United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division
MEMORANDUM ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
L. MAZZANT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
for consideration the Report of the United States Magistrate
Judge in this action, this matter having been referred to the
United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636. On May 2, 2019, the Report and Recommendation of the
Magistrate Judge was entered (the “Report”)
(see Dkt. #27) recommending Defendant Castle
Montessori Schools, Inc.'s (“Defendant”)
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Dkt. #19) be denied.
See Dkt. #27 at 9.
filed objections to the Report (the “Objections,
” Dkt. #28) and Plaintiff filed a Response (Dkt. #30).
The Court has made a de novo review of the
Objections and is of the opinion that the findings and
conclusions of the Magistrate Judge are correct and the
Objections are without merit as to the ultimate findings of
the Magistrate Judge. The Court hereby adopts the findings
and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge as the findings and
conclusions of the Court.
case arises out of Defendant's termination of Plaintiff
Andrea Houser. Plaintiff was employed by Defendant, first as
a preschool teacher and later in a housekeeping/kitchen role.
See Dkt. #1 at 2; Dkt. #19-1 at 3; Dkt. #25 at 1;
Dkt. #25-2 at 15, 19. Plaintiff alleges that after she was
asked by Defendant to provide information related to her
medical restrictions and disability, she provided said
information, and was subsequently terminated. See
Dkt. #25 at 1; Dkt. #25-2 at 15, 19. Plaintiff further
alleges she was terminated on the basis of her disability and
that Defendant refused to determine if a reasonable
accommodation could be found. See Dkt. #25 at 1-3.
Defendant moved for summary judgment on the issues of: (1)
whether Plaintiff's claim for back pay should be limited
due to an offer of reinstatement extended by Defendant; and
(2) whether Plaintiff's claims for back pay, front pay,
and reinstatement should be dismissed because Plaintiff has
not applied for any teaching jobs since her termination.
See Dkt. #19.
Magistrate Judge found a question of fact regarding whether
either a substantive reinstatement offer was tendered or
Plaintiff acted unreasonably in rejecting the reinstatement
offer. See Dkt. #27 at 6-7. Defendant argues that
the Court should find Plaintiff unreasonably rejected an
unconditional reinstatement offer as a matter of law.
See Dkt. #28.
judgment is appropriate when, viewing the evidence and all
justifiable inferences in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party, there is no genuine issue of material fact
and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S.
541, 549 (1999). The appropriate inquiry is “whether
the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one
party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986).
a defendant establishes that it made an unconditional offer
for a substantially similar position, then the plaintiff must
present evidence that the refusal was reasonable.”
See Mahoney v. Ernst & Young LLP, 487 F.Supp.2d
780, 785-86 (S.D. Tex. 2006) (citing Ford Motor Co v.
E.E.O.C., 458 U.S. 219, 241 (1982); Smith v. World
Ins. Co., 38 F.3d 1456, 1465 (8th Cir. 1994)). Courts
consider whether the totality of the circumstances would have
allowed the jury to reach the conclusion that it was
objectively reasonable to reject an offer. See id.
(noting that courts have considered the length of time
between termination and offers of reinstatement).
reviewing the evidence, the Court finds there is evidence
from which a reasonable juror could find that Plaintiff acted
reasonably in denying Defendant's offer of reinstatement.
The offer was made “more than one and [a] half years
after [Plaintiff's] termination[, ]”Plaintiff
alleges that her experience “left a lasting, negative
impact on [Plaintiff's] life, ” which has impacted
her “disabilities and ability to work as a teacher,
” and Plaintiff believes that if she were to be
reinstated, her former supervisor, Varsha Patel
(“Patel”), would continue to bully and
discriminate against her. See Dkt. #24 at 6-7; Dkt.
#19-1 at 1-18. Defendant argues that the Court should
disregard the proffered reasons as “conclusory.”
See Dkt. #28. However, considering the totality of
the circumstances, it is possible a jury could find that it
was objectively reasonable for Plaintiff to reject
Defendant's offer. Accordingly, the Court finds no error
in the Magistrate Judge's determination and this
objection is OVERRULED.
argues the Magistrate Judge erred in finding a fact question
regarding whether Plaintiff failed to mitigate damages.
See Dkt. #28 at 5. A plaintiff suing for back pay
under the Americans with Disabilities Act has a duty to
mitigate her damages with reasonable diligence to obtain
substantially equivalent employment. Migas v. Pearle
Vision, Inc., 135 F.3d 1041, 1045 (5th Cir. 1998). The
“employer has the burden of proving failure to
mitigate.” Palasota v. Haggar Clothing, Co.,
499 F.3d 474, 486 (5th Cir. 2007). Defendant can meet this
burden by demonstrating: (1) substantially equivalent work
was available, and (2) Plaintiff did not exercise reasonable
diligence to obtain this work. Sellers v. Delgado
Coll, 902 F.2d 1189, 1193 (5th Cir. 1990) (citation
is evidence Plaintiff applied, and was interviewed, for jobs,
but that none of the jobs for which Plaintiff applied were in
Montessori education. See Dkt. #19 at 1-3; Dkt.
#19-1 at 4. However, at the time of Plaintiff's
termination, Plaintiff was employed in a housekeeping and
kitchen role, rather than as a teacher for Defendant.
See Dkt. #25 at 1; Dkt. #25-2 at 15, 19; Dkt. #25-4
at 39. Defendant submitted evidence that for the period
between six days and “over one month ago” prior
to the drafting of Patel's declaration in January of
2019, there were jobs ...