United States District Court, D. South Carolina
ORDER AND NOTICE
V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge
Frances Covington (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro
se and in forma pauperis, filed this complaint pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against Secretary of the Department of
Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie and four employees of William
Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Administration Medical Center
(“Dorn VAMC”), Director of Nursing Education
Andrea Boyd (“Boyd”), Nursing Professional
Standards Board (“NPSB”) Chair Debra Layer
(“Layer”), Nursing Director Ruth Mustard
(“Mustard”), and Community Living Centers Nurse
Executive Linda Randle King (“King”). Pursuant to
the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local
Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is
authorized to review such complaints for relief and submit
findings and recommendations to the district judge.
Factual and Procedural Background
indicates she was employed as a nurse educator at Dorn VAMC
from March 20, 2016, to February 23, 2018. [ECF No. 1 at 4].
She claims she was not provided an adequate work pace and was
forced to work in a hallway during her first two weeks of
employment. Id. She alleges she filed two complaints
with the EEOC based on “falsified proficiencies,
” not being able to participate in an interdisciplinary
team meeting, receiving unfair orientation, being subjected
to a hostile work environment, not being permitted to move
her desk for her comfort, wrongful termination, bias
associated with an NPSB hearing, and not being afforded
opportunity for improvement. Id.
alleges she experienced severe stress, anxiety,
sleeplessness, abdominal pain, and pain from neck, back, and
leg injuries as a result of defendants' actions.
Id. at 4-5. She claims she sustained a fall on
January 3, 2018, as a result of the hostile work environment.
Id. at 4.
states her case is brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), and
Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section
501”). Id. at 3. She claims defendants
discriminated against her based on age and race, created a
hostile work environment, retaliated against her after she
filed a complaint with the EEOC, and terminated her without
explanation. Id. at 4, ECF No. 1-1 at 2, 3.
indicates she does not believe she will be able to engage in
full time work because of defendants' actions.
Id. at 5. She requests compensatory and punitive
damages for physical, mental, and emotional pain and
suffering in the amount of five million dollars. Id.
Standard of Review
filed her complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which
permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal
court without prepaying the administrative costs of
proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible
abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court
to dismiss a case upon a finding that the action fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted or is frivolous
or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii). A
finding of frivolity can be made where the complaint lacks an
arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v.
Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). A claim based on a
meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte under 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Pro se complaints are
held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by
attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th
Cir. 1978). In evaluating a pro se complaint, the
plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Fine
v. City of N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). The
mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings
means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to
state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it
should do so. A federal court is charged with liberally
construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow
the development of a potentially meritorious case.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the
court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege
facts that set forth a claim currently cognizable in a
federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990). Although
the court must liberally construe a pro se complaint, the
United States Supreme Court has made it clear a plaintiff
must do more than make conclusory statements to state a
claim. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
677‒78 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, the complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
that is plausible on its face, and the reviewing court need
only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations,
not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
alleges violations of Title VII, the ADEA, and Section 501
against the Secretary and four individual agency employees.
Title VII and the ADEA do not permit recovery against
individual defendants. See Baird ex rel. Baird v.
Rose, 193 F.3d 462, 472 (4th Cir. 1999) (stating
“Title VII does not authorize a remedy against
individuals for violations of its provisions”);
Birkbeck v. Marvel Lighting Corp., 30 F.3d 507,
511-14 (4th Cir. 1994) (holding “the ADEA limits civil
liability to the employer, ” and indicating Congress
did not intend to impose personal liability on an
employer's agents). Section 501 “requires federal
agencies to implement programs to facilitate the hiring,
placement, and advancement of disabled individuals.”
Dank v. Shinseki, 374 Fed. App'x 396, 397 n.2
(citing 29 U.S.C. § 791). As it is directed at the