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Babineaux v. The Board of Supervisors for University of Louisiana System

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

May 31, 2019

LOU A. BABINEAUX
v.
THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA SYSTEM

          On Supervisory Review from the 19th Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Case No. C663485 The Honorable Janice Clark, Judge Presiding

          Stephen J. Oats Cearley W. Fontenot Daniel J. Phillips Lafayette, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Applicant The Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System

          G. Karl Bernard New Orleans, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiff/Respondent Lou A. Babineaux

          BEFORE: GUIDRY, THERIOT, AND PENZATO, JJ.

          THERIOT, J.

         On January 8, 2019, the Supreme Court of Louisiana remanded this matter to this court for briefing, argument, and full opinion. For the following reasons, we vacate this court's September 4, 2018 denial of the application for supervisory writs of the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System and render judgment granting the Board's exception of venue.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 21, 2017, Lou A. Babineaux filed a petition for damages against the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System ("the Board") in the Nineteenth Judicial District Court ("19th JDC"). Ms. Babineaux was previously employed at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Student Health Service Clinic ("the Clinic") as a licensed practical nurse. Ms. Babineaux alleged that she and her co-worker, Schantell Washington, were the only two African American employees at the clinic and that both were supervised by Julia A. Lognion, the Clinic's nursing supervisor, and Dr. Chris Hayes, the director of the office of student health. Ms. Babineaux further alleged that Ms. Washington, a registered nurse, became the target of race-based discrimination from Ms. Lognion and Dr. Hayes almost immediately upon her hire. Ms. Babineaux allegedly encouraged Ms. Washington to report the discriminatory treatment to the human resources department. In April 2016, Ms. Washington filed suit against the Board for racial discrimination and retaliation. Ms. Washington's lawsuit is still pending.

         Ms. Babineaux alleges that, at approximately the same time that Ms. Washington filed suit against the Board, Ms. Lognion and Dr. Hayes began subjecting her to unlawful discriminatory treatment in an attempt to force her to quit her job. Following various alleged acts of discrimination, Ms. Babineaux scheduled a meeting with the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dr. Hayes to discuss the discriminatory treatment that she was receiving. According to Ms. Babineaux, no corrective action was taken.

         Ms. Babineaux alleged that she was forced to seek psychiatric treatment as a result of the stress and anxiety caused by her mistreatment in the workplace. Ms. Babineaux further alleged that on or about September 14, 2016, she filed a charge of discrimination with the equal employment opportunity commission, complaining of race discrimination and retaliation. According to Ms. Babineaux, her physician informed her that Ms. Babineaux's health was being severely affected by the stress caused by her mistreatment in the workplace and recommended that Ms. Babineaux leave the job as soon as possible. On June 1, 2017, Ms. Babineaux retired.

         Ms. Babineaux asserts that she received a written notice of her Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Right to Sue letter on or about August 17, 2017, and that she has thus exhausted all of her administrative remedies and satisfied all administrative prerequisites for bringing this action. Ms. Babineaux further asserts that the Board is in violation of the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, La. R.S. 23:301, et seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., due to the Board's alleged discriminatory treatment against Ms. Babineaux. Ms. Babineaux further asserts that the Board's mistreatment of her constitutes unlawful retaliation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. Accordingly, Ms. Babineaux seeks both pecuniary and nonpecuniary damages.

         On March 23, 2018, the Board filed an exception of venue and, alternatively, a motion to transfer for forum non conveniens. The Board argued that venue in this particular case was controlled by La. R.S.23;303(A), which requires suit be brought in the district court in the parish in which the alleged violation occurred, and that Lafayette Parish was the proper venue for this suit.

         The trial court denied the Board's exception of venue and alternate motion to transfer for forum non conveniens. The Board subsequently applied for supervisory writs with this court. This court denied the Board's application for supervisory writs on September 4, 2018.

         Following this court's denial of the Board's application for supervisory writs, the Board sought writs of certiorari with the Supreme Court of Louisiana. The Supreme Court of Louisiana subsequently granted the Board's application for writs of certiorari on this issue and remanded the case back to this court for briefing, argument, and full opinion, with due consideration of this court's earlier holding in Washington v. The ...


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