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English v. Time Warner Cable Information Services Nebraska, LLC

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

April 6, 2016

LAWAN ENGLISH, Plaintiff,
v.
TIME WARNER CABLE INFORMATION SERVICES NEBRASKA, LLC, ESIS WORKERS COMP INSURANCE, and JOSEPH HECKELBECK, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge

Plaintiff, Lawan English, filed this case on December 17, 2015. She has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The court now conducts an initial review of English’s complaint to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

English claims she was mistreated while being trained as a new employee at Time Warner Cable (TWC). Three incidents are identified.

First, English alleges that nothing was done after she complained to her supervisor on May 5, 2015, that Joe Heckelbeck, TWC’s Technical Human Resources Facilitator, was giving her “intimidating stares” and that she “felt as if he was racially profiling.” The day before, Heckelbeck allegedly introduced himself to English and the other three trainees by stating that he was a former policeman who had killed a black man after being stabbed.

Second, English alleges that she was injured on May 7, 2015, while Heckelbeck was making the trainees carry 28-foot ladders weighing at least 84 pounds. English alleges that she was the oldest of the four trainees, and the only woman. The trainees were instructed to carry the ladders back and forth three times over a distance of 75 feet, but English dropped the ladder and walked off crying after completing only the first leg of the exercise. English alleges that no other women have been required to carry a ladder that heavy, and that “there’s only one other lady tech and her ladder is lighter and shorter.” English also alleges Heckelbeck asked whether she was ready to give up after he saw her talking to the supervisor.

Third, English alleges that on May 20, 2015, Heckelbeck told the other trainees that English was faking her injury because “that[’s] what [they] do to get money, ” and said he was not going to train her. Heckelbeck allegedly also warned one of the men to stay away from English because she was going to file a sexual harassment lawsuit “because that’s what [they] do.”

English alleges that a claim was presented to the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission, but there is “no result at this time.” As relief, English is seeking damages of $5.7 million for her physical injuries and $5.2 million for violations of her civil rights. (Filing No. 1.)

II. 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 of it 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).

Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to “nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, ” or “their complaint must be dismissed.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (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.”).

“The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party ‘fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.’” Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, “[a] pro se complaint must be liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than other parties.” Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

Liberally construed, English has alleged claims for (1) race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e; (2) sex discrimination, also under Title VII; (3) age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634; and (4) negligence under common ...


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