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Thomas v. Aaron's Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 12, 2018

COURTNEY L. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
AARON'S INC. et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge

         This is an action brought by a detainee in the St. Joseph County jail under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2). The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint against all Defendants for failure to state a claim.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff is presently housed at the St. Joseph County jail. Plaintiff sues Aaron's Inc.; Pat Stevens, the store manager[1] at the Aaron's location at 1170 W. Michigan Avenue in Three Rivers, Michigan, and Great American RTO, Inc. Aaron's Inc. is a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Georgia and authorized to do business in the State of Michigan. Great American Rent-to-Own, Inc. is a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Michigan with its registered office at 1114 W. Michigan Avenue, #6B, Three Rivers, Michigan, 49093. It appears that Great American Rent-to-Own may own and operate the Aaron's franchise where Plaintiff worked.

         Plaintiff's allegations are scant:

Plaintiff Courtney L. Thomas was discriminated against by subject of unwelcome comments and discharged based on race (black) by store manager Pat Stevens from January 15, 2016, to March 9, 2016 at the Aaron's store location in Three River[s], Michigan.

(Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.4.) In subsequent paragraphs Plaintiff indicates that coworkers witnessed “racial harassment, ” Pat Stevens displayed “discrimination with uninvited remarks, ” and that Defendants made “harmful and discouraging statement with regard to race.” (Id., PageID.4-5.) But, Plaintiff never describes the objectionable conduct or remarks. Plaintiff indicates that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) conducted an investigation regarding Plaintiff's claims of unlawful employment practices and provided Plaintiff a “right to sue.” (Id., PageID.3.) Plaintiff does not allege when he received the “right to sue” from the EEOC. Plaintiff seeks “suitable relief” and “punitive damages.” (Id., PageID.5.)

         II. Failure to state a claim

         A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails “‘to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's allegations must include more than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability requirement,' . . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility standard applies to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)).

         Plaintiff's allegations might be construed as attempting to state two different types of Title VII claims: that Defendants subjected him to a hostile work environment based on his race and that Defendants discharged him based on his race.

         III. Hostile work environment

         To state a hostile work environment claim under Title VII a plaintiff must demonstrate that:

(1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he was subjected to unwelcome harassment; (3) the harassment was based on plaintiff's protected status; (4) the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to affect a term, condition, or privilege of employment; and (5) the employer knew or should have known ...

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