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Williams v. Eysink

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

March 4, 2015

CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS, Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
CURT EYSINK, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE LOUISIANA WORKFORCE COMMISSION AND THE CITY OF RUSTON, Defendants-Appellants

Appealed from the Third Judicial District Court for the Parish of Lincoln, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 56654. Honorable Cynthia T. Woodard, Judge.

KEAN MILLER, By: S. Price Barker, Megan L. Reinkemeyer, Counsel for Appellant, The City of Ruston.

J. JEROME BURDEN, Counsel for Appellant, The Louisiana Workforce Commission.

ESCAMILLA & PONECK, By: Wesley E. Johnson, Counsel for Appellee, Christopher Williams.

Before STEWART, DREW and PITMAN, JJ.

OPINION

Page 31

[49,526 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] STEWART, J.

[49,526 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] Appellants, City of Ruston (" city" ) and Louisiana Workforce Commission (" commission" ), are appealing the trial court's judgment in favor of claimant, Christopher Williams (" Williams" ). The trial court found that the Board of Review's (" board" ) determination that Williams was not entitled to benefits was not supported by facts established by sufficient evidence or applicable law, and reversed. The Appeals Tribunal's (" tribunal" ) decision was reinstated. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Page 32

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Williams worked as a refuse disposal driver for the city from February 27, 200,1 to June 6, 2013. In April 2011, Williams approached Ed Pittman (" Pittman" ), the Assistant Director of Public Works in Ruston, and Lewis Love (" Love" ), the Director of Public Works in Ruston, about allegations of an affair between his wife, Sandra Williams (" Sandra" ), who was also working for the city of Ruston, and his supervisor, Dennis Woods (" Woods" ). Woods was the Solid Waste Superintendent for the city. Williams demanded that Sandra and Woods be fired because of the alleged infidelity. Since there was no allegation of sexual activity taking place at work between Sandra and Woods, Pittman and Love informed Williams that they would not be fired.

The city gave Williams the option of transferring to another position with the same pay and more chances to advance, but he declined. Woods was removed as Williams' supervisor, and Williams was instructed to report directly to Woods' supervisor, Jeff Miller. Williams was allegedly instructed not to have any contact with Woods or Sandra at work. In turn, [49,526 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] Woods and Sandra were instructed not to have contact with Williams at work. Woods and Sandra were permitted to work together, but were instructed to limit their communications at work to work-related issues. These instructions were not put in writing.

On May 14, 2013, an argument took place in Sandra's office involving Williams, Woods, and Sandra. Williams was suspended with pay on May 16, 2013, and his employment was terminated on June 6, 2013.[1] The separation notice stated that Williams was terminated because he " threatened physical violence against two co-workers after being instructed not to have contact with them."

Williams subsequently filed for unemployment compensation benefits with the commission. The commission found that Williams was discharged from his employment because of fighting on duty, but it did not disqualify him, after determining his separation was not for misconduct connected with his employment. The city appealed this decision to the tribunal.

On August 21, 2013, a telephone hearing was conducted at the tribunal office. Pittman, Woods, Janice Turner (" Turner" ), Jim Liner (" Liner" ), and Christy Williams Perry (" Perry" ) testified.

Pittman, who discharged Williams, testified that he was out of town when Williams committed the " threats of physical violence." He further testified that Kevin McGivney and Pat Cargill initiated the investigation into the incident, and that he completed the investigation when he returned from out of town. Pittman also testified regarding the city's policy, stating that [49,526 La.App. 2 Cir. 4] the first offense of physical violence would result in the issuance of a written warning, or a two-day suspension or discharge. He admitted that Williams was never given any written reprimands or suspensions. He further testified that regarding the policy, " we try to stay close to it but we don't follow it completely." It was also noted that in Williams' July 2011 performance review, there was no mention of the May 2011 incident.

Woods testified that the May 14, 2013, incident involved him, Sandra, and Williams in Sandra's office. He stated that Williams " come (sic) over to me and started threatening me" that day, and that he did not do or say anything to ...


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