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Acosta v. Boudreau & Thibodeau'S Cajun Cookin' Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 16, 2017

AMANDA ACOSTA
v.
BOUDREAU & THIBODEAU'S CAJUN COOKIN' INC.

         SECTION: A (2)

          ORDER

          JAY C. ZAINEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 17) filed by Defendant Boudreau & Thibodeau's Cajun Cookin' Inc. Plaintiff Amanda Acosta opposes the Motion. (Rec. Doc. 24). Also before the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 18) filed by Plaintiff. Defendant opposes the Motion. (Rec. Doc. 25). The Motions, set for submission on August 9, 2017, are before the Court on the briefs without oral argument.

         I. Background

         This matter arises out of the alleged sexual discrimination, retaliation, and sexual harassment of Plaintiff, Amanda Acosta, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and Louisiana law. Debra Blanchard and her husband Michael Blanchard are the sole owners of Defendant, Boudreau & Thibodeau's Cajun Cookin', Inc., which operates a restaurant in Houma, Louisiana. Plaintiff was employed as a service manager at the restaurant. On February 13, 2015, Plaintiff gave notice to the Blanchards that their nephew made sexual comments to Plaintiff at work. (Rec. Doc. 24). After her report of sexual harassment, Plaintiff alleges that her employers sent jokes of a sexual nature to Plaintiff at her work place, made comments on her breasts and told Plaintiff that she dressed in a provocative manner. (Rec. Doc. 24). Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that after she reported the sexual harassment, her employers wrongfully reprimanded her, investigated her, and took away many of her responsibilities before eventually terminating Plaintiff on September 30, 2015.

         Plaintiff filed her complaint against Defendant for violation of Title VII under 42 U.S.C. 2000e, et seq., and violation of Louisiana law under La. R.S. 23:302, et seq. (Rec. Doc. 1). Defendant now seeks summary judgment in its favor on Plaintiff's claims against it (Rec. Doc. 17), and Plaintiff seeks partial summary judgment in her favor on the issue of unpaid bonuses (Rec. Doc. 18).

         II. Analysis

         Defendant seeks summary judgment in its favor on Plaintiff's claims, arguing that 1) Plaintiff's Title VII claims fail because the alleged conduct was not severe or pervasive enough to create an objectively hostile or abusive work environment, and 2) Plaintiff's Louisiana law claims fail because the conduct was not severe enough and she has given no proof of a causal link between the alleged harassment and the environment or discharge of Plaintiff. (Rec. Doc. 17-2). Defendant maintains that Plaintiff was terminated for justifiable reasons. (Rec. Doc. 17-2). Plaintiff opposes Defendant's Motion, arguing that she has made a prima facie case of discrimination and that Defendant fails to show that there is no issue of material fact. (Rec. Doc. 24).

         Plaintiff moves for partial summary judgment on the issue of alleged unpaid compensation in the form of bonuses. (Rec. Doc. 18-1). Defendants argue that Plaintiff is not entitled to summary judgment in her favor on the issue of bonus payments because Defendant “never agreed to pay any of its employees a guaranteed ‘bonus, ' let alone any particular amount in ‘bonus.'” (Rec. Doc. 25).

         Summary judgment is appropriate only if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ” when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, “show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact.TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James, 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). The court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

         Once the moving party has initially shown “that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's cause, ” the non-movant must come forward with “specific facts” showing a genuine factual issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). Conclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Id. (citing SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir.1993)). Additionally, if the moving party will bear the burden of persuasion at trial, then the moving party “must come forward with evidence which 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, 1263-64 (5th Cir. 1991) (quoting Golden Rule Ins. Co. v. Lease, 755 F.Supp. 948, 951 (D.Colo. 1991)).

         a. Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

         Plaintiff seeks partial summary judgment on the issue of unpaid bonuses for the first three quarters of 2015. (Rec. Doc. 18-1). Defendant asserts that it never agreed to pay Plaintiff any particular bonus. (Rec. Doc. 25).

         In order to meet her burden on summary judgment, Plaintiff must present evidence that, if uncontroverted, would entitle her to a directed verdict at trial. In support of her Motion, Plaintiff cites to a “Proposal for Amanda's pay beginning Monday, June 23, 2014.” (Rec. Doc. 18-7). This document states that “[t]he bonus structure will be set according to proposed plan from RestaurantOwner.com wi[th] some adjustments recommended by accountant.” (Rec. Doc. 18-7). Additionally, she submits her own affidavit, an e-mail exchange between Plaintiff, one of the ...


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