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Holliday v. State

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

June 14, 2017

CAREY R. HOLLIDAY
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA, THROUGH THE LOUISIANA WORKFORCE COMMISSION, OFFICE OF WORKER'S COMPENSATION

         On Appeal from the 19th Judicial District Court, Parish of East Baton Rouge, State of Louisiana Trial Court No. C648048 The Honorable R. Michael Caldwell, Judge Presiding

          Gregory J. Miller, Baton Rouge, Louisiana Attorney for Plaintiff/Appellant, Carey R. Holliday

          Peter G. Wright, John W. Williams, Jr., Baton Rouge, Louisiana Attorneys for Defendant/Appellee, Louisiana Workforce Commission

          BEFORE: WELCH, CRAIN, AND HOLDRIDGE, JJ.

          CRAIN, J.

         Carey R. Holliday appeals the district court's judgment sustaining an exception to lack of subject matter jurisdiction and dismissing his suit against the State of Louisiana, Office of Workers' Compensation, through the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC). Finding the district court has jurisdiction to decide this matter, we reverse and remand.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Holliday filed this suit for unpaid wages, alleging that on December 2, 2015, he separated from his employment with LWC as an unclassified district worker's compensation judge. He claimed he was owed, but not paid, $5, 868.34 in "premium pay, " paid to district judges for the performance of administrative duties. Holliday pled that LWC failed to respond to his demand for payment, leading him to file suit for the premium pay, penalties and attorney fees pursuant to the Louisiana Wage Payment Act.

         In response, LWC filed an exception of lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing the Civil Service Commission did not authorize premium pay for the time period at issue for Holliday's position, and the payments Holliday claimed were not due. LWC asserted that the approval of premium pay falls within the Louisiana State Civil Service Commission's exclusive jurisdiction to regulate and administer the state's classified service. LWC argued that the Louisiana Wage Payment Act could not be used to settle Holliday's dispute with his employer over his entitlement to premium pay. Holliday countered that after leaving his employment, his only recourse was to file suit under the Louisiana Wage Payment Act, which is properly brought in district court.

         The district court found this case to involve the interpretation of civil service rules and regulations as to whether Holliday was owed premium pay, which jurisdiction is vested exclusively with the Commission. The district court found the jurisdictional question unaffected by the fact that Holliday was no longer employed with LWC. The district court sustained the exception of lack of subject matter jurisdiction and dismissed Holliday's suit. Holliday now appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         The exception of lack of subject matter jurisdiction challenges the court's legal power and authority to adjudicate the cause before it. See La. Code Civ. Pro. art. 2; Bon Amis Investments, LLC v. Lapeyrouse, 15-1459 (La.App. 1 Cir. 5/5/16), 195 So.3d 514, 517 n.2. The Louisiana Constitution vests the district courts with original jurisdiction over all civil matters, except as otherwise authorized by the constitution. La. Const, art. V, § 16(A)(1). Exceptions to the general rule that district courts have original jurisdiction in all civil matters are limited to their express terms. See Broussard Physical Therapy v. Family Dollar Stores, Inc., 08-1013 (La. 12/2/08), 5 So.3d 812, 818. At issue here is whether Holliday's claims are within the jurisdiction vested by the constitution in the Commission or the district courts.

         The Louisiana Constitution grants legislative, executive, and judicial powers to the Commission. See La. Const, art. X, § 10(A)(1); La. Const, art. X, § 12(A); Hawkins v. State Through Department of Health and Hospitals, 613 So.2d 229, 232 (La. 1992). Section 10(A)(1)(a) defines the Commission's executive and legislative powers:

Each commission is vested with broad and general rulemaking and subpoena powers for the administration and regulation of the classified service, including the power to adopt rules for regulating employment, promotion, demotion, suspension, reduction in pay, removal, certification, qualifications, political activities, employment conditions, compensation and disbursements to employees, and other personnel matters and transactions; to adopt a uniform pay and classification plan; to require an appointing authority to institute an employee training ...

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