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Rosane v. Shannon County School District 65-1

United States District Court, D. South Dakota

June 14, 2013

TERRI L. ROSANE, Plaintiff,
v.
SHANNON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT 65-1, Defendant

Page 1021

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1022

For Terri L. Rosane, Plaintiff: Michael M. Hickey, Sarah Baron Houy, Bangs, McCullen, Butler, Foye & Simmons, Rapid City, SD.

For Shannon County School District 65-1, Defendant: Naomi R. Cromwell, Richard Paul Tieszen, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Jessica L. Filler, Wade Lee Fischer, Tieszen Law Office, Pierre, SD.

OPINION

Page 1023

ORDER

JEFFREY L. VIKEN, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Pending before the court is defendant Shannon County School District 65-1's (" District" ) motion for summary judgment. (Docket 56). The court referred the motion to Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy for resolution. (Docket 65). On March 5, 2013, Magistrate Judge Duffy filed a report recommending the court grant in part and deny in part defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Docket 69). Magistrate Judge Duffy recommended granting defendant summary judgment on plaintiff's hostile work environment claim, denying defendant summary judgment on plaintiff's retaliation claim, and denying defendant summary judgment on its claim of sovereign immunity. Id. Defendant timely filed objections. (Docket 70). Plaintiff filed a response to defendants' objections. [1] (Docket 71).

The court reviews de novo those portions of the report and recommendation which are the subject of objections. Thompson v. Nix, 897 F.2d 356, 357-58 (8th Cir. 1990); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court may then " accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

For the reasons stated below, defendant's objections are overruled. The court adopts the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge in its entirety.

A. DEFENDANT'S OBJECTIONS TO THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

District asserts the magistrate judge erred in denying it summary judgment on

Page 1024

plaintiff's retaliation claim and in denying relief to District under the affirmative defense of statutory sovereign immunity. Neither plaintiff nor defendant object to the portion of the magistrate judge's recommendation granting defendant summary judgment on plaintiff's hostile work environment claim.

1. Retaliation Claim

Title VII declares " [i]t shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any of [its] employees . . . because [an employee] has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a).

" To defeat summary judgment on a retaliation claim, a plaintiff must produce either direct evidence of retaliation or create an inference of retaliation under the McDonnell Douglas [2] burden-shifting framework." Pye v. Nu Aire, Inc., 641 F.3d 1011, 1020 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Young-Losee v. Graphic Packaging Int'l, Inc., 631 F.3d 909, 912 (8th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). Ms. Rosane does not assert direct evidence of retaliation. Under the McDonnell burden-shifting framework, the issue is whether Ms. Rosane has presented " an inference of retaliation." Pye, 641 F.3d at 1020.

In Title VII cases, the burden-shifting framework consists of three steps. Id. at 1021. First, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case for her claim. Id. Second, the defendant has the opportunity to offer a non-retaliatory reason for its action. Id. Third, the plaintiff has the opportunity to prove the defendant's stated non-retaliatory reason was merely pretext. Id.

To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, the plaintiff must show (1) she engaged in a protected activity; (2) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) a causal connection existed between the adverse employment action and the protected conduct. Ross v. Kansas City Power & Light Co., 293 F.3d 1041, 1051 (8th Cir. 2002).

In analyzing plaintiff's claim and viewing the facts, and inferences from those facts, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the magistrate judge concluded (1) Ms. Rosane engaged in a protected activity " by filing her internal grievance and by filing her charge of discrimination with the SDDHR" ; (2) Ms. Rosane suffered an adverse employment action whether she felt forced to resign or was terminated; and (3) a genuine issue of material fact existed as to the cause of Ms. Rosane's termination. (Docket 69 at pp. 34-40). The magistrate judge recommended denying summary judgment because a genuine issue of material fact existed concerning the District's motives in terminating Ms. Rosane. Id. at pp. 39-41.

District objects to the entirety of the magistrate judge's analysis relating to plaintiff's retaliation claim. Specifically, defendant argues the magistrate judge erred in finding that: (1) plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies; (2) plaintiff engaged in a protected activity; (3) plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action; (4) a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding defendant's motives for terminating the plaintiff; and (5) a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding pretext. (Docket 70). District also objects to the ...


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