Cowans v. Computer Sciences Corporation
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 9/2/2015. (KEK)
2015 Sep-02 AM 10:24
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
Case No.: 5:13-cv-00937-MHH
On July 15 2015, Magistrate Judge John England entered a report and
recommendation concerning defendant Computer Sciences Corporation’s motion
for summary judgment. (Doc. 32) In his report, Judge England recommended that
the Court enter judgment in favor of CSC as a matter of law on plaintiff Phyllis
Cowans’s ADEA claim and her Title VII race discrimination claim. (Doc. 32).
Ms. Cowans filed objections to the report and recommendation.
Because the parties did not consent to dispositive jurisdiction by a magistrate
judge, the Clerk reassigned this action to the undersigned to review Judge
England’s report and Ms. Cowan’s objections. (Doc. 34). For the reasons stated
below, the Court adopts Judge England’s report and accepts his recommendation.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or part, the findings
or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).
When a party files timely objections to a report and recommendation, the district
court “make[s] a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified
proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” Id.
A district court does not have to conduct a de novo review of the portions of
a report and recommendation to which no party objects. Garvey v. Vaughn, 993
F.2d 776, 779 n.9 (11th Cir. 1993); see also United States v. Slay, 714 F.2d 1093,
1095 (11th Cir. 1983) (per curiam), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 1050 (1984) (“The
failure to object to the magistrate’s findings of fact prohibits an attack on appeal of
the factual findings adopted by the district court except on grounds of plain error or
manifest injustice.”) (internal citation omitted). In Macort v. Prem, Inc., 208 Fed.
Appx. 781, 784 (11th Cir. 2006), the Eleventh Circuit stated:
Most circuits agree that “[i]n the absence of a timely filed objection, a
district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must
only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record
in order to accept the recommendation.” Diamond v. Colonial Life &
Accident Ins., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quotations omitted);
accord Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir.1999)
(“If no objection or only partial objection is made [to the magistrate
judge’s report], the district court judge reviews those unobjected
portions for clear error.”); United States v. Wilson, 864 F.2d 1219,
1221 (5th Cir. 1989) (noting that the “clearly erroneous” standard is
appropriate where there has been no objection to the magistrate
judge’s ruling); Drywall Tapers & Pointers v. Local 530, 889 F.2d
389, 395 (2d Cir. 1989) (“Where a magistrate [judge] has been
appointed to conduct an evidentiary hearing, the district court reviews
the Report and Recommendation under the same clearly erroneous
standard.”) (citing Wooldridge v. Marlene Indus. Corp., 875 F.2d 540,
544 (6th Cir. 1989)).
The Eleventh Circuit does not appear to have expressly held that a district
court should review a report and recommendation for plain error in the absence of
objections; however, other courts in this Circuit have adopted such a position.1
Accordingly, the Court will review for clear error on the face of the record the
issues to which Ms. Cowans has not raised a specific objection.
Magistrate Judge England found that Ms. Cowans abandoned her Title VII
claim for race discrimination. (Doc. 32, p. 1). Ms. Cowans did not object to this
portion of Judge England’s report and recommendation. The Court finds no clear
error on the face of the record with respect to that claim. Therefore, the Court will
enter judgment in favor of CSC on Ms. Cowans’s race discrimination claim.
Ms. Cowans has lodged one specific objection to Judge England’s
recommendation that the Court enter judgment in favor of CSC on Ms. Cowans’s
See Tauber v. Barnhart, 438 F. Supp. 2d 1366, 1373 (N.D. Ga. 2006) (“[I]ssues upon which no
specific objections are raised do not so require de novo review; the district court may therefore
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the
magistrate judge, applying a clearly erroneous standard.”) (internal citations and quotations
omitted); Am. Charities for Reasonable Fundraising Regulation, Inc. v. Pinellas County, 278 F.
Supp. 2d 1301, 1307 (M.D. Fla. 2003) (“[W]hen no timely and specific objections are filed, case
law indicates that the court should review the findings using a clearly erroneous standard.”);
Shuler v. Infinity Property & Gas, 2013 WL 1346615, at *1 (N.D. Ala. March 29, 2013)
(portions of a report and recommendation “to which no objection is filed are reviewed only for
age discrimination claim. Ms. Cowans contends that a question of fact exists with
respect to her age discrimination claim because, she argues, the record
demonstrates that CSC did not follow the company’s reduction in force policy
when the company retained a “27-year-old employee with only two (2) years of
service” rather than Ms. Cowans, “a government contractor security expert with
over thirty-three years of exemplary service.” (Doc. 33, pp. 1-2). In opposition to
CSC’s summary judgment motion, Ms. Cowans posited evidence that CSC’s
“reduction in force policy aimed to keep the personnel with the longest service,”
that she had “the longest length of service in [CSC’s security] department,” and
that her supervisors’ actions in selecting her for the reduction in force violated the
policy created a question of fact regarding pretext for age discrimination. (Doc.
24, pp. 17, 26).
Ms. Cowans’s argument misses the mark. Magistrate Judge England found
that Ms. Cowans did not establish a prima facie case of age discrimination because
there is no competent substantial evidence that Ms. Cowans was qualified for the
MDA Basic Analyst position that CSC eventually offered to Holly Owens, the “27year-old employee with only two (2) years of service.” (Doc. 32, pp. 17-18). Ms.
Cowans has not objected to Judge England’s discussion of the legal standard
applicable to her age discrimination claim or to Judge England’s finding that she
“cannot establish a prima facie case of age discrimination.” (Doc. 32, p. 17). The
Court finds no clear error on the face of the record with respect to that finding.
Consequently, any potential fact issue pertaining to pretext does not preclude
summary judgment on Ms. Cowans’s age discrimination claim.
Moreover, the record demonstrates that Ms. Cowans’s layoff was consistent
with CSC’s reduction in force policy. CSC Human Resources Management Policy
213 states that when a reduction in the workforce is necessary because of business
reasons, layoffs should be based on a combination of factors, including CSC’s
needs and the employee’s skills, knowledge, ability reliability, performance, and
length of service. (Doc. 23-10, p. 5 at § 1.1). Therefore, length of service is only
one factor in the layoff equation. The record demonstrates that Ms. Cowans’s
supervisor, Ms. Dyer, had a legitimate reason for mentioning Ms. Owens rather
than Ms. Cowans for the analyst position, namely the fact that Ms. Owens had a
bachelor’s degree, a prerequisite for the job, and Ms. Cowans did not. Ms. Cowans
has not offered sufficient evidence to permit a reasonable factfinder to conclude
that age discrimination was the “but for” cause of the adverse action. Ms. Dyer’s
reference to her own age and to Ms. Cowans’s age in casual conversation more
than one year before CSC’s reduction in force does not change this result. (Doc.
32, pp. 13, 19).
Other than the objection relating to CSC’s alleged failure to follow its
reduction in force policy, Ms. Cowans offers only vague, conclusory challenges to
Judge England’s report and recommendation. The Court finds no clear error on the
face of the record with respect to the balance of Judge England’s findings.
For the reasons discussed above, the Court adopts Judge England’s report
and accepts his recommendation. By separate order, the Court will enter judgment
in favor of CSC on Ms. Cowans’s ADEA and Title VII claims.
DONE and ORDERED this September 2, 2015.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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