United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 44). Plaintiff has responded to
Defendant's Motion, (Doc. No. 53), Defendant has replied,
(Doc. No. 54), and this matter is now ripe for review. For
the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment is GRANTED.
is a former employee of the Mecklenburg County Health
Department, where she formerly worked as a WIC nutritionist.
Plaintiff brought this suit in forma pauperis
alleging that she was wrongfully terminated on November 29,
2016. Plaintiff originally brought several claims under a
variety of state and federal laws: violations of the
Occupational Safety and Health Act, retaliation and hostile
work environment in violation of Title VII, violations of the
Whistleblower Protection Act, and violations of the
Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act of North Carolina
(“REDA”). (Doc. No. 6, p. 2). The Court conducted
a frivolity review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)
and dismissed Plaintiff's Whistleblower Protection Act
and Occupational Safety and Health Act claims. (Doc. No. 3,
p. 7). The Court subsequently dismissed Plaintiff's REDA
and hostile work environment claims at the motion to dismiss
stage. (Doc. No. 18, p. 9). Plaintiff's Title VII
retaliation claim survived Defendant's Motion to
factual basis for Plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claim
is not clear from her filings. However, Plaintiff's EEOC
charge alleges that she was retaliated against for
complaining “to the supervisor, the manager, and the
director about co-workers comments about and treatment of
clients based on their national origin and religion.”
(Doc. No. 9-1, p. 2). Defendant now moves for summary
judgment on Plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claim.
(Doc. No. 44).
judgment is appropriate if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact in the case.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party seeking summary judgment
“bears the initial responsibility of informing the
district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying
those portions of the [record] which it believes demonstrate
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
Once the moving party has met its burden, the burden shifts
and the non-moving party must then “set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 n.11 (1986) (quoting
“rest[ing] upon the mere allegations or denials of [a
plaintiff's] pleadings” is insufficient to survive
a properly made and supported motion for summary judgment.
Id. at 586 n.11. Instead, the non-moving party must
adduce affirmative evidence, by means of affidavits or other
verified evidence, showing that a genuine dispute of material
fact exists. See id. at 586-87. “Although the
court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the
nonmoving party, the nonmoving party must rely on more than
conclusory allegations, mere speculation, the building of one
inference upon another, or the mere existence of a scintilla
of evidence.” Dash v. Mayweather, 731 F.3d
303, 311 (4th Cir. 2013).
argues that summary judgment should be granted because, based
on the allegations in Plaintiff's EEOC charge, Plaintiff
did not engage in protected activity under Title VII and
therefore cannot establish a prima facie case for
retaliation. (See Doc. No. 45, p. 6-7).
VII's antiretaliation provision forbids an employer from
discriminating against a person who opposes a “practice
made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter, or
because he has made a charge, testified, assisted, or
participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding,
or hearing under this subchapter.” 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-3 (2018). This antiretaliation provision's primary
purpose is to prevent employers “from interfering
(through retaliation) with an employee's efforts to
secure or advance enforcement of the Act's basic
guarantees.” Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry.
Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 63 (2006). In order to
establish a prima facie case for retaliation, a plaintiff
must show that 1) they engaged in a protected activity, 2)
they suffered an adverse employment action and 3) there was a
causal link between the protected activity and the adverse
employment action. Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals,
626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010).
employee engages in protected activity when they oppose an
unlawful employment practice or what they reasonably believe
to be an unlawful employment practice. DeMasters v.
Carilion Clinic, 796 F.3d 409, 417 (4th Cir. 2015). The
Fourth Circuit has made it clear that Title VII's
antiretaliation provision is “not a general bad acts
statute, ” and thus, only activities that oppose
employment-related discrimination are protected from
retaliation. See Crowley v. Prince George's
Cty., Md., 890 F.2d 683, 687 (4th Cir. 1989). In
Crowley, the plaintiff claimed that he had been
demoted for “drawing attention to racial harassment by
the police department.” Id. at 685. However,
since the plaintiff was not investigating
“discriminatory employment practices within the police
department, ” but rather investigating instances of
racial harassment toward the community at large, the Fourth
Circuit found that the “claim simply is not cognizable
under Title VII.” Id. at 687. In other words,
Title VII only protects against retaliation when the employee
opposes employment-related discrimination and does not
protect against retaliation for more general
present case, Plaintiff's EEOC charge alleges that she
was retaliated against for complaining “to the
supervisor, the manager, and the director about co-workers
comments about and treatment of clients based on
their national origin and religion.” (Doc. No. 9-1, p.
2) (emphasis added). Plaintiff's charge, on its face,
does not allege that she or others were subject to
employment-related discrimination. Rather, Plaintiff
complained that her coworkers were discriminating against
members of the general public. Therefore, Title VII does not
protect Plaintiff from any retaliation she may have faced
from reporting these instances of non-employment
discrimination. See Crowley, 890 F.2d at 687
(stating that Title VII does not offer “protection for
whistle-blowers on each and every instance of
discrimination” “without regard to whether the
claimed discrimination relates to a practice of
employment”). Since Plaintiff's retaliation claim
does not involve a protected activity under Title VII,
summary judgment is appropriate.
now argues she should be allowed to bring a retaliation claim
on the basis that she was terminated for reporting a hostile
work environment. (See, e.g., Doc. No. 53, p. 44-45
(email complaining of a hostile work environment)).
Essentially, Plaintiff argues that she should not be bound by
the allegations in her EEOC charge, and ...