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Calamia v. Core Laboratories, LP

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

May 30, 2018

RICK CALAMIA, JR.
v.
CORE LABORATORIES, LP

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 772-449, DIVISION "J" HONORABLE STEPHEN C. GREFER, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, RICK CALAMIA, JR. In Proper Person

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, CORE LABORATORIES, LP Mark R. Beebe, Adrienne C. May

          Panel composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Robert A. Chaisson, and Hans J. Liljeberg

          HANS J. LILJEBERG, JUDGE.

         Plaintiff appeals a trial court judgment rendered in favor of defendant, dismissing plaintiff's claims for unpaid wages, penalty wages, attorney fees, and costs. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff, Rick Calamia, Jr., was employed by defendant, Core Laboratories, LP ("Core Lab"), from January 25, 2016 through December 2, 2016. After his employment was terminated, Mr. Calamia asserted that he was owed compensation for various unpaid wages. Core Lab disputed that any wages remained unpaid and declined to compensate Mr. Calamia for the wages he claimed. On May 23, 2017, Mr. Calamia initiated summary proceedings against Core Lab pursuant to the Louisiana Wage Payment Act, La. R.S. 23:631, et seq., seeking unpaid wages, penalty wages, attorney fees, and costs.

         In his Motion for Summary Relief, Mr. Calamia asserted that at the time of his discharge, Core Lab owed him for 73.8 hours of unpaid wages at his regular pay rate of $24.00 per hour, totaling $1, 808.16. He contended that those wages included 7 hours of time entry wages, 16 hours of holiday pay, 49 hours of accrued Personal Time Off ("PTO"), and 3.34 hours of accrued sick leave, referred to as Extended Illness Bank ("EIB"). Mr. Calamia asserted that Core Lab failed to timely pay him these wages which were due under the terms of his employment, in violation of La. R.S. 23:631(A)(1)(a). Thus, he argued that he was entitled to not only the unpaid wages, but also ninety days of penalty wages pursuant to La. R.S. 23:632(A).

         Core Lab filed a memorandum in opposition to Mr. Calamia's claims, asserting that Core Lab had paid Mr. Calamia all of the wages to which he was entitled under the terms of his employment. It argued that Mr. Calamia used all of his PTO time, was paid for all time entry wages and holiday wages, and was not entitled to wages for any remaining EIB hours following his termination pursuant to company policy. Core Lab further argued that no penalty wages were due, because no wages remained outstanding and, even if they had been, there was a good faith dispute as to whether wages were owed.

         On July 24, 2017, this matter came for hearing before the trial court. At the hearing, Mr. Calamia testified that he began working for Core Lab in the position of Inspector II on January 25, 2016. Because he was a student with classes during the week, he was scheduled to work only on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Mr. Calamia testified that he was guaranteed to receive pay for 40 hours per week, plus overtime and holiday pay. He also stated that he earned PTO, which accrued at a rate of 4.0 hours each bi-weekly pay period, and EIB, which accrued at a rate of 1.54 hours each bi-weekly pay period.

         According to Mr. Calamia, during his employment, he decided to get treatment for a medical condition, so he consulted with his employer to make arrangements to take vacation (PTO) time. The medical procedure took place on or about October 25, 2016, which was a weekday, and he was scheduled to take PTO for the following weekend work days. Mr. Calamia testified that the pain from the procedure was worse than he had anticipated, so he asked for the second weekend off as well. Mr. Calamia provided Core Lab with a document from his doctor indicating that he was released to return to work as of November 7, 2016, but it did not indicate whether he could return to work with or without restrictions. Core Lab indicated that it would need this information regarding any restrictions before allowing Mr. Calamia to return to work.

         Core Lab placed Mr. Calamia on a medical leave of absence, pursuant to the company policy, which provided that an employee would be placed on medical leave if he was to be absent from work "for more than seven (7) calendar days necessitated by physical incapacity to work for any reason." Mr. Calamia obtained a second release to return to work from his treating physician, indicating that he could return without restrictions on November 19, 2016. Mr. Calamia testified that Core Lab returned him to active duty for payroll purposes as of that date; however, Core Lab informed him that it would not allow him to physically return to work "in the field" until he was cleared by a company physician. Core Lab terminated Mr. Calamia's employment after he tested positive for two controlled substances during a drug screen, and he never physically returned to work for Core Lab.[1]

         There are three bi-weekly pay periods that are relevant in this matter.[2] They are the pay periods from: October 22, 2016 through November 4, 2016 ("Period 1"); November 5, 2016 through November 18, 2016 ("Period 2"); and November 19, 2016 through December 2, 2016 ("Period 3"). Mr. Calamia testified regarding the pay statements submitted for these time periods. He asserts that these statements show he is entitled to the compensation he seeks for unpaid wages.

         At trial, Cheryl Watson testified for the defense. She stated that she is the Payroll Manager for Core Lab and is responsible for reconciling and approving the payrolls. She agreed that under the terms of Mr. Calamia's employment, he was scheduled to work or to be on call each week from 6:00 a.m. on Friday until 6:00 a.m. on Monday. She stated that he was guaranteed payment for 40 hours each week if he was available and fit for duty. However, Ms. Watson testified that he was not guaranteed 40 hours of pay during weeks when he was on medical leave, and he did not accrue PTO or EIB during weeks that he was on medical leave.

         Ms. Watson also testified regarding Core Lab's payroll procedure, wherein Core Lab initially pays the employee a full 80-hour bi-weekly paycheck before receiving the employee's time sheet for that time period. Then, once the time sheet is received, there is a reconciliation on the next pay statement to account for the hours actually worked during the prior period. After being asked by the trial court, Ms. Watson agreed that there is a "two-week lag" between the time card and the reconciliation on the pay statement. Ms. Watson testified about the information on Mr. Calamia's pay statements for the three pertinent time periods, and she explained the discrepancies in the statements that were later reconciled.

         After hearing the testimony of Mr. Calamia and Ms. Watson, and considering the exhibits admitted into evidence, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of Core Lab, dismissing Mr. Calamia's claims for unpaid wages. Mr. Calamia appeals.

         LAW AND DISCUSSION

         An appellate court may not set aside a trial court's factual findings unless they are clearly wrong or manifestly erroneous. Rosell v. ESCO, 549 So.2d 840 (La. 1989). If the trial court's account of the evidence is plausible in light of the record viewed in its entirety, the reviewing court may not reverse, even if it would have viewed the evidence differently as the trier of fact. Rodriguez v. Green, 12-98 (La.App. 4 Cir. 6/20/12), 111 So.3d 1, 3.

         The Louisiana Wage Payment Act, La. R.S. 23:631, et seq., is designed to compel the prompt payment of earned wages upon an employee's discharge or resignation. Davis v. St. Francisville Country Manor, L.L.C., 13-190 (La.App. 1 Cir. 11/1/13), 136 So.3d 20. La. R.S. 23:631 provides, 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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