Former Houma police chief files disability discrimination suit

Michelle Massey May 25, 2010, 1:21pm

Former Houma Police Chief Patrick Boudreaux has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government alleging that he was forced into retirement.

According to his suit filed May 11 in federal court in New Orleans, Boudreaux alleges that after he began exhibiting symptoms that included loss of muscular coordination and strength, he underwent a series of medical tests that ultimately led to a diagnosis of neuromyelitis opitca in December 2005.

The rare disease is demonstrated by loss of vision and spinal cord function as one's immune system attacks optic nerves and spinal cords, the suit states.

Boudreaux claims that he was still able to perform the essential functions of his job. He claims he coordinated the police response following hurricanes Katrina and Rita during September and October 2005.

According to the his complaint, Boudreaux's problems began when Michel Claudet was elected to serve as the president for the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government in the fall of 2007.

Boudreaux states that shortly after Claudet took office, they had a meeting in which Claudet advised him that the medical condition was causing Boudreaux to project a poor image of his administration.

"Complainant shows that President Claudet further advised that employees, like cats and dogs, could sense that he was weakened by the disease," the complaint states.

After the meeting, Claudet informed Boudreaux that he would be evaluated over the next couple of months and if his medical condition did not improve he would be replaced.

After a series of complaints and meetings, Boudreaux was placed on forced medical leave in May 2008. A few months later, Claudet converted the medical leave to administrative leave, Boudreaux claims. He remained on administrative leave until the spring of 2010, when he resigned his employment in fear of his personal health, life and ability to pay for treatment. Under his resignation agreement, he was allowed to keep his group health insurance.

The lawsuit argues the resignation amounted to a constructive discharge in violation of U.S. law. He accuses the defendant of discriminating and retaliatory actions because he suffered from a permanent disability.

Boudreaux is seeking damages for lost wages, lost cost of living increase, loss of retirement opportunities and benefits, emotional pain, suffering and stress, physical injuries, attorney's fees and court costs.

Baton Rogue attorney Charles L. Dirks, III of Avant & Falcon is representing the plaintiff. Jury trial is requested.

U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:10cv01442

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