Nagarajan v. Hargrove et al
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION: Presently pending is Defendants' motion to dismiss (Docket Entry No. 15 ), to which Plaintiff has responded in opposition. See Docket Entry Nos. 15 and 21. For the reasons set out below, the undersigned Magistrate Judge respectfully recommends that Defendants' motion be GRANTED. Signed by Magistrate Judge Barbara D. Holmes on 1/30/2017. (xc:Pro se party by regular and certified mail.)(DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(hb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
SAMUEL HARGROVE, et al.
Honorable Kevin S. Sharp, Chief District Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
By Order entered Mach 20, 2016 (Docket Entry No. 4), this pro se action was referred to the
Magistrate Judge for pretrial proceedings under 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Rule 72 of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure.
Presently pending is Defendants’ motion to dismiss (Docket Entry No. 15), to which Plaintiff
has responded in opposition. See Docket Entry Nos. 15 and 21. For the reasons set out below, the
undersigned Magistrate Judge respectfully recommends that Defendants’ motion be GRANTED.
Govindaswamy Nagarajan (“Plaintiff”) was born in India and became an American citizen
in 1977 after immigrating to the United States. He is a college professor with multiple advanced
degrees in the study of physics and taught at several colleges and universities before accepting a
tenure-track teaching position at Tennessee State University (“TSU”) in 1980. After being denied
promotion and tenure and after being terminated from employment at TSU, Plaintiff filed a federal
lawsuit in 1990 alleging employment discrimination by TSU. See Nagarajan v. Floyd, et al., 3:90-
0055. Plaintiff succeeded at trial, and he was awarded damages and reinstated at TSU as a full nontenured professor.1 Plaintiff states that he was subsequently granted tenure.
On March 7, 2016, Plaintiff filed this pro se lawsuit against TSU and seven TSU professors
and administrators: Samuel Hargrove (“Hargrove”), Lonnie Sharpe (“Sharpe”), Sandra Scheick
(“Scheick”), Jeanetta Jackson (“Jackson”), Linda Woodruff (“Woodruff”), Mark Hardy (“Hardy”),
and Glenda Glover (“Glover”). Plaintiff’s pleadings consist of a form complaint brought under Title
VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 et seq. (“Title VII”), in which he alleges,
1) ongoing discrimination on account of race, color, and national origin that began on or about
March 4, 2014, and, 2) retaliation against him for his prior protected activity. See Docket Entry
No. 1 at 1-4. In the section of the form complaint devoted to his request for relief, Plaintiff seeks
$50,000,000.00 in punitive damages as his requested relief. Id. at 4.
Although Plaintiff does not include any supporting factual allegations in the form complaint,
he attaches a typed “complaint for declaratory judgment, and damages,” in which he sets out
24 pages of allegations. See Docket Entry No. 1 at 5-28.2 In his typed complaint, Plaintiff alleges
discrimination against him on the basis of age, race, and nationality, as well as violations of
“protected rights under due process of law, bad faith breaches of contracts, breaches of duty,
character assassinations and defamation, and tortious infliction of emotional distress.” Id. at ¶ 17.
As the basis for the Court’s jurisdiction, he refers to “civil rights statutes” and various Tennessee
statutory and constitutional provisions. Id. at ¶ 16. Plaintiff’s typed complaint contains several
complaints by Plaintiff about various aspects of the TSU administration. Although it is somewhat
difficult to cull from these overall complaints the specific events at issue in this lawsuit, it appears
that Plaintiff’s lawsuit revolves around three events: 1) the cancellation of his teaching assignments
in the Spring of 2015, id. at ¶ 23; 2) being required to teach mathematics in the Fall of 2015, id. at
See Nagarajan v. Tennessee State University, 187 F.3d 637, 1999 WL 551360 (6th Cir.
July 19, 1999) (unpublished table decision).
Plaintiff also attaches to his complaint 107 pages of exhibits. See Docket Entry No. 1-1.
¶ 24; and 3) disputes and controversies involving grade appeals of three students, whom Plaintiff
alleges were forced to “make troubles with” Plaintiff. Id. at ¶¶ 42-45. As in the form complaint, the
only specific request for relief contained in the typed complaint is a request for $50,000,000.00 in
punitive damages. Id. at 28.
In lieu of an answer, Defendants have filed the pending motion to dismiss the action under
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendants argue that Plaintiff fails to state
a claim for relief by his request for punitive damages under Title VII because the individual
defendants cannot be sued under Title VII and because Defendant TSU, as an agency of the State,
is statutorily protected from punitive damages claims under Title VII. See Memorandum in Support
(Docket Entry No. 16) at 2-4.
