United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
Sheralet P. Taylor, Plaintiff
Lexington County Sheriff's Department & Lexington County Detention Center, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE Senior United States District Judge
this action, Plaintiff Sheralet P. Taylor
(“Plaintiff”) seeks recovery from her former
employers, Lexington County Sheriff's Department and
Lexington County Detention Center (“Defendants”),
alleging state law claims for breach of contract,
workers' compensation retaliation, and wrongful discharge
in violation of public policy, as well as a violation of the
Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). ECF. No.
The matter is before the court on Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment, filed July 3, 2019. ECF No. 34. Plaintiff
filed her response in opposition on July 17, 2019. ECF No.
36. Defendants filed a reply. ECF No. 37.
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule
73.02 (B)(2)(g), D.S.C., this matter was referred to United
States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett for pre-trial
proceedings and a Report and Recommendation
(“Report”). On October 11, 2019, the Magistrate
Judge issued a Report recommending Defendants' motion for
summary judgment be granted as to all claims. ECF No. 45. The
Magistrate Judge advised the parties of the procedures and
requirements for filing objections to the Report and the
serious consequences if they failed to do so. Plaintiff filed
her objections on November 1, 2019. ECF No. 49. Defendants
filed a reply. ECF No. 50. This matter is now ripe for
conducting a de novo review as to the objections made, and
considering the record, the applicable law, and the Report of
the Magistrate Judge, the court adopts the Report. For the
reasons below, the court grants summary judgment on all
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. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The court is
charged with making a de novo determination of those portions
of the Report to which specific objection is made, and the
court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the
matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1). The court reviews only for clear error in
the absence of an objection. See Diamond v. Colonial Life
& Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005)
(stating “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.'”) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72
advisory committee's note).
Judgment is appropriate “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). On a motion for summary judgment, the
district court must “view the evidence in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Jacobs v. N.C.
Admin. Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 568 (4th Cir.
2015) (citing Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1868 (2014)
(per curiam)). “Summary Judgment cannot be granted
merely because the court believes that the movant will
prevail if the action is tried on the merits.”
Id. Therefore, the court cannot weigh the evidence
or make credibility determinations. Id. at 569. The
district court may not “credit the evidence of the
party seeking summary judgment and fail properly to
acknowledge key evidence offered by the party opposing that
motion.” Id. at 570. However, a party
“cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through
mere speculation or the building of one inference upon
another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir.
1985). Therefore, “[m]ere unsupported speculation . . .
is not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion.”
Ennis v. National Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc.,
53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir. 1995).
Magistrate Judge recommended dismissal of all claims: on the
Equal Pay Act claim due to expiration of the statute of
limitations, and on the state law claims because Plaintiff
did not produce evidence establishing she was constructively
discharged. ECF No. 45 at 4. Specifically, regarding the
Equal Pay Act claim, the Magistrate Judge determined the
general two-year statute of limitations applies because the
record does not permit a finding of willfulness required to
trigger the three-year statute of limitations. Id.
As to the state law claims, because constructive discharge is
a required element of all claims, Plaintiff's failure to
establish it renders those claims subject to dismissal.
Id. at 4-6.
objects to both conclusions. ECF No. 49. She contends
Defendants' violations of the Equal Pay Act were willful
and therefore the three-year statute of limitations should
apply. Id. at 4. She also objects to the conclusion
she was not constructively discharged, arguing she has shown
“a pattern and practice of the Defendant . . . to drive
her out of her job.” Id. at 5. She contends
there are issues of fact from which a jury could find she was
“subjected to an objective level of intolerable
treatment.” Id. at 7. Therefore, she requests
the court deny the summary judgment motion and set the case
contend Plaintiff failed to forecast evidence showing
Defendants willfully paid her less than her proffered male
comparators; therefore, the Equal Pay Act claim is untimely.
ECF No. 50. In addition, Defendants argue the facts asserted
by Plaintiff in support of constructive discharge fail to
meet the required standard, and that her request for
retirement was “related to her physical limitations as
opposed to any emotional or stress issues related to the
alleged conduct of Defendants.” Id. at 4.
Defendants therefore ask the court to adopt the Report and
grant summary judgment.
Equal Pay Act claim
support of her Equal Pay Act claim, Plaintiff has submitted
three affidavits: one from herself and two from co-workers,
Matthews and Whitty. ECF Nos. 36-2, 36-4, 36-5. These
affidavits include statements that Plaintiff was subjected to
lower pay that her similarly situated male colleagues, but do
not provide any information regarding what the pay for any
individual was, what their respective duties and
responsibilities were, and how they were comparators to
Plaintiff. See Strag v. Board of Trustees, Craven Community
College, 55 F.3d 943, 948 (4th Cir. 1995) (“This Court
has held that in order to establish a prima facie case under
the Equal Pay Act, the plaintiff bears the burden of showing
that she (1) receives lower pay than a male co-employee (2)
for performing work substantially equal in skill, effort, and
responsibility under similar working conditions. The
comparison must be made factor by factor with the male
comparator.”) (emphasis added). The court therefore
agrees with the Magistrate Judge these statements are
conclusory and fail to make out a prima facie case under the
Equal Pay Act.
even assuming arguendo these statements are sufficient
evidence of an Equal Pay Act claim, they are nonetheless
insufficient to establish a willful violation of the Equal
Pay Act, as necessary to trigger the three-year statute of
limitations. The affidavits contain no allegation of
knowledge or reckless disregard by Defendants regarding the
alleged unequal pay or facts by which the court could infer a
willful violation. Accordingly, ...