United States District Court, D. Colorado
H. DENISE STUART, Plaintiff,
ERICKSON LIVING MANAGEMENT and WIND CREST, Defendants.
A. BRIMMER, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Recommendation of United
States Magistrate and Order filed on July 29, 2019. Docket
No. 60. Magistrate Judge Nina Y. Wang recommends that the
Court grant Defendant[s'] Motion for Summary Judgment
[Docket No. 38] and deny Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
[Judgment] [Docket No. 45]. Docket No. 60 at 2. Plaintiff H.
Denise Stuart objected to the magistrate judge's
recommendation on August 13, 2019. Docket No. 65. Defendants
responded on August 27, 2019. Docket No. 69. Plaintiff did
not file a reply.
background facts have been set forth in the magistrate
judge's recommendation and will not be repeated here
except as relevant to resolving plaintiff's objections.
On July 11, 2018, plaintiff filed her amended Employment
Discrimination Complaint [Docket No. 10] alleging that her
former employer, defendant Wind Crest, discriminated
against her based upon her race and “retaliated against
[her] for opposing discrimination in the workplace” in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Docket No. 10 at 3, 9.
Defendants filed a partial motion to dismiss [Docket No. 23]
and the magistrate judge recommended that the motion be
granted and that plaintiff's claims be dismissed without
prejudice so that plaintiff could seek leave to amend her
complaint. Docket No. 30 at 6. Plaintiff did not object to
the magistrate judge's recommendation. The Court
dismissed plaintiff's retaliation claim without prejudice
on December 3, 2018, and plaintiff was granted leave to amend
her complaint within 21 days of the Court's order. Docket
No. 31 at 2. Plaintiff did not file an amended complaint.
then moved for summary judgment on plaintiff's
discrimination claim, arguing that plaintiff could not
establish a prima facie case of discrimination and that
defendants had terminated plaintiff based on legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reasons. Docket No. 38 at 10, 14. Plaintiff
did not file a response, but filed her own motion for summary
judgment [Docket No. 45]. Construing plaintiff's motion
as a response to their summary judgment motion, defendants
filed a reply. Docket No. 48. At the final pretrial
conference, the magistrate judge “attempted to clarify
whether Plaintiff's filing was a response to
Defendant[s'] motion for Summary Judgment or an
affirmative motion.” Docket No. 60 at 3; see
also Docket No. 52. In response, plaintiff
“suggested that she might be affirmatively moving for
summary judgment, ” Docket No. 60 at 3, but did not
file any additional papers in support of her motion.
light of plaintiff's pro se status, the Court construes
her filings liberally. See Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d
1106, 1110 & n.3 (10th Cir. 1991). Therefore, the Court
will construe plaintiff's filing as a motion for summary
judgment, as the magistrate judge did. See Docket
No. 60 at 1 n.1. The magistrate judge recommends that
defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted and
that plaintiff's motion for summary judgment be denied.
Docket No. 60 at 18.
judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56 when the “movant shows that 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);
see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248-50 (1986). A disputed fact is “material” if
under the relevant substantive law it is essential to proper
disposition of the claim. Wright v. Abbott Labs.,
Inc., 259 F.3d 1226, 1231-32 (10th Cir. 2001). Only
disputes over material facts can create a genuine issue for
trial and preclude summary judgment. Faustin v. City
& Cty. of Denver, 423 F.3d 1192, 1198 (10th Cir.
2005). An issue is “genuine” if the evidence is
such that it might lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict
for the nonmoving party. Allen v. Muskogee, 119 F.3d
837, 839 (10th Cir. 1997). Where “the moving party does
not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial, it may
satisfy its burden at the summary judgment stage by
identifying a lack of evidence for the nonmovant on an
essential element of the nonmovant's claim.”
Bausman v. Interstate Brands Corp., 252 F.3d 1111,
1115 (10th Cir. 2001) (quoting Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores,
Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1998) (internal
quotation marks omitted)). “Once the moving party meets
this burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to
demonstrate a genuine issue for trial on a material
matter.” Concrete Works of Colo., Inc. v. City
& Cty. of Denver, 36 F.3d 1513, 1518 (10th Cir.
