United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
L. C. FELDMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment.
For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED, in part,
and DENIED, in part.
pregnancy discrimination lawsuit arises out of a Juvenile
Detention Staff Officer's claims that her employer
refused to accommodate her during her pregnancy.
Florida Parishes Juvenile Justice District is a political
subdivision with territorial jurisdiction over the five
parishes that comprise Louisiana's 21st and 22nd Judicial
Districts. La. R.S. § 15:1094. In turn, the
Florida Parishes Juvenile Justice Commission is charged with
assisting children who enter the juvenile justice system to
become productive, law-abiding citizens of the community. La.
R.S. §§ 15:1094.1-15:1094.2. To fulfill its
mission, the Commission operates the Florida Parishes
Juvenile Detention Center, a facility that houses juveniles
whose confinement has been ordered by courts within the
District.Practically indistinguishable from an adult
correctional facility, the Center features a substantial
correctional infrastructure, including electronically locking
doors, razor ribbon topped fencing, and video surveillance.
addition, the Center is staffed with Juvenile Detention Staff
Officers, who care for and supervise the Center's
detainees. In light of the detainees' potentially violent
nature, the Center requires its JDS Officers to receive
training in defensive tactics and continually demonstrate a
defined level of physical fitness. Accordingly, pursuant to
Policy 3.10 of Chapter 3 of the Center's Policy and
Procedure Manual, entitled “Physical Fitness
Requirement, ” JDS Officers must complete and pass
bi-annual physical fitness testing. Such physical fitness
testing consists of five separate components: (1) Sit and
Reach; (2) Bench Press; (3) Push-ups; (4) Sit-ups; and (5) a
1.5 mile run, with gender-specific proficiency requirements
set forth for each component.
Thomas began working as a JDS Officer at the Center in
January of 2007. Nearly a decade into her tenure with the
Commission, she became pregnant. On April 1, 2016, Thomas
informed Norleidy Hernandez, the Center's Human Resources
Director, of her pregnancy and requested to perform the
bi-annual physical fitness test in advance of its regularly
scheduled date of April 21, 2016. Hernandez allowed Thomas to
complete four components of the test on the same day of the
request, all of which she passed. However, Hernandez
explained that the fifth component - the 1.5 mile run - would
take place as scheduled on April 21, 2016.
meantime, Thomas provided the Center with a note from her
OB/GYN, Dr. Katherine Williams, that validated her pregnancy.
The note, dated April 6, 2016, stated:
Pt is 6 weeks & 1 day pregnant.
then attempted the 1.5 mile run on April 21, 2016 and failed.
In accordance with the Center's Physical Fitness
Requirement Policy, Hernandez informed Thomas that a re-test
would be scheduled for May 5, 2016.
ill after attempting the initial run, Thomas went to the
emergency room on April 29, 2016, where she was diagnosed
with a placental bleed. Upon receiving this information,
Thomas called the Center to advise of her condition and that
she had been placed on physician-ordered bed rest from
Sunday, May 1 through Monday, May 2, 2016.
a follow-up appointment with Dr. Williams on May 2, 2016,
Thomas was placed on light duty work for two weeks. To
document Thomas's work restrictions, Dr. Williams issued
a note, stating:
Pt must continue pelvic rest & light activity for 2
weeks. Dx: pregnancy complications.
promptly informed the Center of Dr. Williams's order.
But, because no light duty work was available at that time,
Thomas took personal leave for two weeks. And because Thomas
was on leave on May 5, 2016, the run that had been
re-scheduled for that day did not take place.
weeks later, Thomas provided the Center with a note dated May
19, 2016 from Dr. Williams, advising:
Brandi Thomas can go back to work with no restrictions.
Thomas returned to work on May 21, 2016 and was informed that
her second attempt at the 1.5 mile run would take place on
June 6, 2016. In response, Thomas provided her supervisor,
Ashton Magee, with yet another note dated May 19, 2016 from
Dr. Williams. That doctor's note stated:
• Pt is medically advised to avoid extended running
& heavy lifting do [sic] high risk pregnancy
• Dx: Dm
• Can perform AMA x 6 wks & PP period
• Call office for quest
being presented with this note, Magee informed Thomas that
she nonetheless would be required to perform the run and
should not turn in the note. Magee explained that the Center
had a custom of not excusing pregnant women from the 1.5 mile
run, even with a doctor's note. However, the Center would
excuse non-pregnant employees with physical limitations from
the 1.5 mile run with an appropriate doctor's note.
Ashton Magee also attests in his affidavit that, during his
three-year tenure as a JDS Officer and Supervisor, he was
aware of “several employees” who were not excused
from the 1.5 mile run because of their
upon Magee's advice, Thomas did not present the
doctor's note to the Center's HR Director and
attempted the run on June 6, 2016. She failed once
again. Shortly after this attempt, Thomas
experienced severe pain and was transported to the emergency
room where she was treated for a back injury. On June 7, 2016,
Thomas sought follow-up treatment from Dr. David Tran, who
placed her on light duty work for the remainder of her
pregnancy. Because the Center had no light duty positions
available, Thomas filed a workers' compensation claim.
However, by letter dated June 28, 2016, Dr. Tran released
Thomas “to go back to work full duty.” And by
note dated July 1, 2016, Dr. Jamie Hymel, a physician in Dr.
Williams's OB/GYN practice, released Thomas “to
return to full duty @ work.” Dr. Hymel's note
[Thomas] is currently 18 weeks pregnant. Her limitations are
no running; lifting 20 #'s is her
limit. Please call with any questions or concerns.
receiving inconsistent orders from Thomas's physicians,
the Center offered Thomas a newly available light duty
position as a Control Room Operator, which she accepted.
Thomas served in this light duty position from July 3, 2016
until August 9, 2016 when she was ordered to bed rest for the
remainder of her pregnancy. Thomas returned to work on
September 17, 2017 and is currently employed with the
exhausting her remedies with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission, Thomas sued the Florida Parishes Juvenile Justice
Commission and the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center
for employment discrimination. In her complaint, she alleges
pregnancy discrimination in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy
Discrimination Act of 1978, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k), and in
violation of Louisiana's employment discrimination
statute, La. R.S. § 23:342. Thomas also asserts claims
under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §
12101 et seq., and the Family and Medical Leave Act,
29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. The defendants now
move for summary judgment on the following grounds: (1) the
Florida Parishes Juvenile ...