Villafana v. T-Mobile et al
ORDER Granting 1 Motion/Application for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis. Plaintiff shall have twenty days in which to furnish the U.S. Marshal with the required Form USM-285. Pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, service must be accomplished within 90 days from the date this order is entered. Signed by Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Albregts on 4/26/2021. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - JQC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEVADA
TERI P. VILLAFANA,
Case No.: 2:21-cv-00661-GMN-DJA
T-MOBILE, et al.,
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 Plaintiff is proceeding in this action pro se and has requested
15 authority pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff also
16 submitted a complaint. (ECF No. 1-1).
In Forma Pauperis Application
Plaintiff filed the affidavit required by § 1915(a). (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff has shown an
19 inability to prepay fees and costs or give security for them. Accordingly, the request to proceed in
20 forma pauperis will be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). The Clerk’s Office is further
21 INSTRUCTED to file the complaint on the docket. The Court will now review Plaintiff’s
Screening the Complaint
Upon granting an application to proceed in forma pauperis, courts additionally screen the
25 complaint pursuant to § 1915(e). Federal courts are given the authority to dismiss a case if the
26 action is legally “frivolous or malicious,” fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted,
27 or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
28 When a court dismisses a complaint under § 1915, the plaintiff should be given leave to amend the
1 complaint with directions as to curing its deficiencies, unless it is clear from the face of the
2 complaint that the deficiencies could not be cured by amendment. See Cato v. United States, 70
3 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for dismissal of a complaint
5 for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Review under Rule 12(b)(6) is
6 essentially a ruling on a question of law. See Chappel v. Lab. Corp. of Am., 232 F.3d 719, 723
7 (9th Cir. 2000). A properly pled complaint must provide a short and plain statement of the claim
8 showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
9 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, it
10 demands “more than labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause
11 of action.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265,
12 286 (1986)). The court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations contained in the
13 complaint, but the same requirement does not apply to legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
14 Mere recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory allegations, do
15 not suffice. Id. at 678. Secondly, where the claims in the complaint have not crossed the line from
16 conceivable to plausible, the complaint should be dismissed.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
17 Allegations of a pro se complaint are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted
18 by lawyers. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2010) (finding that liberal
19 construction of pro se pleadings is required after Twombly and Iqbal).
In this case, Plaintiff attempts to bring claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
21 1964 and Nevada law. See Compl. (ECF No. 1-1). The Court will address the sufficiency of those
22 claims below.
Plaintiff alleges she was subjected to race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII.
25 To sufficiently allege a prima facie case of discrimination in violation of Title VII to survive a §
26 1915 screening, Plaintiff must allege that: (1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she was
27 performing according to the Company’s legitimate expectations; (3) she suffered an adverse
28 employment action; and (4) similarly situated individuals outside of her protected class were
1 treated more favorably. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973); see also
2 Leong v. Potter, 347 F.3d 1117, 1124 (9th Cir. 2003); Gardner v. LKM Healthcare, LLC, 2012
3 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111415 (D. Nev. July 27, 2012).
In order to make out a prima facie case of retaliation, Plaintiff must show: (1) involvement
5 in a protected activity, (2) a “materially adverse” action, and (3) a causal link between the two.
6 Brooks v. City of San Mateo, 229 F.3d 917, 928 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing Payne v. Norwest Corp.,
7 113 F.3d 1079, 1080 (9th Cir. 1997)); see also, Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Rwy. Co. v. White,
8 458 U.S. 53, 68 (2006) (setting forth the “materially adverse” standard). To prove causation,
9 Plaintiff “must show by a preponderance of the evidence that engaging in the protected activity
10 was one of the reasons for the ‘adverse employment decision and that but for such activity’ the
11 adverse employment action would not have occurred.” See Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc.,
12 281 F.3d 1054, 1064-65 (9th Cir. 2002).
To her Complaint, Plaintiff attaches her charge dated January 13, 2020 and the dismissal
14 and right to sue issued by the EEOC on January 11, 2021. The Court may take judicial notice of
15 these documents. See, e.g., Van Buskirk v. CNN, 284 F.3d 977, 980 (9th Cir. 2002); Mack v. South
16 Bay Beer Distribs., 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986) (finding that “court[s] may take judicial
17 notice of ‘records and reports of administrative bodies’ ”), overruled on other grounds by Astoria
18 Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass’n v. Solimino, 501 U.S. 104 (1991); Mazzorana v. Emergency Physicians
19 Med. Grp., Inc., 2:12–cv–01837–JCM–PAL; 2013 WL 4040791, at *5 n.3 (D. Nev. Aug. 6, 2013)
20 (taking judicial notice of EEOC proceedings and documents submitted therein). As a result, the
21 Court finds that Plaintiff timely filed this action and exhausted her administrative remedies with
22 respect to her race and retaliation claims.
