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Aguillard v. Louisiana College

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

April 4, 2019

JOE W. AGUILLARD
v.
LOUISIANA COLLEGE

          Judge MARK L. HORNSBY

          RULING

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Joe W. Aguillard (“Aguillard”) sued his employer, Louisiana College (“LC”), in part, for disability discrimination and disability-based retaliation after LC terminated his employment. Pending before the Court is LC's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 48] seeking dismissal of Aguillard's claims of disability discrimination and disability-based retaliation, as well as any disability-based hostile work environment claim Aguillard may be making. Aguillard has filed an Opposition [Doc. No. 60]. LC has filed a Reply [Doc. No. 66].

         Pending also is LC's Motion to Strike [Doc. No. 62] seeking to strike numerous exhibits and affidavits attached to Aguillard's Opposition.

         For the following reasons, the Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and the Motion to Strike is DENIED AS MOOT.

         I. FACTS

         Aguillard served as President of LC from January of 2005 to July of 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14. He suffered a major heart attack in March of 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 and underwent quadruple by-pass surgery. In January of 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14, he was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Aguillard contends that, as a result of his poor health, and as an “accommodation” to his medical disabilities, he and LC entered into a written Employment Agreement effective April 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14, pursuant to which he became “President Emeritus” of LC and a fully tenured member of the Faculty.

         Aguillard asserts that on December 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14, his Employment Agreement was amended by the Board of Trustees when they approved a restriction on an Anonymous Donation of $1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10 million which required that Aguillard remain President Emeritus for five years. [Doc. No. 60-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 5].

         Dr. Richard B. Brewer (“Brewer”) became President of LC on April 7, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, and continues to serve in that capacity.

         Aguillard contends that, while serving as President of LC, he was “attacked” by a group referred to as the “Calvinists.” Brewer is a Calvinist; Aguillard is not. [Doc. No. 60-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 5]. Aguillard asserts that these threats became increasingly hostile over time and, in fact, his life was threatened in March 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14 by a Calvinist student at LC named Kyle Johnston (“Johnston”). Id. at p. 3.

         Aguillard's conflict with the Calvinists continued. On May 3, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, Aguillard filed a “fear of workplace violence” complaint after learning that LC had hired Johnston as an employee. On May 20, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, Aguillard met with Brewer, who Aguillard alleges, told him that he could not be “President Emeritus, it just was not going to work;” to “never, ever contact any of my vice-presidents again” under any circumstances; and to “stop talking to LC donors.” Id., at p. 8.

         Aguillard asserts that he left the meeting devastated because there was no discussion about preserving his “accommodations.” He also felt he had been left to confront the Calvinists in LC's “backyard, ” and, therefore, that LC had become a hostile workplace. [Doc. No. 60-29');">29');">29');">29');">29');">29');">29');">29, p. 8].

         Aguillard alleges that thereafter Brewer attempted to force him to resign his employment with LC, isolated him, did not allow him to participate in the usual and customary faculty functions, did not allow him to march at Graduation, and refused to communicate with him with respect to his duties and responsibilities. He asserts that Brewer was well aware of his medical disabilities, that Brewer controlled the “accommodations, ” and, consequently, Brewer could and did apply pressure to coerce him into resigning. Id.

         Aguillard states that the Calvinists issue re-surfaced in August of 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15 when LC prepared a “recruiting” brochure or poster which featured Johnston and some of his Calvinist friends.

         In September 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, an “Anonymous Package” was circulated among LC alumni, members of the LC Board of Trustees, and the Louisiana Baptist community at large. The Anonymous Package made numerous derogatory statements about LC, about Brewer, about other LC administrators, and about current and former LC students.

         On September 28, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, Aguillard met with Don Benton Connor (“Connor”), an investigator hired by Brewer to investigate the source of the “Anonymous Package.” [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 5]. Brewer advised Aguillard that Connor “speaks for me.” [Doc. No. 60-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10]. According to Aguillard, Connor appeared to be armed with a hand gun, represented he was in law enforcement, stated “this is a Catholic thing, ” and demanded Aguillard immediately resign his position at LC “because of religious issues.” Id. Aguillard states that Connor threatened to ruin Aguillard and his family if Aguillard did not resign. Id.

         Aguillard further alleges Connor followed him to his truck and physically took possession of his computers, one of which was Aguillard's personal property and the other of which had been issued to him by LC, slamming the top of one of the computers on Aguillard's hand in the process. Id.

