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Pittman v. Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division

September 20, 2019

MARY ANN PITTMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHNSON & JOHNSON VISION CARE, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          MARCIA MORALES HOWARD, United Slates District Judge.

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court on Defendant Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.’s, (Johnson & Johnson) Motion for Summary Judgment and Incorporated Memorandum of Law in Support Thereof (Doc. 21, Motion), filed February 1, 2019. The Plaintiff, Mary Ann Pittman (Pittman), opposed the Motion. See Plaintiff’s Response in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 25, Response to Motion), filed February 15, 2019. With leave of Court, Johnson & Johnson filed a reply. See Reply to Plaintiff’s Response in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 30, Reply), filed March 11, 2019. On April 2, 2019, the undersigned referred the Motion to the Honorable Joel B. Toomey, United States Magistrate Judge, for the preparation of a report and recommendation regarding an appropriate resolution of the Motion for Summary Judgment. See Doc. 33. On May 28, 2019, the Magistrate Judge entered a Report and Recommendation (Doc. 35, Report), recommending that the Motion for Summary Judgment be granted. Pittman thereafter filed objections to the Report, see Amended Plaintiff’s Exceptions and Objections to Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation as to Summary Judgment Motion (Doc. 39, Objections), to which Johnson & Johnson Responded, see Defendant’s Response to Plaintiff’s Exceptions and Objections to Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation as to Summary Judgment Motion (Doc. 43, Response to Objections). Accordingly, this matter is ripe for review.

         I. Standard of Review

         The Court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the finding or recommendations by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). If no specific objections to findings of facts are filed, the district court is not required to conduct a de novo review of those findings. See Garvey v. Vaughn, 993 F.2d 776, 779 n.9 (11th Cir. 1993); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, the district court must review legal conclusions de novo. See Cooper-Houston v. Southern Ry. Co., 37 F.3d 603, 604 (11th Cir. 1994); United States v. Rice, No. 2:07-mc-8-FtM-29SPC, 2007 WL 1428615, at *1 (M.D. Fla. May 14, 2007). Because, for the reasons that follow, the Court finds that the Objections are due to be overruled and the Report adopted as the Court’s opinion, the Court will not repeat the factual and procedural history or the arguments and authority addressed in the Report. Instead, the Court writes briefly only to address Pittman’s specific objections.

         I. Background

         Pittman brought this action against her employer, Johnson & Johnson, alleging the company discriminated against her on the basis of her gender when it failed to interview or select her for a Vice President of Product Management position at the company. See generally Complaint (Doc. 1), filed June 8, 2017. In the Report, the Magistrate Judge assumed, without deciding, that Pittman established a prima facie case of gender discrimination. See Report at 8-9. As such, he focused his analysis on whether Johnson & Johnson presented a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for selecting a male, James Conroy, instead of Pittman, and in turn, whether Pittman had “come forward with evidence . . . sufficient to permit a reasonable fact finder to conclude that the reasons given by [Defendant] were not the real reasons for the adverse employment decision.” Report at 9-10 (citing and quoting Furcron v. Mail Centers Plus, LLC, 843 F.3d 1295, 1312, 1313-14 (11th Cir. 2016)). As to the first issue, the Magistrate Judge determined that Johnson & Johnson had articulated a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for not selecting Pittman, “i.e., that the candidate selected was far more qualified for the Position.” Id. at 9.

         In evaluating Pittman’s arguments and evidence on the issue of pretext, the Magistrate Judge observed that

[r]egarding failure to promote claims, the Eleventh Circuit has stated:
In the context of a promotion, a plaintiff cannot prove pretext by simply arguing or even by showing that he was better qualified than the [person] who received the position he coveted. . . . [A] plaintiff must show that the disparities between the successful applicant’s and his own qualifications were of such weight and significance that no reasonable person, in the exercise of impartial judgment, could have chosen the candidate selected over the plaintiff.
[quoting Springer v. Convergys Customer Mgt. Grp. Inc., 509 F.3d 1344, 1349 (11th Cir. 2007)] (citations and quotations omitted). Thus, “[w]hen analyzing the issue of pretext, the [f]ederal courts do not sit as a super-personnel department that reexamines an entity’s business decisions.” Johnson v. Secretary, U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, 517 Fed.Appx. 933, 936 (11th Cir. 2013).

Report at 10-11. Applying this standard, and in response to Pittman’s argument that she was more qualified than the other male candidates, the Magistrate Judge found that

Plaintiff has not even argued, much less shown that “no reasonable person . . . could have chosen” Mr. Conroy over her. Rather, the undersigned recommends that Plaintiff’s arguments regarding qualifications essentially ask the Court to reexamine Defendant’s business decision to select Mr. Conroy instead of her, which the Court should not do.

Id. at 11-12 (quoting Springer, 509 F.3d at 1349).

         In reaching his conclusion, the Magistrate Judge considered Pittman’s various arguments regarding the alleged untruthful and inconsistent reasons Johnson & Johnson presented regarding the change in Pittman’s promotion “readiness” status, the alleged shifting reasons for why she was not selected for the position, and the purported inconsistencies in Johnson & Johnson’s hiring process. Id. at 11-21. In regards to these arguments he concluded that “even when making all reasonable inferences from the evidence in Plaintiff’s favor, and considering all of Plaintiff’s arguments both individually and collectively, there is no genuine issue of material fact regarding pretext.” Id. at 11. As particularly relevant for the purposes of the Objections, the Magistrate Judge considered a November 5, 2015 email proffered by Pittman as evidence that ...


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