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Tompkins-Wells v. Shelby County Head Start

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

March 23, 2015



JOHN T. FOWLKES, Jr., District Judge.

Before the Court is the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation entered on August 14, 2014 that recommended granting Shelby County Head Start's ("SCHS") Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 27 and ECF No. 47). On August 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed written objections to the Report and Recommendation.[1] (ECF No. 50). On the following day, SCHS filed its response to Plaintiff's objections. (ECF No. 51).[2]

Upon a de novo review of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, Plaintiff's objections, Defendant's response, and the entire record, the Court finds the Report and Recommendation should be adopted and SCHS's Motion for Summary Judgment granted.


In summary, Plaintiff contends that she began her employment with Shelby County Head Start ("SCHS") as a teacher's assistant in 1993 and was promoted to classroom teacher in 1998. She worked in this capacity until her termination on September 23, 2011. (ECF No. 38-1, pp. 19-20). Plaintiff asserts that on January 21, 2010, she injured her back while assisting a child with her clothing. Due to her injury, she was unable to return to work until May of 2010. The following year, Plaintiff was again injured on-the-job, subsequently leading to her termination on September 13, 2011. Due to her termination, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") against SCHS that alleged employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Based on its investigation, the EEOC was unable to conclude that the Defendant had violated any of the applicable statutes but issued a Right to Sue notice to Plaintiff on September 11, 2012.[3] (ECF No. 1-1). Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff filed this action against SCHS on November 30, 2012, for discrimination based on her physical disability. (ECF No. 1).

On March 25, 2013, the matter was referred to the Magistrate Judge for administration, determination, or for report and recommendation of all preliminary and pretrial matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 1. (ECF No. 4). On March 28, 2014, Plaintiff amended her Complaint adding AFSCME International, Local 1733 along with individually named AFSCME representatives, Staff Representative Havier Smith, Union Director Chad Johnson and Netra Weathersby. (ECF No. 26 and ECF No. 31). On September 29, 2014, the Court adopted the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation issued on August 11, 2014, and dismissed all claims against AFSCME. (Order, ECF No. 52). On December 19, 2014, the Court ordered the Plaintiff and representatives of SCHS to participate in mediation by February 27, 2015. (Order, ECF No. 56). Mediation was unsuccessful.

The Court adopts the Magistrate Judge's proposed factual findings that: 1) during the entirety of her employment as a SCHS teacher, Plaintiff instructed and supervised children between the ages of three to five years old; 2) the updated job description required that teachers have the ability to lift forty pounds, communicate, interact, engage with the students at their level; and sit on the floor or in preschool-aged student chairs;[4] 3) Plaintiff stipulated to the job requirements provided in the Classroom Teacher position description and, 4) Plaintiff sustained two on-the-job injuries: one in January 2010 for which she submitted an injury report and again, in 2011 which she did not report to SCHS.[5]

On August 11, 2011, Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Samuel Schroerlucke, issued a report that Plaintiff was not medically cleared to perform four of the six essential functions of a SCHS classroom teacher.[6] On September 19, 2011, Dr. Schroerlucke again noted that Plaintiff's condition was the same and that she lacked the ability to perform the core requirements for her position.[7] After her termination from employment with SCHS on September 23, 2011, Plaintiff did not apply for any other position within SCHS or Shelby County Government. ( Id . at p. 10).


A district judge has the discretion to refer dispositive matters to a magistrate judge to conduct a hearing and propose findings of fact and recommendations. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). The rules provide that:

Within fourteen days after being served with a copy, any party may serve and file written objections to such proposed findings and recommendations as provided by the rules of court. A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.

See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); and See Baker v. Peterson, 67 F.App'x. 308, 311 (6th Cir. 2003).

The district court judge must review the magistrate judge's proposed findings of fact and recommendations under a de novo determination. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); See e.g. Baker v. Peterson, 67 F.App'x. 308, 311 (6th Cir. 2003). The district court judge must also review dispositive motions under the de novo standard. Matthews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 275 (1976).


Federal R. Civ. P. 56(a) provides that the Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Moldowan v. City of Warren, 578 F.3d 351, 374 (6th Cir. 2009); Geiger v. Tower Auto ., 579 F.3d 614, 620 (6th Cir. 2009). One may not oppose a properly supported summary judgment motion by mere reliance on the pleadings. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Instead, the non-movant must present "concrete evidence supporting [her] claims." Cloverdale Equip. Co. v. Simon Aerials, Inc., 869 F.2d 934, 937 (6th Cir. 1989) (citations omitted); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The district court does not have the duty to search the record for such evidence. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); InterRoyal Corp. v. Sponseller, 889 F.2d 108, 111 (6th Cir. 1989).

The Magistrate Judge concluded that Plaintiff had failed to individually and specifically address the facts asserted by SCHS and had simply attached numerous inadmissible exhibits to her response without explaining their relevance to the summary judgment motion. Specifically, the Report and Recommendation proposed two conclusions of law that: 1) Plaintiff has not refuted SCHS's undisputed statement of material facts, and 2) Plaintiff had failed to establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination pursuant ...

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