United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on defendant Bishop Gadsden
Episcopal Retirement Community's (“Gadsden”)
motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 29. For the reasons set
forth below, the court denies Gadsden's motion for
Carol Anne Smith (“Smith”), who is African
American, began working for Gadsden as a
“CNA” on May 16, 2013. Am. Compl. ¶¶
10, 12. A short time thereafter, Smith was promoted to
“concierge.” Id. ¶ 12.
Gadsden's then-Director, Ryan Coker, promised Smith an
hourly raise and a monthly bonus based on commission, which
was scheduled to go into effect on September 15, 2014.
Id. ¶¶ 12, 13. Shortly thereafter, Ryan
Coker resigned and was replaced by Marissa Ferguson
(“Ferguson”), a Caucasian woman. Id.
¶ 13. Smith was never given the promised hourly raise
and monthly commission. Id. ¶ 16, 17. When
Smith discussed this issue with Ferguson, as well as with
Gadsden's Director of Payroll and Director of Human
Resources, she was simply told that Ferguson could not
determine the amount of Smith's bonus. Id.
from Gadsden's failure to pay the agreed-upon raise and
commission, Smith claims she was also subjected to disparate
treatment during her employment, receiving reprimands for the
same actions that other, Caucasian employees engaged in
without any repercussions. Id. ¶¶ 18, 19.
Smith was ultimately terminated on January 5, 2016.
Id. ¶ 26. Gadsden provided other reasons for
the termination, but Smith alleges that her termination was
Gadsden's retaliation for her reporting the payment
discrepancies and racial discrimination, as well as for a
worker's compensation claim she had commenced following a
work-related injury. Id. ¶ 25, 27.
filed the instant action on September 14, 2016, and filed an
amended complaint on March 23, 2017. The amended complaint
brings the following claims: (1) racial discrimination in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as
amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000(e) et seq. (“Title
VII”) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act
(“EEOA”); (2) retaliation for Smith complaining
to Gadsden about racial discrimination, in violation of Title
VII and the EEOA; (3) hostile work environment, in violation
of Title VII; (4) violation of the South Carolina Payment of
Wages Act, SC Code of Laws § 41-10-40, for refusing to
pay Smith for wages due; (5) violation of the federal Fair
Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), for failing to pay
the wages owed to Smith; (6) conversion; and (7) retaliatory
discharge in violation of S.C. Code of Laws § 41-1-80,
as amended. Id. ¶ 32-81.
April 6, 2017, Gadsden moved to dismiss Smith's FLSA and
conversion claims. ECF No. 21. On April 20, 2017, Smith filed
a response, conceding that she had failed to state a claim
under the FLSA, but arguing that her conversion claim should
go forward. ECF No. 23. On May 24, 2017, the court dismissed
the conversion claim without prejudice. ECF No. 28. On July
6, 2017, Gadsden moved for summary judgment on Smith's
remaining claims. ECF No. 29. Smith responded on July 20,
2017, ECF No. 32, and Gadsden replied on July 27, 2017, ECF
No. 33. This motion has been fully briefed and is now ripe
for the court's review.
judgment shall be granted “if the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Rule 56(c) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that the district
court enter judgment against a party who, ‘after
adequate time for discovery . . . fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.'” Stone v.
Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 105 F.3d 188, 190 (4th Cir. 1997)
(quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986)). “By its very terms, this standard provides
that the 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 issue of material fact.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
247-48 (1986). “Only disputes over facts that might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will
properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.”
Id. at 248. “[S]ummary judgment will not lie
if the dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine, '
that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.
the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not
himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Id. at 249. When the party moving for
summary judgment does not bear the ultimate burden of
persuasion at trial, it may discharge its burden by
demonstrating to the court that there is an absence of
evidence to support the non-moving party's case.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).
The non-movant must then “make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.” Id. at 322.
reasonable inferences are to be drawn in favor of the
nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255,
Webster v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 685 F.3d 411,
421 (4th Cir. 2012). However, to defeat summary judgment, the
nonmoving party must rely on more than conclusory
allegations, mere speculation, the building of one inference
upon another, or the mere existence of a scintilla of
evidence. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252;
Stone, 105 F.3d at 191. Rather, “a party
opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment . .
. must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is
a genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat v.
Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522
(4th Cir. 2003) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) (2002) (amended
2010)). If the adverse party fails to provide evidence
establishing that the fact-finder could reasonably decide in
his favor, then summary judgment shall be entered
“regardless of ‘[a]ny proof or evidentiary
requirements imposed by the substantive law.'”
Id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).
moves for summary judgment, claiming that the doctrine of
judicial estoppel bars Smith from bringing claims in this
court that she concealed before the United States Bankruptcy
Court (“Bankruptcy Court”). Def.'s Mot. 1.
Gadsden contends that Smith's failure to disclose to her
actual legal claims against Gadsden to the Bankruptcy Court
essentially represented to the Bankruptcy Court that those
claims did not exist. Id. at 9. According to
Gadsden, therefore, Smith's assertion before this court
that she has valid claims against Bishop Gadsden “is a
factual assertion inconsistent with her previous position in
the Bankruptcy Court that she had no contingent or
unliquidated claims.” Id. at 10 (internal
quotations omitted). In response, Smith asserts that she did
in fact disclose her potential wrongful termination claim to
the Bankruptcy Court. Pl.'s Resp. 7.
undisputed timeline of key events is helpful in understanding
Gadsden's argument. On January 6, 2016, Smith was
terminated by Gadsden. On April 11, 2016, Smith completed an
Intake Questionnaire with the EEOC stating her intent to file
a charge against Gadsden. On April 18, 2016, Smith filed a
Chapter 13 Voluntary Petition in the United States Bankruptcy
Court for the District of South Carolina. Def.'s Mot. 4,
Pl.'s Resp. 5-6. On June 9, 2017, Smith filed a charge