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Brown v. Bruns

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

December 2, 2013

IRA BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
PHYLLIS BRUNS, ERIC ANDER, and U.S.P.S., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

RICHARD G. KOPF, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this matter on October 17, 2013. (Filing No. 1.) Plaintiff has previously been given leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Filing No. 5.) Plaintiff has also filed a Supplement to his Complaint.[1] (Filing No. 6.) The court now conducts an initial review of the Complaint to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this matter against his former employer, the United States Postal Service ("USPS"), and two individual USPS managers. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 1.) Plaintiff currently resides in Omaha, Nebraska. ( Id. at CM/ECF p. 1; Docket Sheet.)

Condensed and summarized, Plaintiff alleges he sustained a work-related injury on December 19, 2012. (Filing No. 1. at CM/ECF p. 2.) After undergoing physical therapy, Plaintiff was able to return to light-duty work. ( Id. ) However, Plaintiff's managers began to "harass[, ] bully[, ] and terrorize" him. ( Id. at CM/ECF pp. 2-3.) Ultimately, Plaintiff was "punitively" terminated on the basis of his injury and his race. ( Id. at CM/ECF pp. 2-3, 6; Filing No. 6.) Plaintiff also mentions that an "internal E.E.O. mediation" regarding this matter ended without a resolution. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 5.) Plaintiff seeks $12 million in monetary damages and a "career employment job." ( Id. )

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW

The court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion thereof that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

A pro se plaintiff must set forth enough factual allegations to "nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, " or "their complaint must be dismissed" for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009) ("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."). Regardless of whether a plaintiff is represented or is appearing pro se, the plaintiff's complaint must allege specific facts sufficient to state a claim. See Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985). However, a pro se plaintiff's allegations must be construed liberally. Burke v. North Dakota Dep't of Corr. & Rehab., 294 F.3d 1043, 1043-44 (8th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted).

III. DISCUSSION OF CLAIMS

Liberally construed, Plaintiff asserts three claims: (1) he was discriminated against in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 ("Rehabilitation Act"), (2) he was terminated on the basis of his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), and (3) breach of contract under the Postal Reorganization Act, 39 U.S.C. § 1208(b) ("PRA"). The court will explore each claim below.

1. Rehabilitation Act

The Rehabilitation Act provides, "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability... shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, ... be subjected to discrimination... under any program or activity conducted by... the United States Postal Service." 29 U.S.C. § 794(a). To establish a Rehabilitation Act claim against the Postal Service, Plaintiff needs to show that "he was disabled, was otherwise qualified, and was the victim of discrimination solely because of his disability." Peebles v. Potter, 354 F.3d 761, 765 (8th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted). Section 705 of the Rehabilitation Act defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment. 29 U.S.C. § 705(9)(B) (incorporating 42 U.S.C.A. § 12102); Berkey v. Henderson, 120 F.Supp.2d 1189, 1191-92 (S. D. Iowa 2000).

Here, Plaintiff alleges he sustained a work-related injury on December 19, 2012. (Filing No. 1. at CM/ECF p. 2.) After undergoing physical therapy, Plaintiff was able to return to light-duty work. ( Id. ) However, Plaintiff's managers began to "harass[, ] bully[, ] and terrorize" him. ( Id. at CM/ECF pp. 2-3.) Ultimately, Plaintiff was "punitively" terminated based on perceived restrictions resulting from his work-related injury. ( Id.; Filing No. 6.) Liberally construed, Plaintiff has alleged enough to nudge his Rehabilitation Act claim across the line from conceivable to plausible. However, the court cautions Plaintiff that this is only a preliminary ...


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