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Parker v. Benteler Steel

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

August 20, 2019

DONNA N. PARKER
v.
BENTELER STEEL, ET AL.

          KAREN L. HAYES JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Donna N. Parker's ("Parker") Motion for New Trial [Doc. No. 74]. Parker moves the Court to reconsider its Ruling and Judgment granting Defendant Benteler Steel/Tube Manufacturing Corp.'s ("Benteler") Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissing Parker's claims of sexual harassment, failure to accommodate, and retaliation [Doc. Nos. 72, 73]. Benteler has filed an opposition [Doc. No. 77]. Parker has filed a reply [Doc. No. 78].

         A motion for a new trial following a summary judgment is treated as a motion to reconsider entry of summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59');">59(e). Piazza's Seafood World, LLC v. Odom, 448 F.3d 744, 748, n. 9 (5th Cir. 2006) (citing Patin v. Allied Signal, Inc., 11 F.3d 782, 785, n. 1 (5th Cir. 1996)). A Rule 59');">59(e) motion "calls into question the correctness of a judgment." Templet v. HydroChem Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 478-79 (5th Cir.2004) citing In re Transtexas Gas Corp., 1');">303 F.3d 571, 581 (5th Cir.2002). "A motion to alter or amend the judgment under Rule 59');">59(e) 'must clearly establish either a manifest error of law or fact or must present newly discovered evidence' and 'cannot be used to raise arguments which could, and should, have been made before the judgment issued.'" Rosenzweigv. Azurix Corp., 2 F.3d 854');">332 F.3d 854, 863-64 (5th Cir.2003). Relief may also be appropriate when there has been an intervening change in the controlling law. Schiller v. Physicians Res. Group Inc., 2 F.3d 563');">342 F.3d 563, 567 (5th Cir.2003). Altering, amending, or reconsidering a judgment under Rule 59');">59(e) is an extraordinary remedy that courts should use sparingly. Templet v. HydroChem Inc., 367 F.3d at 479. The Rule 59');">59(e) standard "favors denial of motions to alter or amend a judgment." S. Constructors Group, Inc. v. Dynalectric Co., 2 F.3d 606');">2 F.3d 606, 611 (5th Cir.1993).

         First, Parker challenges the dismissal of her failure to accommodate claim by suggesting that she was qualified to perform Benteler's bar saw operator position. She has offered no new facts or legal arguments in support of this claim. Rather, she cites only evidence already in the record. This is insufficient to support a motion for a new trial. See, e.g., Williams v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 504 F.Supp.2d 176, 197 (S.D. Tex. 2007), aff'd, 269 Fed.Appx. 523 (5th Cir. 2008) (Motion for new trial denied because plaintiff presented "no new facts and allege[d] no intervening change in the law."). Additionally, it is an uncontradicted fact that Parker could not operate the bar saw or the overhead crane (essential functions of the bar saw operator position) because of dizziness. Both parties stipulated to this fact in the proposed pre-trial order that was submitted prior to the ruling on Benteler's motion for summary judgment. [Doc. No. 59');">59, p. 5]

         Second, Parker challenges the dismissal of her failure to accommodate claim by arguing that she did in fact engage in the interactive process. This is despite the uncontroverted evidence in the record detailing: (1) the efforts undertaken by Benteler to obtain the necessary information to facilitate her possible return to work and (2) Parker's refusal to respond to those efforts. The only evidence cited by Parker in support of her request for a new trial are the medical records related to her failed fitness-for-duty evaluation. These records, which were submitted by Benteler in support of its motion for summary judgment, are not "new evidence" that would support the granting of a new trial. Further, the records do not establish anything other than Parker's refusal to cooperate during her fitness-for-duty evaluation.

         Third, Parker argues against the dismissal of her retaliation claim on the grounds that the legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons offered by Benteler for her termination (her inability to perform the essential functions of her job and her refusal to provide documentation regarding her ability to work) are pretextual. However, the only evidence offered by Parker in support of this argument is the fact that she "applied for unemployment compensation." [Doc. No. 74-2, 13');">p. 13] Parker made this same argument, citing the same evidence, in her opposition to Benteler's motion for summary judgment. [Doc. No. 67, p. 9]. Parker's efforts to obtain unemployment benefits following her termination are not relevant to the claims presented in her lawsuit. More importantly, a motion for new trial cannot be supported by simply restating the same argument made in opposition to a motion for summary judgment. E.g. Branch Banking & Trust Co. v. Gedalia, 2012 WL 1231020, *1 (E.D. Tex. 2012) ("Defendant merely reasserts argument already presented to the Court in Defendant's response to the motion for summary judgment, and already ruled on by the Court in its memorandum order and opinion. ...Therefore, the Court finds there is no basis for a new trial, and Defendant's motion for new trial is denied.")

         Fourth, Parker argues that Benteler's motion for summary judgment was merely a partial motion and that her race and sex discrimination charges and her retaliation charge were not presented to the Court for summary judgment. She also argues that she asserted a race discrimination claim in addition to her claims of sexual harassment, failure to accommodate, and retaliation. Benteler responds that it moved for summary judgment of all of Parker's claims, and that the Court dismissed all of Parker's claims. The Court agrees with Benteler.

         Parker's initial Complaint includes allegations that that she was denied a reasonable accommodation and retaliated against "after [she] filed with the EEOC." [Doc. No. 1, p. 3]. Her initial Complaint also includes the allegation that her trainers "was [sic] liking [her]" and "always say [sic] sexual things to me." [Id.] Her Amended Complaint provides additional details regarding her claims of sexual harassment, failure to accommodate, and retaliation [Doc. No. 31]. Neither document contains any allegations of race discrimination.

         Furthermore, Parker confirmed in her deposition, which Benteler offered in support of its motion for summary judgment, that the only three claims included in her lawsuit are a sexual harassment claim, a claim that she was denied a reasonable accommodation, and a retaliation claim:

Q. As I read your petition and your amended petition, you have presented three claims against Benteler; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Okay. My understanding is that the first claim is you contend that you were sexually harassed while you ...

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