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Webster v. Board of Supervisors of University of Louisiana System

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 10, 2015

DR. MICHAEL G. WEBSTER,
v.
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA SYSTEM, ET AL., SECTION: R(3)

ORDER AND REASONS

SARAH S. VANCE, District Judge.

Defendant Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System moves for review of the Magistrate Judge's Order granting plaintiff Dr. Michael Webster leave to amend his complaint to add a claim under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.[1] Because the Court finds the amendment futile, the Court grants the motion and reverses in part the Magistrate Judge's decision.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed this action alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA") and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. Plaintiff sued the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System; Eric Johnson, in his personal capacity and official capacity as Sims Library Director at Southeastern University ("SLU"); Lynette Ralph, in her personal capacity and official capacity as Assistant Sims Library Director at SLU; and Victor Pregeant, in his personal capacity and official capacity as Compliance Officer for Equal Employment Opportunity / Americans with Disabilities Act at SLU.

Plaintiff alleges the following facts. In 2007, SLU hired him as a Collection Development Librarian. In early 2008, he informed Ralph, his immediate supervisor, that he suffered from manic and major depression and that, despite taking medication, he might occasionally behave irrationally. On June 19, 2009, while suffering a manic episode, plaintiff sent Ralph an e-mail falsely accusing Johnson of sexual harassment. The next day, realizing what he had done, plaintiff sent Ralph an e-mail explaining that the accusation was caused by a manic episode and asking her to delete and disregard it.

On or about July 6, 2009, Ralph and Johnson informed plaintiff that SLU would not renew his contract; that his employment would cease on January 6, 2010; and that, in the meantime, he was demoted from Collection Development Librarian to Special Projects Librarian. A week later, plaintiff filed a complaint with Pregeant alleging harassment based on his disability and requesting an accommodation. He alleges that Pregeant refused to investigate his complaint because plaintiff was unable to provide records of his disability from a medical specialist.

In August 2009, plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC later informed him that SLU had agreed not to effectuate his termination until the EEOC completed its investigation. Nevertheless, before the EEOC investigation concluded, SLU terminated plaintiff's employment on June 30, 2010, with an effective date of termination of July 14, 2010. According to plaintiff, he was escorted off campus and told he was no longer required to report to work on July 12, 2010, two days before his official termination date. Plaintiff alleges that from July 2009 through his date of termination, he sustained public ridicule and embarrassment for his disability and the side effects of his medication.

On September 28, 2011, the EEOC issued its determination finding reasonable cause to believe that SLU terminated Webster because of his disability. The EEOC engaged the parties in conciliation efforts, which proved unsuccessful. On September 9, 2013, the Department of Justice issued plaintiff a right to sue letter. Plaintiff brought this action on December 9, 2013.

On August 8, 2014, the Court dismissed several of plaintiff's claims. Specifically, the Court dismissed plaintiff's claims for money damages against SLU and against Johnson, Ralph, and Pregeant in their official capacities, and plaintiff's claims against Johnson, Ralph, and Pregeant in their personal capacities. The Court permitted plaintiff to proceed with his claims for prospective declaratory and injunctive relief against Johnson, Ralph, and Pregeant in their official capacities.

On March 16, 2015, plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint to add a claim under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701, et seq., and to add or clarify a claim under Louisiana state obligations law. The Magistrate Judge granted plaintiff's motion to add a section 504 claim under the Rehabilitation Act as to the Board of Supervisors, but denied the motion in all other respects. Specifically, the Magistrate Judge denied the motion as to any potential claim under the Rehabilitation Act as to any individual employee, for punitive damages under the Rehabilitation Act, and for any state-law breachof-contract claims.

Defendant now moves for review of the Magistrate Judge's order granting plaintiff leave to amend his complaint to add a claim under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal law affords a magistrate judge broad discretion in the resolution of non-dispositive matters. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Nevertheless, a party dissatisfied with a magistrate judge's ruling may appeal to the district court for review. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). When a timely objection is raised, the district judge must review the magistrate's ruling and "modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or contrary to law." Id. Under this highly deferential standard, a magistrate judge's ruling "should not be rejected merely because the court would have decided the matter differently." Ordemann v. Unidentified Party, CIV. A. No. 06-4796, 2008 WL 695253, at *1 (E.D. La. Mar. 12, 2009) (internal quotation omitted). Instead, the decision must be ...


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