United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Loretta C. Biggs United States District Judge.
Margaret Lynch (“Dr. Lynch” or
“Plaintiff”), initiated this action, pro se,
Durham County Superior Court, alleging claims of retaliation,
race and sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.,
and a claim of age discrimination under the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
(“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.
(See ECF No. 9.) The action was removed to this
Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 on the basis of
federal question jurisdiction. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 4, 5.)
Duke University (“Duke”) is the only remaining
Defendant in this case. Before the Court is Duke's Motion
for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 36), and Plaintiff's
Motion to Seal, (ECF No. 41). For the reasons outlined below,
the Court will grant both motions.
Lynch, a white female, is a board certified physician,
licensed to practice in Illinois and North Carolina. (ECF No.
9 ¶ 1; ECF No. 36-6 ¶¶ 7, 36; ECF No. 38-7
¶ 2.) During her career, Dr. Lynch has worked in the
fields of emergency medicine, urgent care, and occupational
health. (ECF No. 38-7 ¶ 2.) She is the mother and
primary caregiver of five children. (Id. ¶ 3;
see ECF No. 36-1 at 8.)
Vaughn, MD serves as the Director of Duke's Student
Health Services which “provides services to more than
15, 000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional
students.” (ECF No. 36-6 ¶ 1.) “On or about
September 2013, [Dr. Vaughn] received approval to hire a
full-time faculty physician to join the Student Health
Services team.” (Id. ¶ 2.) Dr. Vaughn
“enlisted the help of Suzanne Anderson, ”
director of Duke's Medical Staff Recruitment Office to
assist with the recruitment of candidates for this position.
(Id. ¶ 3; ECF No. 36-7 ¶¶ 1, 3.) Once
the position was posted online, in October 2013, Plaintiff
applied for the available Student Health Physician position
at Duke. (ECF No. 9 ¶ 8; see ECF No. 36-6
¶ 11; ECF No. 38-6 at 8; ECF No. 38-7 ¶¶ 6-7.)
On November 5, 2013, Ms. Anderson informed Plaintiff that she
had not been selected to interview for the position. (ECF No.
38-6 at 21.)
in February 2014 and November 2014, two additional student
health physician positions became available at Duke. (ECF No.
36-6 ¶¶ 15, 34.) Plaintiff re-applied in May 2014,
(see ECF No. 38-6 at 13), and, on September 20,
2014, she was informed by Dr. Vaughn that he had extended an
offer to another candidate for the position, instead of
Plaintiff, (ECF No. 38-6 at 39). Although Dr. Vaughn received
“both written and verbal feedback” concerning
potential candidates, Dr. Vaughn served as the decision-maker
with respect to hiring for the student health physician
positions. (ECF No. 36-6 ¶ 37.) In May 2014, Dr. Vaughn
selected a white, female physician to fill the first
available position, (ECF No. 36-6 ¶¶ 17, 36;
see ECF No. 38-6 at 26-28). Then, in September 2014,
he selected a black, female physician for the second
available position, (ECF No. 36-6 ¶¶ 32, 36; ECF
No. 38-6 at 53, 60- 62); and on December 1, 2014, he selected
Dr. Hunter Spotts, a white, male physician, to fill the third
available position. (ECF No. 38-6 at 32; see ECF No.
36-6 ¶¶ 35, 36.)
Complaint alleges, among other things, that Duke failed to
hire her: (a) in retaliation for having filed a Charge of
Discrimination (“EEOC Charge”) against her former
employer, (ECF No. 9 ¶ 30); (b) because of her age,
(id. ¶ 31); (c) because she is the primary
caregiver and mother of five children, (id. ¶
32); (d) because she is a woman, (id. ¶ 33);
and (e) because of her race, (id. ¶ 34). On
November 15, 2017, Defendant filed the instant motion for
summary judgment “on the grounds that Plaintiff's
evidence fails to raise a material question of fact to
preclude judgment in favor of Duke and that Duke is entitled
to judgment in its favor on all claims.” (ECF No. 36 at
1.) Plaintiff does not contest Duke's motion with respect
to her age and race discrimination claims, conceding that she
has failed to carry her burden on those claims. (ECF No. 38
at 2, 19-20.) Thus, this Court need only consider whether
Duke's motion for summary judgment should be granted as
to Plaintiff's retaliation claim, as well as her sex and
sex-plus discrimination claims.
