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Watts v. South Carolina Department of Corrections

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

March 11, 2019

Monica Watts, Plaintiff,
v.
South Carolina Department of Corrections, Defendant.

          ORDER

         This matter is before the court for review of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (“Report”) (ECF No. 29) filed on January 29, 2019. Within the Report, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the court grant Defendant South Carolina Department of Corrections' (“SCDC”) Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 21) as it relates to Plaintiff Monica Watts' (“Watts”) claims for wage discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). (ECF No. 29 at 12.) Additionally, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Watts' remaining state law claim for quantum meruit. (Id. at 11-12.) For the reasons stated herein, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report (ECF No. 29), incorporating it herein, GRANTS IN PART SCDC's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 21), as it relates to Watts' claims under Title VII, and REMANDS this matter to the Richland County Court of Common Pleas for further proceedings.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The Report provides a thorough examination of the facts, which this court incorporates herein without a full recitation. (ECF No. 29 at 1-5.) As background, Watts is an African- American female and began working at SCDC in 1991.[1] (Id. at 1; ECF No. 22-2 at 4-5; ECF No. 22-3 at 2.) Watts first served as an administrative specialist at SCDC. (ECF No. 22-2 at 5.) In 2006, Watts was promoted to a Program II Coordinator, Band 6-Level B, with a salary of $37, 905.00. (ECF No. 22-3 at 3; ECF No. 29 at 1.) Since her promotion, Watts has received salary increases, and her salary, as of November 17, 2016, is $44, 055.00. (ECF No. 22-3 at 3.) By 2010, Watts was responsible for coordinating the release of youth offenders in the Division of Young Offender Parole and Reentry Serveries (“YOPRS”) of SCDC. (ECF No. 29 at 2.) On November 2, 2013, Watts was reassigned to the Division of Classification and Women's Facilities. (ECF No. 21-4 at 2.) On January 15, 2016, after David McCall (“McCall”) was appointed as SCDC's Deputy Director of Operations, Watts was transferred back to YOPRS. (ECF No. 22-4 at 5.) Ginny Barr (“Barr”), the Division Director of YOPRS, became Watts' supervisor when she returned to YOPRS. (ECF No. 21-11 at 7.)

         Forde Claffy (“Claffy”) is a Caucasian male who works within the Division of YOPRS as a Program II Coordinator and “covers the whole state.” (ECF No. 23-5 at 5; ECF No. 29 at 2.) In April 2013, Claffy worked as a “coordinator for the Intensive Supervision Services (ISS) Referral and Release Authority, ” which comprised forty-five percent (45%) of his time. (ECF No. 29 at 2.) As of June 2, 2016, Claffy's salary is $61, 389.00. (ECF No. 21-9 at 2.) On February 17, 2016, Barr requested SCDC to assign technical support duties to Claffy in order to meet the “IT demands of the Division.” (ECF No. 22-7 at 2.) Specifically, Barr proposed that Watts could “expand her duties” and “add specific release processes for Intensive Supervision cases currently being managed by [] Claffy to her job duties, ” while Claffy could “add IT management services to his job duties, [including] database administration, data management/collection, and human resources.” (Id.) The formal document memorializing this change, signed on July 22, 2016, indicates that Watts' new job functions included: (1) serving as a coordinator for the “Intensive Supervision Services (ISS) Referral and Release Authority”; (2) screening and auditing all youthful offender records upon admission and prior to release; (3) interpreting sentencing sheets, processing detainers, and tracking offenders; (4) coordinating offender releases with correctional institutions; and (4) serving as a YOPRS liaison with other government agencies. (ECF No. 22-8 at 2-3.) Upon this change, Claffy continued to make $61, 389.00 a year, while Watts continued to make $44, 055.00 a year. (ECF No. 29 at 2-3.) As it relates to Watts' job duties, Barr submits that Watts' previous duties essentially became obsolete, while Watts maintains that she continued to perform many of the same functions. (Id. at 3-4; ECF No. 22-10 at 6-7.)

         On March 4, 2016, Watts submitted a formal request for additional pay to SCDC, based upon her reassigned duties. (ECF No. 22-11 at 2-3.) On July 22, 2016, Watts received a response from Dennis Patterson, SCDC's Assistant Deputy Director for Operations, denying her request because her “current salary is comparable with many of the supervisory staff in the YOPRS Division.” (Id. at 2.) McCall made the final decision regarding Watts' request for a salary increase. (ECF No. 21-13 at 4.) Within his deposition, McCall testified that Watts' pay “was compatible with everybody else's pay.” (Id.) Moreover, McCall specifically identified other supervisory staff within the YOPRS Division to include, Tim Adams (“Adams”), Megan Calamita (“Calamita”), James Meek (“Meek”), Angela Warren (“Warren”), and Ken Wagner (“Wagner”).[2] (ECF No. 22-4 at 16-17.) All of these individuals, including Claffy, were also Program II Coordinators. (ECF No. 21-12 at 6.) Although they possessed the same job title as Watts (ECF No. 21-12 at 6), Adams, Meek, Warren, and Wagner were paid more than Watts. (Id. at 4-5.) As it relates to job duties, Adams, Meek, Warren, and Wagner, all of whom Watts submits are appropriate comparators, were “regional coordinators” supervising approximately sixteen (16) to eighteen (18) field officers. (ECF No. 29 at 5.) SCDC maintains that regional coordinators work seven days a week, are on call “24/7, ” manage twelve counties, and issue warrants. (ECF No. 23-5 at 3.) Since 2012, Watts has only supervised one person and does not have any duties within the field. (ECF No. 23-4 at 3; ECF No. 23 at 5.) As it concerns Calamita, McCall testified that her responsibilities, when she used to be a Program II Coordinator, [3] “were very different” from those of Watts, and Barr testified that she had “two employees that reported to her.” (ECF No. 23-5 at 4.)

