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Smith v. The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 24, 2017

TRACEY SMITH, Plaintiff,

          Anthony P. Patti Magistrate Judge.


          DAVID M. LAWSON United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Tracey Smith filed a complaint representing herself alleging that she was fired from her job at defendant Food Bank of Eastern Michigan on account of her race, 115 days after she was hired. The Court referred this case to Magistrate Judge Anthony P. Patti for pretrial management. Thereafter, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. Judge Patti filed a report recommending that the motion be granted. Believing that the plaintiff had not filed objections to the report and recommendation, the Court adopted the recommendation and dismissed the case. The Court vacated that judgment when it discovered that timely objections had been received by the Clerk of Court but not docketed promptly. The case is now before the Court for fresh review in light of the motion, response, report, and objections.


         The magistrate judge read the pro se complaint as pleading a case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e et seq. The record indicates that plaintiff Tracey Smith, an African American, was hired by the defendant The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan (the Food Bank) on September 11, 2013 as a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) specialist. She was hired by Adam Dunton, a manager at the Food Bank. On January 3, 2014 - about four months later - at a termination meeting with Dunton and two other Food Bank representatives, she was terminated purportedly because of restructuring and the plaintiff's performance issues. According to the plaintiff, the real reason she was terminated was because of Dunton's racial animus toward African Americans.

         Magistrate Judge Patti concluded that the undisputed record did not support the plaintiff's allegations and recommended that the defendant's summary judgment be granted and the case be dismissed. Smith filed 25 objections to the report and recommendation.


         The filing of timely objections to a report and recommendation requires the Court to “make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667 (1980); United States v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947 (6th Cir. 1981). This de novo review requires the Court to re-examine all of the relevant evidence previously reviewed by the magistrate judge in order to determine whether the recommendation should be accepted, rejected, or modified in whole or in part. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         “The filing of objections provides the district court with the opportunity to consider the specific contentions of the parties and to correct any errors immediately, ” Walters, 638 F.2d at 950, enabling the court “to focus attention on those issues - factual and legal - that are at the heart of the parties' dispute, ” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 147 (1985). As a result, “‘[o]nly those specific objections to the magistrate's report made to the district court will be preserved for appellate review; making some objections but failing to raise others will not preserve all the objections a party may have.'” McClanahan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 830, 837 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting Smith v. Detroit Fed'n of Teachers Local 231, 829 F.2d 1370, 1373 (6th Cir. 1987)).

         Judge Patti's report was responsive to the defendant's motion for summary judgment. Summary judgment is appropriate “if 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). When reviewing the motion record, “[t]he court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, and determine ‘whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'” Alexander v. CareSource, 576 F.3d 551, 557-58 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)).

         “The party bringing the summary judgment motion has the initial burden of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute over material facts.” Id. at 558. (citing Mt. Lebanon Personal Care Home, Inc. v. Hoover Universal, Inc., 276 F.3d 845, 848 (6th Cir. 2002)). “Once that occurs, the party opposing the motion then may not ‘rely on the hope that the trier of fact will disbelieve the movant's denial of a disputed fact' but must make an affirmative showing with proper evidence in order to defeat the motion.” Ibid. (quoting Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479 (6th Cir. 1989)).

         “[T]he party opposing the summary judgment motion must do more than simply show that there is some ‘metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'” Highland Capital, Inc. v. Franklin Nat'l Bank, 350 F.3d 558, 564 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)) (internal quotation marks omitted). A party opposing a motion for summary judgment must designate specific facts in affidavits, depositions, or other factual material showing “evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. If the non-moving party, after sufficient opportunity for discovery, is unable to meet her burden of proof, summary judgment is clearly proper. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

         Irrelevant or unnecessary factual disputes do not create genuine issues of material fact. St. Francis Health Care Centre v. Shalala, 205 F.3d 937, 943 (6th Cir. 2000). A fact is “material” if its resolution affects the outcome of the lawsuit. Lenning v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., 260 F.3d 574, 581 (6th Cir. 2001). “Materiality” is determined by the substantive law claim. Boyd v. Baeppler, 215 F.3d 594, 599 (6th Cir. 2000). An issue is “genuine” if a “reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Henson v. Nat'l Aeronautics & Space Admin., 14 F.3d 1143, 1148 (6th Cir. 1994) (quoting 477 U.S. at 248).

         Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it “an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to discriminate against any individual with respect to [her] compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). To prove race discrimination under Title VII, the plaintiff must offer evidence that the defendant took adverse action against her and that race was a motivating factor. Ondricko v. MGM Grand Detroit, LLC, 689 F.3d 642, 649 (6th Cir. 2012).

         With these rules, procedures, and legal principles in mind, the Court will turn to the plaintiff's objections.


         As noted above, the plaintiff made 25 objections to the magistrate judge's report. Objections 3, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 21, and 23 are insufficient to warrant review, because they do not identify any specific defect in the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, and they do not set forth any factual basis or legal authority to support a conclusion that the magistrate judge erred. “Overly general objections do not satisfy the objection requirement.” Spencer v. Bouchard, 449 F.3d 721, 725 (6th Cir. 2006). “The objections must be clear enough to enable the district court to discern those issues that are dispositive and contentious.” Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995). “‘[O]bjections disput[ing] the correctness of the magistrate's recommendation but fail[ing] to specify the findings . . . believed [to be] in error' are too general, ” Spencer, 449 F.3d at 725 (quoting Miller, 50 F.3d at 380), and “the failure to file specific objections to a magistrate's report constitutes a waiver of those objections, ” Cowherd v. Million, 380 F.3d 909, 912 (6th Cir. 2004).

         B. Objections 1, 2, and 25

         In the plaintiff's first, second, and twenty-fifth objections, she argues that the magistrate judge erred by finding that there is no direct evidence of discrimination committed by the defendant. She argues that she is not the only individual that filed a lawsuit against the defendant and that such evidence “speaks for itself.” Id. at 2-3. In support, she points to exhibits 8 and 9 attached to her response to the summary judgment motion. Neither exhibit, however, amounts to direct evidence of discrimination.

         “Direct evidence of discrimination is that evidence which, if believed, requires the conclusion that unlawful discrimination was [the] motivating factor in the employer's actions. It does not require the fact finder to draw any inferences to reach that conclusion.” Sharp v. AkerPlant Servs. Grp., Inc., 726 F.3d 789, 798 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Wexler v. White's Fine Furniture, Inc., 317 F.3d 564, 570 (6th Cir. 2003) (en banc), and Amini v. Oberlin Coll., 440 F.3d 350, 359 (6th Cir. 2006)) (quotation marks omitted). For example, “[d]iscriminatory remarks by decision makers and those who significantly influence the decision-making ...

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