1994) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 325 (1986)). The nonmoving party may not rest solely on
the allegations in the pleadings, but instead must designate
“specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324;
see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). “To avoid summary
judgment, the nonmovant must establish, at a minimum, an
inference of the presence of each element essential to the
case.” Bausman, 252 F.3d at 1115 (citation
omitted). When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, a
court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party. Id.; see McBeth v.
Himes, 598 F.3d 708, 715 (10th Cir. 2010). However,
where, as here, there are cross motions for summary judgment,
the reasonable inferences drawn from affidavits, attached
exhibits, and depositions are rendered in the light most
favorable to the non-prevailing party. Jacklovich v.
Simmons, 392 F.3d 420, 425 (10th Cir. 2004).
Furthermore, “[w]hen the parties file cross motions for
summary judgment, we are entitled to assume that no evidence
needs to be considered other than that filed by the parties,
but summary judgment is nevertheless inappropriate if
disputes remain as to material facts.” Atlantic
Richfield Co. v. Farm Credit Bank of Wichita, 226 F.3d
1138, 1148 (10th Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks
reviewing a magistrate judge's recommendation on a
dispositive motion, the Court must “determine de novo
any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has
been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). An
objection is “proper” if it is both timely and
specific. United States v. One Parcel of Real Property
Known as 2121 East 30th St., 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th
Cir. 1996). To be sufficiently specific, an objection must
“enable the district judge to focus attention on
those issues - factual and legal - that are at the heart of
the parties' dispute.” See Id. (quoting
Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 147 (1985)).
raises six objections to the magistrate judge's
recommendation, focusing only on what she believes are errors
in the magistrate judge's recitation of the undisputed
material facts. See Docket No. 65. She argues that
the magistrate judge “did not state on the record the
reasons for denying” her motion for summary judgment
and that the magistrate judge “overlooked important
facts to discredit” her motion. Id. at 1.
plaintiff objects to the magistrate judge's statement
that plaintiff “filed a charge of discrimination with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(‘EEOC') on or about July 13, 2017.” Docket
No. 65 at 1; Docket No. 60 at 2. Plaintiff states that she
actually filed a charge of discrimination on June 13, 2017.
Docket No. 65 at 1. Plaintiff is correct: her EEOC charge is
dated June 13, 2017. See Docket No. 10 at 9.
However, this minor error in the magistrate judge's
procedural background section is immaterial to the magistrate
judge's disposition of the parties' motions.
See Docket No. 60. This objection does not set forth
a genuine issue of material fact that would prevent the Court
from entering summary judgment.
plaintiff objects to the magistrate judge's statement
that “Defendants hired Ms. Stuart, an African-American
female, as a Care Associate in the Memory Care
Department.” Docket No. 65 at 2; Docket No. 60 at 5,
¶ 1. Plaintiff states that defendants hired her,
“a Black American Female, as a Care Associate . . . and
QMAP Associate, ” which includes administering
medication or providing emergency first aid when needed.
Docket No. 65 at 2. Plaintiff has admitted that defendant
Wind Crest hired her as a “Care Associate.”
Docket No. 38 at 3, ¶ 1. Moreover, the record indicates
that plaintiff was hired as a Care Associate in
defendants' Memory Care Department, as the magistrate
judge noted. See Docket No. 38-1 at 1 (Wind
Crest's offer letter of employment, sent to plaintiff,
for the position of Care Associate). Even if plaintiff was
also hired as a QMAP Associate, or even if plaintiff's
job title or job duties changed over time, plaintiff has not
explained why her job title would have an impact on the
magistrate judge's ruling. The Court finds that this is
not a disputed material fact that would preclude summary
judgment. And to the extent that plaintiff objects to the
magistrate judge's statement that plaintiff is an
“African-American female” rather than a
“Black American Female, ” plaintiff does not
raise an argument that the magistrate judge's language
had any impact on her recommendation or that this distinction
raises a genuine issue of material fact. The Court will
overrule this objection.
objects to the magistrate judge's statement that, in or
about March 2017, plaintiff's co-workers filed workplace
complaints against plaintiff. Docket No. 65 at 2; Docket No.
60 at 6, ¶ 4. Plaintiff contends that, in April 2017,
she met with two of her supervisors who did not mention that
any complaints had been lodged against her and that the
supervisors did not issue plaintiff a written or verbal
warning at the meeting. ...