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Tucker v. Unitech Training Academy, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 18, 2019

ANDREA TUCKER
v.
UNITECH TRAINING ACADEMY, INC. ET AL.

         SECTION: “J” (2)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          CARL J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 102) submitted by Defendant, Unitech Training Academy, Inc. (“Unitech”). Plaintiff, Andrea Tucker, filed an out-of-time opposition (Rec. Doc. 115) to which Defendant replied (Rec. Doc. 121). The docket reflects that after Plaintiff filed her untimely opposition, Plaintiff asked for an extension of time to file opposition. The Court granted Plaintiff until January 9, 2019, to do so. Plaintiff then filed a second opposition with accompanying exhibits. (Rec. Doc. 122). Having considered the Motion, the memoranda, the record, and the law, the Court finds that the Motion should be GRANTED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The central dispute in this case is a wrongful termination claim brought by an administrative medical assistant instructor against her employer, Unitech. Plaintiff began teaching at Unitech on August 18, 2014. Before joining Unitech, Plaintiff advised Defendant that she would need to take off time in late August for a gastric bypass surgery she had already scheduled. Ms. Tucker weighed 390 pounds at the time. Plaintiff had the bypass surgery on August 29, 2014, and she was back to work on September 2, 2014.[1] It is undisputed that at the time Plaintiff was hired, all parties were unconcerned that Ms. Tucker's weight or her surgery would affect her job performance.[2]

         Plaintiff suggests that her weight did limit her ability to perform her job later, however, due the conduct of her supervisors. Plaintiff's complaint is not a model of clarity, but the Court understands Plaintiff to allege that she stopped receiving ink for the printer in her classroom, which made it necessary for Plaintiff to retrieve printed classroom materials from a printing room in another part of her building. When the elevators at Unitech's campus stopped working for an unspecified amount of time, Plaintiff was required to walk up and down several flights of stairs multiple times a day. Due to Plaintiff's obesity, she alleges she had to take multiple breaks in the stairwell to catch her breath as she traveled to and from the printing room. Plaintiff alleges these trips caused her severe pain and cut into the time she was supposed be teaching her class.[3] She claims she complained to Unitech's Campus Director, Michelle Hammothe, that she needed ink for the printer in her classroom, but her request was denied.[4] This denial evidently led Plaintiff to begin communicating with Unitech's IT personnel, from whom Plaintiff alleges she learned that a glitch in the academy's software was causing students to be marked as “graduated” without completion of all the modules in the curriculum.[5]

         Plaintiff fails to attach specific dates to most of her allegations, but she does allege that in January of 2015, a corporate representative of Unitech came to her classroom to address her complaints regarding the printing situation as well as students' complaints regarding the software that the students used to complete the modules. Plaintiff alleges this unnamed representative advised Plaintiff and her class that Unitech had sufficient funds for ink and allegedly ordered “the Director, ”[6] who was also present, to purchase ink for the classroom.[7] On January 23, 2015, after a conference between Michelle Hammothe and Unitech's Director of Education, Alana Farrazin, Plaintiff was terminated.[8] Plaintiff claims in her amended complaint that her termination was an act of retaliation by Hammothe and Sarrazin for reporting their scheme to embezzle funds from Unitech that had been appropriated by the school for supplies-ink, the Court presumes.

         Plaintiff filed this suit on December 28, 2015. Plaintiff alleges claims pursuant to Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1986, as well as various state law claims for wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         STANDARD OF LAW

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact exists, a court considers “all of the evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.” Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but a party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated assertions. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. A court ultimately must be satisfied that “a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Delta, 530 F.3d at 399.

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party “must come forward with evidence which would ‘entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.'” Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264-65 (5th Cir. 1991). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by either countering with sufficient evidence of its own, or “showing that the moving party's evidence is so sheer that it may not persuade the reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in favor of the moving party.” Id. at 1265.

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden by merely pointing out that the evidence in the record is insufficient with respect to an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who must, by submitting or referring to evidence, set out specific facts showing that a genuine issue exists. See Id. at 324. The nonmovant may not rest upon the pleadings but must identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue for trial. See, e.g., id. at 325, Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

         DISCUSSION

         Although Plaintiff alleges many different causes of action, the underlying allegation that drives this litigation is that Plaintiff's Unitech supervisors fired her as retaliation for asking for ink for the printer in her classroom. This is a federal case, says Plaintiff, because the ink was a necessary accommodation of her disability. She is disabled by her obesity, she says, because she becomes winded when traveling up and down flights of stairs.

         Plaintiff confuses things a bit by positing other motivations for retaliation by her supervisors. She claims her decision to ask for more printer's ink uncovered a scheme by Hammothe and Sarrazin to defraud the school of its ink money. She also suggests they fired her out of revenge for reporting software issues to Unitech's corporate officers. Plaintiff provides absolutely no evidence of these allegations and she admits in her deposition testimony that they are based on “pure speculation.”[9] Summary judgment is appropriate on any claim based upon these unsupported allegations.

         I. Plaintiff's Title ...


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