United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
JOSEPH TANNER, JR.
CHARBONNEAU INDUSTRIES, INC.
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 22). Plaintiff Joseph Tanner filed a Memorandum in
Opposition (Doc. 30), to which Defendant filed a Reply (Doc.
36). For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's Motion
(Doc. 22) is GRANTED IN PART, DENIED IN PART.
was employed as a field service technician in Defendant's
Geismar, Louisiana facility for approximately four years,
beginning in July of 2013. (Doc. 16, at 2). Plaintiff, who
suffers from epilepsy, experienced a seizure on April 19,
2017 while working off-site in Texas. Id. Plaintiff
claims this seizure resulted from a change in medication
prescribed by his physician. Id. He was released
from medical care by his physician on April 21, 2017.
Id., at 3. In his deposition, Plaintiff testified
that he has had epilepsy since he was 2 years old and
diagnosed at the age of 12. (Doc. 30-2, at 11). Upon return
to work, Defendant prohibited Plaintiff from performing a
range of tasks on the job. Brian Vice, the Plant Manager,
testified that these restrictions were initially implemented
as an internal precaution. (Doc. 30-4, at 22). Amanda
Runnells, who worked in Defendant's human resources
department, testified that as of Plaintiffs return to work on
April 21, 2017, Defendant could not yet impose restrictions.
(Doc. 30-9, at 4-5). Runnells interfaced with Automated Data
Processing, Inc. ("ADP"), a provider of human
resources management software and services, to discuss
matters such as Plaintiffs leave and employment status. The
initial release from Good Shephard, the hospital to which
Plaintiff was admitted following his seizure, permitted
Plaintiff to return to work one day from the date of the
seizure and required him to follow up with a neurologist.
Id. Plaintiff complied, and this second release,
signed by a neurologist, permitted Plaintiff to return to
work on April 24, 2017 with restrictions, including a note
indicating that activities including driving are dangerous
for the patient. Id., at 76.
this second release, Plaintiff was stationed in the workshop
for eight weeks, where he was not permitted to drive a
vehicle or work around machinery or high-voltage electricity.
(Doc. 22-2, at 12). Vice testified that Plaintiff "did
very little" during this time and always had someone
with him, but that this was due to internal precautions,
rather than any order from a doctor. (Doc. 30-4, at 22).
According to Billy Franklin, Plaintiffs manager, there were
several tasks in the shop that Plaintiff was well-suited for,
even after his seizure. (Doc. 30-3, at 12-13). Alternatively,
Plaintiff had been in discussions with his supervisor to move
to a position in shipping and receiving. Shipping and
receiving paid less, but Plaintiff stated he was willing to
take a pay cut. Franklin and Plaintiff never got to the point
of establishing an acceptable rate before Plaintiffs
termination, but Franklin had hoped to raise the rate to $25
per hour, only $5 per hour less than Plaintiff earned as a
field technician. Id., at 14, 37.
of the interactive process with Plaintiff, Defendant prepared a
medical questionnaire to be completed by Plaintiffs
physicians to elaborate on Plaintiffs status. On May 22,
2017, while Plaintiff was still working in the shop, this
questionnaire was returned. Under the
"accommodations" section, the questionnaire
indicated that Plaintiff could perform all activities, but
that caution should be taken for driving, climbing, and other
activities. (Doc. 22-7, at 2). It also indicated that medical
leave was not necessary, because seizures are unpredictable.
It further restricted driving for a period of six months
after Plaintiffs last seizure. Id, Under
"reasonable accommodations that would eliminate the
direct safety or health threat or reduce it to an acceptable
level" the physician wrote that cautious steps can be
taken towards driving and climbing. Id., at 3.
Plaintiff alleges that on June 19, 2017, he was told that the
following Friday would be his last day. (Doc. 16, at 3). He
further alleges that he was told on July 7, 2017, that
Defendant no longer has any full-time work available for him.
In her deposition, Runnells testified that Plaintiff seemed
to be confused about when he was terminated, as when someone
is told that they don't have a full-time position
available, the employee tends to assume termination. (Doc.
22-6, at 27). Runnells further testified that Plaintiff
ceased coming back to work on July 7, 2017. Id., at
15. However, per ADP's advice, Defendant did not formally
terminate Plaintiff because Plaintiff intended to apply for
FMLA leave. Id. at 27.
he still worked for Defendant, Plaintiff obtained forms to
file for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act
("FMLA"). (Doc. 16, at 3). Plaintiff testified at
his deposition that he thought Defendant was supposed to fill
out the FMLA paperwork because they told him he was not being
let go for medical reasons, which Plaintiff disagreed with,
but that he nonetheless believed that Defendant would not
fill it out. (Doc. 30-2, at 37). He further testified that
Runnells confirmed that she would not help him fill out the
paperwork. Id. at 41. Ultimately, Plaintiff did not
return the paperwork. Runnells testified that they had
informed Plaintiff that, per company policy, he was required
to inform the company by July 11, 2017, whether or not he
would apply for FMLA leave, and that the company only
proceeded with termination when Plaintiff failed to do so.
Id. at 61.
to his termination, Plaintiff retained an attorney and
eventually filed suit alleging discrimination in violation of
ADA and the Louisiana antidiscrimination laws, and the
interference and retaliation under the FMLA. Vice testified
that Defendant had planned to let Plaintiff go because he
could not get clearance from his doctor to perform all of his
usual job functions. (Doc. 30-4, at 23). In its Reply,
Defendant defends its termination of Plaintiff by arguing
that Plaintiffs proposed accommodations were not feasible
both because there was not enough work to keep Plaintiff busy
on a full-time basis in the shop, and that a shipping
position was not vacant at the time of Plaintiffs separation.
(Doc. 36, at 2-3).
judgment shall be granted "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." FED.
R. ClV. P. 56(a). A fact is "material" if it would
affect the outcome of the case, and a dispute is
"'genuine' if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving
party." Warren v. Fed, Nat'l Mortg.
Ass'nt 932 F.3d 378, 382-83 (5th Cir.
2019) (citation omitted).
determining whether the movant is entitled to summary
judgment, the Court views the facts in the light most
favorable to the non-movant and draws all reasonable
inferences in his favor. Roberson-King v. Louisiana
Workforce Comm'n, Office of Workforce Dev., 904 F.3d
377, 380 (5th Cir. 2018). The Court "resolve[s] factual
controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, but only where
there is an actual controversy, that is, when both parties
have submitted evidence of contradictory facts."
Antoine v. First Student, Inc., 713 F.3d 824, 830
(5th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted).
the nonmovant bears the burden of proof at trial, the movant
may merely point to an absence of evidence, thus shifting to
the nonmovant the burden of demonstrating by competent
summary judgment proof that there is an issue of material
fact warranting trial." In re Louisiana ...