United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
TERRENCE W. BOYLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cause comes before the Court on defendant's motion for
summary judgment. The matter has been fully briefed and is
ripe for ruling. For the following reasons, that motion is
Angela Miles Stephens, applied to a clinical social worker
position with North Carolina's Department of Public
Safety in 2015. While she was selected for an interview, she
claims she did not receive the email and phone messages sent
to her to inform her of the fact. Plaintiff did not contact
the Department until the interview window had closed and so
was not given the opportunity to interview for the position.
Plaintiff alleges she was deliberately not contacted in
retaliation for previous allegations of discrimination she
made against the Department. Plaintiff also alleges that she
was not considered for an Assistant Superintendent position,
and that this was also retaliation.
filed this suit in Cumberland County Superior Court, alleging
a Title VII claim and a related state law claim. Defendant
then removed the suit to this Court. Following discovery,
defendant has moved for summary judgment.
motion for summary judgment may not be granted unless there
are no genuine issues of material fact for trial and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden
of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986). If that burden has been met, the non-moving party
must then come forward and establish the specific material
facts in dispute to survive summary judgment. Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
588 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of
material fact exists for trial, a trial court views the
evidence and the inferences in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
378 (2007). However, "[t]he mere existence of a
scintilla of evidence" in support of the nonmoving
party's position is not sufficient to defeat a motion for
summary judgment; "there must be evidence on which the
[fact finder] could reasonably find for the [nonmoving
party]." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 252 (1986). Speculative or conclusory allegations
will not suffice. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power
Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002). Plaintiff has
made two claims: a federal Title VII claim, and a
supplemental, claim under North Carolina law, N.C. G.S.
direct evidence, a plaintiff can allege unlawful
discrimination using the McDonnell Douglas
framework. McDonnell Douglas Corp v. Green, 411 U.S
792 (1973). To do so, a plaintiff must first establish a
prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation. Tex.
Dept. of Cmty Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-56
(1981). A prima facie Title VII retaliation claim has three
parts. 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e); Guessous v. Fairview
Property Investments, LLC, 828 F.3d 208, 217 (4th Cir.
2016). First, the plaintiff must show that she engaged in
protected activity. Id. Second, she must show that
the employer took an adverse action against her. Id.
And third, she must show that a causal relationship existed
between (1) and (2). Id.
may be implied when there is close temporal proximity between
the protected activity and the adverse action, but an
extended gap will break the link. Tillery v. Piedmont
Airlines, Inc., 713 Fed.Appx. 181, 185 (4th Cir. 2017)
(a year and a half is insufficient); Causey v.
Balog, 162 F.3d 795, 803 (4th Cir. 1998)) (thirteen
months is insufficient).
the employer must know that the plaintiff engaged in
protected activity. Dowe v. Total Action against Poverty
in Roanoke Valley, 145 F.3d 653, 657 (4th Cir. 1998).
"By definition, an employer cannot take action because
of a factor of which it is unaware." Id.
Knowledge is not automatically imputed to every individual
employee of an institutional defendant just because the
institution as a whole was previously involved in a lawsuit
or other proceeding with the plaintiff. Villa v.
CavaMezze Grill, LLC, 858 F.3d 896, 901 (4th Cir. 2017).
The standard is actual knowledge by the decision-maker- the
person or persons who decided to do whatever is alleged to be
adverse. Id. ("The facts the decision-maker
actually perceived matter."); Hill v. Lockheed
Martin Logistics Mgmt., Inc., 354 F.3d 277, 286 (4th
Cir. 2004) ("In embarking upon a determination of who is
a 'decisionmaker' for purposes of discrimination
actions brought under Title VII and the ADEA, we begin with
the language of the statutes."). Holland v.
Washington Homes, Inc., 487 F.3d 208, 217 (4th Cir.
2007) ("It is the perception of the decisionmaker which
unquestioned that plaintiff can establish step one of the
prima facie retaliation inquiry. She has filed two previous
federal lawsuits against the North Carolina Department of
Corrections, the previous name of defendant, alleging
discrimination. Miles-Stephens v. North Carolina Dept. of
Corrections, 5:11-CV-597-D (E.D. N.C. July 7, 2014);
Stephens v. North Carolina Dept. of
Corrections, 5:06-CV-261-FL (E.D. N.C. Feb. 2, 2007).
Plaintiff argues she experienced two adverse actions in
retaliation for this. The Court will address each in turn.
Assistant Superintendent Position
appears to have abandoned this argument, but in her original
complaint, she alleges that she was improperly rejected from