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Dillon v. Toys R US-Delaware Corp.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

May 31, 2017

KEVION DILLON AND SEAN STOKES
v.
TOYS R US-DELAWARE CORPORATION, CHANTRELL POREE, CHERELLE PIERSON, SHAWANDA MCGEE & SALINA JOHNSON

         APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2015-07435, DIVISION "J" Honorable Paula A. Brown, Judge

          Kenneth C. Bordes ATTORNEY AT LAW Kara Anne Larson Equal Access Legal COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT.

          Ryan E. Griffitts LITTLER MENDELSON COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE/TOYS R US, INC.

          (Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Rosemary Ledet, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins).

          Roland L. Belsome Judge.

         Kevion Dillon appeals the trial court's sustaining of an exception of no cause of action in favor of Toys R Us, Inc. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand the matter for further proceedings.

         Ms. Dillon was an employee of Babies R Us, which is owned by Toys R Us, Inc. She maintains that she was caused to resign due to acts of harassment and discrimination against her. Following her resignation, Ms. Dillon filed a lawsuit alleging multiple violations of the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law as provided for in La. R.S. 23:301 et seq. In addition to those claims, she also alleges acts of defamation, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and failure to timely pay her final wages in violation of the Louisiana Wage Payment Act.

         Ms. Dillon filed a Rule to Show Cause as to her claims for penalty wages, interest, attorney's fees and costs relating to Toys R Us's violation of the Louisiana Wage Payment Act, La. R.S. 23:631 and 632. In response to the Rule to Show Cause, Toys R Us filed an exception of no cause of action. The trial court sustained the exception of no cause of action and dismissed Ms. Dillon's claims under the Louisiana Wage Payment Act with prejudice. This appeal followed.

         On appeal, Ms. Dillon argues that her petition for damages properly asserts a valid cause of action under La. R.S. 23:631 et seq.

         In Industrial Companies, Inc v. Durbin, the Louisiana Supreme Court succinctly outlined the review of a lower court's sustaining of an exception of no cause of action. Durbin states:

The function of the peremptory exception of no cause of action is to question whether the law extends a remedy against the defendant to anyone under the factual allegations of the petition. The peremptory exception of no cause of action is designed to test the legal sufficiency of the petition by determining whether the particular plaintiff is afforded a remedy in law based on the facts alleged in the pleading. The exception is triable on the face of the petition and, for the purpose of determining the issues raised by the exception, the well-pleaded facts in the petition must be accepted as true. In reviewing a trial court's ruling sustaining an exception of no cause of action, the appellate court and this court should conduct a de novo review because the exception raises a question of law and the trial court's decision is based only on the sufficiency of the petition. Simply stated, a petition should not be dismissed for failure to state a cause of action unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of any claim which would entitle him to relief. Every reasonable interpretation must be accorded the language of the petition in favor of maintaining its sufficiency and affording the plaintiff the opportunity of presenting evidence at trial.[1]

         In this case, the exception of no cause of action concerns only the wage claims under La R.S. 23:631 et seq.[2] The substance of Appellee's exception of no cause of action is that La. R.S. 23:631 expressly states that the employee must be "discharged" or "resign" in order for the statute to apply. Appellee further maintains that Ms. Dillon's petition fails to plead either of those actions occurred. Rather, the petition states that due to the alleged harassment, Ms. Dillon could not return to her job at Babies R Us and that constituted a "constructive discharge." Appellee contends that "constructive discharge" is not covered under the statute and therefore Ms. Dillon has failed to state a cause of action under the statutes.

         In reviewing the correctness of the trial court's ruling, the focus is on whether the law provides a remedy against the particular defendant in this case. In Ms. Dillon's petition, she asserts a cause of action for "Failure to Make Timely Payment of Wages." La. R.S. 23:631dictates the manner in which employers must pay an employee owed wages upon the termination of their employment. The statute reads in pertinent part:

A. (1)(a) Upon the discharge of any laborer or other employee of any kind whatever, it shall be the duty of the person employing such laborer or other employee to pay the amount then due under the terms of employment, whether the employment is by the hour, day, week, or month, on or before the next regular payday or no ...

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