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Gardner v. State, Department of Health and Social Services

United States District Court, D. Delaware

January 22, 2015


Jacqueline Y. Gardner, Lincoln, Delaware. Pro se Plaintiff.

Kenisha LaShelle Ringgold, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware Counsel for Defendants.


SUE L. ROBINSON, District Judge.


Plaintiff Jacqueline Y. Gardner ("plaintiff') proceeds pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. She filed this lawsuit on October 3, 2013 alleging employment discrimination and retaliation by reason of race and religion pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5. (D.I. 2) An amended complaint was filed on January 9, 2014. (D.I. 6) Presently before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint, opposed by plaintiff. (D.I. 18) The court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the following reasons, the court will grant defendants' motion.


Plaintiff was employed by defendant State of Delaware Department of Health and Social Services ("State of Delaware") as a social services technician. Plaintiff filed the instant complaint alleging harassment, retaliation, and discrimination by reason of race and religion, and that it "all happened very suddenly." Plaintiff's supervisor was defendant Jessica Clarkson ("Clarkson"). Defendant Ray Fitzgerald ("Fitzgerald") was Clarkson's supervisor.

In September 2011, plaintiff was disciplined by Clarkson, her new supervisor, for insubordination. Plaintiff ultimately received a one-day suspension. Plaintiff alleges that there was a conspiracy and plot against her and that she has documents of the "lies" about her. Plaintiff states that she was a team player and had been told by Clarkson in March 2011 that she was doing an excellent job. Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of the continuous harassment and false accusations from Clarkson, she was forced to resign her employment. Exhibits attached to the amended complaint indicate that plaintiff resigned due to a heart condition, hypertension, anxiety, and major depression caused by issues at work. Plaintiff was on medical leave prior to the time she resigned from her employment. Plaintiff verbally resigned on May 11, 2012 and provided written resignation on May 14, 2012. Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on November 2011 and received a notice of right to sue dated July 22, 2013. The court was not provided with a copy of the charge of discrimination.

Defendants move for dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on the grounds that: (1) plaintiff fails to state a claim for discrimination; (2) plaintiff fails to plead a prima facie claim for retaliation; and (3) individuals have no liability under Title VII. Plaintiff opposes the motion.


In reviewing a motion filed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). A court may consider the pleadings, public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint, and documents incorporated into the complaint by reference. Tellabs, Inc. v. Makar Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell At/. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted) (interpreting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)). A complaint does not need detailed factual allegations; however, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 545 (alteration in original) (citation omitted). The "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true." Id. Furthermore, "[w]hen there are well-ple[d] factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Ashcroff v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664 (2009). Such a determination is a context specific task requiring the court "to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.


A. Individual Liability

Plaintiff names Fitzgerald and Clarkson as defendants in this Title VII action. However, Title VII does not provide for individual liability. See Sheridan v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 100 F.3d 1061, 1078 (3d Cir. 1996) ("[W]e are persuaded that Congress did not intend to hold individual employees liable under Title VII."). Therefore, ...

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