Argued: May 9, 2019
from the United States District Court for the District of
South Carolina, at Columbia. Terry L. Wooten, Senior District
Shannon Marie Polvi, CROMER BABB PORTER & HICKS, LLC,
Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellant.
Matthew J. Gilley, FORD & HARRISON LLP, Spartanburg,
South Carolina, for Appellee.
Kristin S. Gray, FORD & HARRISON LLP, Spartanburg, South
Carolina, for Appellee.
NIEMEYER, KEENAN, and QUATTLEBAUM, Circuit Judges.
QUATTLEBAUM, CIRCUIT JUDGE:
race-based discrimination, Matthew Perkins brought claims
for: (1) disparate treatment, (2) hostile work environment,
(3) constructive discharge and (4) retaliation against
International Paper Company ("IPC") under Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. §§
2000e, et seq., ("Title
VII"). After discovery, IPC moved for summary
judgment. The district court adopted the magistrate
judge's recommendation to grant IPC's motion
concluding there were no genuine issues of material fact as
to any of his claims. Perkins now appeals that order of
summary judgment. After a de novo review, we affirm.
1984, Perkins, an African American male, began working as a
technician at what is now IPC's Eastover paper mill (the
"Eastover Mill"). Perkins continued working there
until 2014, when he retired. Perkins alleges in his Amended
Complaint that, during his time at IPC, he experienced
race-based discrimination. Our review of the record indicates
that Perkins' evidence of this alleged discrimination
falls into three categories: (1) mistreatment in various ways
compared to white employees; (2) improper denials of requests
for promotions; and (3) racially offensive conduct and
statements at work.
reviewing the details of these categories, we begin with
Perkins' allegations of mistreatment compared to white
employees. Perkins testified that in its program to provide
financial assistance to employees who pursued higher
education, IPC increased the amount of assistance several
years after his benefits had been paid. Perkins said it was
unfair for IPC to deny his 2007 request for retroactive
payment of the new amount when it approved the new amount for
current participants, including white employees. Perkins also
testified that in his department's 2007 ranking of the
technicians for feedback purposes, most of the technicians
ranked near the bottom, including himself, were African
Americans and females. Additionally, Perkins said the
assignment of employees to the twelve-hour shift on the
"wet end" of a machine and the shorter shift on the
"dry end" of the same machine, which began in 2010,
was unfair to African Americans. Perkins testified this
practice stopped after he reported it. Last, Perkins
testified that after the implementation of a policy
monitoring overtime in 2013, he was questioned about the
reasons he was working overtime, but never saw his white
co-workers asked the same questions. Perkins' co-workers
also testified that the IPC workplace rules and practices
were enforced more stringently against African American
employees than white employees and that some white employees
did not talk to and otherwise shunned African American
second category of evidence involves the denials of requests
for promotions. Although he offered minimal detail on the
race or the qualifications of the employees who received the
positions, Perkins testified that, between 2007 and 2013, he
was passed over for several promotion opportunities.
Perkins' co-workers also said that white employees were
promoted more often than African American employees.
record reveals a third category, racially offensive conduct
and statements. Perkins acknowledged no such statements were
made to him or even in his presence while he was at IPC. But
Perkins heard second-hand about a white employee making and
wearing a KKK hat at work in 2006. Also, several years before
2014, he was told that an African American female employee
overheard a white employee, when given a work assignment,
complain that he was being asked to work like a n*****.
addition, Perkins' co-workers testified about incidents
about which Perkins had no knowledge. An African American
female co-employee testified she was told by other
technicians that a white male technician referred to her on
multiple occasions as a black b***h and a n*****. Two other
African American co-employees testified that an African
American male employee told them of an instance where a white
male employee told the African American male he had come
through the "white door" and needed to go back out
of the building and enter through the "black door."
