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Fowler v. Deloitte & Touche, LLP

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

March 24, 2017

ALAN FOWLER
v.
DELOITTE & TOUCHE, LLP

          HORNSBY MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          Elizabeth Erny Foot, Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant Deloitte & Touche, LLP's motion to dismiss or alternatively to transfer venue. Plaintiff filed suit against Deloitte & Touche, LLP (“Deloitte”) alleging violations of the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law (“LEDL”), and the Louisiana Wage Payment Act. Record Document 12. Deloitte moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) for improper venue, or alternatively to transfer the case to the Northern District of Texas. Record Document 15.

         For the reasons discussed below, Deloitte's Motion to Dismiss or Alternatively to Transfer [Record Document 15] is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. This case is hereby TRANSFERRED to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division.

         I. Background

         The parties agree on a few facts. Alan Fowler, Plaintiff, began working for Deloitte in 2006 and was terminated in August 2015. Record Document 12, pp. 2-4.

         During his employment, Plaintiff held several different positions, working in different groups within the company and for different supervisors. Record Document 19-1, p. 2. In July 2013, Plaintiff moved his residence to Shreveport, Louisiana and continued working for Deloitte, although it has no office in Shreveport. Id., p. 3. In August 2014, Plaintiff was selected by Deloitte supervisor Kevin Lane (“Lane”) to work for a Dallas-based client. Record Document 15-2, p. 4. Lane, who works in Deloitte's Dallas office, became Plaintiff's immediate supervisor until Plaintiff was terminated. Id.

         For purposes of the venue analysis, the parties dispute where Plaintiff worked. Plaintiff claims he worked from his home office in Shreveport up to 45% of the time (Record Document 19-1, p. 4), while Defendant asserts that Plaintiff was required to work from the Dallas client's office at least 4 days a week. Record Document 15-2, p. 4. Plaintiff states that he began suffering from depression in 2014 and that he told Lane of his depression in March 2015. Record Document 12, p. 3. By July 2015, Plaintiff says he informed Lane that his depression had worsened and he needed to take a leave of absence from work. Id. Instead, Lane allegedly “actively discouraged” Plaintiff from taking leave. Id. Plaintiff was terminated on August 13, 2015. Id., p. 4. Plaintiff claims that he was fired because of his need for leave. He asserts that Defendant interfered with his right to take leave under the FMLA and retaliated against him for attempting to take FMLA-protected leave. Id., p. 8. He claims that his depression constitutes a disability within the meaning of the ADA, but defendant refused to discuss a reasonable accommodation for his disability and retaliated against him because of his need for accommodation. Id., pp. 5, 7. He asserts parallel claims under the LEDL for refusal of reasonable accommodation and retaliation. Id., p. 4, 6.

         Lane, Plaintiff's supervisor, adamantly denies any knowledge of Plaintiff's depression or need for a leave of absence. Record Document 15-2, p. 5. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff was fired because he submitted receipts for reimbursement for “lavish personal expenses.” Record Document 15-1, p. 9-10. Plaintiff argues that the investigation into his expenses was pretextual, and that after his termination, Defendant reversed some $30, 000 in charges to his corporate credit card, for which he is now personally responsible. Plaintiff claims this is a violation of the Louisiana Wage Payment Act. Record Document 12, p. 9.

         Deloitte moved to dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims under Rule 12(b)(3) for improper venue, or alternatively to transfer the case to the Northern District of Texas under 28 U.S.C. § 1404. Record Document 15.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         When a defendant objects that venue is improper, the burden is on the plaintiff to establish that his chosen venue is proper. Schmidt v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 1999 WL 179469, at *1 (E.D. La. Mar. 31, 1999). A court determines whether a plaintiff has met this burden on the basis of uncontroverted facts, which the court takes as true, and by resolving conflicts in the parties' affidavits in the plaintiff's favor. McCaskey v. Continental Airlines, 133 F.Supp.2d 514, 523 (S.D. Tex. 2001).

         Plaintiff has brought claims under the ADA, the FMLA, the LEDL, and the Louisiana Wage Payment Act. The parties rightly agree that the general venue provision of 28 U.S.C. § 1391 governs Plaintiff's FMLA and Louisiana state law claims, and that the specific venue provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act govern Plaintiff's ADA claims. The Court takes each venue provision in turn.

         B. Venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1391

         Plaintiff brings claims under the FMLA, the LEDL, and the Louisiana Wage Payment Act. These claims all arise out of the same set of facts: Plaintiff's alleged disability, request for leave from work, and the circumstances surrounding Plaintiff's termination.

         Venue for all of these claims is governed by the general venue statute, under which venue is proper in: (1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or (3) if neither of the above, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). As explained below, the focus of this analysis is the defendant's conduct. Because each of Plaintiff's claims arises out of the same alleged conduct of the defendant, the venue analysis for the FMLA, LEDL and Wage Payment Act claims is identical.

         i. § 1391(b)(2): A Substantial Part of the Events Giving Rise to Plaintiff's Claim

         Plaintiff first asserts that the second prong of § 1391 is satisfied in this case because he worked out of his home office in Shreveport, he requested leave from Shreveport, he sought treatment for his depression in Shreveport, and he was in Shreveport when he was notified of his termination. Record Document 19, p. 10. Defendant argues that § 1391 focuses on where its conduct took place, not where ...


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