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Broussard v. Jazz Casino Co., LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 19, 2018

DEANNA BROUSSARD
v.
JAZZ CASINO CO. LLC ET AL.

         SECTION “H”

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 110). For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant Jazz Casino Company, LLC (“Jazz Casino”) hired Plaintiff Deanna Broussard as a Senior Executive Host at Harrah's Casino in April 2006. On May 14, 2014, Jazz Casino discharged Plaintiff. Plaintiff brings claims arising out of her termination, alleging that she was terminated because of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) and state law, that Defendant breached her employment contract, and that Defendant made defamatory remarks regarding the reason for her termination in a hearing for unemployment benefits. Defendant now moves for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”[1] A genuine issue of fact exists only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”[2]

         In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court views facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor.[3] “If the moving party meets the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence or designate specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.”[4] Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-movant “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case.”[5] “In response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate the manner in which that evidence supports that party's claim, and such evidence must be sufficient to sustain a finding in favor of the non-movant on all issues as to which the non-movant would bear the burden of proof at trial.”[6] “We do not . . . in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.”[7] Additionally, “[t]he mere argued existence of a factual dispute will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion.”[8]

         LAW & ANALYSIS

         This Court will consider Defendant's arguments for summary judgment on each of Plaintiff's claims in turn.

         A. Age Discrimination

         Under the ADEA, “[i]t shall be unlawful for an employer . . . to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's age.”[9] To demonstrate age discrimination a “plaintiff must show that ‘(1) he was discharged; (2) he was qualified for the position; (3) he was within the protected class at the time of discharge; and (4) he was either i) replaced by someone outside the protected class, ii) replaced by someone younger, or iii) otherwise discharged because of his age.'”[10] If the plaintiff succeeds in showing a prima facie case, “the burden shifts to the employer to provide a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating employment. If the employer satisfies this burden, the burden shifts back to the employee to prove either that the employer's proffered reason was not true-but was instead a pretext for age discrimination-or that, even if the employer's reason is true, he was terminated because of his age.”[11]

         Here, Plaintiff has established a prima facie case, showing that she was discharged at age sixty-five from a job for which she was qualified and replaced by a younger employee. Defendant, however, submits copious evidence of its non-discriminatory reason for terminating Plaintiff. Defendant shows that Plaintiff was counseled for performance issues numerous times before her termination. In February 2014, Plaintiff was placed on an action plan and given specific areas in which her performance needed improvement. Specifically, she ranked last on her team in terms of meeting the benchmarks set for her performance at the beginning of the year. At the time of the action plan, she had generated revenue totaling only 71% of her benchmark, and she ultimately finished the first quarter of 2014 meeting only 68.9% of her benchmark goal. The documentation of her termination in May 2014, which Plaintiff signed, details these performance issues as the reason for Plaintiff's termination. Defendant also shows that it has fired at least two other casino hosts who were younger than 40 for performance issues. In addition, Defendant shows that at least one casino host in her 60s remained employed at the time that Plaintiff was terminated and completed 99.6% of her benchmark goal for the first quarter of 2014.

         Plaintiff fails to create a material issue of fact that Defendant's non-discriminatory reason is pretextual. Plaintiff presents three pieces of evidence in support of her argument that Defendant's reason is pretextual: (1) evidence of the gross revenue brought in by Plaintiff, (2) affidavits from a former co-worker and customer attesting that Plaintiff was an excellent casino host, and (3) Plaintiff's affidavit. The first shows that Plaintiff often brought in the highest gross revenue of the members of her team. This was because Plaintiff had one of the highest benchmarks on the team because of her comparatively larger book of business. This fact does not, however, belie the fact that Defendant assesses the performance of its casino hosts by the percentage of revenue collected by each host against his or her ...


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