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Morris v. Acadian Ambulance Services, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 2, 2015



DANIEL E. KNOWLES, III, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. [Doc. #13]. The Court originally set the motion for oral hearing on March 25, 2015. Plaintiff filed a motion to continue the submission of the motion, which this Court granted in part, re-setting the oral hearing on April 1, 2015. [Doc. #16]. Plaintiff filed no opposition to the motion for summary judgment, and the Court thus removed the motion from the oral docket and set it for submission on the briefs. [Doc. #21]. In the interim, plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel Discovery Responses [Doc. #19] on March 27, 2015. The discovery deadline was February 20, 2015. Accordingly,

IT IS ORDERED that plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery Responses [Doc. #19] is DENIED as untimely. Plaintiff propounded the discovery requests on the date of the discovery deadline and did not file the motion to compel until March 27, 2015. No party has moved to continue the deadlines in this lawsuit, the motion to compel reveals no good cause to extend them, and good cause is required by the Scheduling Order. Plaintiff wholly fails to provide good cause as to why he could not have propounded the discovery requests before the discovery deadline.[1]

Having reviewed Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. #13], the lack of opposition, and the case law, the Court rules on the motion for summary judgment as follows.

I. Background

The following facts are taken from the affidavits submitted in support of defendant's motion for summary judgment because Morris filed no opposition. Defendant Acadian Ambulance Services, Inc. ("AASI") operates an ambulance company that provides emergency response services as well as medical transport services via its vans. AASI hired plaintiff Carlton Morris, Jr. (male) as a wheelchair van operator in AASI's Gretna division on January 31, 2011. [Doc. #13-3 at ¶ 2]. On November 11, 2011, AASI promoted Morris to a newly-created position of Van Supervisor. Kelly Legania (female), Operations Manager, recommended his promotion to that position, and Steve Kuiper, Vice President of Operations, approved the recommendation. [Doc. #13-3 at ¶ 3; Doc. #13-4 at p. 28].

Shortly after his promotion, Legania noted some shortcomings in Morris's performance as a supervisor that she decided would require coaching and education. [Doc. #13-3 at ¶ 4]. Among the shortcomings that Legania noted noted were poor communication skills (both verbal and written), inconsistent application of policy and procedure, and failure to follow up for time-sensitive deadlines. [ Id. at ¶¶ 5, 6 & 7].

With regard to his poor communication skills, Morris consistently used improper grammar and poor sentence structure. [ Id. at ¶ 5]. He was encouraged to, and did attend an eight-hour grammar course provided by AASI in an effort to improve that deficiency. [ Id. ]. Legania instructed him to let her review any e-mails he planned on sending out to employees or the management team. [ Id. ]. Morris failed to follow that instruction during his tenure as supervisor. [ Id. ].

As to his inconsistent application of policy, Morris failed to demonstrate any sense of urgency in holding any of the van drivers accountable for their uniform violations, tardiness, absenteeism, and overall appearance, including inappropriate facial hair and failing to wear the proper uniform or footwear. [ Id. at ¶ 6]. And as to his lack of follow-up, Morris regularly failed to ensure that employees under his supervision completed necessary certifications on a timely basis. [ Id. at ¶ 7].

At this time, Legania did not formally discipline Morris. [ Id. at ¶ 8]. Instead, she decided to deal with Morris's shortcomings by using "teaching moments" because it was her desire to see him be successful as a supervisor. [ Id. ]. Legania, consistent with AASI's management philosophy, preferred a positive approach to improving performance when possible. [ Id. ]. Legania asked Field Training Supervisor Chuck Benedict to review all van-orientation documents and procedures with Morris so that he could take over the new-hire orientation process. [ Id. at ¶ 9]. The hope was that since the van-supervisor position occupied by Morris was a newly-created position, Morris could take over the position of Field Training Supervisor from Benedict. [ Id. ].

Because Morris was also responsible for van operators' schedules, Legania also asked Operations Coordinator Mindy Hill to provide one-on-one training to Morris to teach him how to navigate the AASI Crew Scheduler program. [ Id. at ¶ 12]. Operations Supervisor Keenan Rogers also provided several sessions of payroll training to Morris, including weekend training. [ Id. at ¶¶ 14, 15]. Rogers provided Morris with additional training for six months. [ id. at ¶ 17]. Despite these efforts, however, Morris never fully grasped the payroll processes as was demonstrated by his inability to complete his portion of payroll without assistance from Rogers or other members of the management team. [ Id. at ¶ 16].

Morris also participated in a series of leadership training sessions called Uncommon Leadership, provided by AASI through Human Dynamics, Inc. [ Id. at ¶ 18]. Morris attended all of the training sessions related to this program, from June 2012 through October 2012. [ Id. ]. In addition, Morris attended AASI's annual Acadian Leadership forum, a one-day strategic information and motivation session. [ Id. at ¶ 19].

