Johnson v. Board of Supervisors of LSU
Opinion Date: January 8, 2024
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Labor & Employment Law
In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reviewed an appeal by Carolyn Johnson, an African-American female who worked at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) as an Administrative Coordinator. Johnson alleged that she experienced sexual and racial harassment as well as retaliation from her former employer, LSUHSC. The harassment claims were based on a specific incident involving a colleague, Dr. Jeffrey Schumacher, slapping her on the buttocks, as well as several other instances of inappropriate behavior by Schumacher in the months preceding this incident. After reporting the conduct to her supervisor and Human Resources, Johnson was temporarily relocated to a different workspace while an investigation was conducted. Johnson claimed this relocation was in retaliation for her reporting the harassment.
The court affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of LSUHSC on all counts. Regarding the harassment claims, the court found that while Johnson had sufficiently demonstrated that she was the victim of uninvited sexual and racial harassment, she failed to show that LSUHSC knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take prompt remedial action. The court determined that LSUHSC took action to separate Johnson and Schumacher in response to Johnson's complaint and began an investigation into the matter, which was ultimately substantiated.
In terms of the retaliation claim, the court found that Johnson failed to demonstrate that LSUHSC's decision to relocate her was a pretext for retaliation. The court noted that LSUHSC provided a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for her relocation, which was to separate Johnson and Schumacher during the investigation. Johnson did not present evidence to suggest that this reason was pretextual. Therefore, the court affirmed summary judgment on Johnson’s retaliation claim.
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