In Spears v. Louisiana College, No. 20-30522, 2023 WL 2810057 (5th Cir. 4/6/2023), the appellate court addressed the situation in which an employee’s duties are are assigned to various employees. Some courts refer to this practice as “fractioning.” Carolyn Spears taught at Louisiana College for many years. She contracted cancer in 2012 and again in 2014. In 2016, she received long-term disability and used her sick leave. In early 2017, the College told her that it would not renew her contract. There was dispute about whether Spears had said she would not be returning for the 2017-2018 school year.


At the district court level, the court granted summary judgment for the employer. The district court had found that the College did not replace Ms. Spears with a younger employee. Instead, it divided her duties among various other teachers. She was not replaced, claimed the district court. But, the Fifth Circuit disagreed. It noted that “fractioning” can amount to replacing an employee with younger employees. One of the teachers who received some of Ms. Spears’ classes was male, buttressing her claim of gender discrimination.

Direct Evidence

Too, said the higher court, there was a fact dispute regarding whether Ms. Spears said she won’t return for the next school year. Certainly, her contemporary emails to the College indicated that she intended to return.

Ms. Spears also alleged she was non-renewed as part of disability discrimination. And, in fact, one of the school administrators specifically said her contract was not renewed because she was “too ill to teach.” That statement clearly amounts to direct evidence that they were motivated by her illness and perceived health issues. See the decision here.