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Perry v. Department of Law

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

April 4, 2018

LUCILLE PERRY
v.
DEPARTMENT OF LAW

          APPEAL FROM CITY CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION ORLEANS NO. 7711

          JOEL P. LOEFFELHOLZ Counsel for plaintiff/appellant

          ELIZABETH S. ROBINS DEPUTY CITY ATTORNEY ISAKA R. WILLIAMS ASSISTANT CITY ATTORNEY REBECCA H. DIETZ CITY ATTORNEY Counsel for defendant/appellee.

          Court composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay III, Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Tiffany G. Chase.

          JAMES F. MCKAY III CHIEF JUDGE

          Plaintiff, Dr. Lucille Perry ("Dr. Perry"), appeals the May 30, 2017 ruling of the Civil Service Commission for the City of New Orleans ("CSC"), which determined that Dr. Perry was not owed any back pay upon her reinstatement to employment due to an offset from her interim earnings. Finding no error in the CSC's ruling, we affirm.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The facts of this case are taken from the appeal Perry v. City of New Orleans, 2011-0901, pp. 1-4 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/1/12), 104 So.3d 453, 454-55. ("Perry I").

Appellant [Dr. Perry] began working for the City of New Orleans, Department of Health, as a classified employee with permanent status beginning April 17, 1988, with the class code C5317 and the title of "Senior Environmental Technician." Subsequently, Appellant's class code was changed to C5311, titled "Environmental Tech 1" and then to an "Environmental Specialist III." According to Appellant's testimony, her job duties included handling "crisis cases" with the housing and health inspectors, typically involving elderly abuse, abandoned children, and other social issues. (footnote omitted).
On March 30, 1998, Appellant was transferred from the Department of Health to Municipal Court, with the new classified position of "Medical and Social Services Coordinator, " class code C0295. Appellant's workplace also changed from City Hall to Municipal Court, and her new Appointing Authority was George P. Wells, the Municipal Clerk of Court. Appellant worked in victim services in connection with domestic violence cases and held the title "Victim Services Coordinator."
On January 6, 2003, Appellant's supervision shifted from Municipal Court to the Department of Law. According to Appellant's testimony at the hearing, the determination was reached that it was a conflict of interest for the Victim Services Coordinator to be within Municipal Court because it could reflect a potential bias of the court; therefore, the position was transferred to the Department of Law. Appellant asserts that her job duties remained the same. According to the Civil Service Commission's decision, the need for the administrative transfer was precipitated by a change in funding, as the salary for Appellant's position was funded by a grant which was transferred from the budget of the Municipal Court to the Department of Law.
Also on this date, January 6, 2003, a transfer document was executed, wherein Appellant's civil service status was changed from classified to unclassified, with the new job title of "Asst. Attorney I." According to the testimony of the human resources director/legal budget and finance manager, Vanessa Caliste Swafford, "Attorney I" was a newly created position under class code U0020AA ("U" representing "unclassified"). Appellant denies ever seeing this transfer document and submits that her actual job duties never changed. There is no provision for an employee signature anywhere on the transfer document. (footnotes omitted).
On April 1, 2007, Appellant's position was changed within the Department of Law to the position of "Urban Policy Specialist, " class code U0167.
In the fall of 2008, Appellant was disciplined for an incident that occurred in Municipal Court on July 31, 2008, between Appellant and a Municipal Court Judge. As a result of this incident, Appellant was suspended for one week without pay, and received a disciplinary letter dated September 10, 2008, from City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields. The disciplinary letter included the language: "Lastly, as a reminder, members of the unclassified staff serve at the pleasure of the Administration...." Appellant signed the ...

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