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Chadwell v. Brewer

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Big Stone Gap Division

October 1, 2014

KELLY S. CHADWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
LISA BREWER, et. al., Defendants

Page 757

For Kelly S Chadwell, Plaintiff: Hilary K. Johnson, LEAD ATTORNEY, HILARY K. JOHNSON, PC, Abingdon, VA USA.

For Lisa Brewer, Don Williams, Ty Harber, Kyle Chadwell, Mike Twigg, Debbie Jessee, Mark Carter, Lee County School Board, Defendants: Robert Lucas Hobbs, Sheri Ann Hiter, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Elliott Lawson & Minor PC, Bristol, VA USA.

For Gary Parsons, Bobby Ellis, Defendants: Henry S. Keuling-Stout, LEAD ATTORNEY, Keuling-Stout, P.C., Big Stone Gap, VA USA.

For Gregory D Edwards, Defendant: Holly Nicole Mancl, Richard E. Ladd, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEYS, Penn Stuart & Eskridge, Bristol, TN USA; William Bradford Stallard, LEAD ATTORNEY, Penn Stuart & Eskridge Abingdon, VA USA.

Page 758

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Hon. Glen E. Conrad, Chief United States District Judge.

This case arises from Plaintiff Kelly Chadwell's termination from his position as a special education teacher in Lee County, Virginia. Chadwell alleges that the individual defendants violated his constitutional rights, and that the Lee County School Board (" Lee County" ) violated the Family and Medical Leave Act (" FMLA" ). The case is presently before the court on three motions: (1) the motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Lisa Brewer, Don Williams, Ty Harber, Kyle Chadwell, Mike Twigg, Debbie Jessee, Mark Carter, and

Page 759

Lee County (collectively, " the school defendants" ); (2) the motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Gregory Edwards; and (3) the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Gary Parsons and Bobby Ellis. For the following reasons, these motions will be granted.

Statement of Facts[1]

Chadwell was employed by Lee County from August 2003 until his termination in 2013. He worked as a special education teacher at Jonesville Middle School (" JMS" ) for the two years immediately preceding his termination. During his time at JMS, Chadwell was afforded the use of a secluded office located at the end of a dead-end hallway. Chadwell shared this office with a teacher's aide who used it to store her belongings, entering only briefly at the beginning and end of each workday. Others rarely entered the office. For example, Principal Lisa Brewer visited Chadwell's office only once during the two years he worked at JMS.

At some point during Chadwell's employment at JMS, Brewer suspected that he was drinking alcohol in his office during school hours. She did not speak with Chadwell directly about her concerns. Instead, Brewer approached Mark Carter, Lee County Superintendent, and Gregory Edwards, counsel for Lee County, about placing a video camera in Chadwell's office. At the request of Brewer, Carter, and Edwards, Lee County Deputy Sheriff Bobby Ellis put a video camera, hidden inside a stuffed animal, in the office to record Chadwell's activities. Each day, Ellis downloaded the footage, which was reviewed by Brewer and Carter, as well as School Board members Don Williams, Ty Harber, Kyle Chadwell, Mike Twigg, and Debbie Jessee. On one occasion, the video footage showed Chadwell drinking a can of beer at his desk.

After reviewing this footage, Brewer and Carter confronted Chadwell and demanded that he sign a " Last Chance Agreement" (the " Agreement" ) or face termination. This Agreement required that Chadwell (1) take paid leave to participate in a thirty-day in-patient alcohol rehabilitation treatment program, (2) never drink alcohol again, (3) permit Lee County to withhold $250 a month from his paycheck to defray the costs of hiring a replacement during his leave, and (4) sign a full release of all medical records regarding his treatment to the school defendants. Chadwell signed the Agreement to avoid losing his job, even though he strongly disagreed with its terms.

Pursuant to the Agreement, Defendants obtained Chadwell's medical records during his leave. These records revealed statements Chadwell made to his counselor, including admissions that he drank a beer at the Kentucky Derby and that he did not remain in an in-patient alcohol rehabilitation program for thirty days as required by the Agreement. Lee County terminated Chadwell's employment on August 13, 2013 as a result of these violations.

Page 760

Procedural History

Chadwell commenced this action on January 22, 2014, naming Brewer, Carter, Edwards, Ellis, Parsons, Williams, Harber, Chadwell, Twigg, Jessee, and Lee County as defendants. In his complaint, Chadwell asserts a claim against the individual defendants under § 1983, contending that they violated his constitutional rights when they placed a hidden video camera in his office. Chadwell also asserts a claim against Lee County, alleging that it violated the FMLA by requiring him to pay for his FMLA leave. Chadwell seeks compensatory, punitive, and liquidated damages, reinstatement to his former position, and attorney's fees and costs.

The defendants in this action have proceeded in three groups. First, the school defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure on April 8, 2014, Docket No. 35. The court held a hearing on this motion on June 17, 2014, and then took the motion under advisement in anticipation of hearings on similar motions filed by the other defendants. Edwards filed a filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on June 13, 2014, Docket No. 44.[2] Parsons and Ellis filed an answer to the complaint on March 20, 2014, Docket No. 34, and then filed a motion for summary judgment on August 8, 2014, Docket No. 54. In response, Chadwell filed a motion to stay summary judgment pending discovery on August 15, 2014, Docket No. 58. The court held a hearing on Edwards' motion to dismiss, Parsons and Ellis's motion for summary judgment, and Chadwell's motion to stay on August 20, 2014. These motions, along with the school defendants' earlier motion to dismiss, have been extensively briefed[3] and are now ripe for review.

Standard of Review

A 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of Charlottesville,464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). When considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept the well-pled facts in the complaint as true and make all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). However, the court need not accept as true any legal conclusions disguised as factual allegations. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679-81, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). The plaintiff's allegations need not be detailed, but he must offer more than " labels and conclusions" or a " formulaic recitation of the elements of [the] cause of action" in order to survive ...


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