United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
STADTMUELLER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
an inmate proceeding pro se, filed a complaint under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that his civil rights were
violated. (Docket #1). This matter comes before the Court on
Plaintiff's petition to proceed without prepayment of the
filing fee, or in forma pauperis. (Docket #2).
Plaintiff has been assessed and has paid an initial partial
filing fee of $18.00. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b).
Court must screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking
relief against a governmental entity or an officer or
employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the
prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous
or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. §
is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either
in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25,
31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325
(1989); Gladney v. Pendelton Corr. Facility, 302
F.3d 773, 774 (7th Cir. 2002). 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; Gladney, 302 F.3d at 774. “Malicious,
” although sometimes treated as a synonym for
“frivolous, ” “is more usefully construed
as intended to harass.” Lindell v. McCallum,
352 F.3d 1107, 1109 (7th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted);
accord Paul v. Marberry, 658 F.3d 702, 705 (7th Cir.
state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading
system, the plaintiff is required to provide a “short
and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is
entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It is not
necessary for the plaintiff to plead specific facts and his
statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of
what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S.
41, 47 (1957)); see Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d
879, 881 (7th Cir. 2004). However, a complaint that offers
“labels and conclusions” or “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). To state
a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, “that is plausible on its
face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 570). “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. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint allegations
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
(citation omitted); Christopher, 384 F.3d at 881.
considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should
follow the principles set forth in Twombly by first,
“identifying pleadings that, because they are no more
than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal
conclusions must be supported by factual allegations.
Id. If there are well-pleaded factual allegations,
the Court must, second, “assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief.” Id.
state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
plaintiff must allege that: 1) he was deprived of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and
2) the deprivation was visited upon him by a person or
persons acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore
v. Cty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009)
(citing Kramer v. Vill. of N. Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d
856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo,
446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The Court is obliged to give the
plaintiff'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, 106 (1976)).
times relevant to his complaint, Plaintiff was incarcerated
at the Milwaukee County House of Correction. (Docket #1 at
2). He alleges that he was assigned to work in the kitchen
for eight hours per day, six days per week. Id. He
performed this work for Aramark Company
(“Aramark”), a private company with which his
prison contracted for the provision of food service.
Id. Plaintiff was not paid for his work; instead, he
was informed that that he would receive one day off of his
sentence for each week of work. Id. at 3.
December 19, 2018, Sergeant Williams went to Plaintiff's
dorm and announced that two work hours would be taken from
every inmate in the dorm because meal trays in the kitchen
had not been cleaned. Id. Then, either because of
the uncleaned trays or because of some other misconduct, the
sergeant instituted a disciplinary action against Plaintiff
and one day of credit was taken from him. Id.
Plaintiff complains that he was not given a copy of a
violation report informing him of the rule he violated, he
was not given a hearing (and he did not waive his right to
have one), he was not given the option of calling witnesses
or presenting any evidence, and he was not allowed to appeal.
Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff filed a grievance and was told
that the matter of his disciplinary action was not grievable.
Id. at 4.
these allegations, Plaintiff seeks to bring a claim under the
Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C.
§§ 201 et seq., and a due process claim
under the Fourteenth Amendment. See (Docket #1 at
9-10). For his FLSA claim, Plaintiff argues that the minimum
wage provision of the FLSA requires the prison, or Aramark,
to compensate inmate workers in the form of wages and
benefits. Id. at 9. For his due process claim,
Plaintiff argues that he was deprived of a property interest,
one day of good-time credit, without any process, including a
hearing and the opportunity to present evidence. Id.
of these claims are viable. First, prison and jail inmates
are not covered by the FLSA. Bennett v. Frank, 395
F.3d 409, 410 (7th Cir. 2005).
Seventh Circuit has explained that
[p]eople are not imprisoned for the purpose of enabling them
to earn a living. The prison pays for their keep. If it puts
them to work, it is to offset some of the cost of keeping
them, or to keep them out of mischief, or to ease their
transition to the world outside, or to equip them with skills
and habits that will make them less likely to return to crime
outside. None of these goals is compatible with federal
regulation of their wages and hours.
Id. In other words, Plaintiff's prison can put
him to work for little or no compensation without violating
the FLSA. The fact that Plaintiff's work was supervised
by staff from a private company with which the prison
contracted for kitchen services does not change this result.
Cf. Id. at 409 (“[P]risoners are not employees
of their prison, whether it ...