United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division
TIANA M. SANDERS, Plaintiff,
FEDEX EXPRESS INC. et al., Defendants.
ORDER AUTHORIZING PLAINTIFF TO FILE AN AMENDED
Pham United States Magistrate Judge.
the court is Tiana Sanders' pro se complaint
against FedEx Express Inc., Joseph R. Slager, Rachael L.
Kirkpatrick, Christi C. Free, and Patrick H. Whalen. (ECF No.
1.) Pursuant to Administrative Order No. 2013-05, this case
has been referred to the United States magistrate judge for
management and for all pretrial matters for determination or
report and recommendation, as appropriate. For the reasons
below, the court sua sponte authorizes Sanders to
amend her complaint to resolve certain deficiencies.
filed this complaint pro se on December 3, 2019.
(ECF No. 1.) The court granted her motion to proceed in
forma pauperis on December 16, 2019. (ECF No. 7.)
Sanders, an African-American woman, brings suit against
various defendants under Title VII and “[d]efamation of
character, [u]nlawful termination, [w]histleblower,
[h]umilation and [m]ental [a]nguish.” 42 U.S.C.
§§ 2000e-2000e17. Using a form provided by the
Clerk's office to assist pro se litigants
asserting employment discrimination claims, Sanders checked
boxes alleging termination of her employment, failure to
promote, unequal terms and conditions of employment, and
retaliation. In a box for indicating other adverse employment
actions that may have been taken against a litigant, Sanders
alleged “[d]isparate treatment [and]
blacklisting.” Using a similar set of boxes in another
portion of the form, Sanders marked discrimination based on
her race, color, and sex. In the section of her complaint
devoted to the facts of the case, Sanders wrote nothing. The
complaint contains no other allegations related to purported
discrimination by the defendants.
Standard of Review
court is required to screen in forma pauperis
complaints and must dismiss any complaint, or any portion
thereof, if the action: (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii)
fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune
from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i-iii).
avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, “‘a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468,
470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)); see also Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). “A claim is plausible on its face if the
‘plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court
to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.'” Center for
Bio-Ethical Reform, Inc. v. Napolitano, 648 F.3d 365,
369 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678). Without factual allegations in support, mere legal
conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
se complaints are held to less stringent standards than
formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, and are thus liberally
construed. Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383
(6th Cir. 2011). Even so, pro so litigants must
adhere to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, see Wells
v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989), and the
court cannot create a claim that has not been spelled out in
a pleading. See Brown v. Matauszak, 415 Fed.Appx.
608, 613 (6th Cir. 2011); Payne v. Sec'y of
Treas., 73 Fed.Appx. 836, 837 (6th Cir. 2003).
Required Form of Pleadings
VII makes it “an unlawful employment practice for an
employer . . . to discriminate against any individual with
respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges
of employment, because of such individual's race [or]
gender . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Title
VII also prohibits discrimination against any individual who
“has opposed any act or practice made unlawful”
by the statute and prohibits discrimination against any
individual who has “made a charge, testified, assisted,
or participated in any manner in an investigation,
proceeding, or hearing” under the statute. 42 U.S.C.
suing under federal antidiscrimination law are obliged to
follow the pleading requirements outlined in the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. Smith v. Wrigley Mfg. Co.,
LLC, 749 Fed.Appx. 446, 449 (6th Cir. 2018). This means,
among other things, that a complaint consisting of
“naked recitations of the elements” of an
antidiscrimination claim “unenhanced by specific
facts” fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. Id. at 448. Sanders alleges essentially no
facts about her employment discrimination claim. This does
not meet the plausibility pleading standard required by the
Federal Rules. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. To state a
claim, Sanders needs to allege facts that would plausibly
support the inference that she was discriminated against in
violation of Title VII.
rules are not a mere technicality. The purpose of notice
pleading is twofold: (1) to allow a person who is being sued
to understand why he or she is being sued and (2) to give
that person an opportunity to respond. See Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555 (2007) (Notice pleading exists “in
order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests.” (internal
citations and modifications omitted)); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)
(requiring a party filing an answer to “admit or deny
the allegations asserted against it by an opposing
party.”). Notice, followed by a meaningful opportunity
to be heard, is the core of due process. LaChance v.
Erickson, 522 U.S. 262, 266 (1998). A complaint that
fundamentally fails to comply with these rules cannot give
adequate notice to a defendant of why the defendant is being
sued. Similarly, it is impracticable for a defendant to
respond to a complaint that does not comply with these rules
in a meaningful fashion.
court is aware that it can be difficult for non-lawyers to
write documents that comply with the Federal Rules. But the
court is not free to ignore the rules because of a
plaintiff's pro se status. However, the court is
permitted to allow a plaintiff to file an amended complaint
to cure a pleading deficiency. LaFountain v. Harry,