Morris also participated in a class designed for new supervisors, called OS 101. [ Id. at ¶ 20]. This class is designed to teach the timely and consistent application of any and all policies and procedures of AASI. [ Id. ]. Morris also attended bi-weekly operations meetings with the management team of AASI, in which operational issues and disciplinary actions that may have been taken in the prior two weeks were discussed to ensure that members of management were consistent and working as a team. [ Id. at ¶ 21]. During these meetings, the other members of management, including Legania, embraced Morris and attempted to help him as much as possible. [ Id. at ¶ 22].

Legania began to notice that Morris became argumentative when he disagreed with a policy or procedure. [ Id. at ¶ 23]. For example, the vans under his supervision were notorious for late logons. [ Id. ]. AASI policy states that an employee must be logged on for their shift and ready to take a call at the start time of their shift. [ Id. ]. However, when van employees assigned to Morris would not be properly logged on, Morris would call the communications center and become argumentative with the dispatcher in an effort to defend the employee. [ Id. ].

As a van supervisor, Morris participated in bi-weekly van-safety committee meetings. [ Id. at ¶ 24]. Topics of discussion included, but were not limited to, safe loading and unloading of patients in wheelchairs onto and off the van, patient security, review of operational and safety issues with requests to disseminate information to the staff as educational, orientation of new employees, and policies and procedure. [ Id. ]. In addition, Morris continued to receive training, coaching and support from the operations team. [ Id. ]. For AASI's annual van inspections, Legania assigned Operations Supervisor Tyra Haynes to assist Morris, as she had assisted with these inspections before and had also been in charge of van operations before the dedicated position was created. [ Id. at ¶ 25]. While preparing for the vans to be inspected, Haynes noted that Morris needed assistance to accomplish required tasks in his management role. [ Id. at ¶ 26].

Morris was responsible for approximately 30 employees, all of whom required their CPNC certification in order to pass inspection. [ Id. ]. During the inspection process, Legania learned that there were several employees, some that had been employed close to a year, who still had not received their certification. [ Id. at ¶ 27]. Once inspections were complete, Legania met with Morris and advised him that Haynes would be assisting him with getting his employees on board and following through with the process. [ Id. ].

Legania later met with Morris and Haynes to see where additional help may be required. [ Id. at ¶ 28]. Morris verbally agreed to allow Haynes to assist him in getting the employees back on track with the CPNC process. [ Id. ]. However, whenever Haynes offered her assistance, Morris became defensive and angry. [ Id. ]. Once Legania intervened, she discovered that Morris's poor attitude was influenced by Haynes' ability to gain respect from the van operators, something with which he had struggled. [ Id. at ¶ 29].

AASI supervisors are also responsible for conducting annual performance appraisals ("PAs") for the employees that report to them. [ Id. at ¶ 31]. They are assigned deadlines for completion, and a date is set for a PA Review. [ Id. ]. In 2013, this two-day process was scheduled for Wednesday, February 13, 2013 and Friday, February 15, 2013 (over a year after AASI had promoted Morris to supervisor). [ Id. at ¶ 32]. These days allow all of the supervisors to give input and ensure that each employee receives a fair evaluation. [ Id. ]. Because the Gretna, Louisiana area consists mostly of medics, Legania advised Morris that he would be first to present his van-driver employees and be excused for the remainder of the review. [ Id. at ¶ 33]. She also told him that he could take off the second day. [ Id. ]. As they settled into the meeting room and prepared to begin, she asked Morris if he was ready. [ Id. ]. Morris stated that he had not completed any of his appraisals. Legania then extended his deadline to Friday. [ Id. ].

As Legania was preparing to leave the office the following evening, she received an e-mail and phone call from the AASI Risk Manager, Kent Guidry. [ Id. at ¶ 34]. He advised her that one of the van operators had been operating a company vehicle with a suspended license. [ Id. ]. Legania went to Morris's office to show him the information that she had received and advised him to remove the employee from the schedule until he could provide a letter of clearance from the Department of Motor Vehicles. [ Id. ]. As she turned to exit, Morris stated, "There's something else you need to know about him. He hit a man's car two weeks ago with one of the vans." [ Id. ]. Legania asked Morris how long he had known about the accident and why had he not reported it to anyone. [ Id. ]. Morris stated, "The guy called me yesterday when we were doing PA's and I didn't get a chance to call him back." [ Id. ]. Legania informed Morris that he should have immediately reported the incident to her and that Risk Management should have also been notified. [ Id. ]. Morris stated that the incident "slipped his mind." [ Id. ]. When Legania met with the employee, who was subsequently terminated for failure to ...

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