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Lebeouf v. Manning

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 11, 2015

STACY LEBEOUF,
v.
BAIN MANNING, Section: R(2)

ORDER AND REASONS

SARAH S. VANCE, District Judge.

Defendant Bain Manning moves for summary judgment on plaintiff Stacy LeBeouf's claims.[1] LeBeouf opposes the motion and also moves to strike three witness statements made by her co-workers.[2] For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Manning's motion, and grants LeBeouf's motion.

I. BACKGROUND

LeBeouf brought this suit against Manning in his individual and official capacities under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 and under Louisiana law for violations of her due process rights related to her resignation from her position as a nurse at Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center ("the Hospital"). She alleges that she had a property interest in her employment at the Hospital, and that Manning deprived her of that property interest without due process of law by constructively discharging her. LeBeouf seeks a declaration that Manning violated her right to due process of law, and injunctive relief ordering Manning to reinstate her to her position. She also seeks damages for lost salary, lost benefits, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.

The facts surrounding LeBeouf's resignation from the Hospital are hotly disputed. Beginning in 1987, LeBeouf worked as a nurse at the Hospital. She was a State of Louisiana civil service employee.

A. Manning's Summary Judgment Evidence

In support of his motion for summary judgment, Manning presents the following facts. Shortly before October 25, 2011, Manning, the Human Resources Director for the Hospital, received reports of bizarre behavior and a possible medical error by LeBeouf. Manning testified to his receipt of this information before October 25th, and, in support, provides letters from three sources containing information he purportedly received before October 25th.[3] As a consequence of these reports, Rhonda Green, chief executive officer of the Hospital and LeBeouf's appointing authority, initiated an investigation into LeBeouf on October 25, 2011. Pending the investigation, Green suspended LeBeouf with pay for thirty days. The details of the suspension are memorialized in a letter, dated October 25, 2011 and signed by Rhonda Green, as follows:

This will serve as written confirmation that I have placed you on suspension with pay, pending investigation, in accordance with Civil Service Rule 12.10. Your suspension will begin immediately, and it is to continue for 30 days or until further notice from me.
The reason for this suspension is that I have reason to believe that you have engaged in conduct which may warrant disciplinary action, and that your continued presence at work during an investigation of the suspected conduct would be contrary to the best interests of the state service.
During your suspension, you are not to enter this hospital or the hospital grounds, unless you are in need of medical treatment at this hospital. You will be informed, at the conclusion of the investigation, as to when you may return to work.[4]

Manning and Mary Blackburn, a nurse manager, met with LeBeouf at seven-thirty in the morning on October 25, 2011, to discuss the reports of bizarre behavior and the suspension. At his deposition, Manning stated that he and Blackburn inquired whether "there was anything that was causing any sort of bizarre or strange behavior."[5] Reportedly, Manning and Blackburn were "very concerned" about whether LeBeouf could perform her essential functions as a nurse.[6] Manning states that he presented LeBeouf the suspension letter signed by Rhonda Green at this meeting.[7] At this point, according to Manning, they told LeBeouf that she would be suspended with pay pending the investigation due to the bizarre behavior, and that because it is the Hospital's "usual and customary procedure [] to give someone a drug test, " that they "would like for [her] to submit to a drug screen."[8] Manning reports that LeBeouf inquired why they were asking her to undergo a drug test, to which Manning responded: "I can't really go into the details now."[9] Manning further explained that "in these sort of situations it is a condition of continued employment that any employee that is asked to submit to a drug screen, in order to return to work, must agree to taking the test by that condition."[10] According to Manning, LeBeouf stated that she would not take the drug test.[11] Manning states that LeBeouf initially told him that she could not take the drug test because she was around people smoking marijuana on her recent vacation, but that LeBeouf later admitted to smoking marijuana herself.[12] Manning also states that LeBeouf stated "under her breath, very lightly... That's not the only thing you're going to find.'"[13]

According to Manning, he presented LeBeouf with three options:

(1) submit to the drug test and serve a thirty-day suspension with pay pending its results, (2) refuse the drug test and be terminated immediately, or (3) refuse the drug test and resign in lieu of termination.[14] At his deposition, Manning explained that the choice had to be made immediately because if LeBeouf chose to submit to the drug test, it had to be conducted immediately.[15] Otherwise, there was a potential for any drugs to "get out of her system."[16]

At this point, LeBeouf reportedly inquired as to what would happen if she tested positive for drugs.[17] In response, Manning detailed his understanding of the Recovery Nurse Program, run by the Louisiana Board of Nursing, which would require a nurse who tested positive for drugs to submit to an evaluation. Specifically, Manning stated that "they usually put together some observational phase, " which, for example, could include "three days" of observation by a "mental health professional, " after which "they put together a treatment plan as per the recovery program and proceed from there."[18] At his deposition, Manning emphasized that he is not aware of any required inpatient program to which nurses who test positive for drugs must submit.[19] Further, Manning states that he mentioned no such possibility to LeBeouf.[20]

