United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
JUDGES. MAURICE HICKS, JR.
MAGISTRATE JUDGE WHITEHURST
the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Record Document
23) filed by the Defendant, Swiftships, L.L.C.
("Swiftships"). Plaintiff, Jordan Carter
("Carter") has sued Swiftships for alleged
discrimination against her on the basis of her pregnancy in
violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
("PDA"), 42 U.S.C.§ 2000e(k), as amended by
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-2(a) and in violation of the Louisiana Employment
Discrimination Law ("LEDL"), La. Rev. Stat. 23:342.
Swiftships moves for summary judgment dismissing all of
Carter's claims. After careful consideration of all
parties' submissions, and the law applicable before the
Court, Swiftships' Motion for Summary Judgment is
GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
is a former employee of Swiftships. Swiftships is a
shipbuilder which designs and constructs vessels for
government and commercial entities. See Record
Document 23-2 at 1, ¶ 1. On March 19, 2016, Carter
initiated this lawsuit, asserting that she has been
discriminated against on the basis of her pregnancy in
violation of the PDA. See Record Document 1 at 4,
¶ 18. Additionally, Carter alleges corresponding
violations under the LEDL. See id. The parties
conducted discovery on these claims. Discovery is Page 1 of
16 now complete, and Swiftships submits that summary judgment
on all of Carter's claims is appropriate. In support of
its Motion for Summary Judgment, Swiftships presents the
Court with affidavits of Jeff Leleux ("Leleux"),
the President of Swiftships, Danny Knope ("Knope"),
the Purchasing Manager at Swiftships, and Shehraze Shah
("Shah"), the Chief Executive Officer of
Swiftships. Carter presents the Court with affidavits from
her mother, Tamara Thomas, her step-father, Michael Thomas,
and herself. Furthermore, she submits to the Court email
correspondence and other documents in order to defeat the
present Motion for Summary Judgment.
April 22, 2013, Carter was hired by Swiftships to the role of
Contracts Administrator. See Record Document 23-2 at
1, ¶ 2. Carter alleges that within a year of being hired
as Contracts Administrator, she was promoted to the position
of Contracts Manager. See Record Document 1 at 2,
¶ 6. She alleges that an increase in pay was supposed to
accompany the position, but she never received the increase.
See id. In September of 2014, Carter informed Shah
and Rickie Bertrand ("Bertrand"), Human Resources
Manager, that she was pregnant. See id. at 2-3,
¶ 8, see Record Document 23-5 at 8, ¶ 5. On
November 23, 2014, Carter received an email from Shah
advising her that he "appointed [Knope] as the
[C]ontracts [M]anager and would like for [Carter] to report
to him going forward for all [her] contracting
responsibilities." Record Document 27-3 at 1. Carter
alleges that she was replaced in this position by Knope, a
Caucasian-male employee, "who was being promoted to the
Contracts Manager position previously held by Carter."
Record Document 1 at 3, ¶ 10. After the purported
demotion, Carter alleges that she began to receive fewer work
assignments and that the demotion occurred two months after
informing Shah and Bertrand that she was pregnant. See
id. at ¶ 11. She further claims that on or around
December 26, 2014, she was notified that her employment with
Swiftships was being terminated effective January 9, 2015 on
account of a reduction in force. See id. at 3-4,
¶ 13. She alleges that Knope, her "replacement,
" was not terminated as part of the reduction in force.
See id. at 4, ¶ 14.
denied the allegations of discrimination. Swiftships argues
that in 2014 there were economic developments that negatively
impacted the company such as losing a bid to construct
vessels for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that was estimated to
be worth $ 1 billion dollars in gross revenue and the drastic
decline in oil prices in 2014. See Record Document
23-2 at 2-3, ¶¶ 10-11. According to Swiftships,
Shah and Leleux made a joint determination that a reduction
in force in the areas of general administration and
production was required to reduce overhead and expenses.
See id. at 3, ¶ 12. Swiftships argues that
there was no need for Carter's position due to the lack
of anticipated work and that her pregnancy did not factor
into the decision. See id. at ¶¶ 15-16.
The Summary Judgment Standard
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs summary
judgment. This rule provides that the court "shall grant
summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Also,
"a party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely
disputed must support the motion by citing to particular
parts of materials in the record." Fed R. Civ. P.
56(c)(1)(A). "If a party fails to properly support an
assertion of fact or fails to properly address another
party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the
court may . . . grant summary judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P.
summary judgment motion, "a party seeking summary
judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing
the district court of the basis for its motion, and
identifying those portions of the pleadings . . . [and]
affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553
(1986) (internal quotations and citations omitted). If the
movant meets this initial burden, then the non-movant has the
burden of going beyond the pleadings and designating specific
facts that prove that a genuine issue of material fact
exists. See id. at 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2554; see
Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th
Cir. 1994). A non-movant, however, cannot meet the burden of
proving that a genuine issue of material fact exists by
providing only "some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated
assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence."
Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. Additionally, in deciding a
summary judgment motion, courts "resolve factual
controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, but only when
there is an actual controversy, that is when both parties
have submitted evidence of contradictory facts."
Id. Courts "do not, however, in the absence of
any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would
prove the necessary facts." Id.
are a permissible and common form of evidence that may be
used to oppose a motion for summary judgment. See Celotex
Corp., 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553. To be
competent summary judgment evidence, an affidavit "must
be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be
admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant ... is
competent to testify on the matters stated."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). However, a party may not manufacture a
genuine issue of material fact by submitting an affidavit
that impeaches sworn testimony without explanation. See
S.W.S. Erectors v. Infax, Inc., 72 F.3d 489, 495 (5th
Cir. 1996). If a party submits such a "sham"
affidavit, the Court may properly disregard or strike such an
affidavit, grant summary judgment for the movant, and award
attorney's fees to the opponent of the submitting party.
See id. at 495-96; see also Doe ex rel. Doe v.
Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., 220 F.3d 380, 385-86 (5th Cir.
2000); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(h).
Standard of Proof under the PDA and LEDL
VII makes it unlawful for an employer 'to fail or refuse
to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to
discriminate against any individual with respect to his
compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,
because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex,
or national origin.'" Laxton v. Gap Inc.,
333 F.3d 572, 577 (5th Cir. 2003) (citing 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-2(a)). Claims brought under the PDA are analyzed like
any other Title VII discrimination claims. See id.
at 578. Furthermore, Louisiana courts apply the same analysis
to LEDL claims that federal ...