United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
L. HORNSBY MAG. JUDGE
A. DOUGHTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Deborah Mills (“Mills”) brought this employment
discrimination action against her current employer, the City
of Shreveport (“the City”). Before the Court is a
Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 20] filed by the City.
Mills opposes the motion. [Doc. No. 25]. The City filed a
Reply [Doc. No. 28].
reasons assigned below, the Motion for Summary Judgment is
GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
is employed by the City as a Captain with the Shreveport Fire
Department (“SFD”). She serves as an EMS
December 10, 2015, the SFD received a call requesting
assistance for a patient experiencing cardiorespiratory
crew of Fire Engine-8 responded to the call and found the
patient face down in a bathtub, bleeding from her mouth and
nose. The patient had no pulse and had stopped breathing. The
firefighters began CPR in an attempt to restore the
patient's pulse and inserted a “King LT”
airway device, which is a laryngeal tube that allows for
ambulance unit, “Sprint-8, ” arrived at the scene
as the crew of Fire Engine-8 continued to provide emergency
care. Mills, acting in her capacity as EMS Supervisor, also
responded to the scene separately in her department vehicle
contacted the physician at the Willis-Knighton North
emergency room and requested that the physician authorize the
administration of nitroglycerin as the patient was not
responding to the other treatment. According to firefighters,
a pulse was detected.
City contends that Mills had obtained authorization to
administer nitroglycerin sublingually, but that when the
patient's mouth could not be accessed, she ordered
responders to rub the nitroglycerin into the patient's
chest. It is not within protocol to administer sublingual
nitroglycerin topically to the chest. [Doc. No. 20, Exh. A,
pp. 30-31; Exh. A-6]. The responders did not follow
Mills' alleged instructions. In support of these
allegations, the City provided copies of complaints received
about the incident. [Doc. No. 20, Exh. A-4 & A-5].
denies these allegations, however. She further contends that,
during this same incident, a male firefighter suggested
nitroglycerin be sprayed down the patient's throat, which
is not protocol. She further contends that another male
firefighter suggested field termination of treatment without
talking to the family or EMS supervisor, also contrary to
protocol. Neither of these firefighters was a supervisor, nor
did either of the suggested actions take place.
was advised on January 8, 2016, that an internal affairs
investigation had been initiated. On January 12, 2016, the
investigation was assigned to Fire Investigator Chris
Robinson (“Robinson”). From January 12, 2016, to
February 8, 2016, Robinson conducted eyewitness interviews.
According to Robinson, all firefighters who were witnesses to
the event said that Mills issued the command to apply the
sublingual nitroglycerin topically. On January 26, 2016,
Robinson interviewed Mills, who denied issuing the command.
February 8, 2016. Robinson issued an investigation report to
Chief Wolverton, finding that Mills had given treatment
orders in violation of departmental rules and regulations.
February 23, 2016, four physicians who serve as EMS medical
directors and under whose licenses the EMS personnel provide
emergency services wrote a letter to Chief Wolverton
expressing concerns about Mills' alleged conduct. Mills
contends that the letters were generated at the request of
Chief Wolverton and based on false information provided to
the physicians by Chief Wolverton.
March 4, 2016, Chief Wolverton was advised that Mills had
requested copies of any variances or complaints on her that
had gone to the Quality Review Board. Mills' request was
denied at that time, and later that day she was advised that
the Pre-Disciplinary Conference had been set for March 7,
2016. Mills responded that she was on vacation, and her
counsel was not available on March 7, 2016, but Chief
Wolverton insisted that the Pre-Disciplinary Conference go
forward on that date. The Pre-Disciplinary Conference was
held on March 7, 2016, and Mills was informed of the evidence
supporting the alleged violation of department rules and
regulations. While she was permitted to respond, she did not
have her counsel present.
March 21, 2016, Mills made a confidential complaint to Human
Resources about Chief Wolverton; Firefighters David White,
Jeff Cameron, Daniel Buckingham; Engineers Evan Bayton, Jason
Matthews, and Chris Elmore; Fire Captains Bobby Roberts and
Todd Olague; and Dr. Avery Callahan, alleging harassment on
the basis of sex and race. She alleged that the complaint
against her was not proper because it was anonymous and
procedures were not followed. She further alleged that she
and another female captain had been the subject of
“great opposition and resistance from the
beginning.” [Doc. No. 20, Exh. B]. She indicated that
“work is a hostile work environment.”
5, 2016, Mills met with Chief Wolverton and received a
remediation plan. She was placed on paid suspension from
practicing as a paramedic until she completed remediation
training between May 9 and 30, 2016. She was further placed
on probation for one year. Because of the City's actions,
Mills contends that she suffered a loss of pay from her lack
of ability to practice as a paramedic while off duty.
6, 2016, Mills filed an appeal of Chief Wolverton's
decision, and a Civil Service Board Hearing was scheduled for
September 7, 2016.
8, 2016, Mills filed a supplementary request with the Civil
Service Board that it “investigate the suspension of
[her] paramedic privileges, ” as well as “the
practices and acts of . . . Chief . . . Wolverton and Captain
Todd Olague.” [Doc. No. 20, Exh. E]. She detailed the
alleged actions against her and asserted that she had been
subjected to discrimination because she is “black and
female, ” retaliation for the harassment complaint she
made, and that “[t]his is becoming more and more a
hostile work environment.” Id.
23, 2016, prior the Civil Service Board Hearing, Mills
completed remediation training, but she remained on
September 7, 2016, a Civil Service Board Hearing was held.
her counsel had conducted a lengthy cross examination of
Chief Wolverton (the first witness at the hearing), the City
offered to resolve the matter by granting Mills all of her
requests with the exception of attorney's fees. As part
of the agreement, Mills was removed from probation effective
immediately; Chief Wolverton would issue a new Variance
Policy requiring all complaints regarding patient care issues
be filed in writing through the procedures set forth in the
policy, prohibiting employees from filing complaints
anonymously or making verbal complaints to the Medical
Director, and subjecting employees to discipline if they do
so; the City agreed to pay for a mediator to meet with Mills
and Dr. Callahan to address any lingering issues; and Chief
Wolverton would discuss the anonymous complaint with Dr.
Callahan to investigate and determine how she received it.
[Doc. No. 25-5, Exh. 27]. Mills continued her duties as EMS
supervisor in the same capacity, for the same pay, as before
the investigation. The Civil Service Board awarded Mills $1,
000 in attorney's fees to be paid by SFD, over SFD's
appealed the attorney's fee ruling to the Louisiana First
Judicial District Court, which affirmed the award.
October 3, 2016, Mills filed a charge of discrimination with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”), alleging harassment, discrimination,
and retaliation on the basis of sex and race in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title
VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and
La. Rev. Stat. 23:332, et seq., for the time period
of January through August 2016.
27, 2017, the EEOC terminated its proceedings because more
than 180 days had passed since it issued a Notice of Right to
Sue to Mills.
August 29, 2017, Mills filed the Complaint in this Court
asserting sex and race discrimination and harassment claims,
as well as retaliation claims, all under Title VII, and for
intentional infliction of emotional distress under ...