United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge
Thomas Edward Chapman (“Chapman”), proceeding
pro se, filed a complaint against Defendants
alleging various causes of action arising from his
termination from employment as a taxicab driver. Chapman
filed his original complaint on May 4, 2015. (Docket #1).
Defendants moved to dismiss that complaint, and the Court
granted that motion on February 24, 2016. Chapman v.
Yellow Cab Cooperative, Case No. 15-C-533, 2016 WL
756533, at *5-6 (E.D. Wis. Feb. 24, 2016). In its order, the
Court gave Chapman leave to file an amended complaint in
order to cure the deficiencies the Court identified in the
original complaint. Id. Chapman then filed two
documents purporting to be a first and second amended
complaint, respectively. See (Docket #43 and #44).
In April 2016, Defendants again moved to dismiss the case on
various grounds. See (Docket #54, #55, and #61).
Chapman initially failed to respond to these motions, so the
Court ordered him to do so. (Docket #73). He thereafter
responded to the motions to dismiss in one omnibus filing on
August 18, 2016, and Defendants replied on September 1, 2016.
(Docket #74 and #75). Without permission of the Court,
Chapman filed what appears to be a sur-reply, consisting of a
letter and exhibits thereto, on September 16, 2016. (Docket
#77). The motions to dismiss are fully briefed and, for the
reasons stated herein, they will be granted.
following facts are drawn from the allegations in
Chapman's Second Amended Complaint. Chapman alleges
that he worked for Yellow Cab Cooperative, a cooperative
organization of taxicab drivers, as a cab driver for a period
of seven years. (Docket #44 at 1-2). Chapman drove a licensed
cab owned by Dennis Edwards (“Edwards”), who is
not a defendant in this action. Id. at 3. He paid
rent on the cab to Defendant Parashu Giri
(“Giri”), who leased it from Edwards.
January 30, 2013, he filed a wage complaint against Yellow
Cab Cooperative with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce
Development Equal Rights Division (“ERD”),
alleging that he was not being paid the minimum wage.
Id. at 3. Yellow Cab Cooperative was informed of
that complaint by letter on February 19, 2013. Id.
March 4, 2013, Chapman went to Giri's home to pick up his
taxicab in order to start his work shift. Id. at 1.
Chapman alleges that he and Giri used the same cab, with
Chapman taking a day shift and Giri working through the
night. Id. When he arrived at Giri's home that
morning, however, he did not start his shift as usual.
Id. Instead, Giri informed Chapman that the
president of Yellow Cab Cooperative, Defendant Ali Mohamed
(“Mohamed”), had fired him. Id. Chapman
alleges that he heard from Giri that Mohamed decided to fire
Chapman because Chapman had filed his wage complaint.
Id. at 1-2. Chapman further states that in his seven
years with the company he “had a good work record and
no compliants [sic] from any customers or the
public.” Id. at 2.
the balance of the Second Amended Complaint is hard to parse,
Chapman appears to assert the following legal theories.
First, Chapman claims that Defendants Yellow Cab Cooperative,
Mohamed, and Giri violated the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3), by
terminating him in retaliation for engaging in
“protected activity” under the statute-that is,
filing his wage complaint. Id. at 3-4. Second,
Chapman asserts, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983, that
Defendant State of Wisconsin Department of Financial
Institutions (“DFI”) violated his First Amendment
right to petition the government when DFI ignored a 2011
complaint from Chapman about Yellow Cab Cooperative's
failure to comply with its corporate duties. Id. at
Chapman makes a “1991 claim” against Yellow Cab
Cooperative arising from what appears to be a break-in at the
company's dispatch center in June 2010. Id. at
10. Based on allegations found later in the complaint, it
appears Chapman is attempting to refer to the Civil Rights
Act of 1991. Id. at 26. Fourth, Chapman states that
“African” managers at Yellow Cab Cooperative
discriminated against him on the basis of his race.
Id. at 17. Finally, Chapman appears to allege that
some unidentified person or entity subjected him to
“peonage”-involuntary servitude-in violation of
the Thirteenth Amendment. Id. at 21.
Yellow Cab Cooperative, Mohamed, and Giri filed a motion to
dismiss on April 13, 2016, arguing that Chapman's
complaint failed to state a claim against any of them and
that Giri was never properly served with process. (Docket #54
and #55). That same day, Chapman filed a document captioned
“Additional Exhibits” to his Second Amended
Complaint. (Docket #58). The document is replete with
incoherent statements, legal argument, and photocopied pages
from various books. On April 19, 2016, Defendant DFI filed a
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Docket #61).
thereafter filed several more documents, some of which
purported to be further exhibits to his Second Amended
Complaint or asserted new claims Chapman believes he has
against Defendants. See (Docket #62, #63, #64, #65,
#66, and #67). These documents, like the first set of
“Additional Exhibits” Chapman filed, consist
primarily of incoherent arguments interspersed with
photocopied pages from books and from the administrative
record in Chapman's ERD proceedings. None of these
filings was captioned as a response to the motions to
dismiss, and based on the Court's review of each filing,
none of them appreciably responds to Defendants'
result, after this matter was reassigned to this branch of
the Court in August 2016, the Court ordered Chapman to file
responses to the motions to dismiss, (Docket #73), which he
did on August 18, 2016, (Docket #74). Yellow Cab Cooperative,
Mohamed, and Giri filed a reply on September 1, 2016. (Docket
#75). DFI did not file a reply. On September 16, 2016,
Chapman filed yet another document purporting to contain
additional exhibits to his Second Amended Complaint. (Docket
#77). Review of the document, however, reveals that it is a
sur-reply to Yellow Cab Cooperative, Mohamed, and Giri's
reply brief. Although sur-replies are not authorized by the
Court's local rules, see Civil L. R. 7, the
Court will not strike Chapman's filing because the Court
does not find that its contents affect the disposition of the
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of
complaints which fail to state a viable claim for relief.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To state a viable claim, a complaint
must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In other words, the complaint must give
“fair notice of what the…claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted).
The allegations must “plausibly suggest that the
plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility
above a speculative level[.]” Kubiak v. City of
Chicago, 810 F.3d 476, 480 (7th Cir. 2016) (citation
reviewing Chapman's Second Amended Complaint, the Court
is required to “accept as true all of the well-pleaded
facts in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in
favor of the plaintiff.” Id. at 480-81.
However, a complaint that offers “labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The Court must identify
allegations “that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Id. at 679. The Court is obliged to
give Chapman's pro se allegations,
“however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal
construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97,
explained below, the majority of Chapman's allegations in
his Second Amended Complaint are wholly without merit. The
only claim that appears colorable is his FLSA retaliation
claim, but even there, the Court finds that he must provide
more detailed and thorough allegations before the claim can
be permitted to proceed. The Court will analyze each claim in
turn, but first pauses to address the matter of Chapman's
numerous post-complaint filings.
Chapman's Additional Exhibits
has repeatedly filed documents that purport to be additional
exhibits to his Second Amended Complaint. These documents are
incoherent, unintelligible, and contain mostly legal argument
and speculation, not factual material. The Court will not