United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
PRISCILLA E. PRIMM, Plaintiff,
STATE OF TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES et al., Defendants.
H. Sharp Chief United States District Judge
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)
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.
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).
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.)
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
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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.”).
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,
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).
Hostile Work Environment
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