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Clarke v. Virginia State University

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

February 4, 2016



ROBERT E. PAYNE, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant's MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT (ECF No. 11). For the reasons set forth herein, Defendant's motion will be granted.


Ronnie Clarke ("Clarke"), acting pro se, filed a Complaint alleging that Virginia State University ("VSU") has perpetrated "blatantly discriminatory and consistently retaliatory acts" against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e et seq. (Complaint ("Compl.", ECF No. 3) at 1).[1] Like Clarke's numerous other recent prose Complaints filed in this Court, [2] this action arises out of the denial of several of Clarke's applications for employment. Although convoluted, the Complaint essentially devolves into two claims. First, Clarke alleges that VSU's repeated failures to hire him constituted unlawful discrimination. (Compl. at 2). Second, Clarke claims that VSU unlawfully retaliated against him because he filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") by continuing to refuse to hire him for positions for which he applied after the EEOC charge was filed. [3] Id.

During 2013 and 2014, Clarke allegedly "applied for at least 10 open positions with the Defendants [sic]" for which he met the minimum qualifications. Id. at 2. Clarke received interviews for two of those positions, but in both of those instances, he did not receive the job. Id . Clarke also alleges that he was briefly employed by VSU "in a contractual manner" in October of 2013, but provides no further detail concerning the nature or duration of this employment. Id.

After failing in several efforts to obtain employment with VSU, Clarke filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on April 2, 2014, which alleges that Clarke was "being discriminated and retaliated against because of [his] age, 41, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, and in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended because I spoke up about this employer's hiring practices." (ECF No. 12-1). The EEOC dismissed the charge on March 19, 2015. (ECF No. 3-1). After filing the EEOC charge, but before it was resolved, Clarke was interviewed for another position with VSU on October 24, 2014. (Compl. at 2). Clarke ultimately was not hired for that position either.

Clarke seeks "the maximum punitive and compensatory damages available" under Title VII, as well as reimbursement for the cost of his Master's degree, the pursuit of which he abandoned "when it finally became painfully obvious" that VSU would not hire him. (Cornpl. at 3). He also seems to ask for an injunction, stating that he is "seeking intensive training and development to be enforced co-jointly by this Honorable Court as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as part of the remedy process to help ensure such blatantly illegal and unethical behaviors do not reoccur." Id.

VSU seeks to dismiss these claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) (6), arguing that Clarke has failed to plead facts sufficient to support his claims.


I. Standard of Review

As a threshold matter, the Court recognizes that Clarke's pro se status entitles his pleadings to a liberal construction. See, e.g., Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citations omitted); Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Nevertheless, "[e]ven pro se plaintiffs must recognize Rule 8's vision for a system of simplified pleadings that give notice of the general claim asserted, allow for the preparation of a basic defense, narrow the issues to be litigated, and provide a means for quick dispositions of sham claims.'" Sewraz v. Guice, 2008 WL 3926443, at *2 (E. D. Va. Aug. 26, 2008) (quoting Prezzi v. Berzak, 57 F.R.D. 149, 151 (S.D.N.Y. 1972)). The requirement of liberal construction \\does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court." Skelton v. EPA, 2009 WL 2191981, at *2 (D.S.C. July 16, 2009) (citing Weller v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990)). Finally, the basic pleading standards set by Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) that foreclose conclusory, factually unsupported claims apply to pro se litigants.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b) (6) permits a party to move for dismissal of a claim if the complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) (2) requires "a short and plain statement of the claim" showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

Courts should assume the veracity of all well-pleaded allegations in the Complaint, and should deny a motion to dismiss where those well-pleaded allegations state a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679. A claim is "plausible" when the plaintiff pleads facts sufficient to allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. The court should grant a motion to dismiss, however, where the allegations are nothing more than legal conclusions, or where they permit a court to infer no more than a possibility of misconduct. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.

Although courts generally do not consider extrinsic evidence in deciding motions under Rule 12 (b) (6), "a court may consider... documents central to a plaintiff's claim, and documents sufficiently referred to in the complaint without converting the [motion] into one for summary judgment, so long as the authenticity of the documents is not disputed." PBM Nutritionals, LLC v. Dornoch Ltd., 667 ...

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