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William J. Whitsitt v. Hollingsworth Logistics

December 14, 2012

WILLIAM J. WHITSITT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HOLLINGSWORTH LOGISTICS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff, proceeding in this action pro se, has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302(21), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit making the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

The determination that plaintiff may proceed in forma pauperis does not complete the required inquiry. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the court is directed to dismiss the case at any time if it determines the allegation of poverty is untrue, or if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune defendant.

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

A complaint must contain more than a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). "The pleading must contain something more...than...a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Id., quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure 1216, pp. 235-235 (3d ed. 2004). "[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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955). "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.

Pro se pleadings are liberally construed. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S. Ct. 594, 595-96 (1972); Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). Unless it is clear that no amendment can cure the defects of a complaint, a pro se plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis is entitled to notice and an opportunity to amend before dismissal. See Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1230.

Plaintiff alleges that Hollingsworth Logistics discriminated against him and declined to hire him based on his age. He claims he was denied employment, but that younger, less qualified applicants were hired instead. (Compl. at 2.) His claims for "discrimination, retaliation and unlawful blacklisting" are brought under the ADEA. In regard to the United States as a defendant, plaintiff alleges:

Hollingsworth Logistics is a Government Contractor and or Agent doing work for the U.S.A., and is under a Government Contract. Thus, the United States must share their Agents and or Contractor's Blame and liability. I also remind the Court that the USA has a Condition of Agreement in Contract, that a Contractor must agree to allow No Discrimination whatsoever.

(Id.)

On the present record, plaintiff has stated a colorable claim for relief against defendants Hollingsworth Logistics, Mike Sansome, and San Joaquin County Work Net. Plaintiff has not stated a colorable claim for relief against the United States, however.

Under the ADEA, only employers may be subject to liability. See Kimel v. Fla. Bd. of Regents, 528 U.S. 62, 67-68, 120 S.Ct. 631 (2000). "Generally, an agent or employer who may be sued as an employer in Title VII suits [and, by analogy, in ADEA suits] has been construed to be a supervisory or managerial employee to whom employment decisions have been delegated by an employer." Gallagher v. Gallagher, 130 F.Supp.2d 359, 362-63 (N.D.N.Y. 2001) (citation omitted).

(b) The term "employer" means a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has twenty or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year .... The term also means (1) any agent of such a person, and (2) a State or political subdivision of a State and any agency or instrumentality of a State or a political subdivision of a State, and any interstate agency, but ...


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