The co-workers did not testify as to when these comments were
this backdrop, Perkins testified about his departure from
IPC. After approximately 30 years at IPC, in the Spring of
2014, Perkins began considering retirement. He also explored
other employment options. Specifically, Perkins applied for
employment as a full-time case worker with a non-profit
organization for which he had volunteered in the past.
while still at IPC, one of the managers in his department
accused Perkins of failing to complete his job
responsibilities the prior week. According to Perkins, the
uncompleted work was another worker's responsibility, not
his. Perkins testified that because of this incident, he felt
IPC would get rid of him if he did not leave. While he did
not officially retire until two and one-half months later,
Perkins never returned to work. During the time period from
the day he stopped working until his retirement, Perkins
received accumulated vacation and holiday leave pay. Just
three days after the accusation about his job
responsibilities, Perkins began full-time employment with the
he stopped working at IPC, an IPC human resources manager
conducted Perkins' exit interview. In the interview,
Perkins said that his job at IPC was the best job he ever
had, but the opportunity came at a significant price. He
reported the treatment outlined above. Perkins also said
educated minorities cannot make it in his former department.
He claimed that his department manager covered up for and
protected another employee, was a hot head, did not listen,
never gave him any feedback and did not follow procedures.
Perkins said no one at IPC thanked him for working during an
ice storm. Perkins claimed he left IPC because he had no
ability to provide a positive influence, was devalued, could
not sleep at night, and experienced racism and prejudice.
Perkins added that high blood pressure and shoulder pain were
additional reasons he left.
later filed a complaint with IPC's Ethics Helpline and
met with the Eastover Mill Manager. In both the complaint and
meeting, Perkins repeated the allegations of discrimination
he reported in his exit interview. On November 1, 2014, Perkins
officially retired from IPC.
January 8, 2015, Perkins filed a charge of discrimination
with the South Carolina Humans Affairs Commission
("SCHAC") and the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission ("EEOC") alleging race discrimination,
retaliation and disparate treatment. Perkins alleged that
from April 1, 2014, through November 1, 2014, he was
subjected to disparate terms and conditions. After receiving
his right-to-sue letter, Perkins filed a lawsuit against IPC
in state court. IPC removed the case to federal court and,
after discovery, moved for summary judgment. The magistrate
judge recommended that summary judgment be granted as to all
of Perkins' claims. The district court adopted the
recommendation granting IPC's motion for summary
judgment. Perkins timely appealed.
Court "review[s] the district court's grant of
summary judgment de novo, applying the same legal standards
as the district court and viewing the facts and inferences
drawn from the facts in the light most favorable to . . . the
nonmoving party." Evans v. Techs. Applications &
Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 958 (4th Cir. 1996). Summary
judgment should be granted when "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). When a
party fails to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's case, there is no genuine issue
of material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as
a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322-23 (1986). To avoid summary judgment, the opposing
party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If there are genuine
issues of material fact, a court should not weigh the
evidence. Id. at 249. But "where the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary
judgment is appropriate." Teamsters Joint Council
No. 83 v. Centra, Inc., 947 F.2d 115, 119 (4th Cir.
Perkins' claims are based on Title VII. Title VII
prohibits discrimination "against any individual with
respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges
of employment, because of such individual's race . . .
." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2. This provision is sometimes
referred to as the "anti-discrimination" provision.
In a separate section, Title VII outlaws discrimination based
an employee's opposition to conduct made unlawful by
Title VII or participation in any Title VII investigation,
proceeding or hearing. 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e-3. This
provision is sometimes referred to as the
"anti-retaliation" provision. Perkins' claims
for disparate treatment, hostile work environment and
constructive discharge fall under § 2000e-2. His
retaliation claim falls under § 2000e-3.
appeal, Perkins argues the district court erred in granting
IPC summary judgment on each of his claims. With respect to
his disparate treatment claim, Perkins argues the district
court did not even address this claim, but instead improperly
relied on the magistrate judge's decision on timeliness.
With respect to the hostile work environment claim, Perkins
argues he provided sufficient evidence of a severe or
pervasive environment. With respect to his constructive
discharge claim, Perkins appears to argue that the same facts
that establish a hostile work environment establish a
constructive discharge. Last, regarding his retaliation
claim, Perkins argues ...