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Lawrence v. Detyens Shipyards Inc.

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

October 22, 2018

Herman Lawrence, Plaintiff,
Detyens Shipyards, Inc. and Hitrak Staffing, Inc., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 35) recommending that the Court grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 28). Plaintiff filed objections to the R & R. (Dkt. Nos. 39.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the R & R as the order of the Court.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Herman Lawrence is an African-American man and was hired as a temporary worker by Defendant Hitrak Staffing, Inc. ("Hitrak"), a staffing agency, to work for Defendant Detyens Shipyards, Inc. ("Detyens") in January 2014. Temporary assignments generally last no longer than ninety days, yet after ninety days he had not been hired as a Detyens employee. (Dkt. No. 30.) Plaintiff alleges that this was based on his race. (Dkt. No. 30-4 at 237 - 239.) Plaintiff also alleges he complained to a supervisor, Larry Reynolds, that the only reason he was not hired was because of his "skin tone." (Dkt. No. 28-4 at 194: 15 - 25.) Plaintiff was hired as a Detyens employee on August 4, 2014. (Dkt. No. 28-3 at 13 - 14.)

         After Plaintiff was hired, Jim Youker, the Human Resources Director, received three Complaints within a six month period regarding inappropriate behavior by Plaintiff. In the first, on April 23, 2015, a painter complained that Plaintiff "yell[ed] at him," "us[ed] bad language" and kicked a bucket which got chemicals all over the painter. (Dkt. No. 28-3 at 16 - 17.) Plaintiff received a verbal warning. The second complaint, on June 22, 2015, from a subordinate, alleged that the Plaintiff had "started cussing" at him, called the employee the "[n-word]" and told the employee that he is "going to make me F- him up." (Dkt. No. 28-3 at 18 - 20.) Youker interviewed two employee witnesses about the complaint. (Id.) Plaintiff acknowledged having a "verbal confrontation." (Dkt. No. 28-4 at 18: 5-7.) Plaintiff was suspended for three days. (Dkt. No. 28-3 at 20.) Finally, on October 22, 2015, a third employee complained that Plaintiff had hit him in the face and knocked him backwards onto the floor after getting into a verbal confrontation. (Dkt. No. 28-3 at 21.) Three witnesses confirmed that there was a verbal confrontation and that the Plaintiff shoved another employee. (Id. at 21 - 24.) Plaintiff was terminated on October 23, 2015. (Id. at 21 - 25.) Plaintiff further alleges that while he was employed, he was subject to rumors that he had murdered his wife, who is white, and had been present for a racially-charged joke made by a fellow employee regarding a "hanging tree." (Dkt. No. 30-1 at 10.)

         Plaintiff brought claims that he was terminated for discriminatory and retaliatory reasons, and was subject to a hostile work environment.[1] (Dkt. No. 1-1.) Defendants moved for summary judgment, and Plaintiff opposed. (Dkt. Nos. 28, 30.) The Magistrate Judge recommended granting summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 35.)

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Summary Judgment

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of identifying the portions of the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, any admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Court will construe all inferences and ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the non-moving party. U.S. v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). The existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). However, an issue of material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-movant. Id. at 257.

         "When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "In the language of the Rule, the nonmoving party must come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Id. (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)).

         B. Report and Recommendation

         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 this Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 - 71 (1976). This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objection is made. Additionally, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of any specific objections, "a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005). Plaintiff filed objections and the R & R is reviewed de novo.

         III. Discussion

         As an initial matter, Plaintiff concedes that summary judgment should be granted on his claims against Hitrak. The Court agrees ...

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