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Getachew v. West Side Transport, Inc.

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

November 29, 2013



LINDA R. READE, Chief District Judge.


The matter before the court is Defendant West Side Transport, Inc.'s ("West Side") Motion to Dismiss ("Motion") (docket no. 5).


On September 25, 2013, Plaintiff Alemayehu Getachew filed a pro se complaint ("Complaint") (docket no. 3) alleging that West Side: discriminated against him by terminating his employment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I); retaliated against him for complying with federal regulations and complaining about his pay in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count II); wrongfully discharged him in violation of Iowa law (Count III); intentionally misrepresented what Getachew would be paid while working for West Side (Count IV); and violated Getachew's rights under the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Count V). On October 29, 2013, West Side filed the Motion arguing that the court should dismiss each claim in Getachew's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). On November 13, 2013, Getachew filed his Resistance (docket no. 6). The Motion is fully submitted and ready for decision.


The court has federal question jurisdiction over Getachew's claims in Counts I and II of the Complaint because they arise under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The court also has federal question jurisdiction over Count V because it arises under the United States Constitution. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). The court has diversity jurisdiction over Counts III and IV because Getachew is an Ohio resident, West Side is an Iowa corporation and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000... and is between... citizens of different States....").


A pro se complaint must be liberally construed. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam); Smith v. St. Bernards Reg'l Med. Ctr., 19 F.3d 1254, 1255 (8th Cir. 1994). In addition, unless the facts alleged are clearly baseless, they must be weighed in favor of the plaintiff. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992). A court, however, can dismiss at any time a complaint filed in forma pauperis if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). A claim is "frivolous" if it "lacks an arguable basis in either law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); accord Cokeley v. Endell, 27 F.3d 331, 332 (8th Cir. 1994). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Accordingly, a court may review the complaint and dismiss sua sponte those claims that fail "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " Parkhurst v. Tabor, 569 F.3d 861, 865 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (internal quotation marks omitted), or that are premised on meritless legal theories or clearly lack any factual basis, Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325. See, e.g., Denton, 504 U.S. at 27 (considering frivolousness); Myers v. Vogal, 960 F.2d 750, 751 (8th Cir. 1992) (concluding that a district court may dismiss an action if an affirmative defense exists).

Although a plaintiff need not provide "detailed" facts in support of its allegations, id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), the "short and plain statement" requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) "demands more than an unadorned" accusation of harm, id.; see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) ("Specific facts are not necessary [under Rule 8(a)(2)]."). "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "Where the allegations show on the face of the complaint [that] there is some insuperable bar to relief, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate." Benton v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 524 F.3d 866, 870 (8th Cir. 2008).


Viewed in the light most favorable to Getachew, the facts are as follows:

A. Parties

Getachew is a citizen of Columbus, Ohio who began working for West Side as a truck driver sometime before October 2012.

West Side is an Iowa corporation with its principal place of business in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. West Side operates a fleet of over 600 trucks and 1500 trailers throughout the United States.

B. Overview of the Dispute

West Side hired Getachew to work as a truck driver for the company sometime before October 2012.[1] On October 3, 2012, Getachew began to drive a load from Keokuk, Iowa to Roanoke, Indiana. On October 4, 2012, Getachew was late for a scheduled delivery. Later that day, an employee from West Side called Getachew and said, "Come on to my office and we will talk like men to men." Complaint at 3. As Getachew was on his way back to Iowa, Frank Gambish, West Side's general manager, instructed Ryan Armstrong, Getachew's supervisor, to prepare three allegedly unfounded warnings for Getachew and his termination papers. When Getachew arrived at the office, Gambish told him to sign the documents, which terminated his employment. Gambish told Getachew that the reason West Side was terminating him was because he had been late for the delivery on October 4, 2012.

On October 25, 2012, West Side and Getachew had a hearing at the Iowa Workforce Development office. At the hearing, West Side's human resources manager, Amy Jordan, allegedly testified that West Side had not given Getachew any warnings, in writing or verbally, prior to his termination on October 5, 2012. Jordan also allegedly testified that it was common practice for West Side to force their drivers to sign three warning documents at once in exchange for West Side agreeing not to revile their dock reports.[2]


A. 42 U.S.C. § 1981 Discrimination ...

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