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Stroman v. Barefoot

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

March 21, 2018

Shaneeka Monet Stroman, Plaintiff,
v.
Tiwana Barefoot; Randy Young; Meghan Blackwell, Paralegal; Dolgencorp, LLC, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Through this action, Shaneeka Monet Stroman (“Plaintiff”) seeks recovery from Tiwana Barefoot, Randy Young, Meghan Blackwell, and Dolgencorp, LLC (collectively “Defendants”) for events relating to Plaintiff's employment. ECF No. 1. The matter is before the court on Defendants' motion to dismiss in favor of arbitration, which motion is treated as a motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 24.[1] For reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Complaint. Plaintiff asserts a single cause of action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17 (“Title VII”). ECF No. 1 at 3 (§ II). She alleges Defendants failed to hire and/or promote her and subjected her to unequal terms and conditions of employment based on her race, color and gender. Id. at 4 (§ III). More specifically, she alleges Defendant “Barefoot acknowledged that the company hired” Plaintiff but then failed to put her “on the clock.” Two weeks later, Plaintiff observed a white male working at the location where she had applied to work and, on questioning him, learned he was new and had been placed “on the clock” by Barefoot. Id. at 5 (§ III).

         Report and Recommendation.

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 (B)(2), D.S.C., this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges for pre-trial proceedings and a Report and Recommendation (“Report”). On January 23, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report recommending Defendants' motion to dismiss in favor of arbitration be treated as a motion for summary judgment and be granted. ECF No. 43.

         The Report notes Defendants' reliance on uncontroverted testimony of Debbie Roach (a human resources officer for Defendant Dolencorp, LLC) that Plaintiff executed the Dollar General Employee Arbitration Agreement (“Agreement”) through the company's “Express Hiring” system. Id. at 2. The Report finds this evidence satisfies Defendants' initial burden of showing the parties entered into an enforceable arbitration agreement, shifting the burden to Plaintiff to show that, despite the written contract, she did not actually agree to it because (1) her signature was forged, (2) the terms of the contract were misrepresented, or (3) some other reason evincing lack of true agreement. ECF No. 43 at 5.

         The Report found no evidence to support any of these factors, explaining as follows:

Defendants' records reflect that on December 20, 2016, Plaintiff logged into the Express Hiring system using her unique login identification No. and password, to which no one else had access . . . [and, while logged in] selected the option stating that she agreed to the terms of the Agreement, and that she understood and acknowledged that by checking the box, both Dollar General and she would be bound by the terms of the Agreement. . . . Defendants' records reflect that Plaintiff thereafter affixed her initials to the document, certifying that the above information was true and correct and agreeing to the conditions of hiring.

ECF No. 43 at 6. After concluding this evidence satisfies Defendants' threshold showing of authenticity, the Report addressed Plaintiff's arguments as follows:

Despite submitting two responses in opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss, Plaintiff has failed to substantively contest the authenticity of her signature or the validity of the arbitration provision contained in the Agreement. Absent a showing that Plaintiff's signature was forged, the terms of the contract were misrepresented, or some other reason evincing lack of true agreement, Plaintiff has not sustained her burden of demonstrating a genuine dispute of fact concerning enforceability of the agreement.

Id. at 8; see also Id. at 8, 9 (finding other requirements for enforcement of arbitration agreement satisfied).

         The Magistrate Judge advised the parties of the procedures and requirements for filing objections to the Report and the serious consequences if they failed to do so. Plaintiff filed objections on February 8, 2018. ECF No. 49.[2] Defendants filed a response on February 22, 2018. ECF No. 50. The matter is now ripe for resolution.

         STANDARD

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with the court. Mathews v. Weber,423 U.S. 261 (1976). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of any portion of the Report to which a specific objection is made. The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of a specific objection, the court reviews only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (“in the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo ...


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