Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Sambrano v. Palmetto Heights Management LLC

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

September 30, 2019

Penny Sambrano, Plaintiff,
v.
Palmetto Heights Management, LLC, d/b/a Airport Inn; Archdale Development, LLC; and Kamlesh Shah, individually, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MARY GORDON BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court upon Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 36). Pursuant to the provisions of Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g), D.S.C., all pretrial matters in employment discrimination cases are referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for consideration. For the reasons set forth herein, the undersigned recommends that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 36) be granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was hired as a sales representative and front desk clerk at the Clarion Inn & Suites (“Clarion”) in North Charleston on September 27, 2012. (Dkt. No. 40 at 2; Dkt. No. 36-2 at 50:16- 52:24.) The Clarion is owned and operated by Defendant Archdale Development, LLC (“Archdale”), a South Carolina limited liability company owned by Defendant Kamlesh Shah (“Shah”). (Dkt. No. 40 at 1-2; Dkt. No. 36-1 at 2; see also Dkt. No. 36-3 at 26:3-29:10.) Shah is the sole member of Archdale. (Id.) Additionally, he is the sole owner and member of Defendant Palmetto Heights, LLC (“Palmetto Heights”), which owns and operates a neighboring hotel called the Airport Inn. (Id.)

         During the course of her employment at the Clarion, Plaintiff contends that she was “subjected to ongoing sexual harassment” by Shah. (Dkt. No. 40 at 3; Dkt. No. 1-1 at 6.) Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Shah pressured her to wear short skirts and tight, low-cut shirts that would expose her breasts in order to increase sales (Dkt. No. 36-2 at 80:14-15, 81:2-4, 82:19- 83:2; Dkt. No. 40 at 2-4; Dkt. No. 1-1 at 6); directed Plaintiff to flirt with customers and essentially “go sell sex, ” (Dkt. No. 36-2 at 84:22-85:2; Dkt. No. 40 at 2, 4); made frequent remarks to Plaintiff about her breasts (Dkt. No. 36-2 at 87:23-88:7; Dkt. No. 1-1 at 6); made comments to Plaintiff about “wet pussy” and “getting head, ” (Dkt. No. 36-2 at 102:25-103:8; Dkt. No. 40 at 2; Dkt. No. 1-1 at 6); told Plaintiff that his two favorite things in life are “money and good pussy, ” (Dkt. No. 36-2 at 89:13-19; Dkt. No. 40 at 2-4; Dkt. No. 1-1 at 6); commented that he liked “big asses, ” (Dkt. No. 36-2 at 94:1-9, 109:11-22; Dkt. No. 40 at 2; Dkt. No. 1-1 at 6); grabbed his genitals in front of Plaintiff and stated, “it's large, ” (Dkt. No. 36-2 at 110:17-20; Dkt. No. 40 at 2; Dkt. No. 1-1 at 6); and remarked that a woman is nothing without a man behind her (Dkt. No. 36-2 at 89:13- 19, 91:21-92:2; Dkt. No. 40 at 2; Dkt. No. 1-1 at 6).

         Plaintiff found Shah's gestures and comments to be offensive, embarrassing, shocking and abrasive, (Dkt. No. 36-2 at 84:22-85:2, 88:4-11, 89:20-91:11; 94:19-22, 100:15-20, 104:3-12), and despite telling him to stop, Shah continued to make inappropriate sexual remarks to Plaintiff. (Id. at 85:18-23, 111:2-16; Dkt. No. 40 at 4.) In fact, Plaintiff claims that she came to expect Shah's “unethical” behavior on a daily basis. (Dkt. No. 36-2 at 111:2-16.) Although Plaintiff informally complained about Shah's ongoing conduct to the Airport Inn's General Manager Tiffany Slawson (“Ms. Slawson”), Plaintiff did not officially report Shah's conduct for fear that he would retaliate against her and terminate her employment. (Dkt. No. 36-2 at 87:7-12, 91:1-11, No. 92:19-24, 108:20-25, 113:6-14, 120:11-121:12.) Plaintiff claims, however, that Regional Manager Tom Slawson (“Mr. Slawson”)[1] was generally aware of Shah's inappropriate behavior. (Dkt. No. 36-2 at 119:25-120:10, 145:23-146:4, 146:21-147:8; Dkt. No. 40 at 4.)

         In April 2014, Plaintiff's employment at the Clarion was terminated by the new General Manager Vivian Faulk (“Ms. Faulk”). (Dkt. No. 40 at 2; Dkt. No. 36-1 at 6; Dkt. No. 36-2 at 122:16-21, 147:12-14.) Following the termination of her employment, Plaintiff claims that she met with Ms. Slawson and other now former Clarion/Airport Inn employees to discuss, among other things, their individual experiences with Shah's sexual harassment and possible recourse for his behavior. (Dkt. No. 36-2 at 113:3-5, 115:1-23, 117:1-19; 147:19-24.) Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination (“Charge”) with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (“SCHAC”) and Equal Employment Opportunity Committee (“EEOC”) on or around July 2, 2014, alleging sex discrimination. (Dkt. No. 40-4.) Notably, Plaintiff did not allege a claim of retaliation in her Charge. (Id.) Plaintiff provided the following narrative in support of her discrimination claim:

I was sexually harassed from on or about March 1, 2013, through on or about April 13, 2014 by Mr. Kam Shaw [sic], Owner.[2] On several occasions, Mr. Shaw made unwelcome sexual advances and sexual comments about my appearance. In fear of retaliation, I did not report the sexual harassment. Similarly-situated males were not subjected to such treatment.
I therefore believe I was discriminated against because of my sex (female/including sexual harassment) in violation of the S.C. Human Affairs Law, as amended and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

(Id. at 1.)

         On August 30, 2017, the EEOC issued its determination on the merits of Plaintiff's Charge and found that the evidence was sufficient to show that Plaintiff “was subjected to severe and pervasive unwelcome sexual comments by [Shah].” (Dkt. No. 40-8.) The EEOC therefore determined that there was “reasonable cause to conclude that [Plaintiff] was discriminated against because of sex (female/sexual harassment), in violation of Title VII.” (Id.)

         After receiving notice of her right to sue, Plaintiff filed this action in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas, Charleston County, on or around December 27, 2017, (Dkt. No. 1-1), and Defendants removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina on January 25, 2018 (Dkt. No. 1). Plaintiff's Complaint alleges two causes of action against Defendants: retaliation and sexual harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”). (Dkt. No. 1-1.) On March 29, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment seeking dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims. (Dkt. No. 36.) Plaintiff filed her Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on April 24, 2019, (Dkt. No. 40), and Defendants filed their Reply on May 13, 2019, (Dkt. No. 45).

         In addition to the instant action, two now former employees of Shah-Ms. Slawson and Shyan Barnett (“Barnett”)-have filed companion cases alleging similar claims of sexual harassment and retaliation against those same Defendants named in Plaintiff's Complaint. See Slawson v. Palmetto Heights Management LLC et al, No. 2:18-CV-00217-RMG-MGB and Barnett v. Palmetto Heights Management LLC et al, No. 2:18-CV-00204-RMG-MGB. The instant action was consolidated with these companion cases for discovery purposes only. (Dkt. No. 40 at 1 n.1.)

         LEGAL ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.