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Bonial v. City of Alexandria

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

June 27, 2018

DUSTIN BONIAL
v.
CITY OF ALEXANDRIA

          APPEAL FROM THE NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF RAPIDES, NO. 259, 668 HONORABLE GEORGE C. METOYER JR., DISTRICT JUDGE

          Daniel E. Broussard, Jr. Broussard, Halcomb & Vizzier COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: Dustin Bonial

          Steven M. Oxenhandler Gold, Weems, Bruser, Sues & Rundell COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: City of Alexandria

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Marc T. Amy, and Elizabeth A. Pickett, Judges.

          MARC T. AMY JUDGE.

         After directing a racial epithet towards a coworker, the plaintiff was terminated from his employment with the City of Alexandria. He appealed his termination to the Alexandria Civil Service Commission, where a majority of the Commission members voted to affirm the termination. The plaintiff then appealed his termination to the trial court, which affirmed the Commission's decision. He now appeals to this Court. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Dustin Bonial worked for the City of Alexandria as an apprentice lineman in the Electric Distribution Department. After allegations of an incident occurring between Mr. Bonial and a coworker, a pre-disciplinary hearing was held. At this hearing, Mr. Bonial admitted that, on January 23, 2017, he used a racial epithet regarding a coworker, Charles Turner, in the breakroom of the City's facility. Citing violations of the City's "Workplace Conduct Policy" and Civil Service Rule XII, § 1.3, the City terminated Mr. Bonial from his employment on February 16, 2017. Subsequently, Mr. Bonial appealed his termination to the Alexandria Civil Service Commission ("Commission"), and a hearing was held. At the hearing, the parties stipulated "that Mr. Bonial called Mr. Turner" by the epithet.

         Mr. Turner testified at the hearing, explaining that he is a warehouse clerk with the City's electrical department. He was asked by counsel for the City to recount what happened in the City's breakroom on January 23, 2017:

Q Could you explain to the board what happened some - - some time in the morning, I believe it was?
A It was at - - I think it was lunchtime. I just was walking in the break room to go use the bathroom. I just wanted to chill. And it's, "Look at this n ----- [hereinafter "racial epithet"]," you know.
. . . .
Q And how did that make you feel?
A Disrespected . . . why would [someone] say that? . . . I wasn't worried about him or focused on him. I was going to use the bathroom.

         Mr. Turner was subsequently questioned on cross examination by counsel for Mr. Bonial, as follows:

Q Tell me exactly what he said.
A He said - - swung his chair around, "Hey, y'all, look at this [racial epithet]."
Q He just - - he just said that out of the blue?
A Just said it out of the blue.
. . . .
Q I say - - my question: Did you ever tell him that you didn't want him ...

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