United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
ORDER AND OPINION
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
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.
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.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
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.
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
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.
The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation
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.
Summary Judgment Generally
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.