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Laney v. State of Louisiana Through Department of Public Safety

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

November 8, 2017

LEIGH LANEY
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA THROUGH DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONS DIVISION OF PROBATION AND PAROLE, ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 27) filed by Defendants the State of Louisiana, through Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Division of Probation and Parole ("P&P") and Secretary James LeBlanc. The Motion is unopposed. The Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the following reasons, the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 27) is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed.[1] On July 16, 2007, Plaintiff Leigh Laney began working at P&P in the position of "Administrative Coordinator 3." (Doc. 27-2 at ¶ 1). As an Administrative Coordinator, Plaintiff was responsible for a variety of administrative duties including answering phones, fingerprinting offenders, filing documents, inputting data on a computer, and driving a state vehicle for trips to headquarters or court. (Id. at ¶ 2). Plaintiff s job duties required that she be able to sit and stand for prolonged periods of time. (Id.). Depending on the assigned task, Plaintiff was required to complete clerical tasks within 1-2 days. (Id. at ¶¶ 2-3).

         In 2009, Plaintiffs productivity began to diminish. (Id., at ¶ 7). Plaintiff also began taking leave so frequently that she often did not have leave to take and was placed on leave without pay. (Id.). Plaintiffs immediate supervisor, Georgiana Guthrie, and other supervisors met on at least three occasions to discuss and adjust Plaintiffs workload and duties because she was not performing her work or not completing it in a timely manner. (Doc. 27-2 at ¶ 8).

         In June 2012, Plaintiffs supervisor implemented a work plan to help get Plaintiff caught up on work. (Id. at ¶ 9). However, despite the work plan, Plaintiff still fell behind. (Id.). Then in August 2013, P&P approved Plaintiffs FMLA for "fibromyalgia and a lump in her breast." (Id. at ¶ 10). Plaintiff never requested any other accommodations for her conditions. (Doc. 27-2 at ¶ 11). However, even following her FMLA leave, Plaintiff often took leave for conditions that were not her FMLA approved conditions.[2] (Id. at ¶ 10). Thereafter, in November 2013, P&P gave Plaintiff a Letter of Improvement regarding her abuse of leave. (Id. at ¶ 12). In the letter, P&P explained its leave policies, placed Plaintiff on a leave directive, [3] and directed her to inform her immediate supervisor anytime she was unable to report to work. (Id.).

         On February 5, 2014, Plaintiff contacted a supervisor to report that she was having car trouble and would not be at work. (Id. at ¶ 13). On February 10th, Guthrie gave Plaintiff a letter stating that she would not be granted leave for February 5th to get her car repaired because it did not qualify as an emergency, as required by the Letter of Improvement. (Id.). Initially, Plaintiff was given eight hours of leave without pay for February 5th. (Doc. 27-2 at ¶ 13). However, the letter given to Plaintiff was revised because Plaintiff had previously been approved to leave work at 1:30pm for a doctor's appointment related to one of her FMLA conditions. (Id.). Plaintiff was granted three hours of sick leave/FMLA leave for her doctor's appointment and five hours of leave without pay for her car repair. (Id.).

         Throughout the month of February 2014, Plaintiff was on FMLA leave on four consecutive days, which prompted the need for Plaintiff to have an Essential Functions Form completed and submitted by her doctor.[4] (Id. at ¶ 14). On March 7, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a checklist, which she completed herself, and an Essential Job Functions Statement that her doctor, Dr. Scott Nyboer, completed and signed on February 27, 2014. (Id.), On the checklist, Plaintiff indicated that she was either unable or unwilling to stand, bend and reach, lift and climb to file, as well as sit or stand for extended periods of time. (Id.). In the Essential Job Functions Statement, Dr. Nyboer indicated that Plaintiff needed "to be allowed to be off work if her pain is flai'ed up which occurs intermittently 1-2 times per month for about 2-3 days length of time. [Plaintiff] also need[ed] to continue with light duty restrictions." (Id.).

         On April 3, 2014, per Department policy, Plaintiff was placed on enforced FMLA (sick leave) due to the March 7, Essential Functions checklist received by Human Resources ("HR"). (Doe. 27-2 at ¶¶ 15-16). The enforced FMLA (sick leave) was to remain in effect until the Essential Functions Form was completed by Plaintiffs doctor and it could be determined whether Plaintiff was able to perform the essential functions of her job and return to work. (Id. at ¶ 16).

         On May 8, 2014, six weeks after Plaintiff was placed on enforced FMLA, Plaintiff submitted the Essential Functions Form, completed entirely by Dr. Nyboer. (Id. at ¶ 20). The form provided that Plaintiff was unable to "stand, bend and reach, lift and climb to file or retrieve information/documents" or "sit or stand for extended periods of time, " and that the following accommodations were required: "light duty restrictions, no lifting > 25 lbs, limit prolonged standing or sitting." (Id. at ¶ 21).

         By the time this May 8, 2014, request for accommodation was made by Plaintiffs doctor, she already developed a pattern of falling behind on the limited tasks assigned to her. (Id. at ¶ 22). Plaintiff nor her doctor provided any specific suggestions on how to accommodate these restrictions. (Id.). P&P could identify no other duties that Plaintiff could perform given the nature of her illness. (Id.). Plaintiff could not have worked from home because her job duties, such as filing in the closed file room and agents' offices, fingerprinting offenders, accessing the district files even by computer, required that Plaintiff perform her assignments in the office. (Id., ). When offered a modified work schedule that allowed her to report to work early, stay late or work on the weekends to catch up on her duties, Plaintiff rarely took advantage of the modified schedule. (Id.).

         On June 2, 2014, Plaintiff exhausted her FMLA leave and exhausted her sick leave while she was on FMLA leave. (Id. at ¶ 24). The next day, Defendants sent Plaintiff a pre-termination review letter outlining a proposed termination. (Doc. 27-2 at ¶ 25). The letter gave Plaintiff until June 13th to respond why she should not be terminated. (Id.). Plaintiff faxed a handwritten response on June 12th, which did not address the essential functions issues nor did it suggest any solutions that might help Plaintiff perform the essential functions of her position. (Id.).

         On June 18, 2014, Defendants sent another letter to Plaintiff indicating that she would be terminated effective July 2, 2014, for non-disciplinary reasons. (Id. at ¶ 26). The non-disciplinary termination was in accordance with Louisiana Civil Service Rule 12.6, which provides that an employee may be non-disciplinarily removed if "the employee is unable to perform the essential functions of his job due to illness or medical disability and has fewer than eight hours of sick leave." (Id.).

         On August 22, 2014, Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). On December 18, 2015, Plaintiff filed suit against P&P. (Doc. 1). On April 7, 2016, Plaintiff amended her suit to clarify her claims and added Secretary James LeBlanc, as a Defendant. (Doc. 10). Plaintiff seeks damages and injunctive relief against P&P and Secretary LeBlanc under the Rehabilitation Act, as ...


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