In response to the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff contends that the doctrine of sovereign
immunity does not apply in a situation in which he sues his supervisors, that Defendants have
committed many discriminatory and criminal offenses, and that Rule 12(b)(6) has become “mute and
redundant.” See Docket Entry No. 18. He further argues that the State of Tennessee should not
defend the individual Defendants in this lawsuit because they are, like him, TSU employees. See
Docket Entry No. 21.3
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A motion to dismiss filed under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is
reviewed under the standard that the Court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the
complaint, resolve all doubts in Plaintiff’s favor, and construe the complaint liberally in favor of the
pro se Plaintiff. See Kottmyer v. Maas, 436 F.3d 684 (6th Cir. 2006); Boswell v. Mayer, 169 F.3d
384, 387 (6th Cir. 1999); Morgan v. Church’s Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 11-12 (6th Cir. 1987).
Although the complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, Plaintiff must provide the
Plaintiff attaches to his second response copies of filings made in what appears to be a
parallel state court action. See Docket Entry Nos. 21-1 to 21-5. The purpose of providing these
copies to the Court is unclear.
grounds for his entitlement to relief and this “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (abrogating Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 78
S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)). Plaintiff must plead “factual content that allows the court to draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678-79, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).
The only federal claims specifically raised by Plaintiff in his pleading are employment
discrimination and retaliation claims brought under Title VII, which is referenced on the first page
of his form complaint. The jurisdictional section of Plaintiff’s typed complaint refers solely to
Tennessee statutory and constitutional provisions. See Docket Entry No. 1 at 13, ¶ 16. Although
the Court is required to view Plaintiff’s pro se pleadings with some measure of liberality, the Court
must nonetheless give meaning to the actual pleading filed by Plaintiff and not engage in conjecture
regarding his pleading.4
Plaintiff’s complaint warrants dismissal because punitive damages is not a viable remedy for
claims brought under Title VII. Although several individual Defendants are sued, Title VII does not
provide for a cause of action against individuals who do not independently qualify as an “employer”
under Title VII. Akers v. Alvey, 338 F.3d 491, 500 (6th Cir. 2003); Little v. BP Exploration & Oil
Co., 265 F.3d 357, 362 (6th Cir. 2001); DeSoto v. Bd. of Parks & Recreation, 64 Fed.Supp. 3d 1070,
1084 (M.D. Tenn. 2014) (Trauger, J.).5 The fact that an individual may hold a supervisory position
does not render the individual liable under Title VII. Akers, supra. Accordingly, any Title VII
claims against the individual Defendants are not viable and warrant dismissal.
The Court notes the instant action is not Plaintiff’s first involvement in litigation, but is the
fifth pro se lawsuit he has filed in this Court.
Similarly, individuals cannot be sued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Wathen v. Gen. Elec. Co., 115 F.3d 400, 404 n. 6 (6th Cir. 1997).
Furthermore, although punitive damages is a remedy that a plaintiff is generally allowed to
pursue under Title VII, these damages are specifically precluded from being assessed against a state
or its agencies. 42 U.S.C. § 1981a(b)(1) provides that “a complaining party may recover punitive
damages under this section against a respondent (other than a government, government agency or
political subdivision) . . . .” See also Oden v. Oktibbeha Cty., Miss., 246 F.3d 458, 466 (5th Cir.
2001); Galloway v. Univ. of Tennessee, No. 3:06-00461, 2007 WL 2263103, **4-5 (E.D. Tenn.
Aug. 2, 2007). Because Plaintiff seeks a remedy under Title VII that is not a viable remedy against
Defendant TSU, his Title VII claims warrant dismissal.
In his responses to the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff does not directly address the valid
argument raised by Defendants regarding the fatal deficiency of his pleading. The bulk of his
response is directed at the factual merits of his allegations, which are not at issue in review of the
motion to dismiss. Plaintiff’s objection to the representation of the individual Defendants by the
State of Tennessee through the Tennessee State Attorney General and Reporter is meritless. Tenn.
Code. Ann. § § 8-42-103 and 8-42-108 grants to the Attorney General the unreviewable discretion
to provide legal representation to state employees who are sued in civil actions for damages. In the
end, the legal arguments Plaintiff raises are legally groundless and do not provide a valid rebuttal
requiring the denial of Defendants’ motion to dismiss.
Based on the foregoing, the undersigned Magistrate Judge respectfully RECOMMENDS that
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Docket Entry No. 15) be GRANTED and that this action be
ANY OBJECTIONS to this Report and Recommendation must be filed with the Clerk of
Court within fourteen (14) days of service of this Report and Recommendation upon the party and
must state with particularity the specific portions of this Report and Recommendation to which
objection is made. Failure to file written objections within the specified time can be deemed a
waiver of the right to appeal the District Court’s Order regarding the Report and Recommendation.
See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 106 S.Ct. 466, 88 L.Ed.2d 435 (1985); United States v. Walters,
638 F.2d 947 (6th Cir. 1981).
BARBARA D. HOLMES
United States Magistrate Judge
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