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Aguillard v. Louisiana College

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

August 26, 2019

JOE W. AGUILLARD
v.
LOUISIANA COLLEGE

          MARK L. HORNSBY, MAG. JUDGE.

          RULING

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Joe W. Aguillard (“Aguillard”) sued his former employer, Louisiana College (“LC”), alleging, in part, that LC filed a defamation suit against him in the Ninth Judicial District Court in and for Rapides Parish, Louisiana, in retaliation for his filing a charge of discrimination and a whistleblower complaint against LC. The defamation suit remains pending in state court.

         Pending here is LC's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 84] seeking dismissal of Aguillard's retaliation claim. Aguillard has filed an opposition [Doc. No. 91]. LC has filed a reply [Doc. No. 92]. Aguillard has filed a supplemental memorandum in opposition and supplemental affidavits [Doc. Nos. 105, 113, 114]. LC has filed a reply to Aguillard's supplemental memorandum [Doc. No. 109].

         For the following reasons, the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

         I. FACTS

         Aguillard served as President of LC from January of 2005 to July of 2014. Thereafter he served as “President Emeritus” of LC and as a fully tenured member of the faculty. [Doc. No. 1, ¶¶ 1-5]. LC employed an acting president to follow Aguillard for one year, and LC then hired Dr. Richard Brewer (“Brewer”) as president. Brewer has held the job since April 2015.

         LC terminated Aguillard's employment effective March 31, 2016. Following his termination, Aguillard filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights, alleging that LC had discriminated against him because of disability, religion, and in retaliation for opposing illegal practices in violation of the American With Disabilities Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213 (“ADA”), and Title VII. He filed a second charge of retaliation/discrimination with the EEOC and set forth more fully his religious beliefs conflict with Brewer.[1] The EEOC issued a “Right to Sue” letter on both charges. [Id. at¶¶ 31-33].

         Aguillard's original Complaint invoked federal laws that prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, age, and disability. Aguillard also alleged that LC retaliated against him for complaining about and opposing unlawful discrimination.[2]

         On May 25, 2017, LC, Brewer and Dr. Cheryl Clark (“Clark”) jointly filed a defamation action against Aguillard in the Ninth Judicial District Court in and for Rapides Parish, Louisiana. The lawsuit alleges that Aguillard made defamatory statements against the plaintiffs in complaints to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (“SACSCOC”).

         On November 13, 2018, Aguillard filed a motion for leave to file his First Amended Complaint [Doc. No. 32]. LC opposed the motion for leave [Doc. No. 34]. On February 14, 2019, Magistrate Judge Hornsby issued a Report and Recommendation which recommended that Aguillard's motion for leave be granted [Doc. No. 54]. On March 1, 2019, this Court adopted the Report and Recommendation [Doc. No. 57], and the First Amended Complaint was filed [Doc. No. 58].

         Pertinent here is Paragraph 31A of the First Amended Complaint, which alleges:

“31A
On or about May 25, 2017, and in retaliation against Plaintiff for filing a “Charge of Discrimination” against Louisiana College and for filing a “Whistleblower” Complaint against Louisiana College, Louisiana College, Dr. Richard B. Brewer, and Dr. Cheryl Clark jointly filed a defamation suit against Plaintiff in the Nineth [sic] Judicial District Court in and for Rapides Parish, Louisiana, which remains pending.

(Doc. 58, ¶ 31A).

         LC argues in its Motion for Partial Summary Judgment that Aguillard's retaliation claim, as set forth in Paragraph 31A, should be dismissed with prejudice. The motion is fully briefed, and the Court is prepared to rule.

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), A[a] party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense--or the part of each claim or defense--on which summary judgment is sought. The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion by identifying portions of the record which highlight the absence of genuine issues of material fact. Topalian v. Ehrmann, 4 F.2d 1125');">954 F.2d 1125, 1132 (5th Cir. 1992); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1) (AA party asserting that a fact cannot be . . . disputed must support the assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . .). A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the lawsuit under applicable law in the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242');">477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable fact finder could render a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

         If the moving party can meet the initial burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Norman v. Apache Corp., 19 F.3d 1017, 1023 (5th Cir. 1994). In evaluating the evidence tendered by the parties, the Court must accept the evidence of the nonmovant as credible and draw all justifiable inferences in its favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However, “a party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence.” Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337');">476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.)

         B. Analysis

         The defamation suit filed in state court by LC, Brewer, and Clark alleges four (4) causes of action against Aguillard in connection with complaints he made to SACSCOC:

(1) Aguillard made defamatory statements falsely accusing LC and Brewer of failing to follow LC's dismissal procedure for tenured faculty members when LC terminated Aguillard's employment;
(2) Aguillard made defamatory statements falsely accusing LC and Clark of illegal grade changing with regard to nursing students;
(3) Aguillard made defamatory statements falsely accusing LC, Brewer and Clark of not providing instruction to Aguillard's students in his ED 750 class after he was placed on administrative leave, and falsely accusing them of assigning the students ...

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