was in a clerical role in the ownership records section.

         In 1990, Cloyd promoted Wilson to the role of assistant supervisor of the ownership records section. Cloyd again promoted Wilson in 2003 to the role of supervisor of the ownership records section following the retirement of the previous supervisor. In 2006, Elizabeth McDonald was appointed to the position of deputy assessor, a role that put her in a direct supervisory capacity over Wilson.

         In June 2008, Wilson entered into the “Teacher and Employee Retention Incentive” program (“TERI”). S.C. Code Ann. § 9-1-2210. TERI allows state and local government employees to begin drawing retirement but remain in their positions for five years. At the end of the employee’s five-year participation in the program, the employee is required to terminate her employment. See § 9-1-2210(H). Wilson enrolled in the TERI program on June 6, 2008; therefore, her “separation date” was June 6, 2013.

         In March 2013, Wilson approached Cloyd to ask whether she could be rehired to her position after her separation date. Cloyd responded he would advertise the position and hire the most qualified applicant. Following her mandatory termination on June 6, 2013, Wilson reapplied for her former position when it was advertised by the assessor’s office. However, Cloyd and McDonald decided not to interview Wilson, and they eventually hired Katie Marr, a white woman who was younger than Wilson.[2]

         Wilson filed a charge of discrimination in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission alleging she was discriminated against based on her race and age. Both agencies investigated Wilson’s allegations and determined that no law was violated when she was not hired for her former position in the assessor’s office. The agencies issued right-to-sue letters. This action followed.


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate only if the moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the [moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party may support or refute that a material fact is not disputed by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine [dispute] of material fact.” Ballinger v. N.C. Agric. Extension Serv., 815 F.2d 1001, 1005 (4th Cir. 1987) (emphasis in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or non-existence would affect the disposition of the case under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). An issue of material fact is “genuine” if the evidence offered is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-movant. Id. at 257.

         In discrimination cases, a party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable jury could rule in the non-moving party’s favor. Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 645 (4th Cir. 2002). The court cannot make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence, but the court should examine uncontradicted and unimpeached evidence offered by the moving party. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). The court must determine whether a party’s offered evidence is legally sufficient to support a finding of discrimination and look at the strength of a party’s case on its own terms. See id. at 148 (stating that “[c]ertainly there will be instances where, although the plaintiff has established a prima facie case and set forth sufficient evidence to reject the defendant’s explanation, no rational fact-finder could conclude that the action was discriminatory”).

         B. Analysis

         1. Burden Shifting Framework in Employment ...

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