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Fink v. St. Bernard Parish Government

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

September 28, 2018

RYAN FINK
v.
ST. BERNARD PARISH GOVERNMENT

         SECTION I

          ORDER & REASONS

          LANCE M. AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is defendant St. Bernard Parish Government's (“St. Bernard Parish”) motion to dismiss plaintiff Ryan Fink's (“Fink”) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

         I.

         Fink was employed by St. Bernard Parish from 2008 until his employment was terminated in 2017.[1] He worked as the director of the TV and film office.[2] In May 2015, he was diagnosed with a medical condition that restricted him from pushing, pulling, lifting, or carrying over ten pounds.[3] According to Fink, he was adequately accommodated with a qualified assistant from May 2015 until his assistant was laid off in May 2016.[4] Fink immediately requested additional accommodation from the chief administrative officer, Ronnie Alonzo (“Alonzo”), who allegedly failed to respond to the request.[5]

         In January 2017, a new assistant was hired to work in the TV and film office, although Fink contends that the assistant was unqualified and refused to assist him in handling heavy equipment. Fink again requested accommodation from Alonzo, who allegedly failed to provide such accommodation and refused to meet with Fink to discuss his needs.[6] Fink alleges that, in addition to failing to properly accommodate him, St. Bernard Parish failed to compensate him for overtime hours he worked, despite the fact that he was eligible for such compensation.[7]

         On March 8, 2017, Fink was written up for “job related deficiencies, ” which he asserts were “attributable to Alonzo's failure to accommodate [his] disability.”[8] Two days after he was written up, Fink e-mailed Alonzo to again explain his need for accommodation.[9] In response, Alonzo stated that there would be a meeting held to discuss Fink's needs.[10]

         On April 5, 2017, Fink was called into Tyrone Ben's (“Ben”) office.[11] Fink's complaint describes Ben as “the St. Bernard Parish appointing authority.”[12]According to Fink, “Ben abruptly notified [him] that he was being terminated immediately.”[13] Fink alleges that he “was not given any opportunity at all to understand the specific charges of misconduct which had been leveled against him, or any opportunity at all to respond to charges of misconduct. Specific charges were only briefly alluded to in a pre-prepared letter which [he] received at the moment of his termination.”[14] This meeting was allegedly held in accordance with St. Bernard Parish Council Ordinance No. 1847-01-17 (the “ordinance”), which sets forth rules and procedures for adjudicating the employment rights of employees designated as regular civil service employees (“classified employees”).[15]

         In October 2017, the St. Bernard Parish Personnel Board held an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Ben acted lawfully when he terminated Fink.[16] The hearing was also conducted in accordance with the ordinance.[17] Fink contends that, at the conclusion of the hearing, “it was established as a matter of fact that [Ben] had conducted no pre-deprivation hearing[, ]” and the Personnel Board decided that Ben's decision to terminate Fink was “sanctioned by [the] ordinance.”[18] Fink then filed this lawsuit against St. Bernard Parish, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution via 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[19]

         II.

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a district court may dismiss a complaint or part of a complaint when a plaintiff fails to set forth well-pleaded factual allegations that “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Cuvillier v. Taylor, 503 F.3d 397, 401 (5th Cir. 2007). The complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547)).

         A facially plausible claim is one in which “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. If the well-pleaded factual allegations “do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” then “the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)) (alteration in original).

         The Court will generally not look beyond the factual allegations in the pleadings to determine whether relief should be granted. See Hicks v. Lingle, 370 Fed.Appx. 497, 498 (5th Cir. 2010); Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996). In assessing the complaint, however, a court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and liberally construe all factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Spivey v. Robertson, 197 F.3d 772, 774 (5th Cir. 1999). “Dismissal is appropriate when the complaint ‘on its face show[s] a bar to relief.'” Cutrer v. McMillan, 308 Fed.Appx. 819, 820 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Clark v. Amoco Prod. Co., 794 F.2d 967, 970 (5th Cir. 1986)).

         III.

         Fink alleges that St. Bernard Parish violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural due process “by failing and refusing to provide [him] with any pre-deprivation notice, any meaningful pre-deprivation hearing, or any meaningful opportunity to respond” before he was terminated.[20] However, St. Bernard Parish moves to dismiss Fink's procedural due process claim, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.

         According to St. Bernard Parish, “the rules established by parish ordinances require that any appeal for judicial review of the . . . Personnel Board's decision to terminate an employee must be filed in the 34th Judicial District for the Parish of St. Bernard.” It is uncontested that Fink has not filed an appeal of the personnel board's decision in the 34th Judicial District for the Parish of St. Bernard. However, his failure to do so is not a bar to relief.[21]

         The United States Supreme Court has held that § 1983 claims do not require the exhaustion of administrative remedies. Patsy v. Bd. of Regents, 457 U.S. 496, 516 (1982); see also Faulk v. Duplantis, No. 12-1714, 2013 WL 4431339, at *5 n.4 (E.D. La. Aug. 16, 2013) (Zainey, J.) (rejecting the defendant's argument that the plaintiff was required to exhaust administrative remedies in accordance with Louisiana's civil service rules “because “[a] plaintiff's ability to bring suit against a state actor under § 1983 for vindication of federal right is not subject to state law rules of ...


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