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Aguillard v. Louisiana College

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Alexandria Division

February 14, 2019


          DOUGHTY, JUDGE.


          Mark L. Hornsby, U.S. Magistrate Judge.


         Joe W. Aguillard (“Plaintiff”) filed this civil action against Louisiana College (“LC”), his former employer. LC is a private college associated with the Baptist faith. Plaintiff's original complaint invoked federal laws that prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, age, and disability. Plaintiff also alleged that LC retaliated against him for complaining about and opposing unlawful discrimination. Judge Doughty granted partial summary judgment for LC and dismissed Plaintiff's Title VII religious discrimination and retaliation claims on the grounds the college falls within a religious organization exemption. Doc. 30.

         Plaintiff then filed the Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint (Doc. 32) that is now before the court. Plaintiff's motion states that he seeks to add three additional paragraphs to the complaint and assert a tort claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The proposed pleading and related briefing reveal that Plaintiff also seeks to add federal retaliation claims. LC opposes the proposed amended complaint on a variety of grounds. For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that the motion for leave to amend be granted.

         Summary of the Allegations

         Plaintiff became the president of LC in 2005. He suffered a major heart attack in 2011 and underwent quadruple bypass surgery. In January of 2014, Plaintiff was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). As an accommodation to Plaintiff's disabilities, LC entered into a written employment agreement with him. Plaintiff became “President Emeritus” of LC and a fully tenured member of the faculty. Complaint, ¶¶ 1-5.

         LC employed an acting president to follow Plaintiff, and Plaintiff performed his duties successfully during the one year of that administration. LC then hired Dr. Richard Brewer as president, and Brewer has held the job since April 2015. About a month after Brewer took office, Plaintiff filed a “fear of workplace violence complaint” with school officials to protest Dr. Brewer employing Kyle Johnson. Plaintiff asserted that Johnson was one of the leaders of a group that promoted the “Calvinist” religious belief at LC and had previously threatened Plaintiff's life. Plaintiff alleges that Brewer is also a Calvinist, and Plaintiff is not. Brewer knew at the time he hired Johnson that the Calvinists “didn't just want Dr. Aguillard gone, they wanted him dead.” Complaint, ¶¶ 6-8.

         Plaintiff met with Brewer in May 2015. Brewer told Plaintiff that he could not be president emeritus. Referring to Plaintiff's complaint about Johnson's employment, Brewer told Plaintiff to never contact any of his vice presidents again and to stop speaking to LC donors. ¶ 9.

         Plaintiff alleges that Brewer decided, after Plaintiff filed his workplace violence complaint, to attempt to force Plaintiff to resign his employment. Brewer isolated Plaintiff and did not allow him to participate in the usual and customary faculty functions. He refused to communicate with Plaintiff with respect to Plaintiff's work duties. ¶¶ 10-11.

         Brewer and other LC officials became aware in summer 2015 of the circulation of documents, including a newspaper article, which Plaintiff describes as relating to “a press conference at which Dr. Brewer had denied the veracity of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 along with other Baptist doctrinal statements.” Brewer believed that the circulation of the package could be attributed to Plaintiff. ¶ 12. Brewer soon circulated a recruitment flier that featured a picture of “Kyle Johnson along with other pictures of Calvinists who had bullied and harassed Plaintiff while he was serving as President of Louisiana College.” ¶ 13.

         Plaintiff received a phone call from Don Benton Connor in September 2015. Mr. Connor represented that he was “in law enforcement” and that he had been hired by Dr. Brewer to investigate Plaintiff. Plaintiff agreed to meet Connor at his office in the alumni house. Plaintiff telephoned Brewer during the meeting, and Brewer confirmed that he had hired Connor to conduct an investigation, and Plaintiff should do whatever Connor said because, “He speaks for me.” ¶ 14.

         Connor, “who appeared to be armed with a handgun, ” stated that “this is a Catholic thing” and demanded that Plaintiff immediately resign his position at LC because of religious issues. Connor threatened to ruin Plaintiff's career, and he said that if Plaintiff did not resign, “Your career will go down the toilet, and your family will remain exposed.” ¶ 15.

         Plaintiff had two computers in his truck, both password protected. One was his personal property, and the other was issued to him by LC. Plaintiff had personal and confidential information stored on both, including financial, legal, and medical records. Mr. Connor followed Plaintiff to his truck and physically took possession of the computers, over Plaintiff's objection, and slammed the top of one of them on Plaintiff's hand. Plaintiff alleges that LC ...

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