United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
SHAQUAWN K. BROWN, Plaintiff,
CHARLOTTESVILLE PARKS AND REC (CARVER), Defendant.
Glen E. Conrad, Senior United States District Judge.
K. Brown, proceeding pro se, commenced this action by filing
a form complaint against the Department of Parks and
Recreation for the City of Charlottesville, Virginia. The
plaintiff has not paid the filing fee but will be granted
leave to proceed in forma pauperis for purposes of
initial review of his complaint. For the following reasons,
the complaint will be dismissed without prejudice to
refiling, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii).
complaint, which is somewhat difficult to follow, the
plaintiff alleges that he previously worked at the Carver
Recreation Center. During his period of employment, the
plaintiff was "exposed to levels of anxiety and
disrespect" due to his "appearance," his
unidentified "religion," and his "hair."
Id. at 5. His employment was terminated on August 8,
2017, purportedly on the basis of "tardiness to
work." Compl. 4, Dkt. No. 2. The plaintiff alleges that
he "had only been late to [his] job 3 times in 17
months," while "other employees were late every
day." Id. The plaintiff claims that the
"real" reason for his termination was
"retaliation" for his "complaints of
harassment and death threats." Id.
plaintiff goes on to allege that an individual named Dashad
Cooper "sent [him] death threats" and subjected him
to unspecified "harassment." Id. The
complaint appears to indicate that the plaintiff reported the
death threats to a manager, Jamari Byers. The plaintiff
further alleges that Nancy Burney "conspired to get
[him] fired because of [his] complaints on Jamari," and
that the director also "threatened to fire [him]"
because of the complaints, which "increased [the]
efforts to terminate [him]." Id.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), which governs in forma
pauperis proceedings, the court has a mandatory duty to
screen initial filings. Eriline Co. S.A. v. Johnson,
440 F.3d 648, 656-57 (4th Cir. 2006). The court must dismiss
a case "at any time" if the court determines that
the complaint "fails to state a claim on which relief
may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
standards for reviewing a complaint for dismissal under
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) are the same as those which apply
when a defendant moves for dismissal under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). De'Lonta v. Angelone,
330 F.3d 630, 633 (4th Cir. 2003). Thus, in reviewing a
complaint under this statute, the court must accept all
well-pleaded factual allegations as true and view the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem. Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180
(4th Cir. 2009). To survive dismissal for failure to state a
claim, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim for relief
that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v.
Iqbal., 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
construed, the plaintiffs complaint appears to assert a claim
of retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-3. In addition to prohibiting discrimination on the
basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,
Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate
against an employee "because [the employee] has opposed
any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this
subchapter." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). In order to
establish a prima facie case of retaliation, the plaintiff
must show: (1) that he engaged in protected activity; (2)
that the defendant took an adverse employment action against
him; and (3) that a causal connection existed between the
protected activity and the adverse action. Savage v.
State., 896 F.3d 260, 276 (4th Cir. 2018). Although a
plaintiff is not required to establish a prima facie case of
retaliation at the pleading stage, he is "nonetheless
'required to allege facts to satisfy the elements of a
cause of action created by [the relevant] statute' in
compliance with Iqbal." Woods v. City of
Greensboro, 855 F.3d 639, 648 (4th Cir. 2017) (quoting
McCleary-Evans v. Md. Dep't of Transp., 780 F.3d
582, 585 (4th Cir. 2015)). Thus, the question at this stage
of the proceedings is whether the plaintiff has stated a
claim for relief under Title VII that is plausible, and not
merely speculative. McCleary-Evans., 780 F.3d at
this standard, the court concludes that the plaintiffs
complaint does not adequately state a claim for retaliation
in violation of Title VII. Although the plaintiff indicates
that he complained about "death threats" and
unspecified "harassment," he does not provide
sufficient factual allegations from which the court can
reasonably infer that such complaints constitute protected
activity. See Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corp.,
786 F.3d 264, 282 (4th Cir. 2015) (en banc) (explaining that
an employee engages in "protected activity" when he
opposes employment actions that are "actually unlawful
under Title VII" or that he "reasonably believes to
be unlawful") (internal quotation marks omitted).
"Merely complaining in general terms of discrimination
or harassment, without indicating a connection to a protected
class or providing facts sufficient to create that inference,
is insufficient" to satisfy this element Skiba v.
Ill. Cent. R.R. Co., 884 F.3d 708, 718 (7th Cir. 2018)
(internal quotation marks omitted); see also cf.
Strothers v. City of Laurel. 895 F.3d 317, 336 (4th
Cir. 2018) (observing that the City possessed information
from which it should have known that the alleged harassment
pertained to racial discrimination). Without additional
allegations regarding the nature of plaintiff s complaints to
management officials or the information in their possession,
the plaintiffs claim for retaliation must be dismissed.
reasons stated, the court will grant the plaintiffs motion
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. However, his
complaint will be dismissed without prejudice to refiling,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
Clerk is directed to send copies of this memorandum opinion
and the ...