United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
ORDER AND OPINION
Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge.
the Court is the Report and Recommendation ("R &
R") of the Magistrate Judge. (Dkt. No. 51.) recommending
that the Court grant in part, deny in part Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 36.) For the reasons
set forth below, the Court adopts the R & R and grants in
part, denies in part Defendants' Motion for Summary
Shyan Barnett, brought the current action against Defendants
Palmetto Heights Management, LLC d/b/a Airport Inn, Archdale
Development, LLC, and Kamlesh Shah, as an individual,
alleging claims for sexual harassment and retaliation in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. On December 27, 2013,
Plaintiff was hired as a front desk clerk at the Airport Inn.
(Dkt. No. 40 at 3.) (Dkt. No. 36-3 at 40:21-25.) The Airport
Inn is owned and operated by Palmetto Heights Management, LLC
("Palmetto Heights"), a South Carolina limited
liability company owned by Defendant Kamlesh Shah
("Shah"). Mr. Shah is the sole member of Palmetto
Heights. In addition, Mr. Shah is the sole owner and member
of Defendant Archdale Development, LLC
("Archdale"), which owns and operates a neighboring
hotel called the Clarion Inn & Suites
employed at the Airport Inn, Plaintiff alleges she was
subjected to ongoing sexual harassment. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 6.)
In her deposition, Plaintiff testified that Mr. Shah told her
to sell herself and flirt with customers, including leaning
over the counter in order to sell more rooms. (Dkt. No. 36-3
at 39: 6-9, 141: 4-10.) She testified that Mr. Shah made
comments about her body indicating that her breasts and
buttocks were too large. (Dkt. No. 36-3 at 45:21-46:4,
140:24-141:1.) Plaintiff testified that Mr. Shah commented he
liked "good sex and money" (Dkt. No. 36-3 at 49:
18-23, 141:19-6) and commented on the female anatomy that a
woman's private parts "had to be wet." (Dkt.
No. 36-3 at 72: 3-12.) In addition, Plaintiff testified Mr.
Shah commented that "women are beneath men, women
don't know anything unless a man taught her." (Dkt.
No. 36-3 at 66: 11-24.) She indicated Mr. Shah said this
"more times that [she] could count." (Id.)
She testified Mr. Shah also stated on numerous occasions that
"women speak when spoken to." (Dkt. No. 36-3 at
140:18-20.) Plaintiff testified that Mr. Shah physically
touched her on one occasion when he grazed his backside
against Plaintiffs backside. (Dkt. No. 36-3 at 55:9-57:16,
75:1- 76:12.) Plaintiff testified that Mr. Shah's
comments made her feel uncomfortable, threatened, and
intimidated, and despite repeatedly asking him to stop, Mr.
Shah continued to make inappropriate comments to Plaintiff.
(Dkt. No. 36-3 at 143: 14-144:7.) Plaintiff reported Mr.
Shah's behavior to Vivian Faulk, Tiffany Slawson (General
Manager), and Thomas Slawson (Regional Manager). (Dkt. No.
36-3 at 51:13-52:12, 54:16-55:5, 79:19-80:6, 144: 8-11.)
February or early March 2014, Plaintiff claims that she, Ms.
Slawson, and now other former employees met to discuss their
personal experiences with Shah's sexual harassment and
avenues for recourse for his behavior. (Dkt. No. 40 at 4-5;
Dkt. No. 40-1 at 86:14-87:18; Dkt. No. 1-1 at 6.)
Subsequently, Plaintiff was terminated on or around March 8,
2014 for allegedly mishandling guestrooms and stealing money
from the Airport Inn. (Dkt. No. 40-2 at 53:20-54:10; Dkt. No.
40-1 at 105:2-106:25; Dkt. No. 40-8.) Plaintiff disputes this
and claims she was terminated in retaliation for
participating in the meeting regarding Mr. Shah's
inappropriate behavior toward female employees. (Dkt. No. 40
at 4-5; Dkt. No. 40-1 at 102:17-103:7; Dkt. No. 1-1 at 6;
Dkt. No. 40-2 at 52:1-4.)
filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the South
Carolina Human Affairs Commission ("SCHAC")
alleging sex and age discrimination. (Dkt. No. 40-3.) The
EEOC determined there was reasonable cause to conclude that
Plaintiff was discriminated against because of sex
(female/sexual harassment), in violation of Title VII. (Dkt.
No. 40-7.) Plaintiff filed a lawsuit on 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.) Defendants filed a motion
for summary judgment seeking to dismiss all of Plaintiff s
claims. (Dkt. No. 36.) Plaintiff filed a motion in opposition
on April 24, 2019 (Dkt. No. 40) and Defendants filed their
reply on May 13, 2019. (Dkt. No. 44.) The Magistrate Judge
issued an R & R recommending the Court dismiss Plaintiffs
retaliation claim and claims against the individual
Defendant, Mr. Shah, but allow Plaintiffs sexual harassment
claim to go forward. (Dkt. No. 51.) Defendants filed timely
objections to the R & R on October 15, 2019. (Dkt. No.
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, Ml U.S. 317,
322 (1986). The Court will construe all inferences and
ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the non-moving
party. US. 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., Ml 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.
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)).
Report and Recommendation
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 accept the recommendation."
See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins.
Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (internal
quotation omitted). Defendants timely filed objections and
the R & R is reviewed de novo.