In 1997, the Louisiana Legislature passed the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, La. R.S. 23:301, et seq., “LEDL.” Prior to 1997, Louisiana’s various discrimination statutes were non-uniform and scattered throughout the revised statutes. The LEDL repealed and reenacted many of Louisiana’s employment discrimination statutes as part of a single, comprehensive piece of legislation found in one Title of the Revised Statutes.
The LEDL left in place, however, some of the statutes passed as part of Louisiana’s Commission on Human Rights Act, La. R.S. 51:2256, “LCHRA.” Thus, one question left unanswered by the Legislature was whether employment discrimination remained an unlawful practice under the LCHRA. This is a significant issue because the LEDL, like its federal law counterpart – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act – prohibits employment discrimination by “employers.” In contrast, the LCHRA refers to “person” or “persons,” not “employers.” Thus, under the LCHRA individuals could potentially be held liable for unlawful employment discrimination.
The leading scholarly article on the 1997 creation of the LEDL is The New Louisiana Employment Statutes: What Hath the Legislature Wrought, 58 La. Law Rev 1033 (1988), Gerald J. “Jerry” Huffman, Jr. The article is a lengthy analysis of pre- and post-1997 law. With regard to individual liability, Mr. Huffman concluded that only employers, not individuals, could be sued for employment discrimination under Louisiana’s laws.
In Smith v. Parish of Washington, c/w Dufrene v. Town of Franklinton, C.A. Nos. 02-3385 and 02-3392, 318 F.Supp.2d 366 (E.D. La. 2004), Judge Eldon Fallon of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, reached the same conclusion as Mr. Huffman. Judge Fallon held that as a matter of law, La. R.S. 51:2256 did not provide a cause of action for unlawful employment discrimination. Judge Fallon’s ruling is significant because it recognizes the legislative changes to the LCHRA and eliminates a procedural vehicle for asserting a cause of action against an individual defendant for unlawful employment discrimination. Judge Fallon’s ruling is also significant because there are very few cases that address the issue.