FROM THE OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION - # 4 PARISH OF
VERMILION, NO. 16-03594 ADAM C. JOHNSON, WORKERS'
Matthew Douglas McConnell McConnell Law Offices COUNSEL FOR
CLAIMANT/APPELLANT: Ladessa Carol LeBlanc
M. Fordice Assistant Attorney General Louisiana Department of
Justice, Division of Risk Management COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Louisiana Department of Education
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Billy
Howard Ezell, and John E. Conery, Judges.
E. CONERY JUDGE
claimant, Ladessa Carol LeBlanc, appeals the ruling of the
Workers' Compensation Judge (WCJ) dismissing her Disputed
Claim For Compensation (Form 1008) on the basis that she was
not within the course and scope of her employment with the
Louisiana Department of Education (DOE). After her
termination from the DOE on November 22, 2015, she claims to
have sustained on-the-job injuries while returning her files
and equipment at the DOE's request on February 3, 2016.
For the following reasons, we reverse.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
State of Louisiana employed Mrs. LeBlanc for eighteen years
and five months. Her most recent position, which she had held
for approximately the previous eight years, was as a
Licensing Specialist II with the DOE. Mrs. LeBlanc's
duties involved investigation and inspection of both licensed
and unlicensed daycare facilities. Accordingly, she worked
from her home in Abbeville, Louisiana, and maintained in her
possession for use in her work duties both equipment and
files belonging to the DOE.
on July 7, 2015, Mrs. LeBlanc took temporary sick leave from
her position for stress and mental health reasons stemming
from alleged sexual harassment. In correspondence dated November
2, 2015, from Shelia Campbell, Program Manager 2 - Social
Services Division of Licensing, and copied to Mr. Jason
Hannaman, the Human Resources Director, Mrs. LeBlanc was
notified as follows:
As of today, you have fewer than eight hours of sick leave
and you are medically unable to perform the essential
functions of your job as a Licensing Specialist. Therefore, I
propose to non-disciplinarily remove you from your position
under Civil Service Rule 12.6(a)1, which provides:
12.6 Non-disciplinary Removals.
(a) An employee may be non-disciplinarily removed under the
1. When, on the date of the notice required by Rule 12.7 is
mailed, hand delivered, or orally given, the employee is
unable to perform the essential functions of his job due to
illness or medical disability and has fewer than eight hours
of sick leave. An employee removed under this provision shall
be paid for all remaining sick leave.
You have the right to respond to this proposed action. This
is your opportunity to explain why you should not be removed.
To be considered, your response should be received in writing
by 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 11, 2015. For your
convenience, your response may be faxed . . . or emailed . .
LeBlanc did not timely respond to the November 2, 2015
correspondence, and on November 13, 2015, she was sent
correspondence from State Superintendent of Education, John
White, informing her that she was to be formally removed from
her position with the DOE pursuant to Civil Service Rule
12.6(a), effective "at the close of business on Sunday,
November 22, 2015." Mrs. LeBlanc was further informed
that since this was a non-disciplinary removal, she was
entitled to retain certain eligibilities should she seek
state employment in the future. The November 2, 2015
correspondence was also copied to Ms. Campbell, Mr. Hannaman,
and Ashley Dorsey-Foster, Program Manager I - Social
December 8, 2015, Ms. Joan Hunt, Executive Counsel for the
DOE, responded to letters dated November 9 and November 29,
2015, from Mrs. LeBlanc's attorney, Mr. Matthew
McConnell, objecting to the DOE contacting Mrs. LeBlanc
directly when she was represented by counsel. The DOE
responded to Mr. McConnell that it was entitled to
"contact its employees directly regarding employment
issues," despite Mrs. LeBlanc's
"non-disciplinary removal" from her position in
accordance with Louisiana Civil Service Rule 12.6(a)1.
Accordingly, Mr. McConnell was also informed that the
"Human Resources staff from the Department will be
contacting Mrs. LeBlanc this week to schedule a date and time
for her to return the following equipment owned by the
Department." A listing of eleven items followed in the
correspondence which Mrs. LeBlanc was expected to return to
what was eventually determined to be the loading dock of the
DOE's Claiborne Office Building in Baton Rouge,
Louisiana. Testimony at the hearing revealed that the
December 8, 2015 letter signed by Ms. Hunt had been prepared
by Ms. Denise Brou, also an attorney for the DOE.
December 9, 2015, in an email to Ms. Brou, counsel for the
DOE, Mr. Hannaman, the DOE Human Resources Director,
indicated that he had attempted to call Mrs. LeBlanc, but
reached her father who advised that he needed to refer this
request to her attorney, Mr. McConnell. Mr. Hannaman
suggested to Ms. Brou that Mrs. LeBlanc's attorney be
sent the attached list of equipment and that he be reminded
that the equipment was state-owned property that must be
returned to the DOE by Mrs. LeBlanc.
on December 9, 2015, in an email from Mr. Hannaman to Ms.
Brou, he indicated that Mrs. LeBlanc had left him a message
to call her. Mr. Hannaman returned Mrs. LeBlanc's call,
and she explained her situation. She told him she did not see
how she could return the equipment from her home in
Abbeville, Louisiana, as she had not received a release to
work from her medical provider. The record reflects that Mrs.
LeBlanc was being treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome
(PTSD) and Acute Anxiety Disorder. Mr. Hannaman advised Mrs.
LeBlanc that her attorney had been notified about the
equipment and that maybe she could coordinate with him. Mr.
Hannaman testified at the hearing that after speaking with
Mrs. LeBlanc for the first time on December 9, 2015, he
learned she had been on medical leave prior to her
termination and was not yet released to work by her medical
obtaining this information, Mr. Hannaman emailed Debbie
Threeton, Operational Support Services Administrative Program
Specialist for the DOE. In the email he informed Ms. Threeton
that Mrs. LeBlanc was no longer an employee of DOE. He
further stated, "We are working with her representatives
to retrieve the property listed below . . . however we are
unsure of the time it may take to retrieve these items."
Mr. Hannaman requested that Ms. Threeton "deactivate any
services currently attached to any of this equipment."
Ms. Threeton responded that she intended to "temporally
[sic] suspend the service to the iphone and the MiFi."
email correspondence on December 9, 2015, appears to be the
last contact made with Mrs. LeBlanc until the middle of
January. Under direct examination at the hearing, Mr.
Hannaman testified he did not mention to Mrs. LeBlanc
anything about picking up what turned out to be seven boxes
of files from her home, along with the listed equipment
contained in the December 8, 2015 letter from Ms. Hunt.
"Nor did anyone else say anything to him about picking
up the files from her home."
on cross-examination at the hearing, a discussion ensued
about the ability of Mrs. LeBlanc to return the equipment
when Mr. Hannaman was specifically asked:
Q So, you never said anything to Ladessa LeBlanc saying you
have to return it by date X?
A I don't recall having something where I said having to
return by date X. It was an attempt to retrieve the equipment
in a timely fashion.
Q Yes, your goal was to get the equipment back?
A Right. Because we have - -
Q And as far as you know, or maybe you don't know about
confidential case files, investigation files. Is that your
A No. My only knowledge was of the equipment as outlined in
this letter [December 8, 2015]. The technology.
Mr. Hannaman was then questioned on cross-examination about
Mrs. LeBlanc's prior testimony that she had requested
that the DOE come to her home in Abbeville, Louisiana, to
pick up ...