However, she also indicated on her complaint that she believes that she was discriminated
24 against based on her religion (Rastafarian) and disability (PTSD and anxiety), but no mention of
25 such categories is made on her inquiry form or charge. The Court cannot consider incidents of
26 discrimination not included in an EEOC charge “unless the new claims are like or reasonably
27 related to the allegations contained in the EEOC charge.” Lyons v. England, 307 F.3d 1092, 1104
28 (9th Cir. 2002) (quotation omitted). A claim is like or reasonably related to allegations in an EEOC
1 charge if the claims “fell within the scope of the EEOC’s actual investigation or an EEOC
2 investigation which can reasonably be expected to grow out of the charge of discrimination.” Id.
3 To make this determination, the Court considers factors such as “the alleged basis of the
4 discrimination, dates of discriminatory acts specified within the charge, perpetrators of
5 discrimination named in the charge, and any locations at which discrimination is alleged to have
6 occurred.” Freeman v. Oakland Unified Sch. Dist., 291 F.3d 632, 636 (9th Cir. 2002) (quotation
7 omitted). Here, the Court is not certain whether her religion and disability claims were within the
8 scope of the EEOC’s investigation to find that they were administratively exhausted. However,
9 given that she is proceeding pro se, the Court will permit her to survive screening at this point.
Additionally, she names individual defendants, which is not permitted under Title VII. See
11 Miller v. Maxwell’s Intern. Inc., 991 F.2d 583 (9th Cir. 1993) (“[I]ndividual defendants cannot be
12 held liable for damages under Title VII”). Rather, Plaintiff may only bring suit against her
13 employer, who may be found liable for the actions of its employees under the respondeat superior
14 theory of liability. As such, it is not clear that Plaintiff has a cognizable claim against the individual
15 defendants. However, the Court will permit her complaint to survive screening at this point and
16 she may attempt to cure these deficiencies, if she can, with an amended complaint.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiff’s request to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED. Plaintiff shall not be
required to pre-pay the filing fee of four hundred and two dollars ($402.00). Plaintiff
is permitted to maintain this action to conclusion without the necessity of prepayment
of any additional fees or costs or the giving of a security therefor. This order granting
leave to proceed in forma pauperis shall not extend to the issuance and/or service of
subpoenas at government expense.
2. The Clerk’s Office is INSTRUCTED to file Plaintiff’s complaint (ECF No. 1-1) on
3. The Clerk of the Court shall issue Summons to Defendants and deliver the same to the
U.S. Marshal for service. The Clerk of the Court shall also deliver a copy of the
complaint (ECF No. 1-1) to the U.S. Marshal for service.
4. Plaintiff shall have twenty days in which to furnish the U.S. Marshal with the required
Form USM-285. 1 Within twenty days after receiving from the U.S. Marshal a copy of
the Form USM-285, showing whether service has been accomplished, Plaintiff must
file a notice with the court identifying whether defendants were served. If Plaintiff
wishes to have service again attempted on an unserved defendant, a motion must be
filed with the Court identifying the unserved defendant and specifying a more detailed
name and/or address for said defendant, or whether some other manner of service
should be attempted.
5. Pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, service must be
accomplished within 90 days from the date this order is entered.
6. From this point forward, Plaintiff shall serve upon Defendants, or, if appearance has
been entered by counsel, upon the attorney(s), a copy of every pleading, motion, or
other document submitted for consideration by the court. Plaintiff shall include with
the original papers submitted for filing a certificate stating the date that a true and
correct copy of the document was mailed to Defendants or counsel for Defendants. The
Court may disregard any paper received by a District Judge or Magistrate Judge that
has not been filed with the Clerk, and any paper received by a District Judge, Magistrate
Judge, or the Clerk that fails to include a certificate of service.
Dated: April 26, 2021
DANIEL J. ALBREGTS
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
The USM-285 form is available at www.usmarshals.gov/process/usm285.pdf.
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