Wilkins v. Napolitano et al
ORDER adopting 36 Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Wallace W Dixon; granting 27 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Honorable Sol Blatt, Jr on 10/21/2014.(ssam, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
JANET NAPOLITANO. Secretary
Department of Homeland Security;
Civil Action No. 2:13-cv-2965-S8
This matter is before the Court on the report and recommendation ("R & R") of
United States Magistrate Judge Wallace W. Dixon, which was made in accordance with
28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Civil Rule 73.02(8)(2), D.S.C., and was filed on September 4,
2014. Plaintiff Willete Wilkins ("the Plaintiff' or "Wilkins"), who is proceeding pro set is a
former Transportation Security Officer or "screener" who was employed by the
Transportation Security Administration ("TSA") at the Charleston International Airport in
Charleston, South Carolina. 2
On February 12, 2010, the Plaintiff filed an EEO complaint alleging that the TSA
1 Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(d), Jeh Johnson, the successor
to Janet Napolitano as United States Secretary of Homeland Security, is automatically
substituted as a named defendant in this matter.
2 Although the Plaintiff was employed by the TSA, because the TSA is a component
of the Department of Homeland Security, see 6 U.S.C. § 203(2). the Secretary of
Homeland Security is the proper Defendant for complaints under the Rehabilitation Act of
1973. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 791, 794 (incorporating procedural and remedial aspects of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 applicable to federal employees); 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(c)
(including the provision regarding the proper defendant for civil actions in federal court).
discriminated against her on the basis of her disability when she was subjected to
harassment and a hostile work environment. After the Plaintiff's administrative complaint
was dismissed and her appeal was denied, the Plaintiff initiated this action against the TSA
on October 30, 2013, claiming that she was the victim of "disability discrimination" after she
suffered a leg injury at work in 2007. (Entry 1 at 3-5; 10-13.) The Plaintiff seeks monetary
relief for pain and suffering she endured because of "disability discrimination, hostile work
environment, and reprisaL"
(lit. at 5.) The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on April
9,2014. On September 4, 2014, the Magistrate Judge issued an R&R recommending that
the Court grant the Defendants' motion to dismiss. The Plaintiff filed timely objections to
the R&R, and the matter is ripe for review. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
adopts the R&R and grants the Defendants' motion to dismiss.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
Motion to Dismiss
When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true
the facts alleged in the complaint and view them in a light most favorable to the Plaintiff.
Ostrzenski v. Seigel, 177 F.3d 245, 251 (4th Cir. 1999). The United States Supreme Court
has stated that "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft
. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
lit. Although "a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations," a pleading that merely offers "labels
and conclusions," or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Likewise, "a complaint [will not] suffice if it tenders 'naked
assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancements.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
The Magistrate Judge's R&R
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court.
recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final
determination remains with the Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The
Court is charged with making a de novo determination of any portion of the R&R to which
a specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part,
the recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the
Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b).
Objections to an R&R must be specific. Failure to file specific written objections
results in a party's waiver of the right to appeal from the judgment of the district court
based upon such recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140
(1985); Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841 (4th Cir. 1985).
In the absence of specific
objections, the Court reviews the matter for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life &
Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir.2005) (stating that "in 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."') (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 72 advisory committee's note).
In the R&R, the Magistrate Judge agreed with the Defendants thatthe Plaintiff failed
to state a viable claim because the Aviation and Transportation Security Act ("ATSA")
preempts application of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to screeners such as the Plaintiff.
As the Magistrate Judge noted, by enacting the AT SA following the terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001, "Congress intended to enhance the Secretary's (and the
Transportation Security Administrator's) flexibility in hiring security screeners without regard
to the prohibitions against disability discrimination in the Rehabilitation Act." Joren v.
Napolitano, 633 F.3d 1144, 1146 (7th Cir. 2011); see also Field v. Napolitano, 663 F.3d
505,510 (1st Cir. 2011) (finding that AT SA precludes a security screener from bringing suit
under the federal Rehabilitation Act); Castro v. Sec'y of Homeland Sec., 472 F.3d 1334,
1336 (11 th Cir. 2006) (noting that the TSA shall implement hiring standards and conditions
of employment, including physical standards, for screening personnel, whether or not those
standards and conditions of employment are consistent with the Rehabilitation Act).
In her objections, the Plaintiff simply rehashes her allegations. Importantly, she
makes no specific objection to any portion of the Magistrate Judge's R&R, and she fails
to pOint to any legal or factual error in the R&R. After consideration, therefore, the Court
finds the Plaintiffs non-specific objections to be wholly without merit, and the Court agrees
with the Magistrate Judge that the Plaintiffs complaint fails to state a claim. Therefore, the
Court overrules the Plaintiff's objections, adopts the R&R, and grants the Defendants'
motion to dismiss.
Based on the foregoing, it is hereby
ORDERED that the R&R (Entry 36) is adopted and fully incorporated herein; the
Plaintiff's objections (Entry 38) are overruled; and the Defendants' motion to dismiss (Entry
27) is granted.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
Charleston, South Carolina
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