United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
W. deGRAVELLES, JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant the State of Louisiana's Motion
for Summary Judgment. (“Motion, ” Doc. 71).
Plaintiff Thelma Layton has filed an Opposition, (Doc. 75),
and Defendant has filed a Reply in further support of the
Motion. (Doc. 78).
Court has reviewed the briefing and is prepared to rule. For
the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion is
granted in part and denied in part.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
started working at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in
Angola, Louisiana (“Angola”) in October 2009.
(Doc. 71-4 at 9). As part of working at Angola, Plaintiff
agreed to work any post or shift to which she was assigned.
(Doc. 71-22 at 2).
she was working at Angola, Plaintiff was assigned to staff
various dorms. (Doc. 71-4 at 13-14). She was frequently
staffed to a dorm while Major Willie Thomas was doing rounds;
if Thomas came to her dorm while doing rounds by himself,
which he did at least three times a week, he would often
comment that he was “doing without.” (Doc. 71-4
at 12-16). Although he never “c[a]me right out”
and said so, Plaintiff ultimately came to believe that Thomas
was referencing “doing without” sex because on
one occasion Thomas also said that Plaintiff's husband
“must not care for [her]” but Thomas
“like[d] watching [her] ass.” (Doc. 71-4 at 13,
on one occasion, Plaintiff asked to be relieved of some
aspects of performing rounds because she was injured, and
Thomas responded, “I'm still doing without, and if
you don't like it, quit.” (Doc. 71-4 at 20-21).
During her deposition, Plaintiff confirmed that these were
Thomas's only allegedly harassing statements. (Doc. 71-4
at 22). In an affidavit, Thomas contends that “doing
without” referred to “doing without a raise and
doing without money” as a state employee; he makes this
statement to “just about everyone” who asks how
he is, including men and women; and he did not make any
statements about Plaintiff's “ass.” (Doc.
71-8 at 2).
deposition, Plaintiff stated that Thomas's comments began
around January 2012, but she did not recall the date of the
comment about her “ass.” (Doc. 71-4 at 16-18).
Thomas made the comment about quitting in January 2013. (Doc.
71-4 at 21). According to Plaintiff, Thomas did not make
these comments in the presence of other officers and may not
have made them loudly enough that inmates could hear. (Doc.
71-4 at 18-19, 22). Plaintiff never told Thomas not to make
the comments. (Doc. 71-4 at 22-23). She also initially did
not say anything to anyone about the comments because she
feared losing her job. (Doc. 71-4 at 23).
filed a complaint about Thomas's comments with
Angola's human resources department on June 13, 2013.
(Doc. 71-4 at 23-24). She spoke with a human resources
representative and an investigator and wrote a statement.
(Doc. 71-4 at 24-25). On or about June 27, 2013, Plaintiff
was reassigned to the “west yard” for about a
day, then to Camp D, an “out camp.” (Doc. 71-4 at
26, 29-31; Doc. 71-15 at 2). When she called to ask about her
reassignments, she was told that she was “fixing to be
permanently moved to an out camp.” (Doc. 71-4 at 26).
She also called her immediate supervisor, but, because he was
unavailable, she spoke to Warden Kevin Benjamin, the next
supervisor up the hierarchy, about the reassignments. (Doc.
71-4 at 26-27). Benjamin told her that the prison was
“through with [the] mess” of having Thomas and
Plaintiff work together. (Doc. 71-4 at 26-27). Plaintiff also
believes that Benjamin wanted her to be reassigned, as he
told Plaintiff that she “shouldn't have even gone
to human resources to report anything without reporting it to
him first, ” even though Plaintiff had tried to reach
him earlier by leaving daily messages with his secretary.
(Doc. 71-4 at 32-34). In an affidavit, Benjamin claims that
he was not involved in the reassignment decision. (Doc. 71-7
at 1). A letter discussing the reassignment to Camp D says
that it occurred “to better utilize existing
personnel.” (Doc. 71-15 at 2).
resources representative told Plaintiff that the assignment
to Camp D should not matter if it was the “same kind of
work, ” but Plaintiff claimed that working at Camp D
was a “dangerous environment” where “murder
has gone down, ” and that she was writing up
“21's, ” which are assessed when a prisoner
masturbates in front of a guard, “all day long.”
(Doc. 71-4 at 27-29). Plaintiff did not receive reduced pay
or rank as a result of her reassignment, and she testified
that, aside from more frequent “wolf whistles”
and writing up prisoners for masturbating, her job duties
were the same. (Doc. 71-4 at 36-38).
point, Plaintiff asked to be reassigned to the main prison,
and she was reassigned there on a shift opposite Thomas's
in August 2013. (Doc. 71-4 at 29, 31-32, 40-41).
Benjamin's affidavit claims that he was not involved in
this decision either. (Doc. 71-7 at 1). A letter discussing
the reassignment says that it occurred “to better
utilize existing personnel.” (Doc. 71-16 at 2).
claims that, following the reassignment back to the main
prison, Benjamin “treated [her] differently, ”
calling her into his office for “this or that”
without a good reason and trying to embarrass her “in
front of everybody.” (Doc. 71-4 at 42-46). During her
deposition, Plaintiff clarified that her claims regarding
Benjamin's conduct involved three different incidents,
the first of which was the previously-described exchange
between Plaintiff and Benjamin concerning Plaintiff's
reassignment to Camp D. (Doc. 71-4 at 51).
Plaintiff's second run-in with Benjamin, she and another
officer accidentally took each other's jackets and
Benjamin called Plaintiff into his office to discuss various
papers that had been discovered in Plaintiff's jacket.
