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Johnson v. Lexington County School District Two

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

October 28, 2019

Kindra Simon Johnson, Plaintiff,
Lexington County School District Two, Defendant.


         On March 26, 2018, this court accepted, in part, (“March 2018 Order”) the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (“Report”) (ECF No. 57) and granted Defendant Lexington County School District Two's (“the District”) Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff Kindra Simon Johnson's (“Johnson”) claim for race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 68; ECF No. 69.) The court also, sua sponte, dismissed Johnson's Title VII and Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) claims because the court, at the time, found “no evidence in the record regarding the exhaustion of administrative remedies to support the exercise of jurisdiction” over the those claims. (ECF No. 68 at n. 1.)

         On April 5, 2018, Johnson filed her Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that she did, in fact, exhaust administrative remedies. (ECF No. 70; ECF No. 70-1.) On March 27, 2019, this court granted Johnson's Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment (“March 2019 Order”) and determined that “manifest injustice would occur if Johnson's Title VII and ADA claims are dismissed for failure to exhaust when she did in fact exhaust her administrative remedies.” (ECF No. 77.) In the March 2019 Order, the court informed the parties that “it will consider their substantive arguments regarding Johnson's Title VII and ADA claims” separately. (Id.)

         The court will now address the Magistrate Judge's Report regarding the substantive arguments as to Johnson's Title VII and ADA claims. Based on the court's review of the Report, the court ACCEPTS the Report (ECF No. 57) and GRANTS the remainder of the District's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 42) as to Johnson's Title VII and ADA claims.


         The Report sets forth the relevant facts and legal standards, which this court incorporates herein without a full recitation. (ECF No. 57.) The court concludes, upon its own careful review of the record, that the Magistrate Judge's factual summation is accurate and incorporates it by reference. The court will only reference herein additional facts viewed in the light most favorable to Johnson that are pertinent to the analysis of her claims.

         Johnson is a black female who began working for the District in December 2009. Throughout her employment with the District, Johnson asserts that her race negatively affected her job. On February 12, 2015, Dr. Angela Cooper, the District's Chief Human Resources Officer, was provided with a text message exchange that included Johnson. (ECF No. 42-3 at 1 ¶¶ 1, 5 & 2 ¶ 6.) Upon review of the text messages sent by Johnson (see ECF No. 42-6), Dr. Cooper concluded that she would need to make a recommendation regarding the discipline Johnson should receive to the District's Superintendent. (Id. at 2 ¶¶ 8, 9.) On February 25, 2015, the District placed Johnson on administrative leave “pending an investigation of inappropriate text messages sent to another employee and for interference and misrepresentation of school operations.” (ECF No. 47-1 at 44:187:24-188:2; ECF No. 47-23.) On March 23, 2015, Johnson was informed that the District's Superintendent would be recommending her termination to the District's Board. (ECF No. 47-22.) On March 31, 2015, the District's Board accepted the Superintendent's recommendation regarding Johnson's termination “for violation of technology policies and staff conduct.” (ECF No. 47-23.) The District terminated Johnson on April 1, 2015. (ECF No. 47-1 at 6:35:19-20.)

         Johnson filed an action on October 27, 2015, in the Court of Common Pleas for Lexington County (South Carolina) alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Title VII, and the ADA. Specifically, Johnson alleged claims for (1) hostile work environment and discrimination on account of race (Counts 1 and 4), retaliation (Count 2) and disability discrimination (Count 3). (ECF No. 1-1 at 14-18.) The court dismissed all §1983 claims in its March 2018 Order (ECF No. 68.). The court now reviews Johnson's Title VII and ADA claims.


         A. The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with this court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court reviews de novo only those portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which specific objections are filed and reviews those portions which are not objected to - including those portions to which only “general and conclusory” objections have been made - for clear error. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005); Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983); Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the magistrate judge or recommit the matter with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         B. Summary Judgment Generally

         Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that 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). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or non-existence would affect the disposition of the case under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). A genuine question of material fact exists where, after reviewing the record as a whole, the court finds that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Newport News Holdings Corp. v. Virtual City Vision, 650 F.3d 423, 434 (4th Cir. 2011). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 123-24 (4th Cir. 1990). The non-moving party may not oppose a motion for summary judgment with mere allegations or denial of the movant's pleading, but instead must “set forth specific facts” demonstrating a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986); Shealy v. Winston, 929 F.2d 1009, 1012 (4th Cir. 1991). All that is required is that “sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.


         A.Title ...

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