United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
BRIAN JACKSON JUDGE
the Court is Defendants' Motion for
Attorneys' Fees (Doc. 34). Plaintiff
filed an opposition to Defendants' motion (Doc. 43). Oral
argument is not required. For the reasons stated below,
Defendants' motion is GRANTED. Further,
on the Court's own motion, Plaintiffs claims based on 42
U.S.C. § 1986 against the individual Praxair employees
matter arises from allegations of racial discrimination and
unlawful termination made against Praxair, Inc
("Praxair"), James Willis, Brian Burt, Todd Dunn,
and Vanjia Thomas (collectively "Defendants") by
Jonathan Brown ("Plaintiff'). (Doc. 1). Plaintiff
alleges that he began working for Praxair in April 2012 as a
"maintenance supervisor." (Id. at ¶
4). Plaintiff broadly alleges that he was ridiculed at work
despite his admirable workplace performance, and was falsely
accused of violating company policies, leading to a reprimand
from Brian Burt, one of Plaintiffs superiors. (Id.
at ¶¶ 5-8). Plaintiff alleges that despite attempts
to complain to Vanjia Thomas ("Ms. Thomas") and
Courtni Booker ("Ms. Booker"), employees within
Praxair's Human Resources Department, his concerns
remained unaddressed. Plaintiff claims that in April 2016, he
met with Praxair management, ostensibly to develop a
"performance improvement plan" for Plaintiff.
(Id. at ¶ 10). Plaintiff avers that during this
meeting, and two subsequent meetings, he was accused of
additional workplace violations and was offered a severance
package in an effort to terminate him. (Id. at
¶ 11). Plaintiff alleges that a final meeting took place
between himself, Ms. Thomas, Mr. Dunn, and James Willis
during which they questioned Plaintiff for four hours and
accused Plaintiff of additional workplace infractions.
(Id. at ¶ 12). Plaintiff asserts that while his
performance improvement plan was ultimately accepted, due to
the continual harassment he alleges to have faced, Plaintiff
eventually submitted his two weeks' notice, but that he
was immediately escorted off of the premises after doing so.
(Id. at ¶ 14). Plaintiff claims that these
actions were violations of Title VII, the Louisiana Employment
Discrimination Law ("LEDL"), and 28 U.S.C. §
filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs complaint on October 20,
2017. The Court granted Defendants' motion in part, and
dismissed Plaintiffs claims against James Willis, Brian Burt,
Todd Dunn, and Vanjia Thomas with prejudice. (Doc. 31). The
Court also denied Plaintiffs request for attorney's fees
without prejudice, pending the submission of a separate
motion for attorney's fees filed in accordance with Rule
54(d)(2). (Id.) Defendants' motion for
attorneys' fees is now before the Court.
prevailing defendant should be awarded attorneys' fees
under Title VII if "a court finds that [plaintiffs]
claim was frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation,
even though not brought in subjective bad faith." 42
U.S.C. 2000e-5(K). See also Christiansburg Garment Co. v.
EEOC, 434 U.S. 412, 421 (1978). The standard set forth
in Christiansburg also applies to claims brought
under the LEDL and § 1983. Wilson-Robinson v. Our
Lady of the Lake Reg'l Med. Ctr., Inc., No. CIV.A.
10-584, 2013 WL 5372346, at *l (M.D. La. Sept. 24, 2013). In
considering the matter, the Court must determine whether the
case is so lacking in arguable merit as to be groundless or
without foundation, rather than whether the claim was
ultimately successful. Christiansburg, 434 U.S. at
Hensely v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424 (1983), the
United States Supreme Court established a two-step system for
calculating attorney fees called the "lodestar"
method. Id. at 433 (applying the lodestar amount for
attorney's fees awarded under a § 1988 case).
See also Heidtman v. County of El Paso,
171 F.3d 1038, 1043 (5th Cir. 1999).
Attorney fees are calculated by "determining . . . the
number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation
multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate." Id.
alleged that prior to filing their motion to dismiss, they
attempted to confer with Plaintiff several times to alert him
that he would be unable to sustain actions against the
individual employees of Praxair in under Title VII, because
they could not be considered "employers" under the
statue, which Plaintiff ignored. (Doc. 34-1 at pp. 1-2).
Defendants assert that Plaintiffs actions, in light of the
demonstrable lack of merits to her claims, caused Defendants
to suffer unnecessary costs and legal fees. (Id.).
Defendants claim that under no legal theory could the
individual Praxair employees have been found liable for the
violations alleged by Plaintiff. (Id. at p. 5).
Plaintiffs § 1983 claim, Defendants argue that
"private individuals generally are not considered to act
under color of law, i.e., are not considered state
actors" Ballard v. Wall, 413 F.3d 510, 518 (5th
Cir. 2005). As for Title VII and the LEDL, Defendants also
argue that "a party may not maintain a suit against an
employer and its agent under Title VII. Indest v. Freeman
Decorating, Inc., 164 F.3d 258, 262 (5th Cir. 1999).
Defendants further claim that "it is well established
that Louisiana's antidiscrimination law provides no cause
of action against individual employees, only against
employers." Minns v. Bd. Of Sup'rs of LSU,
972 F.Supp.2d 878, 889 (M.D. La. 2013). Defendants draw the
Court's attention to its prior ruling wherein the Court
dismissed the individual employees of Praxair from this
action without giving Plaintiff an opportunity to amend his
claims, as any attempted amendment would be futile. (Doc.
34-1 at p. 5).
argues that pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2003-5(K),
Defendants should only be entitled to fees if "a court
finds that plaintiffs claim was frivolous, unreasonable, or
without foundation, even though not brought in subjective bad
faith." (Doc. 43 at p. 1). Plaintiff claims that
although ultimately unsuccessful, the claims against the
individual Praxair employees were brought in good faith.
argues that since 2007, Praxair has been implementing
policies and regulations adopted by its officers through its
governmental contracts with the Department of Defense.
(Id.). As an analogy, Plaintiff compares this matter
to a finding that a physician who contracts with the state to
provide medical care to inmates acts under the color of state
law while doing so. (Id.). Plaintiff argues that
this theory, while ultimately unavailing, was reasonable, and
not meritless or frivolous.
the claims based on 42 U.S.C. § 1986, Plaintiff claims
that his allegations that he contacted Praxair's Human
resources department multiple times for assistance to ...