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Hicks v. Dollar General Market

United States District Court, D. Nevada

February 8, 2017

NATASHA HICKS, Plaintiff,
v.
DOLLAR GENERAL MARKET, et al., Defendant.

          SCREENING ORDER- AND - REPORT OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION (Am. Compl. - ECF, 11) ORDER

          PEGGY A. LEEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on a screening of Plaintiff Natasha Hicks's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 11). This screening is referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(B) and LR IB 1-3 and 1-7 of the Local Rules of Practice.

         This case arises from Ms. Hicks's allegations that defendant's actions violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. She commenced this action by filing an Application for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 1) and complaint. Upon initial review of the complaint, the court identified potential claims for discrimination on the basis of race, retaliation, sexual harassment, and hostile work environment, but Hicks failed to allege sufficient facts to satisfy the elements of those claims. The court issued an Order (ECF No. 4) instructing Ms. Hicks to file an amended complaint if she believed she could correct the defects in her pleading. The court will now review the amended complaint.

         I. Screening the Amended Complaint

         The court must screen the complaint and any amended complaints filed prior to a responsive pleading pursuant to § 1915(e). Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000). If the complaint states a valid claim for relief, the court will direct the clerk of the court to issue summons to the defendant(s) and the plaintiff must then serve the summons and complaint within 90 days. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m). A properly pled complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); accord Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The simplified pleading standard set forth in Rule 8(a) applies to all civil actions with limited exceptions. Alvarez v. Hill, 518 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008). Although Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, it demands “more than labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Mere recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported only by conclusory allegations do not suffice. Id. at 679-80. Where the claims in the complaint have not crossed the line from plausible to conceivable, the complaint should be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         Allegations in a pro se complaint are held to less stringent standards than formal pleading drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 n.7 (9th Cir. 2010). However, pro se litigants “should not be treated more favorably than parties with attorneys of record, ” Jacobsen v. Filler, 790 F.2d 1362, 1364 (9th Cir. 1986); rather, they must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants. Ghazali v. Moran, 46 F.3d 52, 54 (9th Cir. 1995).

         A. Ms. Hicks's Amended Factual Allegations and Claims for Relief

          The Amended Complaint (ECF No. 11) names the following defendants: Dollar General Market (“Dollar General”), her former employer; Richard A. Lindsey, market manager and direct supervisor; Tiffany Doe, cashier/sales associate; Bianca Doe, cashier/sales associate; Cindy Doe, sales associate; and Joe and/or Jane Doe, defendants doing business as the entity Dollar General Market. Ms. Hicks contends that defendants are liable for sexual harassment, job discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation pursuant to Title VII.

         Ms. Hicks alleges that Lindsey began making inappropriate and unwanted advances of a personal and sexual nature beginning when she applied for her job at Dollar General in October 2011. Id. at 4. While she was filling out her employment application, he rubbed his body against her chair and back. Hicks believed that if she did not submit to Lindsey's advances, she would be denied employment. After she was hired, he continued to pursue her. Ms. Hicks states that she became “involved” with Lindsey for approximately 30 days, during which he promised to promote her. However, after the relationship ended, Lindsey became hostile to her and acted in an unprofessional and abusive manner on the job site. He also gave the promotion he promised to Hicks to a less qualified employee. Ms. Hicks informed Dollar General of the harassment. She further alleges that co-workers, Tiffany, Bianca, and Cindy Doe, took Lindsey's side and subjected her to degrading insults and harassment. This continued for approximately 90 days until Hicks could no longer endure the treatment and she resigned. Ms. Hicks contends that she was subjected to these adverse conditions as a result of Dollar General's failure to supervise. Mr. Lindsey had prior allegations of sexual harassment against other employees, but Dollar General still employed him and that facilitated Lindsey's actions. In her request for relief, Ms. Hicks seeks: the termination of Lindsey; reinstatement of her employment at another facility; compensatory damages for the loss of back wages; and punitive damages $200, 000.

         II. Analysis of Ms. Hicks's Title VII Claims

          The amended complaint alleges violations of Title VII for discrimination on the basis of race, retaliation, and sexual harassment. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-200e-17. Title VII allows an individual to sue an employer for discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender or national origin. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2. Title VII also authorizes lawsuits for retaliation and sexual harassment creating a hostile or abusive work environment. Id.

         As an initial matter, the court finds that Lindsey, Tiffany, Bianca, and Cindy Doe are not proper defendants in this lawsuit. Title VII expressly limits liability to an employer. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b). The Ninth Circuit has held that individuals cannot be held liable for damages under Title VII. See, e.g., Miller v. Maxwell's Int'l Inc., 991 F.2d 583, 587-88 (9th Cir. 1993) (holding that individuals cannot be held liable for claims under Title VII). As such, the individual defendants will be dismissed from this action and her remaining claims will be analyzed with her former employer, Dollar General, as the defendant.

         A. Discrimination

         Ms. Hicks is attempting to state a Title VII claim against Dollar General for discrimination. To establish a Title VII discrimination claim, a plaintiff must allege: (1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she was qualified for her position and performing her job satisfactorily; (3) she experienced an adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated individuals outside of her protected class were “treated more favorably, or other circumstances surrounding the adverse employment action give rise to an inference of ...


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