United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Clifton J. Waiters, Plaintiff,
Science Applications International Corporation, doing business as SAIC, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
HOWE HENDRICKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court for review of the Report and
Recommendation entered by United States Magistrate Judge
Bristow Marchant on May 10, 2019 (“Report”). (ECF
No. 63.) In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and
Local Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina, this
case was referred to Magistrate Judge Marchant for pretrial
handling. In his Report, the Magistrate Judge recommends that
Defendant Science Applications International
Corporation’s, doing business as SAIC,
(“Defendant” or “SAIC”) motion to
dismiss be granted in part and denied in part. (See
ECF No. 63 at 23–24.) The Report sets forth in detail
the relevant facts and standards of law, and the Court
incorporates them here without recitation.
Magistrate Judge entered his Report on May 10, 2019,
recommending: (1) that Defendants motion to dismiss be
granted with respect to Plaintiff’s Title VII failure
to promote claim, national origin retaliation claim, any
state law claims, any claim for constructive discharge, and
Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim; and (2) the
motion to dismiss be denied with respect to Plaintiff’s
42 U.S.C. § 1981 failure to promote claim, and
Plaintiff’s Title VII and § 1981 retaliation
claim. (Id.) On May 31, 2019, Defendant filed
objections challenging those portions of the Report that
recommend denial of SAIC’s motion and asserting that
the Court should grant SAIC’s motion in its entirety.
(ECF No. 68.) On June 19, 2019, Plaintiff Clifton J. Waiters
(“Plaintiff”) filed a reply to Defendants’
objections, requesting that the Court adopt the Report and
allow the case to proceed to the discovery phase. (ECF No.
73.) The matter is ripe for consideration and the Court now
makes the following ruling.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976).
The Court is charged with making a de novo
determination of any portion of the Report of the Magistrate
Judge to which a specific objection is made. The Court may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or recommit the
matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). 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).
Court will confine its analysis to those portions of the
Report to which Defendant raises a specific objection. Other
than the Magistrate Judge’s findings and
recommendations with respect to Plaintiff’s § 1981
failure to promote claim and Title VII and § 1981
retaliation claim, the parties agree that the Court should
adopt the Report. (See ECF Nos. 68 at 1; 73 at 1.)
Accordingly, the Court hereby adopts all findings and
recommendations of the Magistrate Judge to which there has
been no objection.
Plaintiff’s § 1981 Failure to Promote
Magistrate Judge found that for purposes of a motion to
dismiss Plaintiff met the standard established by the U.S.
Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green,
411 U.S. 792 (1973), through allegations sufficient to
reasonably infer a prima facie case of race
discrimination in the form of a failure to promote by
showing: (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he was
qualified for the job at issue; (3) he was subjected to an
adverse employment action; and (4) the position was filled by
someone who is not a member of his protected class, or there
is some other evidence sufficient to give rise to an
inference of unlawful discrimination. (ECF No. 63 at
9–10.) Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge concluded that
Defendant is not entitled to dismissal of Plaintiff’s
§ 1981 racial discrimination claim at this stage.
(Id. at 11.)
argues that the Court should not adopt the recommendation to
deny the motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s § 1981
racial discrimination claim for two reasons: (1) Plaintiff
fails to state facts to plausibly show he suffered an adverse
employment action since he does not allege that he would have
had any changes to the terms, conditions, or benefits of his
employment if he were Theater Lead; and (2) Plaintiff does
not allege sufficient facts demonstrating SAIC’s
assignment of the Theater Lead position to Wes Hahn
(“Hahn”) was because of Plaintiff’s race.
(See ECF No. 68 at 2.)
respect to the first argument, Defendant contends that the
amended complaint fails to identify what the job
responsibilities of the Theater Lead position were, or how
that position compared to Plaintiff’s undescribed
position in terms of responsibility, compensation, benefits,
conditions, and terms of employment. (See ECF No. 68
at 5, 7.) This argument is without merit and the cases cited
by Defendant in support of it (see Id . at
8–13) are unavailing. The clear import of
Plaintiff’s allegations in the amended complaint is
that Defendant favored a white employee over him because of
his race in appointing the white employee to a position that
would have been a promotion for Plaintiff. The Court
finds that this is sufficient to state a plausible claim for
relief from race discrimination pursuant to § 1981. The
Magistrate Judge was correct to conclude that the issue of
whether or not the Theater Lead position would have been a
promotion for Plaintiff is a fact to be determined based on
the evidence. (See ECF No. 63 at 10–11.) This
analysis evinces no error and the objection is overruled.
respect to the second argument, Defendant contends that
Plaintiff’s allegations are insufficient to state a
claim because he only asserts that a Caucasian male received
the Theater Lead position, not that Plaintiff did
not receive that position because of his race.
(See ECF No. 68 at 7–8.) This argument, like
the first, lacks merit and the cases Defendant cites in
support of it (see Id . at 13–16) do not bear
Defendant’s preferred conclusion on the viability of
Plaintiff’s claim. Defendant oversimplifies the
allegations in the amended complaint, stating, “By
alleging nothing more than that Plaintiff is a member of a
protected class, and Hahn, who received the Theater Lead
position, is not, Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint suffers
from the same vagaries that resulted in dismissal of the
Carroll [v. United Parcel Serv. Inc., C/A
No. 1:17-cv-03108-DCC, 2018 WL 4111017 (D.S.C.)]
plaintiff’s Section 1981 claim.” (Id. at
14.) However, Plaintiff’s allegations are not as devoid
of detail as Defendant would suggest. Plaintiff’s
amended complaint asserts that Hahn had not completed the
training that Plaintiff was informed was a prerequisite for
eligibility for the position (See Am. Compl.
¶¶ 13–18, ECF No. 49), a fact which could
tend to support the inference that the reason Plaintiff was
passed over was because of his race. Moreover, Plaintiff
alleges that three of his friends who were also African
American applied for the position and were likewise passed
over. (Id. ¶ 18.) Finally, Plaintiff draws the
inference that race was a motivating factor behind the
election of a Theater Lead in the context of his other
allegations, which include a supervisor treating Plaintiff
and his African American colleagues differently than
Caucasian employees when it came to transportation between
the various military bases where they worked. (Id.
¶ 22.) The Court finds that these allegations are
sufficient to plausibly state a prima facie case
that Plaintiff’s race was part of Defendant’s
motive for not promoting Plaintiff. The Magistrate
Judge’s analysis evinces no error and the objection is
Plaintiff’s Title VII and § 1981 ...