         Watts filed her Complaint in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas on August 14, 2017. (ECF No. 1-1 at 4-12.) Watts alleges that SCDC violated Title VII by engaging in unlawful gender and race discrimination. (Id. at 9-10.) Additionally, Watts also brings a quantum meruit claim, premised upon state law, against SCDC. (Id. at 11.) SCDC removed Watts' action to the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina on September 5, 2017, invoking the court's federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (ECF No. 1.)

         The Magistrate Judge filed his Report on January 29, 2019. (ECF No. 29.) In analyzing Watts' Title VII claims, the Magistrate Judge concluded that Watts “has not shown similarities in the level of competency, education, or requirements” between herself and other employees, whom she sought to use as comparators, at SCDC. (Id. at 11.) Because of a lack of proper comparators, the Magistrate Judge found that Watts “fails to present sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of wage discrimination.” (Id.) Turning to Watts' claim for quantum meruit, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the claim because the federal claim requires dismissal, there are no underlying federal policies implicated by the claim, and comity favors declining supplemental jurisdiction over a “quintessential state law question[].” (Id. at 11-12.) On this same day, the Magistrate Judge apprised both parties of their right to file specific objections to the Report. (ECF No. 29-1 at 1.)

         Watts objected to the Magistrate Judge's Report on February 11, 2019. (ECF No. 31.) First, Watts argues that the Magistrate Judge “made an improper determination that [she] did not provide sufficient comparators to make a prima facie case under Title VII.” (Id. at 3-4.) Watts asserts that she and her comparators “shared the same state job title, same supervisor, maintained similar duties, and were evaluated on the same EPMS evaluations.” (Id. at 4.) Watts also maintains that she and her comparators have “similar education levels.” (Id.) Second, Watts submits that the Magistrate Judge erred by determining that her “comparators were not similar enough despite [T]itle VII's relaxed standard [for] valid comparators . . . .” (Id. at 5.) Watts also seems to suggest that the Magistrate Judge resolved a factual dispute as it relates to the comparators. (See id.)

         Shortly after the filing of Watts' Objections, SCDC objected to the Magistrate Judge's Report on February 21, 2019. (ECF No. 32.) SCDC objects only to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation of remanding the remaining state law claim to state court. (Id. at 2.) SCDC asserts that the Magistrate Judge did not consider all of the relevant factors for a supplemental jurisdiction analysis and maintains that the factors, on balance, actually weigh in favor of the court's exercise of supplemental jurisdiction. (Id. at 2-4.) Watts replied to SCDC's Objection on February 20, 2019, arguing that the factors weigh in favor of remanding the state law claim to state court. (ECF No. 33.) Because this matter has been extensively argued and briefed, it is now ripe for the court's review. See generally Sauls v. Wyeth Pharm., Inc., 846 F.Supp.2d 499, 501 (D.S.C. 2012) (“The parties have fully briefed the issues, and this matter is ripe for consideration.”).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. The Magistrate Judge's Report

         The Magistrate Judge's Report is made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. The Magistrate Judge only makes a recommendation to this court, and the recommendation has no presumptive weight. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the court. Id. at 271. As such, the court is charged with making de novo determinations of those portions of the Report to which specific objections are made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3). In the absence of specific objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report, the court is not required to give any explanation for adopting the Report. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). Rather, “in the absence of a timely filed objection, 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.” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note). Thus, the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the Magistrate Judge's recommendation or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         B. Summary Judgement Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)

         A federal court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “[S]ummary judgment is proper ‘if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). In a summary judgment motion, “[a] court must take care to ‘resolve all factual disputes and any competing, rational inferences in the light most favorable' to the party opposing that motion.” Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 316 F.3d 516, 523 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting Wightman v. Springfield Terminal Ry. Co., 100 F.3d 228, 230 (1st Cir. 1996)). Nevertheless, “the nonmoving party . . . must offer some ‘concrete evidence from which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in his [or her] favor.'” Williams v. Genex Servs., LLC, 809 F.3d 103, 109 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, ...


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