Fleming v. South Carolina Dept. of Corrections, Civil Action No. 6:95-3248-20AK.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtCatoe
Citation952 F.Supp. 283
PartiesDoris FLEMING, Plaintiff, v. The SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendant.
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 6:95-3248-20AK.
Decision Date17 December 1996
952 F.Supp. 283
Doris FLEMING, Plaintiff,
v.
The SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendant.
Civil Action No. 6:95-3248-20AK.
District Court of United States D. South Carolina, Greenville Division.
December 17, 1996.
Order Denying Reconsideration January 9, 1997.

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COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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Edwin L. Turnage, Esq., Travelers Rest, SC, Suzanne E. Coe, Esq., Greenville, SC, for plaintiff.

Susan Eglin Sykes, Esq., Vance E. Drawdy, Esq., Haynsworth, Baldwin, Johnson & Greaves, Greenville, SC, for defendant.

ORDER

CATOE, United States Magistrate Judge.


This matter is before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The plaintiff alleges that the defendant retaliated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq.1

For reasons set forth below, the defendant's motion should be denied.

FACTS PRESENTED

The plaintiff, Doris Fleming, began working for the defendant, the South Carolina Department of Corrections ("SCDC"), at Perry Correctional Institution in October 1988 (Fleming dep., def. ex. A, at 20, 25, 30). The plaintiff was assigned to the position of correctional officer in the medium-security component of Perry, commonly referred to as "the yard" (Fleming dep. at 30-31). In October 1990, she was assigned to the position of medium-security operations officer, a permanent post. Although the plaintiff worked at different post assignments, she remained in medium security until 1993 (Fleming dep. at 43). On March 13, 1992, at the request of the captain of medium security, James Sewell, the plaintiff was transferred to the disciplinary office and placed in another permanent post assignment. The plaintiff alleges that throughout her assignment in medium security, she was subjected to sexual advances by Sewell. Sewell would visit her post assignment and attempt to engage her in a sexual relationship. The plaintiff testified that he would say things such as, "if I ever had him, I wouldn't want a black man again." While the plaintiff worked under his direct supervision, Sewell made comments such as "come in here and get naked" and "spread your legs," and asked if she was "ever going to do it with him" (Fleming dep. at 159-167). In November 1992, the plaintiff

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adamantly refused Sewell's request for sex, and in December 1992 or January 1993, the plaintiff was transferred to work posts in the Yard (Fleming dep. at 77).

In mid-April 1993, the plaintiff filed a written complaint of sexual harassment against Sewell.2 In compliance with SCDC policy, the plaintiff was transferred to maximum security, commonly referred to as "the hill" (Fleming dep. at 176). In maximum security, the plaintiff was under the supervision of Captain Jurell Byrd (Fleming dep. at 188).

The defendant performed an internal investigation of the plaintiff's allegations and concluded that the plaintiff did not have enough information to substantiate her claim of sexual harassment (Fleming dep. at 184).

The plaintiff alleges that during the investigation and after it was completed, her new supervisors in maximum security made her job difficult (Fleming dep. at 189; Second Am.Compl. ¶ 13). The plaintiff alleges that, shortly after her assignment to D Dorm on the hill, a series of events took place that placed her safety at risk and interfered with her ability to do her job. In April 1993, the plaintiff was transferred by Lieutenant Kearney, her immediate supervisor, an abnormally high number of times between the prisoner dorms. The plaintiff also alleges several incidents that occurred involving prisoners which were not handled appropriately. On separate occasions in October and December of 1993, the plaintiff, who worked first shift from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., was involuntarily left on her post for 16 hours without warning or an explanation. In March 1994, the defendant refused to pay the plaintiff for her overtime hours, and in April 1994 the plaintiff's Saturdays and Sundays off were taken and given to a more junior officer.

In June 1993, the plaintiff injured her back while at work and periodically missed work as the result of her injury (Fleming dep. at 205). In November 1993, the plaintiff began to receive counseling and medicinal treatment for stress, first from a counselor whose services were provided through the SCDC's employee assistance program, and later from a psychiatrist (Fleming dep. at 211-214). In April 1994, the plaintiff took a paid leave of absence as the result of stress. When the plaintiff returned to work, she was placed back in medium security.3 The plaintiff testified that she was afraid to go in the yard area of medium security upon her return to work. She took an additional leave of absence until September 1994. She resigned from Perry Correctional Institution on September 12, 1994 (Fleming dep. at 222).

APPLICABLE LAW AND CONCLUSIONS

Summary judgment should be granted only where it is perfectly clear that no issue of fact is involved and inquiry into the facts is not desirable to clarify the application of the law. Charbonnages de France v. Smith, 597 F.2d 406, 414 (4th Cir.1979). The burden is on the moving party to show that there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact" and that he is "entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In addition, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 994, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962).

In order to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists, the plaintiff must show that there is evidence upon which a finder of fact can reasonably hold in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2512, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Under this standard, the existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position is insufficient to withstand the summary judgment motion. Id. at 252, 106 S.Ct. at 2512. Likewise, conclusory allegations or denials, without more, are insufficient to preclude the granting of the summary judgment motion. Ross v. Communications Satellite Corp., 759 F.2d 355, 365 (4th Cir.1985). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the

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suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it "an unlawful employment practice for an employer ... to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individuals race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). The Act prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee in retaliation for that employee's opposition to, or complaint about, an employment practice made unlawful under Title VII. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). The employee's underlying discrimination claim does not have to be meritorious, Ross v. Communications Satellite Corp., 759 F.2d 355, 357 n. 1 (4th Cir.1985), and it is not required that the employee have instituted formal proceedings under Title VII to invoke the protection of Title VII's retaliation provision; informal complaints to the employer will suffice. See Armstrong v. Index Journal Co., 647 F.2d 441, 448 (4th Cir.1981).

