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Farrow v. Frazier

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

April 11, 2018

WILL FRAZIER, et al., Defendants.



         On December 12, 2017, Plaintiff filed this action, pro se, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), alleging employment discrimination against her by Defendants. (Doc. 1.) Concurrent with her Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Doc. 2.) Prior to ruling on Plaintiff's Motion, the Court advised Plaintiff that she could not maintain a Title VII action against individually named defendants and directed her to file an amended complaint against a proper employer defendant and to include additional information regarding her pursuit of administrative remedies. (Doc. 5.) Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint naming a cognizable defendant. (Doc. 6.)

         As set forth below, Plaintiff has now named a cognizable defendant, and she has apparently exhausted her administrative remedies, (doc. 5, pp. 5-6); thus, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, and her federal claims against Defendant King & Prince Seafood may proceed. However, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's federal claims against Defendants Will Frazier, Mrs. Linda, Tawana Hardee, Brittany, Mrs. Carolyn, and Michael Arrinston for failure to state a claim and that the Court DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff's state and local law claims against all Defendants.[1]


         Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the Court may authorize the filing of a civil lawsuit without the prepayment of fees if the plaintiff submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all of her assets and shows an inability to pay the filing fee and also includes a statement of the nature of the action which shows that she is entitled to redress. Even if the plaintiff proves indigence, the Court must dismiss the action if it is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 113 n.19 (3d Cir. 2002) (non-prisoner indigent plaintiffs are “clearly within the scope of § 1915(e)(2)”); Dutta-Roy v. Fain, No. 1:14-CV-280-TWT, 2014 WL 1795205, at *2 (N.D.Ga. May 5, 2014) (frivolity review of indigent non-prisoner plaintiff's complaint).

         When reviewing a complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is guided by the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 (“A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain [among other things] . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 10 (requiring that claims be set forth in numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set of circumstances). Further, a claim is frivolous under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) “if it is ‘without arguable merit either in law or fact.'” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Thompson v. Rundle, 393 Fed.Appx. 675, 678 (11th Cir. 2010). Under that standard, this Court must determine whether the complaint contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plaintiff must assert “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not” suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Section 1915 also “accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Bilal, 251 F.3d at 1349 (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)).

         In its analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle that the pleadings of unrepresented parties are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and, therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys . . . .”) (quoting Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003)). However, Plaintiff's unrepresented status will not excuse mistakes regarding procedural rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“We have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”).

         I. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint

         In her original Complaint, Plaintiff asserted various employment discrimination claims only against individual co-workers. (Docs. 1, 1-1.) The Court advised Plaintiff that she could not state a claim against individually named defendants under Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12111 et seq. (Doc. 5.) The Court instructed Plaintiff to amend, (id.), and in her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff names King & Prince Seafood as Defendant, as well as all of the individual Defendants named in the original Complaint. (Doc. 6.) Plaintiff also alleges Defendants violated Georgia law, as well as local law, but does not identify which state and local laws Defendants allegedly violated or what conduct resulted in these alleged violations. (Id. at p. 3; Doc. 6-1.)

         As Plaintiff should now be well aware, she may not bring federal employment law discrimination claims against her co-workers in their individual capacities. Individual employees are not subject to liability under the federal discrimination laws Plaintiff claims Defendants violated. Albra v. Advan, Inc., 490 F.3d 826, 830 (11th Cir. 2007) (holding “individual liability is precluded for violations of the ADA's employment discrimination provision”); Dearth v. Collins¸441 F.3d 931, 933 (11th Cir. 2006) (holding “relief under Title VII is available against only the employer and not against individual employees whose actions would constitute a violation of the Act”); Smith v. Lomax, 45 F.3d 402, 403 n.4 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding individual employees “cannot be held liable under the ADEA”).

         Accordingly, the Court should dismiss Plaintiff's federal discrimination claims against Defendants Will Frazier, Mrs. Linda, Tawana Hardee, Brittany, Mrs. Carolyn, and Michael Arrinston, the individual co-worker Defendants. Plaintiff's Title VII, ADEA, and ADA claims against Defendant King & Prince Seafood shall remain pending before the Court.

         II. Supplemental Jurisdiction over Plaintiff's State and Local Law Claims

         Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated state and local laws but does not specify which state or local law claims she intends to bring in this action. (Docs. 6, 6-1.) Likewise, Plaintiff fails to identify what conduct by which Defendant she alleges violated state and local law. (Id.) At best, Plaintiff alleges Defendant Brittany committed assault and battery by trying to touch her eye lids and by bumping her as they walked together. (Doc. 6-1, p. 1.) Plaintiff also makes allegations that she bumped Defendant Tawana Hardee, (id. at p. 3), but on the whole, Plaintiff's state and local law allegations are utterly unclear. What is clear, however, is that the gravamen of Plaintiff's ...

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