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Molden v. East Baton Rouge School Board

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

March 28, 2017

KARL B. MOLDEN
v.
EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH SCHOOL BOARD

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 34), seeking a ruling from this Court dismissing all claims advanced by the Plaintiff. (Doc. 34 at p. 1). Plaintiff filed a response that asserts that summary judgment should not be granted, and raises objections against Defendant's evidence. (Doc. 40). For reasons explained fully herein, the Motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff became a school counselor for the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board ("EBRPSB") on September 11, 2006. (Doc. 40-3 at p. 1). Plaintiff initially served several schools, but in 2010 he was assigned to Winbourne Elementary School ("Winbourne"). (Id.) When Plaintiff was assigned to Winbourne, he was informed that he would have to participate in "duty assignments" which consisted of before and after school duty, lunch duty, and aiding students during a "reading block."[1] (Id. at p. 2; Doc. 45-2 at p. 1). Plaintiff indicated that he was uninterested in performing before school duty, lunch duty, and after school duty, because it would interfere with his ability to be a social worker by placing him in a position of authority. (Doc. 40-3 at p. 2). Pivotal to this Motion, these are tasks that Plaintiff alleges require prolonged periods of standing. (See Doc. 40-3 at ¶¶18, 20).

         In November of 2010, Millie Williams, the Director of Human Resources for Defendant, alleges that Plaintiff began to incur frequent absences, which Plaintiff denies. (Doc. 45-2 at ¶ 5; Doc. 40-3 at ¶ 2). On December 2, 2010, Plaintiff submitted his first doctor's note, indicating that he needed to be excused from work for two days. (Doc. 45-2 at ¶ 6). A second note was submitted on December 10, in support of Plaintiffs requests to be excused for 3 days and that he not be required to engage in prolonged standing. (Id. at ¶ 7). Then on December 22, 2010, Plaintiffs doctor released Plaintiff to return to work with no restrictions. (Id.). Plaintiff immediately went to a different doctor, and received a note indicating that he was under observation and should not engage in prolonged standing. (Id. at ¶ 8). None of the notes indicated the nature of the disability, nor fully explained its consequences. (See Doc. 40-7 at pp. 1-2).

         Eventually, on January 27, 2011, the Plaintiff provided medical documentation from his second doctor that indicated that Plaintiff could not engage in prolonged standing due to hypertension and acute sinusitis. (Doc. 45-2 at ¶ 13). After submitting the paper work, Plaintiff applied for and was granted an extended leave of absence on medical grounds for the remainder of the school year. (Id. at ¶ 14).

         Prior to the next school year, Plaintiff was placed on the "displaced workers list, " (Doc. 40-3 at ¶¶ 26-27), meaning that he would not be required to return to Winbourne during that school year, and that the district was required to find him another school to be assigned to within the school district. (Doc. 45-2 at ¶ 20). Plaintiff was subsequently reassigned to the Exceptional Student Services Department. (Doc. 40-3 at ¶¶ 28, 34). During that school year, Plaintiff received a satisfactory rating on his evaluations. (Id. at ¶ 30). Further, the record does not indicate that Plaintiff was required to engage in prolonged standing during this placement.

         During the 2012-2013 school year, Plaintiff was a subject of a complaint alleging that he was not properly providing services to students.[2] (Doc. 45-2 at ¶ 24). Additionally, a parent filed a complaint alleging that Plaintiff "engaged in unethical behavior" involving a parent and a student, including potentially forging documents and acting inappropriately during a home visit. (Id.; See Doc. 37-1 at p. 1-2). On November 5, 2012, Plaintiff was placed on leave with pay pending an investigation of the allegations. (Doc. 45-2 at ¶ 25). Two investigations were conducted by different departments-one by the Department of exceptional Student Services and the other by the Office of Risk Management. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-27). Both investigations produced evidence that Plaintiff was not properly providing services to students with disabilities. The investigation also concluded that Plaintiff had engaged in unethical conversations with a parent, that he failed to follow department and district procedures, and that he had submitted fraudulent documents.[3] (Id.). According to Defendant, these investigations ultimately led to Plaintiffs termination on December 21, 2012. (Id. at ¶ 28).

