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Webster v. Board of Supervisors of University of Louisiana System

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 21, 2015

DR. MICHAEL G. WEBSTER
v.
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA SYSTEM, et al.

ORDER AND REASONS

SARAH S. VANCE, District Judge.

Defendants, the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System (Southeastern University), Eric Johnson, Dr. Lynette Ralph, and Victor Pregeant, move for summary judgment on plaintiff Dr. Michael Webster's claims for prospective relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act.[1] For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion.

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 alleged 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 and that his employment would cease on January 6, 2010. In the meantime, he would be 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.

Following a motion to dismiss, 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.[2]

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. On review of the Magistrate Judge's order, this Court reversed the Magistrate Judge's decision in part and denied plaintiff's motion for leave to amend his complaint to add a claim under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.[3]

The gravamen of plaintiff's claim is reinstatement, but plaintiff also seeks front pay in lieu of reinstatement. Defendants move for summary judgment, contending that, because reinstatement is not feasible, and front pay is barred by the Eleventh Amendment, plaintiff's claim should be dismissed.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is warranted when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact exists, the Court considers "all of the evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence." Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398-399 (5th Cir. 2008). The Court must draw reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, but "unsupported allegations or affidavits setting forth ultimate or conclusory facts and conclusions of law' are insufficient to either support or defeat a motion for summary judgment." Galindo v. Precision Am. Corp., 754 F.2d 1212, 1216 (5th Cir. 1985) (quoting 10B Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil § 2738 (2d ed. 1983)).

If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party "must come forward with evidence that would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial." Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264-65 (5th Cir. 1991) (quotation marks removed). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by either countering with sufficient evidence of its own, or "showing that the moving party's evidence ...


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