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate when “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 it might affect the outcome
of the litigation, and a dispute is “genuine” if
the evidence would permit a reasonable jury to find for the
nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
“pointing out to the district court . . . that there is
an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's
case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
325 (1986). In opposing a properly supported motion for
summary judgment, the nonmoving party cannot rest on
“mere allegations or denials, ” Liberty
Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248 (internal quotation marks
omitted), and “must do more than simply show that there
is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, the party opposing summary
judgment must designate “specific facts” in the
record “showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324
(internal quotation marks omitted). See Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(c)(1)(A) (stating that a party must “cit[e] to
particular parts of . . . the record, including depositions,
documents, . . . affidavits or declarations, . . .
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other
materials”). A genuine issue for trial exists only when
“there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving
party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.”
Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249. “If the
evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly
probative, summary judgment may be granted.”
Id. at 249-50 (citations omitted); see Ennis
v. Nat'l Ass'n of Bus. &
Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir.
1995) (finding that “unsupported speculation . . . is
not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion”).
court must view the evidence and “resolve all factual
disputes and any competing, rational inferences in the light
most favorable” to the nonmoving party. Rossignol
v. Voorhaar, 316 F.3d 516, 523 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Wightman v. Springfield Terminal Ry. Co., 100 F.3d
228, 230 (1st Cir. 1996)). The role of the court is not
“to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter, ” but rather “to determine whether there
is a genuine issue for trial.” Liberty Lobby,
477 U.S. at 249. “The summary judgment inquiry thus
scrutinizes the plaintiff's case to determine whether the
plaintiff has proffered sufficient proof, in the form of
admissible evidence, that could carry the burden of proof of
[her] claim at trial.” Mitchell v. Data Gen.
Corp., 12 F.3d 1310, 1316 (4th Cir. 1993).
can establish her claims of discrimination and retaliation
through direct or indirect evidence, or by relying on the
burden-shifting framework set forth in McDonnell Douglas
Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). See Foster v.
Univ. of Md.-E. Shore, 787 F.3d 243, 249 (4th Cir.
2015). Plaintiff does not contend that she has direct
evidence to support her claims, thus she must rely on the
McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework to prove
each of her claims. See Evans v. Techs. Applications
& Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 959 (4th Cir. 1996)
(explaining that in the absence of direct evidence of
discrimination, for plaintiff “to prevail, then, it
must be by using the proof scheme established in
McDonnell Douglas”). Under this framework, a
plaintiff “must first prove a prima facie case
of discrimination by a preponderance of the evidence.”
Id.; Dowe v. Total Action Against Poverty,
145 F.3d 653, 656 (4th Cir. 1998), abrogated on
other grounds by Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v.
White, 548 U.S. 53 (2006). If she succeeds in
establishing a prima facie case of her claim(s), then the
burden shifts to the defendant to show legitimate,
non-discriminatory reasons for the adverse action. See
Evans, 80 F.3d at 959. If the defendant satisfies this
burden, then the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to rebut
the defendant's reason(s) by demonstrating that such
reasons were not the real reasons but were pretext for
discrimination. See Id. The Court first examines Dr.
Lynch's retaliation claim.
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it an unlawful
employment practice to discriminate against any individual
because the individual has complained of, opposed, or
participated in a proceeding about prohibited discrimination.
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). To survive a motion for summary
judgment on a Title VII retaliation claim, Plaintiff must
first establish a prima facie case of retaliation by showing:
“(i) that [she] engaged in protected activity, (ii)
that [her employer] took adverse action against [her], and
(iii) that a causal relationship existed between the
protected activity and the adverse employment
activity.” Foster, 787 F.3d at 250
(alterations in original and internal quotation marks
undisputed that filing an EEOC Charge of Discrimination, as
Plaintiff in this case did in Illinois in 2002, (see
ECF No. 38-6 at 1), is a protected activity, and that
Defendant's failure to hire Plaintiff constitutes an
adverse employment action. See Carter v. Ball, 33
F.3d 450, 460 (4th Cir. 1994) (stating that filing an EEOC
complaint is a protected activity); see also Wagstaff v.
City of Durham,233 F.Supp.2d 739, 744 (M.D. N.C. 2002)
(stating that “[i]n determining what constitutes an
adverse employment action for Title VII purposes, the Fourth
Circuit consistently has focused on ‘whether there has
been discrimination in what could be characterized as
ultimate employment decisions ...