United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. HALE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
Lorena Pruitt, proceeding pro se, brings this
employment-discrimination action against Defendants Hazelwood
Training Facility, Cabinet for Health and Family Services
(CHFS),  Jay Klein, Beth Feddersen, Sueellen White,
and Tarron Ray. (D.N. 23; see also D.N. 1) In her
amended complaint, Pruitt asserts claims for discrimination,
hostile work environment, and retaliation based on race and
gender under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; retaliation
under 42 U.S.C. § 1981; and disability discrimination
under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). (D.N. 23,
PageID # 174) Defendants Hazelwood, CHFS, Klein, Feddersen,
and White have filed joint motions to dismiss all claims
either for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) or for failure to
state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (D.N. 17; D.N. 24)
For the reasons explained below, the motions to dismiss will
following facts are set out in the amended complaint and
accepted as true for purposes of the present motions. See
Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir.
2007). Pruitt worked for the CHFS at its Hazelwood Training
Facility in Louisville, Kentucky, from 2009 to 2016. (D.N.
23, PageID # 168) On October 18, 2015, Pruitt suffered a
slip-and-fall accident and used her FMLA time to heal.
(Id.) Her doctor released her to return to work on
December 1, 2015. (Id.) But in November 2015, Pruitt
was involved in a head-on car collision, which exacerbated
her slip-and-fall injuries. (Id., PageID # 168-69)
She received a “partial work release” from her
doctor stating that she could continue to work with certain
accommodations. (Id., PageID # 169)
submitted the work release to Tarron Ray, Hazelwood's
human resources manager, and he provided Pruitt with an
accommodation form to complete. (Id.) Ray
immediately told Pruitt, however, that “he would not
provide her [with] any accommodations and that she was
wasting her time filling [the form] out.”
(Id.) Nonetheless, Pruitt filled out the form and
returned it to Ray. (Id.) Ray called Pruitt the next
day, reiterating that he did not “have any
accommodations” for her. (Id.) Pruitt then
contacted Cathy Cox, the CHFS's human resources director,
and asked her to speak with Ray. (Id.) Cox called
Ray, inquiring as to why he had refused Pruitt an opportunity
to work with accommodations. (Id.) Immediately after
that phone call, Ray called Pruitt, asserting that he
“[ran] th[e] building” and “[would] let
work who [he] want[ed] to [let] work.” (Id.)
Pruitt called Cox to inform her that she wanted to file a
grievance against Ray, and Cox instructed her to follow the
chain of command. (Id.)
accordance with Cox's instruction, Pruitt contacted
Sueellen White, the director of Hazelwood. (Id.)
White told Pruitt that she was “not allowed to take
[Pruitt's] grievance” until Pruitt talked with Ray
directly. (Id.) White then placed a three-way call
in a purported attempt to include Ray, but Ray was never
reached. (Id.) Pruitt later learned that White and
Ray were relatives and that White had instructed Ray not to
take the call. (Id., PageID # 170) As a result,
Pruitt never had the opportunity to file her grievance.
(Id.) Further, Ray directed security not to allow
Pruitt back into the building. (Id.)
Pruitt's request to continue working with accommodations,
Hazelwood placed Pruitt on one year of unpaid medical leave.
(Id.) Pruitt became homeless and destitute.
(Id.) When she went to the unemployment office to
file for unemployment benefits, she was told that she was not
entitled to benefits because she was still employed by
Hazelwood. (Id.) Pruitt applied for benefits again
and was told that she had been fired for missing too many
days of work. (Id., PageID # 170) Pruitt appealed
the denial of unemployment benefits, and an investigation
revealed that Hazelwood and Ray had wrongfully terminated
her. (Id., PageID # 170-71) Pruitt received
unemployment benefits based upon the result of the
investigation. (Id., PageID # 171)
her termination and receipt of unemployment benefits, Pruitt
found out that she was still considered to be employed by
Defendants. (Id.) Pruitt was told to either resign
or face termination. (Id.) She resigned in November
2016. (Id.) Pruitt filed charges of discrimination
with the EEOC, and the EEOC subsequently issued Pruitt a
right-to-sue letter. (Id., PageID # 171-72)
originally filed her complaint on a court-approved form,
asserting discrimination claims based on gender and
disability. (D.N. 1, PageID # 25-26) Defendants Hazelwood,
CHFS, Klein, Feddersen, and White filed a motion to dismiss
all claims against them for lack of subject- matter
jurisdiction or failure to state a claim. (D.N. 17) After
that motion was fully briefed (see D.N. 21; D.N.
