United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division
Deanna L. Gates, Plaintiff,
Waffle House Corp., et al., Defendants.
ORDER & MEMORANDUM & RECOMMENDATION
T. Numbers, II United States Magistrate Judge
Deanna L. Gates asks the court to allow her to proceed
against the Defendants without paying the required filing fee
or other costs normally associated with a civil lawsuit
(otherwise known as proceeding “in forma
pauperis” or “IFP”). D.E. 1. As part
of its evaluation of this request, the court must also
examine the viability of Gates's claims. The court must
dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek
monetary damages from a party who is immune from such relief.
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).
reviewing Gates's financial affidavits, the court grants
her application to proceed IFP. D.E. 1. The court also finds
that some claims in Gates's Complaint survive frivolity
review and may proceed forward.
filed a Charge of Discrimination with the North Carolina
Office of Administrative Hearings in April 2018. D.E 1-2 at
3. In the Charge, Gates alleged that Waffle House
discriminated against her because of her race and color by
disciplining her unfairly, failing to train her properly,
failing to consider her for promotions, and failing to
address threats made by other workers. D.E. 1-2 at 3-4. She
also claims that Waffle House's actions created a hostile
work environment and that she was subjected to retaliation
for complaining about discriminatory conduct. Id.
The NCOAH forwarded the Charge of Discrimination to the EEOC,
who notified Waffle House of Gates's allegations.
Id. at 1-2 at 6. The EEOC issued a Notice of Right
to sue letter to Gates in May 2018. D.E. 1-2 at 1.
proceeding pro se, filed a timely Motion to Proceed IFP and a
Proposed Complaint in August 2018. D.E. 1, 1-1. The next
month, Gates filed an Amended Complaint. D.E. 5.
Amended Complaint names Waffle House Corporation, Cheryl
Allen, Angelo Martinez, James Dean, Desiree Lassiter, and Eve
Stubbs as defendants. D.E. 5 at 1. Allen is a manager at the
Waffle House where Gates worked, Dean is a regional manager,
Martinez and Lassiter are district managers, and Stubbs is an
employee at another Waffle House location. Id.
Amended Complaint, Gates alleges that Waffle House and its
employees discriminated against her because of race and color
and that it retaliated against her for complaining about the
discriminatory conduct. Gates contends that Waffle House and
its employees subjected her to a hostile work environment
where she was harassed, singled out, and treated differently
from other employees and was then wrongfully terminated for
complaining about her treatment. D.E. 5 at 5-7. Gates further
alleges Martinez, Allen, and Stubbs, defamed her, which
forced her to seek employment in another town. D.E. 5 at 6-7.
Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying
Fees or Costs
asking to proceed IFP must submit an affidavit about their
monthly income and expenses. A review of Gates's IFP
application (D.E. 1) reveals that her monthly income does not
greatly exceed her monthly expenditures. The court finds that
she lacks sufficient resources to pay the required filing fee
and other costs associated with litigation. Thus, her
application is granted and she may proceed without full
prepayment of costs.
Screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915
addition to determining whether Gates is entitled to IFP
status, the court must also analyze the viability of the
claims in her Complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court
reviews a complaint to eliminate those claims that
unnecessarily impede judicial efficiency and the
administration of justice. The court must dismiss any portion
of the complaint it determines is frivolous, malicious, fails
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief. Id. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted if it does not “contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Supreme Court has
explained that “[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.” Id. Gates's
status as a pro se party relaxes, but does not
eliminate, the requirement that her complaint contain
facially plausible claims. The court must liberally construe
a pro se plaintiff's ...