United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY United States District Judge.
employment dispute is before the Court on United States
Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant's Report and
Recommendation (“R & R”) (ECF No. 30). In his
R & R, the Magistrate Judge recommends the Court grant
Defendant Charleston Place, LLC's motion for summary
judgment (ECF No. 25) as to Collins' two federal claims
and dismiss her state-law claim without prejudice. Both
Collins and Charleston Place object to the R & R. (ECF
Nos. 32 & 33.) For the following reasons, the Court
overrules both sides' objections and disposes of
Collins' claims in the manner the Magistrate Judge
is suing Charleston Place, which operates a hotel, over its
April 2015 decision to fire her as a disciplinary measure.
Collins, who is Caucasian, claims Charleston Place violated
42 U.S.C. § 2000e (“Title VII”) and 42
U.S.C. § 1981 because her race motivated its decision to
fire her. She also claims Charleston Place violated South
Carolina law by firing her because of her political opinions
and because she expressed those opinions in the workplace.
Place denies Collins' accusations. It contends Collins
lost her job by being rude, disrespectful, and insubordinate
to her superiors.
discovery, Charleston Place moved for summary judgment on all
three of Collins' claims. After the parties briefed the
motion, the Magistrate Judge prepared his R & R. In the R
& R, the Magistrate Judge recommended granting summary
judgment on Collins' two federal claims because Collins
has failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact on
a key element of her claims. As for the state-law claim, the
Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction and dismiss the claim
without prejudice so that Collins may sue in state court.
sides objected to the R & R. Collins objected to the
Magistrate Judge's analysis of her federal claims.
Charleston Place objected to the Magistrate Judge's
recommendation to dismiss Collins' state-law claim. Each
side responded to the other's objections. With Charleston
Place's motion and the objections now fully briefed, this
matter is ripe for consideration.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The R & R has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility for making a final determination remains with
the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71
(1976). This Court must conduct a de novo review of any
portion of the R & R to which a timely, specific
objection is made, and the Court may accept, reject, or
modify the Magistrate Judge's findings and
recommendations in whole or in part. Id.
Court addresses the objections according to the type of claim
Collins' Federal Claims
Title VII claim and her § 1981 claim both turn on the
same allegation: that Charleston Place engaged in racial
discrimination. Plaintiffs asserting such claims may defeat
summary judgment motions either by presenting direct evidence
of racial discrimination in the firing or by presenting
indirect evidence of discrimination that satisfies the
framework the Supreme Court laid out in McDonnell Douglas
Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). E.g.,
Shun-Lung Chao v. Int'l Bus. Mach. Corp., 424 F.
App'x 259, 260 (4th Cir. 2011) (per curiam); Ferguson
v. Waffle House, Inc., 18 F.Supp.3d 705, 718 (D.S.C.
2014); see also Lewis v. Cent. Piedmont Cmty. Coll.,
689 F.2d 1207, 1209 n.3 (4th Cir. 1982) (stating the
McDonnell Douglas framework applies to claims
brought under Title VII and under § 1981).
has not offered any direct evidence of discrimination. She
has instead focused on the McDonnell Douglas
framework, which has three steps. Guessous v. Fairview
Prop. Investments, LLC, 828 F.2d 208, 216 (4th Cir.
2016). First, the plaintiff must establish a prima
facie case of discrimination. Merritt v. Old
Dominion Freight Line, Inc., 601 F.3d 289, 294 (4th Cir.
2010) (citing Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v.
Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-53 (1981)). To establish a
prima facie case of racially discriminatory employee
discipline, a plaintiff must show that: (1) she is a member
of a protected class; (2) she was qualified for her job and
her job performance was satisfactory; (3) she was fired; and
“(4) other employees who are not members of the
protected class were retained under apparently similar
circumstances.” Bryant v. Bell Atl. Md., Inc.,
288 F.3d 124, 133 (4th Cir. 2002). Second, after the
plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the
defendant must produce evidence of a legitimate,
non-discriminatory reason for discharging the employee.
McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802. Finally, if the
defendant meets that burden, the plaintiff must then come
forward with evidence that the defendant's proffered
reasons “were not its true ...