         Aguillard states he had personal and confidential information stored in both computers, including e-mail communications with his attorneys, financial information, and medical records. Both computers were password protected. Aguillard alleges that LC “hacked” both computers and unlawfully and illegally obtained confidential information. Id. at p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 Aguillard was subsequently hospitalized for three weeks for treatment and observation of acute PTSD symptoms and the high risk of a second heart attack and/or stroke, all, he alleges, resulting from his confrontation with Connor. Id.

         LC contends that its investigation determined that Aguillard's LC-issued laptop contained data that identified it as the source of the Anonymous Package. [Doc. No. 48-26, 4');">p. 4]. Aguillard, on the other hand, maintains he was not personally involved in developing or distributing the Anonymous Package and further asserts that “Rev. Jerry Dark” was responsible for it. [Doc. No. 60-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15].

         Aguillard further contends that after his release from the hospital, Brewer retaliated against him for his refusal to resign. He continued to have him followed and stalked. Aguillard asserts that Brewer fired another faculty member, Dr. Carmacia Smith-Ross, after she refused to give a false statement to the effect that Aguillard was too ill to work, that he had not been teaching his classes appropriately, that he had not attended meetings with her as required, and that because of his disabilities (coronary artery disease and PTSD), Aguillard could not perform his job duties and responsibilities. Id. at p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1.

         By letter dated January 22, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, Dr. Cheryl Clark, Acting Vice-President and Dean of Academic Affairs, notified Aguillard that LC considered his employment to be “at will” and that LC was entitled to dismiss him at any time and for any reason and was not obligated to show cause for his dismissal.

         Attached to this notice was a “List of Violations” [Doc. No. 48-6, p. 3-5], which included, in summary, that Aguillard had:

(1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1) Breached his contractual duties to LC, through conduct materially damaging to LC, by participating in the drafting of an anonymous letter and flyer, which disparaged the college President, former students, and the school, and was transmitted to known and unknown individuals, including members of the Board of Trustees;
(2) Breached his contractual duties, by refusing to perform his duties of employment and duty to support and promote the college by participating in the drafting of the above described anonymous letter and flyer;
(3) Breached his faculty duties and was insubordinate, by failing to report perceived problems through proper channels, in that, during the summer of 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, he sent emails to several individuals, including the former chairman of the board of LC, who were not in the immediate chain-of-command above him referencing alleged problems with LC compliance with SACS policies and procedures; and
(4) Breached his faculty duties and was insubordinate, by failing to report perceived problems through proper channels, in that, on August 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, he sent an email to the then-chairman of the board of LC, Dr. Tommy French, who was not in the immediate chain-of-command above him, referencing an alleged problem with President Brewer's appointment of certain staff members and alleged failure to obtain consent from the Board of Trustees;
(5) Breached his faculty duties and was dishonest, by covert appropriation of documents belonging to another staff member, in that, on or about April 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, he found copies of communications between another staff member and a third party on the premises of LC and on a copy machine that belongs to LC, and, without receiving the permission of the staff member to whom the copies belonged or otherwise notifying her or any other LC faculty or staff member within the proper chain-of-command, he appropriated these documents and sent them to Dr. Tommy French through an email, dated April 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15. He admitted the subversive nature of his actions by stating to Dr. French that “No one knows I have it but you.”
(6) Engaged in an overall pattern and practice of continued misconduct detrimental to LC in violation of his Employment Contract and the Faculty Handbook, in that his conduct during the 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14-201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15 academic year, both as described above as well other actions, has reflected an overall pattern and practice of behavior demonstrating a disregard for his duties to LC.The cumulative effect of his continued pattern of behavior constitutes conduct detrimental and damaging to LC, and demonstrates an intention to undermine the current administration, including, among others, the College President, Dr. Rick Brewer.

Id.

         Brewer then notified Aguillard that he was placing him on administrative leave, relieving him of all of his duties and responsibilities as “President Emeritus, ” and re-assigning all of Aguillard's classes. [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-2].

         On February 9, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, Aguillard filed a “whistleblower complaint” with LC's Board of Trustees reporting that Brewer had retaliated against him for engaging in protected activities and for opposing LC's unlawful discrimination and actions. [Doc. No. 60-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13]. On February 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, LC changed the locks on Aguillard's office, denying him access to his office and his property stored in his office. Id.

         At Aguillard's request, the Faculty Affairs Advisory Committee (“FAAC”) conducted a hearing on February 23, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16. The Committee found, in summary, that ...


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