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Rideau v. Lafayette Health Ventures, Inc.

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

May 17, 2019

ALECIA M. RIDEAU, M.D.
v.
LAFAYETTE HEALTH VENTURES, INC., ET AL.

          PATRICK J. HANNA MAG. JUDGE

          RULING

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is an action brought under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1');">1993');">3');">3');">3, 29 U.S.C. § 26');">601');">1, et seq. (“FMLA”). Pending here is a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">70] filed by Defendants Lafayette Health Ventures, Inc. (“LHVI”); Lafayette General Health System, Inc. (“LGHS”); Lafayette General Medical Center, Inc. (“LGMC”); and Al Patin (“Patin”), (collectively “Defendants”). Plaintiff Alecia M. Rideau, M.D.&#3');">3');">3');">39;s (“Plaintiff” or “Dr. Rideau”) has filed an opposition [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">76');">6]. Defendants have filed a reply [Doc. No. 92].

         For the following reasons, Defendants&#3');">3');">3');">39; motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Dr. Rideau is a radiologist whose specialty is interpreting breast imaging. [Doc. No. 1');">1. at ¶ 1');">12]. From December 1');">1, 201');">14, to September 1');">1, 201');">16');">6, Plaintiff worked at the Breast Center at LGMC. [Id. at ¶ 1');">13');">3');">3');">3].

         LGHS is the parent company of LHVI and LGMC and is the ultimate employer of all individuals employed by LHVI and LGMC. All Defendants shared the same Human Resources Department. The Breast Center is a division of LGMC that provides a wide variety of health care services to women, including, but not limited to, digital mammograms, breast biopsies, ultrasounds, and bone density scans. [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">70-1');">1, 8');">p. 8].

         Dr. Rideau reported to Craig Ortego, Vice President of Oncology Services (“Ortego”). Friction developed between Dr. Rideau and Ortego almost immediately upon her employment, as Dr. Rideau felt Ortego had not delivered on promises regarding the Breast Center&#3');">3');">3');">39;s set-up. As a result, she felt she had to use substandard equipment, requiring her to work most weekends and preventing her from takiing vacation leave. [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">76');">6-3');">3');">3');">3, p 8-1');">10].

         In January 201');">16');">6, Kayla Kastner (“Kastner”) became Breast Center Manager. The employees of the Breast Center reported to Kastner, except for physicians and mid-level providers, including Dr. Rideau, who continued to report to Ortego. [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">70-7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7, p.4].

         On February 9, 201');">16');">6, Dr. Rideau was diagnosed with a form of breast cancer. On February 1');">17');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7, 201');">16');">6, Dr. Rideau met with Kastner and Ortego to inform them of her recent cancer diagnosis and to discuss the need for FMLA leave to obtain immediate treatment. Dr. Rideau contends, that at this meeting, Ortego questioned her about her medical decisions and pressured her to use a particular plastic surgeon for breast reconstruction. She found Ortego&#3');">3');">3');">39;s questioning “extremely uncomfortable” and “an invasion of her personal medical decisions.” Dr. Rideau, who is African-American, testified that when Ortego also began to steer her to specific primary care doctors, she sought to cut this discussion off by explaining to him that she already had such a doctor and that she preferred seeing a black female primary care physician. [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">76');">6-3');">3');">3');">3, pp. 28, 29, 46');">6].

         Ortego, on the other hand, contends he was merely offering whatever help she needed with local doctors.

         Dr. Rideau alleges that, by February 26');">6, 201');">16');">6, she had advised Kastner as well as Ortego&#3');">3');">3');">39;s Executive Assistant, Donnell Angelle (“Angelle”) of her specific leave dates, depending on them to communicate the dates to Ortego. [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">76');">6-3');">3');">3');">3, p. 40, 41');">1].

