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Roberts v. Onslow County Board of Education

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division

November 6, 2014



LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on defendant's motion for summary judgment. (DE 18). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), United States Magistrate Judge Kimberly A. Swank entered a memorandum and recommendation ("M&R"), (DE 24), wherein it is recommended that the defendant's motion be granted. Plaintiff timely filed objections to the M&R, and defendant filed a response. In this posture, the matter is ripe for ruling. For the reasons stated below, the court adopts the recommendation of the magistrate judge and grants defendant's motion for summary judgment.


Plaintiff filed this action on March 5, 2013, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). Plaintiff alleges that defendant, her employer, discriminated against her on the basis of disability, age, and retaliation for engaging in protected activity. (DE 1).

On March 7, 2014, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (DE 18). Defendant first argues that plaintiff's claims are time-barred by the statute of limitations. Additionally, defendant argues that plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie case for either discrimination or retaliation and that, even if plaintiff could establish a prima facie case, that defendant has put forward legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for its actions, which are not pretextual. On March 28, 2014, plaintiff responded to defendant's motion. (DE 22). Defendant submitted its reply on April 11, 2014. (DE 23). On that same day, the court referred the motion to the magistrate judge for M&R. The magistrate judge entered her M&R on August 28, 2014, recommending that defendant's motion for summary judgment be granted. (DE 24). Plaintiff, through her attorney, timely fled objections to the M&R, (DE 27), to which defendant responded, (DE 28).


The court adopts the facts as recited in the M&R. In so doing, the court notes that plaintiff raises two objections to the M&R's recitation of the facts. However, the court declines to address these objections as they concern immaterial facts. The material undisputed facts may be summarized as follows.

Plaintiff is a fifty-seven year old female who has been employed by the Onslow County School System for approximately 27 years. (Pl.'s Dep., DE 21-1, at 16-17).[1] Plaintiff alleges that defendant began discriminating against her in or around April 2011, when she completed a form indicating that she would not retire and intended to teach in the 2011-2012 school year. (Id. at 29).

In May 2011, plaintiff approached Dixon High School principal John Shannon ("Shannon") and requested leave for the last week of the school year to undergo an elective face-lift procedure. (Id. at 32-33, 36). Plaintiff originally scheduled the procedure for June 16, 2011, a date during the summer. (Id. at 32-33). However, plaintiff had to reschedule for June 9, 2011, a date during the school year. (Id.). While Shannon informally approved plaintiff's request for leave, he later asked to see documentation that plaintiff's surgery was medically necessary. (Id. at 34, 36). Plaintiff never provided that documentation. (Id. at 42-43). Without receiving formal approval for her leave, plaintiff took leave on June 9, 2011. Plaintiff missed two days in the final week of school and two teacher work days. (Shannon Affidavit, DE 19 ¶¶ 9, 12). Plaintiff was not paid for those days. (Id. ¶13).

Plaintiff returned to work in August 2011. (Pl.'s Dep., DE 21-1, at 62). Plaintiff complains that when she returned, she was given a smaller classroom, a senior seminar in which she was to oversee senior projects, and a different planning period. (Id. at 63-73). Plaintiff also was assigned to teach a class geared toward freshman called "Teen Living." (Id. at 69-71). Plaintiff specifically had indicated that she did not want to teach freshmen. (Id. at 71.) Shannon indicated that the changes were necessary because of a change in school dynamics. (Shannon Affidavit, DE 19, ¶17).[2]

Plaintiff contends that she was denied sick leave during September and October of 2011. (DE 1, at 2). On September 20, 2011 plaintiff applied for and received short-term disability due to stress and anxiety, which caused her to be out for the remainder of the 2011-2012 school year. (Pl.'s Dep., DE 31-1, at 79, 81, 84). Despite her contention, plaintiff's leave was approved; however, she further alleges that received 8 days worth of pay, owed in September 2011, a month late. (Id. at 81-83). Finally, plaintiff contends that in the 2012-2013 school year defendant prevented her from returning to work while she was recovering from a broken arm. (Id. at 89, 95).


1. Standard of Review

The district court reviews de novo those portions of a magistrate judge's M&R to which specific objections are filed. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Absent a specific and timely filed objection, the court reviews only for "clear error, " and need not give any explanation for adopting the M&R. 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). Upon careful review of the record, "the court may accept, ...

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