(Doc. 71-4 at 44-49). Plaintiff believes that Benjamin asked
about the papers because he thought that Plaintiff might be
corresponding with an inmate. (Doc. 71-4 at 50).
Benjamin's affidavit confirms that “standard
procedure is to investigate [paper with phone numbers],
” but if an officer can show that the numbers do not
belong to an inmate and justify why the officer has them, the
officer will not be disciplined. (Doc. 71-7 at 2). During
that incident, Plaintiff asked Benjamin why he was always
particularly “hard on [Plaintiff], ” and he was
unable to answer. (Doc. 71-4 at 49-50).
the third incident, which occurred in October 2014, Plaintiff
was smoking outside the kitchen and, according to Plaintiff,
she handed a cigarette butt to an inmate, intending that the
inmate would throw it away. (Doc. 71-4 at 52-53). Shortly
afterward, Plaintiff heard a “big commotion”
about how she had given an inmate contraband. (Doc. 71-4 at
54). Plaintiff went to Sergeant Danielle Daigle's office
and said that Plaintiff “do[es]n't do”
contraband. (Doc. 71-4 at 54-55). Daigle “started
hooting and hollering and screaming about, you're out of
here, you're out of here.” (Doc. 71-4 at 55).
Plaintiff asked what Daigle meant, and Daigle walked over to
Plaintiff and “pushed on” Plaintiff. (Doc. 71-4
at 55). Plaintiff pushed Daigle's hand off her shoulder,
and Daigle said that she would tell a supervisor, Major
Hooker, that Plaintiff pushed her. (Doc. 71-4 at 55).
According to an employee statement and later affidavit by
Daigle, she saw Plaintiff “smile” at an inmate
and “slip” what appeared to be a cigarette into
his hand, and, after Daigle reported to a lieutenant that
Plaintiff gave “something” to an inmate,
Plaintiff confronted Daigle, “pointed [her] finger in
[Daigle's] face” and “yell[ed]” that
Daigle had reported that Plaintiff was giving inmates
contraband. (Doc. 71-9 at 2; Doc. 71-19 at 2-3). Daigle
further reported that Plaintiff pushed her, and Daigle
“brushed” or “pushed” her hand off.
(Doc. 71-9 at 2; Doc. 71-19 at 3).
and a colonel walked in shortly afterward, and the colonel
said “get out, get out, get out, just get your stuff
and go.” (Doc. 71-4 at 55-56). Plaintiff went to
Hooker's office and wrote a statement, which Hooker sent
to Benjamin. (Doc. 71-4 at 56). Benjamin sent for Plaintiff
and said that he did not have a problem with her giving an
inmate a cigarette, because “we give them cigarettes
anyway, ” but Plaintiff should not try to get anyone in
the kitchen to be a witness for her. (Doc. 71-4 at 56,
on the same day, Plaintiff went to human resources, where
Benjamin was present; Benjamin told her that he was sending
her home because she had caused such a “big commotion,
” and that she should come back with her “lawyer
and a witness.” (Doc. 71-4 at 57). According to
Plaintiff, while she was out shopping that day, she
encountered Sergeant Bernice Cavalier, a witness to the
incident, and Cavalier said that “they tried everything
in their power to turn [Cavalier] against [Plaintiff]
today.” (Doc. 71-4 at 57). According to Plaintiff's
account, Cavalier agreed to act as Plaintiff's witness.
(Doc. 71-4 at 58). An employee statement and later affidavit
by Cavalier, however, stated that Plaintiff told Cavalier
that she had given a cigarette to an inmate to hold and
Daigle had reported it. (Doc. 71-10 at 1; Doc. 71-17 at 2).
According to Cavalier's account, Daigle and Plaintiff
were pointing at each other during the confrontation;
Cavalier turned away and, when she turned back, she saw
Daigle “fall back.” (Doc. 71-10 at 1-2; Doc.
71-17 at 2). It appeared to Cavalier that Plaintiff had
pushed Daigle, although she did not witness the push. (Doc.
71-10 at 1-2; Doc. 71-17 at 2).
was written up and fired for giving an inmate a cigarette and
pushing Daigle. (Doc. 71-4 at 61). According to an affidavit
by Major Michele Piazza, then Plaintiff's direct
supervisor, Piazza received reports that Plaintiff had given
an inmate “something” and had pushed Daigle
“after getting in Daigle's face, ” and Piazza
issued the Rule Violation Report associated with the
incident. (Doc. 71-12 at 1-2; see also Doc. 71-13 at
2 (Rule Violation Report bearing Piazza's signature and
alleging violations of rules concerning “Malfeasance
Aggravated” and “Unauthorized Activities with
Offenders”)). Benjamin signed the Rule Violation Report
as the “Review Officer” and recommended
termination. (Doc. 71-4 at 61; see also Doc. 71-13
at 2). Benjamin's affidavit states that giving a
cigarette to an inmate and pushing another officer are both
very serious offenses, and that Benjamin believed that
termination was the proper course of action “[w]ith the
violations all occurring practically at once.” (Doc.
71-7 at 2).
appealed and obtained a “second level hearing”
with another warden, who upheld the termination and said that
he would “get on” Daigle for
“entertaining” Plaintiff. (Doc. 71-4 at 61-62).
Plaintiff appealed the termination further, but she was
unsuccessful. (Doc. 71-4 at 62-63).
believes that she was terminated because she filed a sexual
harassment complaint against Thomas, and Thomas and Benjamin
were “real good friends.” (Doc. 71-4 at 63).
Plaintiff also claimed at her deposition that she was fired
for a single violation while others with ...