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Glover v. Southwest Airlines Co.

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

July 22, 2019

Grady Glover, Plaintiff,
v.
Southwest Airlines, Co., Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Richard M. Gergel United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 41) recommending that the Court grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 22). For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the R & R as the Order of the Court and grants Defendant's Motion.

         I. Facts

         The Court adopts the detailed facts in the R & R, which relies largely on Plaintiff Grady Glover's deposition.[1] (Dkt. No. 41 at 2 - 14.) Plaintiff was a Station Manager in Charleston, South Carolina, for Defendant Southwest Airlines, Co. responsible for managing approximately 47 employees. The incidents leading to this claim began in February 1, 2017, where Plaintiff began to have a contentious relationship with one of his subordinates, an Operations Agent named Danielle Chapman, who initially complained about her rate of pay for an overtime assignment given while she was on vacation, and who later refused a mandatory overtime assignment from Plaintiff. Chapman claimed that Plaintiff yelled at her during meetings between Plaintiff, Chapman, and Chapman's union representative, including a meeting on March 8, 2017, regarding the refusal of overtime and potential discipline for the refusal of overtime, which Plaintiff denies. Chapman was ultimately issued a letter of warning and filed a complaint against Plaintiff regarding his treatment of her.

         Plaintiffs supervisor, Doug Currie, traveled to Charleston to investigate the March 8thincident. Plaintiff drove Currie back to his hotel, and when discussing the incident, Currie stated that he believed the problem was due to a "generational gap."[2] Currie later told Plaintiff to remove the letter of warning to Chapman, which Plaintiff only did after reiteration from Currie. Plaintiff also failed to inform Chapman he had removed the letter. Currie asked the Plaintiff to come to Houston to meet with him on April 6, 2017, in order to discuss how the matter with Chapman could have been handled better. At the time, Plaintiff prepared a three-page letter with twenty-five pages of attachments, detailing his disagreements with Chapman's actions, Currie's managerial decisions, and stating that he believed the statement that the issue was "generational" was discriminatory. He ultimately did not give the letter to Currie and did not discuss the "age discrimination" issue. At the meeting, Currie instructed Plaintiff to sit down with Chapman.

         After the meeting, Plaintiff repeatedly failed to meet with Chapman, missing a key opportunity on April 11, 2017. Plaintiff ultimately met with Chapman on April 20, 2017 but prefaced the meeting by stating Currie directed him to have the conversation. Currie sent Plaintiff a letter of expectation on May 5, 2017, based on Plaintiffs "failure to defuse an emotional situation" and failure to follow Currie's directive to meet with Chapman. The letter further stated that future incidents could lead to discipline, including termination. Plaintiff reported Currie to Employee Relations, claiming Currie's behavior was harassing and retaliatory, and attaching the letter he had previously drafted but had not given to Currie in Houston. Plaintiff also claimed Currie's actions affected Plaintiffs "health and blood pressure."

         Around May 16, 2017, Currie and two other supervisors determined that the best course of action was to separate with Plaintiff, as he had lost the ability to lead and had been insubordinate. Following that determination, Plaintiff participated in a conference call with the two supervisors, again stating that Currie was unreasonable and unjustified, and reiterating that he had not yelled at Chapman. Plaintiff was terminated on June 15, 2017. The letter stated Plaintiff was terminated for improperly handling the incident with Chapman, failed to follow Currie's direction, and had failed to improve following the letter of expectation.

         After receiving a right to sue letter from the EEOC, Plaintiff filed this Complaint, claiming disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), retaliation under the ADA, and a hostile work environment. (Dkt. No. 1.) After removing the case to this Court, Defendant moved for summary judgment, which Plaintiff opposed. (Dkt. Nos. 22, 33.) On June 28, 2019, the Magistrate Judge issued an R & R recommending that summary judgment be granted in favor of Defendant on all claims. (Dkt. No. 41.) Plaintiff filed objections to the R & R. (Dkt. No. 42.)

         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 ...


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