         Plaintiff disputes that he was involved in unethical activity or violated any policy. (Doc. 40-3 at ¶¶ 38, 51-52; Doc. 40-4 at p. 2). Plaintiff also disputes the factual findings of the investigations, arguing that he was not interviewed, and that the investigations were too one sided. (Doc. 40-3 at ¶¶ 40-43).

         Plaintiff also alleges that the Defendant's conduct, including the termination, was attributable to Plaintiffs filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on September 7, 2011, over one year earlier. (Doc. 14-2 at p. 5). He argues that the retaliation consisted of "unfair job assignments, reassignments, and ultimately termination" in January of 2013. (Id.). Following his termination, Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant, alleging that the actions of Defendant constituted violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ('ADA") and the equivalent Louisiana law provision.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "[W]hen a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (198G) (quotation marks and footnote omitted).

         In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court "view[s] facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in her favor." Coleman v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 113 F.3d 528, 533 (5th Cir. 1997). At this stage, the Court does not evaluate the credibility of witnesses, weigh the evidence, or resolve factual disputes. Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991), cert, denied, 502 U.S. 1059 (1992). However, if the evidence in the record is such that a reasonable jury, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, could arrive at a verdict in that party's favor, the motion for summary judgment must be denied. Int'l Shortstop, Inc., 939 F.2d at 1263. On the other hand, the non-movant's burden is not satisfied merely upon a showing of "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence." Little u. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).

         In sum, summary judgment is appropriate if, "after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, [the non-movant] fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Summary judgment will lie only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Sherman v. Hallbauer, 455 F.2d 1236, 1241 (5th Cir. 1972).

         III. EVIDENTIARY OBJECTIONS

         As part of his response to the Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff raises several objections to the Williams affidavit and makes blanket objections to nearly every other piece of evidence submitted by Defendant. (Doc. 40-1 at pp. 1-6). As to Williams, Plaintiff lists the same objection to nearly each of the paragraphs from the affidavit-that the paragraph is not supported by personal knowledge. (Id.):[4] In other words, it appears that Plaintiff believes that Williams, the Director of Human Resources and custodian of employment records for Defendant, lacks personal knowledge of Plaintiffs employment for Defendant.

         For an affidavit to be considered for summary judgment purposes, it must be based on personal knowledge. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Further, it is not enough to merely state that the affidavit is based on personal knowledge, but it must be clear that it is so based on the facts described in the affidavit. See Bright v. Ashcroft, 259 F.Supp.2d 494, 498 (E.D. La. 2003)("A declarant must provide evidence to establish that he has personal knowledge of the facts stated.").

         The Court overrules each of Plaintiffs objections to the Williams affidavit. In her affidavit, Williams indicates that she is the director of Human Resources for Defendant, which demonstrates that she has personal knowledge of Plaintiffs employment, personnel file, and employment action taken during his time working for Defendant. (See Doc. 45-2 at ¶ 1). It is also clear from Williams' affidavit, that she was an active participant in employment decisions that affected Plaintiff. (See Id. at ¶¶ 29-30). Accordingly, Williams' sworn statements on Plaintiffs employment for Defendant are admissible, and therefore, Plaintiffs objections are overruled.

         Next, Plaintiff, in a single paragraph, objects to the next 27 Exhibits. (Doc. 40-1 at pp. 5-6). In that paragraph, Plaintiff raises blanket objects that seem to be related to several exhibits, but fails to state specifically which exhibits the objection applies to. (Id.). This is an improper method for raising objections to evidence. According to the advisory committee notes to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, objections on a motion for summary judgment function the same as an objection made to the admissibility of evidence at trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. It is well settled that objections to evidence must be specific by indicating 1) the exact evidence being objected to, and 2) the specific reason for seeking to exclude that item of evidence. See Fed. R. Evid. 103; United States v. Jimenez Lopez, 873 F.2d 769, 773 (5th Car, 1989); Tenenbaum v. United States, 11 F.2d 927, 929 (5th Cir. 1926).[5] Because the Plaintiff does not offer specific objections and reasons, the Court must overrule Plaintiffs objection to exhibits 2 through 26.

         IV. ...


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