Gould v. Union Pacific Railroad et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER - IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that: 1. Plaintiff's claims against Charles Weatherbee, Jack Hamer, and Terry Turner are dismissed without prejudice. 2. Plaintiff shall have 30 days to file a copy of his right-to-sue notice. If Pl aintiff fails to do so, this matter will be dismissed without further notice. 3. The court reserves the right to conduct further review of Plaintiff's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) after Plaintiff addresses the matters set fo rth in this Memorandum and Order. 4. The Clerk of the court is directed to set a pro se case management deadline in this case using the following text: July 22, 2013: Check for amended complaint and right-to-sue notice. Ordered by Senior Judge Richard G. Kopf. (Copy mailed to pro se party)(TCL )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA
ROBERT L. GOULD,
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD,
CHARLES WEATHERBEE, JACK
HAMER, and TERRY TURNER,
Plaintiff Robert Gould (“Plaintiff”) filed his Complaint in this matter on January
31, 2013. (Filing No. 1.) Plaintiff has been given leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
(Filing No. 5.) The court now conducts an initial review of Plaintiff’s claims to
determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT
Plaintiff filed his Complaint against Union Pacific Railroad (“UP”), UP Senior
Counsel Charles Weatherbee, UP Senior Claims Agent Jack Hamer, and UP Claims
Agent Terry Turner. Liberally construed, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants engaged in
race-based discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42
U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2 (“Title VII”).
Plaintiff’s allegations are difficult to decipher. As best as the court can tell,
Plaintiff alleges that he suffered an injury while employed at UP. (Filing No. 1 at
CM/ECF pp. 1-2.) Following his injury, he entered into a settlement agreement with
UP. (Id.) He now believes that UP and its agents took advantage of him when drafting
the terms of the settlement because he is an “uneducated black man.” (Id. at CM/ECF
p. 2.) Plaintiff alleges that he suffered “unfair discrimination” because other people with
the same types of injuries received larger settlements. (Id. at CM/ECF p. 3.) Plaintiff
believes he “received less” because he is black. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks monetary relief in
the amount of “100 Million Dollars.” (Id. at CM/ECF p. 5.) Plaintiff does not allege
when his injury occurred, when he entered into a settlement with UP, or whether he has
exhausted his administrative remedies.
APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW
The court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to determine
whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The court must
dismiss a complaint or any portion thereof that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that
fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to “nudge their claims
across the line from conceivable to plausible,” or “their complaint must be dismissed”
for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679
(2009) (“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
misconduct alleged.”). Regardless of whether a plaintiff is represented or is appearing
pro se, the plaintiff’s complaint must allege specific facts sufficient to state a claim. See
Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985). However, a pro se plaintiff’s
allegations must be construed liberally. Burke v. North Dakota Dep’t of Corr. &
Rehab., 294 F.3d 1043, 1043-44 (8th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted).
DISCUSSION OF CLAIMS
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies Required
Prior to filing a suit in federal court under Title VII, a plaintiff is required to
exhaust his or her administrative remedies by first seeking relief through the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or the Nebraska Equal Opportunity
Commission (“NEOC”). The EEOC/NEOC will then investigate the charge and
determine whether to file suit on behalf of the charging party or make a determination
of no reasonable cause. If the EEOC/NEOC determines that there is no reasonable
cause, the agency will then issue the charging party a right-to-sue notice. 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-5(b); see also Hanenburg v. Principal Mut. Life Ins. Co., 118 F.3d 570, 573 (8th
Cir. 1997). The charging party has 90 days from the receipt of the right-to-sue notice
to file a civil complaint based on his charge. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). The civil
complaint may only encompass issues that are reasonably related to the substance of
charges timely brought before the EEOC/NEOC. Williams v. Little Rock Mun. Water
Works, 21 F.3d 218, 222 (8th Cir. 1994).
Here, Plaintiff has not filed a copy of his EEOC/NEOC charge or his right-to-sue
notice. Thus, the court cannot determine whether Plaintiff has exhausted his
administrative remedies or whether Plaintiff’s claim is timely. On the court’s own
motion, the court will permit Plaintiff 30 days in which to file a copy of his EEOC
right-to-sue notice with the court.
Individual Defendants Not Employers Within Meaning of Title VII
As alleged, Plaintiff cannot maintain his Title VII claims against Defendants
Charles Weatherbee, Jack Hamer, or Terry Turner. Title VII prohibits employers from
engaging in certain unlawful employment practices because of an individual’s race,
color, religion, sex, or national origin. In addition, Title VII makes it unlawful for an
“employer to discriminate against any of his employees . . . because he has opposed any
practice made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter.” 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-3 (emphasis added). Title VII does not impose individual liability on coworkers
or supervisors. Roark v. City of Hazen, 189 F.3d 758, 761 (8th Cir. 1999) (stating
individual supervisors may not be held liable under Title VII); McCann v. New World
Pasta Co., 2010 WL 3834650, *1 (E.D. Mo. Sept. 27, 2010) (holding Title VII and
ADA claims were legally frivolous as to individual defendants because chief executive
officers, supervisors, and co-employees cannot be held individually liable under Title
VII or ADA).
Here, Plaintiff does not allege that Charles Weatherbee, Jack Hamer, and Terry
Turner were his employers within the meaning of Title VII. Indeed, Plaintiff alleges
that these individuals are UP claims agents and in-house legal counsel. For these
reasons, the court will dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against Charles Weatherbee, Jack
Hamer, and Terry Turner.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that:
Plaintiff’s claims against Charles Weatherbee, Jack Hamer, and Terry
Turner are dismissed without prejudice.
Plaintiff shall have 30 days to file a copy of his right-to-sue notice. If
Plaintiff fails to do so, this matter will be dismissed without further notice.
The court reserves the right to conduct further review of Plaintiff’s claims
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) after Plaintiff addresses the matters set forth in this
Memorandum and Order.
The Clerk of the court is directed to set a pro se case management deadline
in this case using the following text: July 22, 2013: Check for amended complaint and
DATED this 24th day of June, 2013.
BY THE COURT:
Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge
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