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Brewster v. North Carolina Department of Secretary of State

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

December 15, 2019




         This cause comes before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment. [DE 49], Plaintiff moves to strike the summary judgment motion [DE 53], for leave to file excess pages [DE 57], and for a continuance to conduct discovery [DE 58]. For the reasons that follow, defendant's motion for summary judgment [DE 49] is GRANTED. Plaintiffs motions [DE 53, 57, 58] are DENIED.


         Plaintiff, born in 1960, is African American and a Jehovah's Witness. DE 51, ¶¶ 3-4. She worked for the North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State ("the Department") from early 2004 until February 2018. Id. ¶¶ 1-2; DE 55, ¶ 1. Plaintiff seems to have left the Department voluntarily, but she contends that she left because she could no longer tolerate the hostile work environment. DE 51, ¶ 2; DE 55 ¶ 2.

         Plaintiff has filed four EEOC charges of discrimination: (1) one charge alleged adverse employment action based on sex, age, and in retaliation for her complaint about work conditions; (2) one charge alleged discrimination based on a disability and race; (3) one charge alleged adverse employment action based on religion, age, and for retaliation; and (4) one charge alleged religious discrimination. DE 51, ¶¶ 7-12. The EEOC dismissed at least three of four charges and issued right to sue letters. Id. ¶¶ 7-11. The record is not clear as to what happened with the fourth charge. Id. ¶¶ 12. Plaintiff seems to dispute defendant's characterization of these charges, but the Court is unable to discern the precise nature of the dispute. DE 55 ¶¶ 7-12.

         Proceeding pro se, plaintiff initiated this action against the Department in September 2018. Plaintiffs form complaint selects retaliation and discrimination based on religion and age as the basis for her suit. DE 1. Plaintiff attached a narrative explanation of her claims that exceeds one hundred pages. DE 1-10. The Court entered a scheduling order on December 5, 2018, which provided for discovery to close on April 30, 2019. DE 28. On August 30, 2019, defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment. DE 49. Plaintiff moves to strike defendant's motion, for leave to file excess pages, and for a continuance of the discovery period. DE 53, 57, 58.


         Summary Judgment

         A motion for summary judgment may not be granted unless there are no genuine issues of material fact 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., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986). The nonmoving party cannot rest on bare pleadings alone. See id.

         In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, a court must view 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). "A dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party . . . and [a] fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Libertarian Party of Virginia v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Speculative or conclusory allegations will not suffice. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002).

         The Court finds that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that defendant is entitled to summary judgment. Plaintiff brings clams for religious discrimination, age discrimination, and retaliation, but has failed to produce any evidence to survive summary judgment. The Court is unable to discern-using either plaintiffs lengthy attachment to her complaint, her opposition brief, or her statement of material facts-the facts that form the basis of her claims. From defendant's summary judgment brief and statement of material facts, the Court gathers that the religious discrimination claim has something to do with plaintiffs perception of the Department's policies regarding its holiday festivities and that the age discrimination claim involves plaintiffs perception that younger employees were afforded increased responsibilities. DE 50 at 6-9. The basis for the retaliation claim seems to be plaintiffs belief that the Department gave negative information about her to prospective employers. Id. at 10. Defendant has produced evidence about these policies supporting its assertion that they are not discriminatory. Id. at 6-9.

         While pro se litigants are entitled to a certain amount of leniency from the courts, plaintiffs pro se status does not relieve her of the responsibility to state her claims with at least minimal clarity and produce evidence supporting those claims in order to survive summary judgment. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007). Plaintiff has produced neither direct evidence of discrimination nor made a prima facie showing under the McDonnell Douglas framework. See DE 55, 56. The Court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment.

         Motion to Strike

         Plaintiff moves to strike defendant's summary judgment motion. DE 53. Defendant's motion was timely and complies with the ...

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