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Williams v. NHC Healthcare/Bluffton, LLC

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

March 6, 2018

Tyrone Williams, Plaintiff,
NHC Healthcare/Bluffton, LLC, Defendant.



         This matter is before the court on United States Magistrate Judge Marchant Bristow's report and recommendation ("R&R"), ECF No. 30, that the court deny defendant NHC Healthcare/Bluffton, LLC's ("NHC") motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 21. For the reasons set forth below, the court adopts the R&R and denies NHC's motion for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         This case arises out of the alleged sexual harassment and retaliation of plaintiff Tyrone Williams ("Williams") while employed as a sous chef by NHC, a long-term care facility. R&R 2. Specifically, Williams contends that another employee sexually harassed him on multiple occasions, NHC knew about and failed to remedy the harassment, and as a result of his complaints of the harassment to supervisors, he was terminated. The R&R ably recites the detailed facts of the case, and because it is unnecessary to recapitulate the complaint, pleadings, depositions, and exhibits constituting the factual record, this order dispenses with a recitation thereof. Like the R&R, the court construes the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party in considering the motion for summary judgment.

         B. Procedural Background

         Williams brings two causes of action for sexual harassment/hostile work environment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2000e-17. Compl. 5-7. On August 14, 2017, NHC filed the instant motion for summary judgment as to both causes of action. On September 26, 2017, Williams filed a response in opposition, ECF No. 24, and on October 17, 2017, NHC filed a reply thereto, ECF No. 28.

         On December 14, 2017, the magistrate judge issued the R&R, recommending that the court deny NHC's motion for summary judgment, allowing Williams's" claims to proceed to trial. The R&R specifically advised the parties of the procedure for filing objections thereto and the consequences if they failed to do so. R&R 25-26. On December 28, 2017, NHC timely filed objections to the R&R, ECF No. 31, and on January 11, 2018, Williams filed a reply thereto, ECF No. 32. The matter is now ripe for the court's review.


         A. R&R

         The magistrate judge makes only a recommendation to the court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976). The recommendation carries no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the court. Id. at 270-71. The court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge ... or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of any portion of the R&R to which a specific objection is made. Id. However, in the absence of a timely filed, specific objection, the court reviews the R&R only for clear error. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). Furthermore, "[a] party's general objections are not sufficient to challenge a magistrate judge's findings." Greene v. Quest Diagnostics Clinical Labs., Inc., 455 F.Supp.2d 483, 488 (D.S.C. 2006) (citation omitted). When a party's objections are directed to strictly legal issues "and no factual issues are challenged, de novo review of the record may be dispensed with:" Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982) (citation omitted). Analogously, de novo review is unnecessary when a party makes general and conclusory objections without directing a court's attention to a specific error in the magistrate judge's proposed findings. Id., Finally, the failure to file specific, written objections to the R&R results in a party's waiver of the right to appeal from the judgment of the district court based upon such recommendation. United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91, 94 (4th Cir. 1984).

         B. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows 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(a). A genuine issue of material fact exists if the evidence presented could lead a reasonable fact finder to return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.. 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The court must view all facts and draw all reasonable inferences from the evidence before it in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id. The party moving for summary judgment "bears the initial burden of pointing to the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Temkin v. Frederick Cty, Comm'rs, 945 F.2d 716, 718 (4th Cir. 1991) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). If the movant carries this burden, then the burden "shifts to the non-moving party to come forward with facts sufficient to create a triable issue of fact." Id. at 718-19 (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48). "A mere scintilla of evidence supporting the [non-moving party's] case is insufficient" to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 798 (4th Cir. 1994); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256 (noting that a non-moving party "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but. .. must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial").

         III. ...

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