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Bay v. Jefferson Parish Public Schools

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

April 26, 2017

TAMARA BAY
v.
JEFFERSON PARISH PUBLIC SCHOOLS

         APPEAL FROM THE OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION NO. 13-06425, DISTRICT "8" Honorable Diane R. Lundeen, Workers' Compensation Judge

          William R. Mustian, III STANGA & MUSTIAN, A PLC COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE

          Olden C. Toups, Jr. Grant & Barrow COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT

          Court composed of Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods

          JOY COSSICH LOBRANO, JUDGE

         In this workers' compensation case, defendant/appellant, the Jefferson Parish School Board (the "school board"), appeals the December 17, 2015[1] and March 22, 2016 judgments of the Office of Workers' Compensation ("OWC"), which denied the school board a credit for its payment of sabbatical leave benefits to plaintiff/appellee, Tamara Bay ("Bay"), and awarded penalties and attorney's fees to Bay.

         On August 1, 2012, Bay was injured in the course and scope of her employment with the school board as a teacher when she fell from a bookcase and struck her head on a desk. Following the work-related accident, the school board initiated temporary total disability ("TTD") benefits at a weekly compensation rate of $594.22, based on an average weekly wage of $891.33.

         While receiving TTD benefits, Bay also requested and received sick leave benefits from the school board. Sick leave benefits were paid on a prorated basis as provided by La. R.S. 17:1201 and 17:1202, such that, through the combination of TTD benefits and sick leave benefits, Bay was paid her full pre-injury salary until her sick leave was exhausted.

         After no available sick leave remained, Bay sought to supplement her TTD benefits with sabbatical leave pay under La. R.S. 17:1170, et seq. Bay requested that she be placed on sabbatical leave for the fall 2013 semester, which was granted and became effective on August 7, 2013.[2] The school board stopped Bay's TTD benefits when it initiated her sabbatical leave pay.

         On August 16, 2013, the school board issued a notice of payment, Form LDOL-WC-1002 ("1002"), stating that workers' compensation benefits were stopped on August 7, 2013, because Bay was paid her salary in lieu of compensation while on employer-funded sabbatical leave.

         On September 6, 2013, Bay filed a disputed claim for compensation, Form LDOL-WC-1008 (the "disputed claim" or "1008"), alleging that the school board had terminated or reduced her TTD benefits on August 6, 2013. In her disputed claim, Bay alleged that she was entitled to penalties and attorney's fees.

         The school board issued a new 1002 on September 23, 2013, stating that it modified Bay's TTD benefits based on her receipt of "employer funded disability benefits at the rate of $2, 510.57 per month." According to the 1002, the school board instituted TTD benefits in the amount of $14.86 per week retroactive to August 7, 2013. The weekly payments of $14.86 represented the difference between Bay's weekly compensation rate and sabbatical leave pay.

         On October 16, 2013, Bay returned to work, at which time she resumed receiving her salary and was no longer eligible for TTD benefits.

         This case proceeded to trial on February 13, 2014, where the primary issue before the OWC was whether the school board was entitled to a credit or offset which would reduce the amount of TTD benefits due to Bay by the amount of sabbatical leave pay she received. No live witnesses were presented at trial, the parties filed joint stipulations, and the matter was submitted on briefs.

         On December 17, 2015, [3] the OWC rendered judgment finding that Bay was entitled to receive full TTD benefits in addition to her sabbatical leave pay for the period of August 8, 2013 through October 15, 2013 and that the school board was not entitled to a credit for its payment of sabbatical leave. The OWC ordered the school board to pay $5, 314.40 in satisfaction of its underpayment of TTD benefits from August 8, 2013 through October 15, 2013, as well as $2, 000.00 in penalties and $2, 500.00 in attorney's fees pursuant to La. R.S. 23:1201(F).

         Thereafter, the school board filed a motion for new trial. On March 22, 2016, the OWC rendered judgment granting a new trial, in part, correcting the date of the signing of judgment from 2013 to 2015. The judgment on new trial also revised the trial judgment to include language clarifying that Bay "was entitled to receive full temporary total disability benefits while receiving Sabbatical Pay for the periods from August 8, 2013, through October 15, 2013"[4] and the school board "was not entitled to a credit or offset against Tamara Bay's Temporary Total Disability benefits pursuant to Louisiana Revised Statute 23:1225[5] or Louisiana Revised Statute 23:1206[6]." The OWC denied the new trial, in part, "as to all other parts of the judgment ...


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