The plaintiff alleges that she was retaliated against because she engaged in protected activity by rejecting Sewell's advances and filing a sexual harassment claim. She alleges that the retaliation consisted of the following: her transfer in January 1993 from a permanent post assignment in the disciplinary office to the yard; reception of a lower "meets" evaluation; and being subjected to a hostile and abusive working environment.

To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, the plaintiff must prove:

(1) she engaged in protected activity;

(2) the defendant took adverse employment action against her; and

(3) a causal connection exists between the protected activity and the adverse action. Williams v. Cerberonics, Inc., 871 F.2d 452, 457 (4th Cir.1989).

Once the prima facie case is established, the defendant must produce a legitimate, nonretaliatory reason for the adverse action. If the employer articulates a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the conduct, then the plaintiff must "prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the legitimate reasons offered by the defendant were not its true reasons, but were a pretext for discrimination." Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 1093-94, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973)). According to the Supreme Court in St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 515, 113 S.Ct. 2742, 2752, 125 L.Ed.2d 407 (1993), "[A] reason cannot be proven to be a `pretext for discrimination,' unless it is shown both that the reason was false, and that discrimination [retaliation] was the real reason." Id. at 512, 113 S.Ct. at 2750.

Protected Activity

The defendant acknowledges that the plaintiff engaged in protected activity when she filed a claim for sexual harassment (def. mem. at 12, n. 7). However, the defendant argues that the transfer and "meets" evaluation occurred prior to the filing of the claim and, therefore, the plaintiff has failed to satisfy the requirements of Section 704(a) of Title VII which provides:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees or applicants ... because [she] has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter, or because [she] has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an...

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12 practice notes
  • Mahomes v. Potter, C.A. No. 2:06-3634-CWH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • November 20, 2008
    ...to his supervisor about perceived discrimination. Mitchell, 467 F.Supp.2d at 553-54. Likewise, in Fleming v. S.C. Dept. of Corrections, 952 F.Supp. 283 (D.S.C.1996), the Court held that a transfer one month after a plaintiff engaged in protected activity was "strongly suggestive of ret......
  • Coe v. Northern Pipe Products, Inc., No. C 07-3068-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • December 2, 2008
    ...aff'd in part, rev'd in part on other grounds, 206 F.3d 271 (3d Cir.2000); Fleming v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 952 F.Supp. 283, 288 (D.S.C.1996); Armbruster v. Epstein, No. Civ. A 96-CV-1059, 1996 WL 289991, at *3 (E.D.Pa. May 31, 1996); EEOC v. Domino's Pizza, 909 F.Supp. ......
  • Little v. National Broadcasting Co., Inc., No. 00 Civ. 3609(SAS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • April 22, 2002
    ...County of Honolulu, 112 F.Supp.2d 1041, 1048 (D.Hi.2000) (collecting cases); see also Fleming v. South Carolina Dept. of Corrections, 952 F.Supp. 283, Page 386 (D.S.C.1996)(refusal of sexual advances constitutes "protected activity"); Farrell v. Planters Lifesavers Co., 22 F.Supp.......
  • Black v. City & County of Honolulu, No. CIV. 97-01086SPK.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Hawai'i
    • September 1, 2000
    ...held that refusal of sexual advances is sufficient to constitute protected activity. See Fleming v. South Carolina Dep't of Corrections, 952 F.Supp. 283 (D.S.C.1996); Armbruster v. Epstein, No. Civ. A. 96-CIV-1059, 1996 WL 289991, at *3 (E.D.Pa. May 31, 1996); Burrell v. City Univ. of New Y......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • Mahomes v. Potter, C.A. No. 2:06-3634-CWH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • November 20, 2008
    ...to his supervisor about perceived discrimination. Mitchell, 467 F.Supp.2d at 553-54. Likewise, in Fleming v. S.C. Dept. of Corrections, 952 F.Supp. 283 (D.S.C.1996), the Court held that a transfer one month after a plaintiff engaged in protected activity was "strongly suggestive of ret......
  • Coe v. Northern Pipe Products, Inc., No. C 07-3068-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • December 2, 2008
    ...aff'd in part, rev'd in part on other grounds, 206 F.3d 271 (3d Cir.2000); Fleming v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 952 F.Supp. 283, 288 (D.S.C.1996); Armbruster v. Epstein, No. Civ. A 96-CV-1059, 1996 WL 289991, at *3 (E.D.Pa. May 31, 1996); EEOC v. Domino's Pizza, 909 F.Supp. ......
  • Little v. National Broadcasting Co., Inc., No. 00 Civ. 3609(SAS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • April 22, 2002
    ...County of Honolulu, 112 F.Supp.2d 1041, 1048 (D.Hi.2000) (collecting cases); see also Fleming v. South Carolina Dept. of Corrections, 952 F.Supp. 283, Page 386 (D.S.C.1996)(refusal of sexual advances constitutes "protected activity"); Farrell v. Planters Lifesavers Co., 22 F.Supp.......
  • Black v. City & County of Honolulu, No. CIV. 97-01086SPK.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Hawai'i
    • September 1, 2000
    ...held that refusal of sexual advances is sufficient to constitute protected activity. See Fleming v. South Carolina Dep't of Corrections, 952 F.Supp. 283 (D.S.C.1996); Armbruster v. Epstein, No. Civ. A. 96-CIV-1059, 1996 WL 289991, at *3 (E.D.Pa. May 31, 1996); Burrell v. City Univ. of New Y......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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