Johnson v. Shelby County School
ORDER Adopting DE 8 Report and Recommendations signed by Judge John T. Fowlkes, Jr. on 4/11/2017. (Fowlkes, John)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
SHELBY COUNTY SCHOOLS,
ORDER ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S REPORT AND
Before the Court is Judge Vescovo’s Report and Recommendation for sua sponte
Dismissal. (ECF No. 8). This case was referred to the United States Magistrate Judge for
management and for all pretrial matters for determination and/or report and recommendation as
appropriate. (Admin. Order 2013-05, April 29, 2013). Judge Vescovo issued her Report and
Recommendation on March 9, 2017. A copy of the Report and Recommendation was mailed to
Brenda Johnson (“Plaintiff”). To date, no objections have been filed.
After a de novo review, the Court hereby ADOPTS the Magistrate’s Repot and
FINDINGS OF FACT
This Court adopts the Magistrate Judge’s proposed findings of fact in this case. See (ECF
A. Standard for District Court’s Review of a Report and Recommendation
The district court has the authority to refer certain pre-trial matters to a magistrate judge
for resolution. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Callier v. Gray, 167 F.3d 977, 980 (6th Cir. 1999). These
referrals may include non-dispositive pretrial matters, such as a motion to compel or a motion for
a protective order concerning discovery. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). The district court has
appellate jurisdiction over any decisions the magistrate judge issues pursuant to such a referral.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 72. The referrals may also include dispositive matters such as a motion for
summary judgment or a motion for injunctive relief. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). When a
dispositive matter is referred, the magistrate judge’s duty is to issue proposed findings of fact and
recommendations for disposition, which the district court may adopt or not. “The district judge
may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return
the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3).
The standard of review that is applied by the district court depends on the nature of the
matter considered by the magistrate judge. If the magistrate judge issues a non-dispositive
pretrial order, the district court should defer to that order unless it is “found to be clearly
erroneous or contrary to law.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a). However, if the
magistrate judge order was issued in response to a dispositive motion, the district court should
engage in de novo review of all portions of the order to which specific written objections have
been made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a); Baker v. Peterson, 67 Fed. App’x.
308, 311, 2003 WL 21321184 *2 (6th Cir. 2003) (“A district court normally applies a ‘clearly
erroneous or contrary to law’ standard of review for non[-]dispositive preliminary measures. A
district court must review dispositive motions under the de novo standard.”).
B. Standard for Motion To Dismiss
When assessing a plaintiff’s claim at the Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b)(6) motion to dismiss
stage, the Sixth Circuit has stated that a complaint must allege sufficient facts to state a plausible
claim for relief, and that a reviewing court must “construe the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff and accept all allegations as true.” Keys v. Humana, Inc., 684 F.3d 605,
608 (6th Cir. 2012). “Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings
drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, pro se litigants “are
not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Wells v. Brown, 891
F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 F. App’x 608, 613 (6th Cir.
2011) (“[A] court cannot create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading.”)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
A. Title VII Religious Discrimination Claim
On March 2, 2017, Plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint under Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 against the defendant, Shelby County Schools (“SCS”). To establish a prima facie
claim for religious discrimination under Title VII, the Sixth Circuit requires a plaintiff to show
that “(1) [s]he holds a sincere religious belief that conflicts with an employment requirement; (2)
[s]he has informed the employer about the conflicts; and (3) [s]he was discharged or disciplined
for failing to comply with the conflicting employment requirement.” Tepper v. Potter, 505 F.3d
508, 514 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Smith v. Pyro Mining Co., 827 F.2d 1081, 1084 (6th Cir. 1987)).
Plaintiff alleges that Shelia Gray (“Gray”), an employee of Shelby County Schools, terminated
her because of religious beliefs held by Gray. (ECF No. 1 at 5). However, Plaintiff does not
allege that she was terminated because of any religious beliefs that she personally holds.
Therefore, Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to allege the essential elements of a religious
discrimination claim under Title VII. This claim is DISMISSED.
B. ADA Claims
Plaintiff also asserts a disability discrimination claim under the Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) against SCS.