         On March 1');">1, 201');">16');">6, Dr. Rideau&#3');">3');">3');">39;s physician faxed the necessary leave documents to LGH&#3');">3');">3');">39;s Human Resources Department requesting a total of eight (8) weeks of FMLA to begin on March 28, 201');">16');">6, for Dr. Rideau to undergo and recover from her surgery. On March 8, 201');">16');">6, LGH&#3');">3');">3');">39;s Human Resources Department issued notice to Dr. Rideau that her request for eight (8) weeks of FMLA leave beginning March 28, 201');">16');">6, had been approved. [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">70-7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7, 26');">6');">p. 26');">6]. Dr. Rideau had previously scheduled vacation from March 1');">14 -25, the two weeks before her FMLA leave was to begin. [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">70-7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7, p. 27');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7]. Thus, her last day at work was March 1');">10, 201');">16');">6.

         Kastner sought Ortego out in person on March 1');">10, 201');">16');">6 to discuss Dr. Rideau&#3');">3');">3');">39;s upcoming vacation and leave start dates with him. Ortego expressed concern, frustration, and disappointment that Dr. Rideau had not provided sufficient notification for the rescheduling of her patients, and Kastner relayed this to Dr. Rideau and suggested that Dr. Rideau speak to Ortego. [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">70-7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7, p. 1');">12].

         Dr. Rideau refused to speak to Ortego. Later the same day, Ortego went to a meeting at the Breast Center that included Dr. Rideau to discuss issues with physician coverage during the time period that Rideau was scheduled to be on leave. Dr. Rideau left the meeting immediately after Ortego walked into the room, testifying she did not want a confrontation and wanted to leave peacefully on the last day before her vacation and FMLA leave. [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">76');">6-3');">3');">3');">3, p. 49].

         That same afternoon, Dr. Rideau&#3');">3');">3');">39;s then-attorney, Jeff Ackermann, emailed Gordon Rountree, LGH General Counsel (“Rountree”), advising that Dr. Rideau “is having a problem with Craig Ortego. This time it is about the way in which Dr [sic] Rideau got her leave approved...” The Ackermann email does not mention the FMLA, but says that it “[m]ight be time to clear the air between the two.” [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">70-8, p. 27');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7].

         Rountree contacted Patrick Gandy, CEO of LGMC and Executive Vice President of LGH (“Gandy”), regarding the Ackermann email, and Gandy made the decision to handle the subject of the Ackermann email internally. Gandy was already aware of personality conflicts between Dr. Rideau and Ortego, as he had addressed several of those conflicts and had interposed Kastner and Chris Major, Director of the Cancer Center of Acadiana, as buffers between Dr. Rideau and Ortego. [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">70-6');">6, p. 6');">6]

         On March 1');">16');">6, 201');">16');">6, after she was already on FMLA leave, Dr. Rideau submitted to Sheena Ronsonet, LGH Vice President of Human Resources (“Ronsonet”), and to Rountree, her own complaint regarding the events of March 1');">10. Ronsonet conducted an investigation of Dr. Rideau&#3');">3');">3');">39;s complaint and recommended that Dr. Rideau and Dr. Megan Daigle (“Dr. Daigle”), the other Breast Radiologist in the Breast Center, be moved under the supervision of Al Patin (“Patin”), Chief Administrative Officer of LHVI and Senior Vice-President of LGHS, while the rest of the Breast Center remained under the supervision of Ortego. Defendants contend this was done as an accommodation to Dr. Rideau as a result of her complaint against Ortego and their deteriorating relationship. [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">70-6');">6, 5');">p. 5].