22), Pruitt filed an amended complaint. (D.N. 23) In the
amended complaint, Pruitt asserted claims for discrimination
based on race and gender under Title VII, hostile work
environment on the basis of race and gender under Title VII,
retaliation under Title VII, retaliation under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981, and disability discrimination under the ADA.
(D.N. 23, PageID # 174) Defendants then filed another motion
to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), incorporating the arguments they made
in their earlier motion and arguing that Pruitt's new
race-discrimination and retaliation claims also fail. (D.N.
Sixth Circuit has recognized that motions to dismiss under
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) are
distinct and involve different standards. See Mooneyham
v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, 99 F.Supp.3d 720, 722
(W.D. Ky. 2015) (citing RMI Titanium Co. v. Westinghouse
Elec. Corp., 78 F.3d 1125, 1134 (6th Cir. 1996)).
the CHFS, and the individual defendants sued in their
official capacities argue that they are entitled to sovereign
immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. (D.N. 17, PageID #
108-110; D.N. 24, PageID # 192-93, 201-03) Sovereign immunity
may “serve as a basis for a [Rule] 12(b)(1) motion to
dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.” Mooneyham,
99 F.Supp.3d at 722 (citation omitted). “‘[W]hile
the Eleventh Amendment is jurisdictional in the sense that it
is a limitation on the federal court's judicial
power,' the defense ‘is not coextensive with the
limitations on judicial power in Article III.'”
Id. at 722-23 (quoting Nair v. Oakland Cty.
Cmty. Mental Health Auth., 443 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir.
2006)). For instance, a state may waive Eleventh Amendment
immunity. Nair, 443 F.3d at 474. And “[u]nlike
subject-matter jurisdiction, ‘the entity asserting
Eleventh Amendment immunity has the burden to show that it is
entitled to immunity.'” Mooneyham, 99
F.Supp.3d at 723 (quoting Nair, 443 F.3d at 474).
also argue that all of Pruitt's claims must be dismissed
for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (D.N.
17, PageID # 104-07, 110-16; D.N. 24, PageID # 191-97,
199-201, 203-05) To survive a motion to dismiss for failure
to state a claim, “a complaint must 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) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). A claim is plausible on its face “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. Factual
allegations are essential; “[t]hreadbare recitals of
the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements, do not suffice, ” and the Court
need not accept such statements as true. Id. A
complaint whose “well-pleaded facts do not permit the
court to infer more than the mere possibility of
misconduct” does not satisfy the pleading requirements
of Rule 8 and will not withstand a motion to dismiss.
Id. at 679.
pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Yet “the lenient treatment
generally accorded to pro se litigants has limits.”
Pilgrim v. Littlefield, 92 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir.
1996). For example, “the less stringent standard for
pro se plaintiffs does not compel the courts to conjure up
unpleaded facts to support conclusory allegations.”
Leisure v. Hogan, 21 Fed.Appx. 277, 278 (6th Cir.
2001). Additionally, the Court cannot “create a claim
which [the plaintiff] has not spelled out in his
pleading.” Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins.
Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975). A pro se
complaint must still “contain either direct or
inferential allegations respecting all the material elements
to sustain a recovery under some viable legal
theory.” Scheid v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops,
Inc., 859 F.2d 434, 436-37 (6th Cir. 1988) (citation
omitted). Ultimately, “[t]he Court's duty to
construe a pro se complaint liberally does not
absolve a plaintiff of the duty to comply with the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure by providing each defendant with
fair notice of the basis of the claim.” Jones v.
Cabinet for Families & Children, No. 3:07-CV-11-S,
2007 WL 2462184, at *4 (W.D. Ky. Aug. 29, 2007) (citing
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514
Claims Against ...