If a plaintiff presents direct evidence of
(1) The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that he or she is disabled. (2)
The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that he or she is “otherwise
qualified” for the position despite his or her disability: (a) without
accommodation from the employer; (b) with an alleged “essential” job
requirement eliminated; or (c) with a proposed reasonable accommodation. (3)
The employer will bear the burden of proving that a challenged job criterion is
essential, and therefore a business necessity, or that a proposed accommodation
will impose an undue hardship upon the employer.
Thomas v. Henderson, 266 F. App’x 466, 472 (6th Cir. 2007). However, if a plaintiff seeks to
indirectly establish a prima facie claim of disability discrimination under the ADA, a burdenshifting approach applies. Id; see also McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973);
Texas Dep’t of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248 (1981). The plaintiff must show: “1) he or
she is disabled; 2) otherwise qualified for the position, with or without reasonable
accommodation; 3) suffered an adverse employment decision; 4) the employer knew or had
reason to know of the plaintiff’s disability; and 5) the position remained open while the employer
sought other applicants or the disabled individual was replaced.” Daugherty v. Sajar Plastics,
Inc., 544 F.3d 696, 703 (6th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted). Here, Plaintiff does not offer direct
evidence that shows a discriminatory motive by SCS. Therefore, Plaintiff must proceed with
circumstantial evidence and establish a prima facie case under the McDonnell Douglas/Burdine
After a review of Plaintiff’s Complaint, the Magistrate Judge correctly found that
Plaintiff did not pled sufficient facts to establish the prima facie elements of her ADA disability
discrimination claim. Therefore, this claim is DISMISSED.
The Magistrate Judge also interpreted Plaintiff’s Complaint to allege a failure-toaccommodate claim.
To establish a prima facie case for failure to provide a reasonable
accommodation, the Sixth Circuit requires a plaintiff to show that: (1) [s]he is disabled within the
meaning of the Act; (2) [s]he is otherwise qualified for the position, with or without reasonable
accommodation; (3) h[er] employer knew or had reason to know about h[er] disability; (4) [s]he
requested an accommodation; and (5) the employer failed to provide the necessary
accommodation.” Melange v. City of Center Line, 482 F. App’x 81, 84 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing
Johnson v. Cleveland City Sch. Dist., 443 F. App’x 974, 982-83 (6th Cir. 2011)).
Once the prima facie case is established, “the burden shifts to the employer to
demonstrate that any particular accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the
employer.” Johnson, 443 F. App’x at 983. After the employee requests an accommodation, “the
employer has a duty to engage in an ‘interactive process’ to ‘identify the precise limitations
resulting from the disability and potential reasonable accommodations that could overcome those
Melange, 482 F. App’x at 84-85 (citing Kleiber, 485 F.3d at 871).
“‘interactive process requires communication and good-faith exploration of possible
accommodations.’” Kleiber, 485 F.3d at 871 (citing Barnett v. U.S. Air, Inc., 228 F.3d 1105,
1114 (9th Cir. 2000)).
“The term ‘qualified individual’ means an individual who, with or without reasonable
accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such
individual holds . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8). “[T]he employee bears the burden of showing she
can perform the ‘essential functions’ of the job, with or without accommodation.” Johnson, 443
F. App’x at 983.
Additionally, “the ADA does not require employers to accommodate
individuals by shifting an essential job function onto others.” Hoskins v. Oakland Cnty. Sheriff’s
Dep’t, 227 F.3d 719, 729 (6th Cir. 2000). A job function is essential if its removal would
fundamentally alter the position.” Kiphart v. Saturn Corp., 251 F.3d 573, 584 (6th Cir. 2001)
(citing 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8)).
After a review of Plaintiff’s Complaint, the Magistrate Judge correctly found that
Plaintiff did not plead sufficient facts to establish the prima facie elements of her failure-toaccommodate claim. This claim is DISMISSED.
For the reasons set forth above, the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge’s Report and
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Complaint is DISMISSED.
IT IS SO ORDERED on this 11th day of April, 2017.
s/John T. Fowlkes, Jr.
John T. Fowlkes, Jr.
United States District Judge
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