         Following Dr. Rideau&#3');">3');">3');">39;s return from FMLA leave on May 23');">3');">3');">3, 201');">16');">6, her relationship with Dr. Daigle, Ortego, and the Breast Center staff allegedly continued to deteriorate, culminating in a number of instances of interpersonal conflicts and issues. Defendants allege that these conflicts included:

a. Dr. Rideau complained to the Breast Center staff that it was unfair that the LGH Defendants hired another physician to assist Dr. Daigle while Dr. Rideau was out.
b. Dr. Rideau berated Kastner in front of a staff member because a patient who had been scheduled at the last minute the day before was not ready for the scheduled appointment time. As a result, the staff member became very upset and blamed herself for a situation beyond her control.
c. Dr. Rideau was not in the Breast Center when she was to meet with patients, and the staff was unable to locate her.
d. Dr. Rideau accused Dr. Daigle of not reading enough diagnostic screens. Then, when Dr. Daigle attempted to read more, Dr. Rideau accused her of picking the “easy ones” for herself and leaving the “hard ones” for Dr. Rideau, which, she alleged, affected her workflow.
e. Dr. Rideau spoke negatively about Dr. Daigle to Breast Center staff members.

[Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">70-1');">11');">1, 8');">p. 85-89].

         Dr. Rideau forcefully disputes Defendants&#3');">3');">3');">39; versions of these conflicts, and further contends that much of the friction was generated by Dr. Daigle&#3');">3');">3');">39;s frustration for having to cover for Dr. Rideau during her leave and vacation.

         While Dr. Rideau was out on FMLA leave, and continuing on throughout her remaining tenure of employment, she began to consider whether and when to have second stage reconstruction surgery as a follow up to her first surgery.

         Dr. Rideau alleges that Patin was less than cooperative in this process. Dr. Rideau contends that on the day she returned to work, May 23');">3');">3');">3, 201');">16');">6, she emailed Patin referencing her desire to have reconstruction in 201');">16');">6, stating that she was sorry her FMLA leave had placed a burden on Dr. Daigle. Dr. Rideau testified that, prior to writing this email, she had a phone conversation with Patin in which he told her that Dr. Daigle was tired and that he was worried about her being burnt out. [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">76');">6-3');">3');">3');">3, 5');">p. 55-56');">6].

         Around May 3');">3');">3');">30, 201');">16');">6, Dr. Rideau met with Patin and told him that her doctor recommended she have her reconstructive surgery four to six months later. Dr. Rideau alleges that, in response, Patin referred to her surgery as elective and cosmetic and conditioned her taking leave in 201');">16');">6 upon her obtaining someone to cover her work during her absence. Dr. Rideau further alleges that in a later meeting, Patin told her that she could take no further FMLA leave in 201');">16');">6 because Dr. Dartez could not cover full week stretches. Dr. Rideau testified that Patin stated, “You will have to put off your surgery until 201');">17');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7.” [Id., at 58-6');">60]

         Dr. Rideau further alleges that Patin told Dr. Rideau in a July 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7th meeting that she did not work as hard as Dr. Daigle, to which she responded that he should look at the numbers. [Id., at 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">70].

         On July 9, 201');">16');">6, Dr. Rideau complained to Patin that she had been chastised by Kastner for not informing Ortego in person of her FMLA leave. Dr. Rideau then described how Kastner was continuing to mistreat her and was extremely critical of her. Dr. Rideau stated that “[m]y general sense is that Kayla [Kastner] will report anything negative about me to anyone to cause trouble for me.” [Id.]

         Patin disputes Dr. Rideau&#3');">3');">3');">39;s accounts. He asserts that he did not say that her reconstructive surgery was cosmetic or decline to permit her to take FMLA in 201');">16');">6. He further denied conditioning her FMLA leave upon her obtaining another doctor to cover for her. When asked whether he told Dr. Rideau her medical leave had been an inconvenience, he stated “I don&#3');">3');">3');">39;t know if I said it in that way.” He denied telling Dr. Rideau that she would have to wait until 201');">17');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7 to have her breast reconstruction. [Doc. No. 7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">7');">76');">6-1');">14, p. 1');">12-1');">14].

         With respect to the complaint about Kastner, Patin testified he did not know if he addressed the complaint or even forwarded it to HR. Patin further testified that he did not consider the complaint ...


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