After this discussion, LeBeouf reportedly stated that she wanted to resign.[21] Manning stated that when an employee refuses to take a drug test, the Hospital requires her to sign a form confirming the refusal.[22] Likewise, if an employee agrees to submit to a drug test, the Hospital requires her to sign a consent form.[23] In this instance, Manning states that LeBeouf declined to even sign the refusal form.[24] LeBeouf did, however, complete a handwritten resignation letter, which stated: "I, Stacy LeBeouf, hereby resign effective immediately."[25]

Shortly after the meeting with LeBeouf, Manning completed a report detailing the contents of the meeting, which stated:

Stacy Lebeouf was questioned at 7:30 am this morning by Mary K. Blackburn, RN Manager, and this writer[, Bain Manning]. She has recently been observed exhibiting unusual behavior enough for concern about herself and of the patients she cares for. During the discussion, Ms. Lebeouf was asked to submit a urine sample for drug screening. Ms. Lebeouf, in response to the request, openly admitted without duress that she had used marijuana during her recent vacation. She also mentioned on two occasions very passively and in a low volume that "other things may show up" in the context of the drug screen.
After an extensive discussion about her employment options in coordination with the requested drug screening, Ms. Lebeouf resigned her position at LJCMC effective immediately.[26]

On October 28, 2011, LeBeouf completed a "Separation Questionnaire, " in which she listed the following reasons for her departure: "Personal Reasons;" "Retirement;" and "Work Load."[27] She also detailed stresses related to caring for patients.[28]

B. LeBeouf's Summary Judgment Evidence

In contrast, LeBeouf has submitted a declaration which provides a very different set of facts.[29] There, LeBeouf provides the following account:

On October 25, 2011, I was directed by my supervisor Jenny Domangue to meet with Bain Manning, Human Resources Director, and Mary Kay Blackburn, acting Chief Nursing Officer. Upon arriving at the office, Manning informed me that I was being suspended with pay for thirty (30) days and must immediately submit to a drug screen and a three (3) day involuntary inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. Manning told me that hospital security guards would be arriving in a few minutes to escort me to a clinic for a drug screen and that my car and personal belongings would remain at the hospital until arrangements could be made to have them collected.
Bain Manning refused to provide me with any reasons for the suspension or involuntary inpatient psychiatric hospitalization, despite my repeated requests for that information. I agreed to submit to a drug screen, but not to an involuntary inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. Manning informed me that if I disagreed with the suspension and refused involuntary inpatient psychiatric hospitalization, I would be terminated. Manning told me that I could also resign. I resigned only because of the limited choices that Bain Manning informed me that were available.[30]

In addition, LeBeouf raises several disagreements she has with Manning's deposition testimony. Pertinently, LeBeouf denies that she admitted to using marijuana or any illegal drugs during her vacation before the October 25, 2011 meeting.[31] She claims that she "tried marijuana in high school, " but that she has not smoked marijuana since then.[32] Similarly she states that she has never used any "other illegal drugs, " and denies that she said her drug screen would show drug use.[33] She further denies that Manning or Ms. Blackburn talked to her about complaints of alleged "bizarre behavior" or asked her if there was an emotional or medical cause for the alleged "bizarre behavior."[34] She also denies that Manning gave her the suspension letter from Rhonda Green at the October 25, 2011 meeting.[35] According to LeBeouf, she did not see the suspension letter until she reviewed Manning's March 19, 2015 deposition exhibits.[36]

LeBeouf also states that neither Manning nor Ms. Blackburn told her that if the drug screen was negative, she could return to work. She denies that she refused to take a drug test on October 25, 2011, and claims that she signed a document agreeing to the drug screen after entering the office that morning.[37] She also denies that Manning or Ms. Blackburn talked to her on October 25, 2011 about the Louisiana State Board of Nursing or the Recovering Nurse Program.[38] Finally, LeBeouf states that she asked Manning several times why a three-day inpatient psychiatric evaluation was necessary, but that he told her he was not at liberty to discuss that with her.[39]

II. MOTION TO STRIKE

Initially, the Court examines LeBeouf's motion to strike portions of Manning's summary judgment evidence.

Manning attaches three written statements[40] made by LeBeouf's co-workers within days after her resignation from the Hospital. The statements detail reports of bizarre behavior and an instance of medical error by LeBeouf. Manning contends that while the letters were written after LeBeouf's resignation, they reflect information reported to him before LeBeouf's resignation. LeBeouf contends that the statements consist of inadmissible hearsay and that they are not admissible under the business records exception because they were not drafted in the regular course of business activity. Rather, LeBeouf contends they were drafted for the purpose of establishing some fact at trial. Manning responds that the statements were drafted in the regular course of ...


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