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Tryals v. Elecm

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 4, 2016

Michael Tryals, Plaintiff,
Me Elecm /Me Global, Defendant.


          Eileen S. Willett United States Magistrate Judge.

         At issue is pro se Plaintiff Michael Tryals' Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs (Doc. 2). The Court finds that Plaintiff does not have sufficient means to pay the Court's fees and will grant the Application. However, as set forth below, upon screening Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court finds that Plaintiff has not satisfied the pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and fails to state a cause of action. The Court therefore dismisses the Complaint (Doc. 1) without prejudice and grants Plaintiff leave to file a First Amended Complaint consistent with the findings of the Court set forth herein.


         A. Statutory Screening of In Forma Pauperis Complaint Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2)

         The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2). A pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (emphasis added). While Rule 8 does not demand detailed factual allegations, “it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. Thus, although a plaintiff's specific factual allegations may be consistent with a claim for relief, a court must assess whether there are other “more likely explanations” for a defendant's conduct. Id. at 681.

         But as the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has instructed, courts must “continue to construe pro se filings liberally.” Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A “complaint [filed by a pro se litigant] ‘must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Id. (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam)).

         If the Court determines that a pleading could be cured by the allegation of other facts, a pro se litigant is entitled to an opportunity to amend a complaint before dismissal of the action. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127-29 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). “It is also clear that section 1915(e) not only permits but requires a district court to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to state a claim.” Id. at 1127.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff's Complaint states that he was discriminated against by the Defendant pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “on several occasions from August 2014-September 2015.” (Doc. 1, 1-2). Plaintiff indicates that (i) he filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), (ii) he received a Right to Sue letter, and (iii) the EEOC filed a r iation charge against the Defendant. (Id. at 2). Plaintiff also states that an NLRB arbitration hearing is scheduled for November 2016. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks monetary damages “for discrimination and wrongful termination and lost wages and pain and suffering.” (Id.).

         Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., (“Title VII”) provides that “[i]t shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). In a claim for discrimination pursuant to Title VII, a plaintiff must “offer evidence that ‘give[s] rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination.'” Lowe v. City of Monrovia, 775 F.2d 998, 1005 (9th Cir. 1985), as amended, 784 F.2d 1407 (1986) (quoting Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253 (1981)). A plaintiff may prove discrimination by direct evidence that a defendant's challenged employment action was either intentionally discriminatory or that it had a discriminatory effect on the plaintiff. See Jespersen v. Harrah's Oper. Co., Inc., 444 F.3d 1104, 1108-09 (9th Cir. 2006). In the absence of direct evidence, a plaintiff may establish by circumstantial evidence a prima facie case of discrimination by proving that (i) plaintiff is a member of a protected class, (ii) plaintiff was qualified for his position and performing his job satisfactorily, (iii) plaintiff experienced an adverse employment action, and (iv) similarly situated employees outside plaintiff's protected class were treated more favorably, or other circumstances surrounding the adverse employment action give rise to an inference of discrimination. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973); Hawn v. Executive Jet Mgmt., Inc., 615 F.3d 1151, 1156 (9th Cir. 2010). Plaintiff must show that discrimination was either the sole reason for or a “motivating factor” in the employer's adverse employment decision. See Costa v. Desert Palace, Inc., 299 F.3d 838, 853-54 (9th Cir. 2002) (en banc) (“Put simply, the plaintiff in any Title VII case may establish a violation through a preponderance of evidence (whether direct or circumstantial) that a protected characteristic played ‘a motivating factor.'”), aff'd, 539 U.S. 90 (2003).

         A plaintiff bears the burden of proof under Title VII. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253 (“The ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact that the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff remains at all times with the plaintiff.”) If the plaintiff establishes by a preponderance of the evidence a prima facie case of discrimination, then “the burden of production, but not persuasion, shifts to the defendant to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the challenged action.” Chuang v. Univ. of Cal. Davis, Bd. of Trs., 225 F.3d 1115, 1123-24 (9th Cir. 2000). Plaintiff must then show that defendant's stated reason for the adverse employment action was a mere “pretext” for unlawful discrimination or discriminatory in its application. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 411 U.S. at 804. “[A] plaintiff can prove pretext in two ways: (1) indirectly, by showing that the employer's proffered explanation is ‘unworthy of credence' because it is internally inconsistent or otherwise not believable, or (2) directly, by showing that unlawful discrimination more likely motivated the employer.” Chuang, 225 F.3d at 1127 (emphasis added) (citing Godwin v. Hunt Wesson, Inc., 150 F.3d 1217, 1220-22 (9th Cir. 1998)); see Burdine, 450 U.S. at 256. “All of the evidence [as to pretext] - whether direct or indirect - is to be considered cumulatively.” Raad v. Fairbanks North Star Borough School Dist., 323 F.3d 1185, 1194 (9th Cir. 2003). Where the evidence of pretext is circumstantial, rather than direct, the plaintiff must present “specific” and “substantial” facts showing discrimination. Godwin, 150 F.3d at 1222.

         Title VII also prohibits discrimination against an individual “because he has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter, or because he has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this subchapter.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). “Title VII's antir iation provision forbids employer actions that ‘discriminate against' an employee (or job applicant) because he has ‘opposed' a practice that Title VII forbids or has ‘made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in' a Title VII ‘investigation, proceeding, or hearing.'” Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 59 (2006) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a)). Whereas the anti-discrimination provision of Title VII seeks to secure a workplace free from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, or national origin, the anti-r iation provision of Title VII prohibits employers from “interfering (through r iation) with an employee's efforts to secure or advance enforcement of [Title VII's] basic guarantees.” Id. at 63. In a r iation claim, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of evidence that (i) plaintiff engaged in or was engaging in “protected activity”; (ii) the employer subsequently subjected the plaintiff to adverse employment action; and (iii) that “a causal link exists between the two.” See Dawson v. Entek Int'l, 630 F.3d 928, 936 (9th Cir. 2011).

         In addition, a plaintiff who believes he has been discriminated against on either theory must file a charge within the statutory time period and serve notice upon the defendant against whom the charge is made. See 42 U.S.C. § § 2000e-5(b), (e)(1); National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 109 (2002). A charge must be filed within 180 days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred and notice of the charge (including the date, place, and circumstances of the alleged unlawful employment practice) must be served upon the Defendant within ten days. However, if a plaintiff initially institutes proceedings with the Arizona Civil Rights Division, the charge must be filed within 300 days of the unlawful employment practice alleged. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1); Morgan, 536 U.S. at 109. Though not a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit in federal court, the timely filing of a charge of discrimination is “a requirement that, like a statute of limitations, is subject to waiver, estoppel, and equitable tolling.” Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc. Independent Federation of Flight Attendants v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 385, 393 (1982). A claim for discrimination under Title VII is timely filed in District Court if filed within ninety days after the issuance of the right-to-sue letter. See O'Donnell v. Vencor Inc., 466 F.3d 1104, 1109 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1)). The timely filing of a complaint in District Court does not satisfy the requirement of timely filing a charge with the EEOC or appropriate state agency.

         Here, though Plaintiff has timely filed his Complaint within ninety days of the issuance of the EEOC's Notice of Right to Sue letter attached to the Complaint, Plaintiff has failed to allege facts sufficient for the Court to find that Plaintiffs charges were timely made. Plaintiff indicates only that he filed charges in January 2015, a date inconsistent with discrimination alleged ...

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