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Sancho v. Anderson School District Four

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

August 3, 2016

Ri'Cha ri Sancho, Plaintiff,
v.
Anderson School District Four, Defendant.

          Ri'Cha ri Sancho, Plaintiff, Pro Se.

          Anderson School District Four, Defendant, represented by Allison A. Hanna, Childs and Halligan & Mary Allison Caudell, Childs and Halligan.

          Esquire Anne R Culbreath, Mediator, represented by Anne R. Culbreath, Willson Jones Carter and Baxley.

          OPINION & ORDER

          HENRY M. HERLONG, Jr., Senior District Judge.

         This matter is before the court with the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Kevin F. McDonald, made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 of the District of South Carolina.[1] Ri'Cha ri Sancho ("Sancho"), proceeding pro se, filed a complaint against Anderson School District Four (the "District") asserting the following employment discrimination claims: disparate treatment, hostile work environment, and retaliation pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). In addition, Sancho alleges a state law claim for defamation.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Sancho is an African-American female who practices a traditional African religion. (Def. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 10 (Pl. Dep. 11, 215), ECF No. 34-10.) She began working for the District as a substitute teacher during the 2004-2005 school year, and was hired by the District in August 2005 as a business teacher at Pendleton High School ("PHS"). (Id. Ex. 6 (Merck Aff. ¶¶ 2-3), ECF No. 34-6.) Sancho transferred schools within the District after accepting a position at Riverside Middle School ("RMS") for the 2007-2008 school year. (Id. Ex. 10 (Pl. Dep. 39), ECF No. 34-10.) In July 2013, Sancho requested and was granted an unpaid leave of absence for the 2013-2014 school year from the District's Board of Trustees. (Id. Ex. 9 (D'Andrea Aff. ¶¶ 10-11, Exs. I, J), ECF No. 34-9.) There is no evidence that Sancho returned to her teaching position with the District following the 2013-2014 school year. Sancho's stated reason for requesting a leave of absence was "to study for the first year of [her] PhD." (Id. Ex. 9 (D'Andrea Aff. ¶ 10, Ex. I), ECF No. 34-9; Objection 44-45, ECF No. 56.) However, Sancho submits that the underlying reason was due to her several complaints of discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliation, and defamation at PHS and RMS, all of which were not resolved to her satisfaction. Sancho alleges that she "considered this request [for a leave of absence] her only recourse to avoid breaking her contract, but felt the safety of her family and herself was of the utmost important." (Objections 45, ECF No. 56.)

         Sancho subsequently filed a request for unemployment benefits, which was denied. (Def. Mot. Summ. J. 7, ECF No. 34.) Additionally, Sancho filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was dismissed on the basis that it was unable to conclude any violations of statutes had occurred. ( Id., ECF No. 34; Ans. Special Interrogatories, ECF No. 16.)

         Sancho filed the complaint in this action on March 24, 2015. (Compl., generally, ECF No. 1.) On November 4, 2015, the District filed the instant motion for summary judgment. (Def. Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 34.) Sancho responded on December 11, 2015. (Resp. Opp'n Def. Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 38.) On December 21, 2015, the District replied. (Reply Supp. Def. Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 42.) Magistrate Judge McDonald issued his Report and Recommendation on June 20, 2016, recommending that the District's motion for summary judgment be granted. (Report & Recommendation 26, ECF No. 47.) Sancho filed objections on July 25, 2016. (Objections, ECF No. 56.) Additionally, on June 30, 2016, the mediator filed a motion to compel Sancho to pay mediation fees. (Mot. Compel, ECF No. 50.) Sancho failed to respond within the deadline for filing a response to the motion to compel. This matter is now ripe for review.

         II. THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

         First, Magistrate Judge McDonald recommends granting the District's motion for summary judgment on the Title VII disparate treatment claim, because Sancho failed to establish essential elements of a prima facie case of disparate treatment that a materially adverse employment action or that an alleged adverse action occurred under circumstances that raise a reasonable inference of unlawful discrimination. (Report & Recommendation 15-19, ECF No. 47.) Similarly, the magistrate judge recommends granting summary judgment, because Sancho failed to show that other similarly situated employees received more favorable treatment, which is a required element of a prima facie case of disparate treatment through discriminatory discipline. (Id. 19-21, ECF No. 47.) Second, Magistrate Judge McDonald recommends granting the District's motion for summary judgment on the Title VII hostile work environment claim, because there is no evidence that any of the alleged conduct was based on Sancho's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and that the alleged harassment did not constitute severe or pervasive conduct, both of which are essential elements for a hostile work environment cause of action. (Id. 21-23, ECF No. 47.) Third, Magistrate Judge McDonald recommends granting the District's motion for summary judgment on the Title VII retaliation claim, because Sancho failed to establish an adverse employment action or any causal connection, both of which are required elements for a Title VII retaliation claim. (Id. 23-25, ECF No. 47.) Lastly, Magistrate Judge McDonald recommends granting the District's motion for summary judgment on the state law defamation claim, because Sancho failed to raise any genuine issues of material fact as to actual malice or that any alleged defamatory statements were made to a third party, both of which are required elements for a defamation cause of action. (Id. 25-26, ECF No. 47.)

         III. OBJECTIONS

         Objections to the Report and Recommendation must be specific. Failure to file specific objections constitutes a waiver of a party's right to further judicial review, including appellate review, if the recommendation is accepted by the district judge. See United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91, 94 & n.4 (4th Cir. 1984). In the absence of specific objections to the Report and Recommendation of the magistrate judge, this court is not required to give any explanation for adopting the recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). Sancho did not file any objections to the defamation claim. Thus, the court adopts the magistrate judge's recommendation to grant summary judgment on the state law defamation claim.

         However, Sancho raised objections with respect to her three Title VII claims. Upon review, the court finds that many of Sancho's objections are non-specific, unrelated to the dispositive portions of the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation, or merely restate her claims. However, the court was able to glean several specific objections. Sancho objects raising new allegations of discrimination and ...


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