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Primm v. State of Tennessee Department of Human Service

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

November 22, 2016



          Kevin H. Sharp Chief United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Priscilla E. Primm, proceeding pro se, has filed a civil complaint against Defendants State of Tennessee Department of Human Services (“State”), Rick Coogan and Ronnie Butler. (ECF No. 1.) Additionally, the plaintiff has applied to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 2)

         Because it is apparent from the Plaintiff's application that she lacks sufficient resources from which to pay the required filing fee, her application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2) will be granted.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to conduct an initial review of any complaint filed in forma pauperis and to dismiss the complaint if it is facially frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. Begola v. Brown, 172 F.3d 47 (Table), 1998 WL 894722, at *1 (6th Cir. Dec. 14, 1998) (citing McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007)). The Court must construe a pro se plaintiff's complaint liberally, Boag v. McDaniel, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982), and accept the plaintiff's allegations as true unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992).


         In her four-page form “Complaint under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ” Plaintiff alleges that she was employed by Defendant State and that on or about December 14, 2013, she was discriminated against “after filing [a] workers' comp[ensation] claim against the State of Tennessee in December 2013.” (ECF No. 1 at Page ID# 2-3.) Plaintiff alleges that she was “mistreated, harassed, retaliated against and intimidate[ed]” because she filed a workers' compensation claim. (Id. at Paged ID# 3.) Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants actions have caused her “a lot of pain and stress.” (Id.) Plaintiff received a right to sue notice from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on August 9, 2016. As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at Page ID#4.)

         In addition to her form complaint, Plaintiff submitted a letter in which she alleges that “[t]he Department of Human Services Manager[s] Rick Coogan and Ronnie Butler had violated [her] [r]ights under Title VII American[s] [with] Disabilit[ies] Act.” (Id. at Page ID# 5.) She alleges that “during the time I was under a lot of pain from my injuries I was harassed and prevented from filing [my] workers compensation claim properly.” (Id.) She further alleges that Coogan and Butler “intentionally treated me unfairly by requesting additional procedural [sic] both in job requirements and time keeping management.” (Id.) As a result of Coogan's and Butler's behavior toward Plaintiff, she experienced “stress, lack of sleep, worrying, and pain.” (Id.) She also experienced headaches and stomach issues and did not want to continue working. (Id.) She alleges that “[t]his job was a very hostile environment for me.” (Id.) Plaintiff's letter ends with a list of 7 exhibits, comprising approximately 100 pages, which she alleges support her claim(s). These exhibits are attached to Plaintiff's complaint.


         If an action is filed in forma pauperis, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action . . . fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the court applies the standards under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as construed by Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). See Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that “the dismissal standard articulated in Iqbal and Twombly governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)] because the relevant statutory language tracks the language in Rule 12(b)(6)”). “Accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, the Court ‘consider[s] the factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681) (alteration in original). “[P]leadings that . . . are no more than conclusions[] are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3 (“Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only ‘fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also ‘grounds' on which the claim rests.”).

         “Pro se complaints are to be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court is not required to create a claim for the plaintiff. Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975); 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 and citation omitted); Payne v. Sec'y of Treas., 73 F.App'x 836, 837 (6th Cir. 2003) (affirming sua sponte dismissal of complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and stating, “[n]either this court nor the district court is required to create Payne's claim for her”). To demand otherwise would require the “courts to explore exhaustively all potential claims of a pro se plaintiff, [and] would also transform the district court from its legitimate advisory role to the improper role of an advocate seeking out the strongest arguments and most successful strategies for a party.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). Finally, the Court need not sift through exhibits attached to Plaintiff's complaint in order to determine what, if any, basis exists for Plaintiff's claims against Defendants. See Jackson v. Lawrence Corr. Ctr. Heatlh Care, No. 15-cv-00082-JPG, 2015 WL 603853, at *2 (S.D. Ill. Feb. 12, 2015).


         Reading Plaintiff's complaint liberally, as the Court must, it appears that Plaintiff intends to raise claims under Title VII for hostile work environment and retaliation. Plaintiff may also be attempting to raise a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

         A. Hostile Work Environment

         Plaintiff fails to state a claim under Title VII for hostile work environment. To set forth a claim of hostile work environment, the Plaintiff must allege: (1) that she is a member of a protected class, (2) that she has been subjected to unwelcome harassment, (3) that the harassment was based on membership in the protected class, (4) that the harassment “had the effect of unreasonably interfering with the plaintiff's work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment, ” and (5) that there is some basis for employer liability. Russell v. University of Toledo,537 F.3d 596, 608 (6th Cir. 2008). “Actionable harassment exists if the work place is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult . . . that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of . . . employment and create an abusive working environment.” Farmer v. Cleveland Public Power, 295 F.3d 593, 604 (6th Cir. 2002) (internal citation omitted). However, there is no Title VII ...

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