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Brown v. Transdev Services, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 13, 2019

DARIUS BROWN
v.
TRANSDEV SERVICES, INC.

         SECTION "B"(4)

          ORDER AND REASONS

         Defendant Transdev Services, Inc. filed a motion for summary judgment in its favor and against plaintiff. Rec. Doc. 21. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition. Rec. Doc. 27. Defendant then sought, and was granted, leave to file a reply. Rec. Doc. 30.

         For the reasons discussed below, IT IS ORDERED that defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendant's motion in limine (Rec. Doc. 26) is hereby DISMISSED as moot.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Darius Brown filed a complaint against defendant Transdev Services Inc for violations of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). Rec. Doc. 1. Plaintiff alleges that defendant violated the ADA by subjecting him to adverse employment actions on account of HIV-positive status, leading to his termination. Plaintiff's allegations are described in detail in a previous Order and Reasons issued by this Court and are incorporated by reference here. Rec. Doc. 17.

         Defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment, asserting that plaintiff's case is based on pure speculation and that he has no evidence in support of the claim that his termination was on the basis of his HIV-positive status. Rec. Doc. 21. Defendant asserts that there is no evidence that anyone at Transdev knew plaintiff had HIV, and therefore defendant could not have discriminated against plaintiff on the basis of his HIV-status. Id. Defendant states that plaintiff has not demonstrated a genuine dispute as to the fact that plaintiff had excessive absences during his probationary period and was involved in a preventable accident, which were the actual basis for his termination. Rec. Doc. 28. Plaintiff filed his response in opposition asserting that he has provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that there remain genuine issues of material fact as to whether he was capable of complying with Transdev's attendance policy and whether the accident in which he was involved was actually preventable. Rec. Doc. 27. Plaintiff states that Transdev had notice of his HIV-positive status and he was terminated following Transdev's receipt of this information, therefore plaintiff argues that summary judgment is not proper. Id.

         THE PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

         Defendant argues that plaintiff cannot establish a disparate treatment claim or a failure to accommodate claim pursuant to the ADA. Rec. Doc. 21. Defendant asserts that plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie case of disparate treatment because he could not perform the essential function of maintaining regular attendance and therefore was not qualified for his job. Rec. Doc. 21-2 at 7. Defendant also asserts that plaintiff cannot show his termination was because of his disability as he has no evidence that any particular person, much less the managers involved in the decision to terminate him, knew that he had HIV. Id. at 9. Defendant notes that plaintiff himself has conceded that he never disclosed his HIV status to any of his supervisors or anyone else with authority over his employment. Rec. Doc. 28-1 at 3. Defendant argues that there is no evidence that the unnamed depot clerk to whom plaintiff alleges he provided medical documents to request time off read the documentation past the point of determining the proposed dates of absence, noticed the reference to HIV, and then informed the members of management who made the decision to terminate plaintiff. Id. at 4. Even if the Court finds that plaintiff can establish a prima facie case of discrimination, defendant asserts that it can fulfill its burden of providing a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for terminating plaintiff, namely that plaintiff was an at-will probationary employee who had accumulated excessive absences and was involved in a preventable accident. Rec. Doc. 21-1 at 9-10. Defendant avers that plaintiff cannot offer any evidence to show that Transdev's reason for his termination was pretext for discrimination and therefore cannot survive summary judgment. Id. at 10-11. Defendant also argues that to the extent plaintiff's claim is actually based on a failure to accommodate theory, that claim fails as well because plaintiff has admitted that he did not seek or need any accommodation while employed by defendant. Id. at 11. Defendant asserts that it had no notice of plaintiff's disability and therefore may not be held accountable for failing to provide a reasonable accommodation when it was not aware that any accommodation was needed, and plaintiff did not request any. Id. at 12-13.

         Plaintiff asserts that summary judgment is not proper as he has provided sufficient evidence to establish a case for disparate treatment based on his disability. Rec. Doc. 27. Plaintiff states that he has met his burden of demonstrating a prima facie case of discrimination. Id. at 3. Plaintiff asserts that there is a genuine issue as to his absences and whether the accident he was involved in was actually preventable. Id. at 4-6. Plaintiff claims that he did everything he was instructed to do in order to prevent the accident and avers that this Court should take all inferences in his favor. Id. at 4. Transdev's policy requires employee termination in the event of five total occurrences. Id. at 5. Plaintiff avers that he complied with Transdev's attendance policy by informing Transdev in advance of the dates he would not be working due to medical appointments and a scheduled court date. Id. Plaintiff also argues that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether he was terminated as a result of his disability given that he has testified that he gave defendant documentation informing it of his HIV-positive status in the form of medical records and was terminated thereafter. Id. at 6. Furthermore, plaintiff states that there is a genuine dispute as to whether his termination was legitimate, and whether the rationale given by defendant for his termination is pretextual. Id. at 7-9. Plaintiff asserts that defendant was on notice of his HIV-positive status when he provided his medical records on May 10, 2016, which clearly stated his HIV-positive status. Id. at 9. Plaintiff states that defendant could have reasonably accommodated his requests to be off work for particular days to undergo the medical procedure. Id.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). A genuine issue of material fact exists if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         When the movant bears the burden of proof, it must “demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact” using competent summary judgment evidence. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. But “where the non-movant bears the burden of proof at trial, the movant may merely point to an absence of evidence.” Lindsey v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 16 F.3d 616, 618 (5th Cir. 1994). When the movant meets its burden, the burden shifts to the non-movant, who must show by “competent summary judgment evidence” that there is a genuine issue of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Lindsey, 16 F.3d at 618.

         A. Plaintiff does not establish a disparate ...


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