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De La Rose v. Forster

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

June 19, 2019

SHAYLA DE LA ROSE
v.
GAREY FORSTER, SECRETARY OF THE LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

          APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2016-11814, DIVISION "M" Honorable Paulette R. Irons, Judge

          Shayla De La Rose COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT/PRO SE

          J. Jerome Burden LOUISIANA WORKFORCE COMMISSION COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

          Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins

          Terri F. Love, Judge.

         This appeal arises from the disqualification of unemployment compensation benefits. The trial court affirmed the decision of the Louisiana Board of Review ("Board of Review") to dismiss claimant's appeal of her disqualification of benefits after she failed to appear via telephone at the administrative hearing. In that the claimant failed to provide good cause for reopening pursuant to La. Admin. Code tit. 40:IV, § 113(D), we find no error in the trial court's ruling that affirmed the decisions of the Board of Review and the Louisiana Workforce Commission ("LWC"). Accordingly, we affirm.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Shayla De La Rose ("Ms. De La Rose") was employed as a part-time security guard with Landmark Event Staffing Services, Inc. ("Landmark") from November 2015 to September 2016. Ms. De La Rose subsequently filed for unemployment benefits with the LWC. She was later disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits. Relying on La. R.S. 23:1472(19), the LWC disqualified her when it discovered that Ms. De La Rose was the principle officer of Essential Rose, LLC, a company that provides wellness consulting, training, and management.

         Ms. De La Rose filed a request to appeal the decision with the LWC's Appeals Tribunal. An administrative hearing was scheduled for November 1, 2016. Notice of the hearing, to take place via telephone, was addressed and mailed on October 20, 2016, to the address of record. There is no evidence that the notice was returned undelivered. On the hearing date, the Appeals Tribunal made attempts to reach Ms. De La Rose at the number on the notice at the time the scheduled hearing was to take place and 15 minutes after. The Appeals Tribunal was unable to reach Ms. De La Rose. Consequently, the tribunal held Ms. De La Rose in default and dismissed her appeal. Ms. De La Rose then requested a reopening of her appeal. Her request was denied, however, because she failed to provide good cause why she did not have a reliable telephone number or provide a new contact number if her telephone was unreliable.

         Ms. De La Rose exercised her right to appeal the tribunal's dismissal and disqualification and sought review by the Louisiana Board of Review. The Board of Review found Ms. De La Rose's letter of appeal deficient. The Board of Review indicated in its findings that Ms. De La Rose failed to set forth a reason for her failure to appear at the scheduled hearing "that reasonably justifies a finding of good cause shown to excuse such failure." As a result, the Board of Review denied Ms. De La Rose's request for reopening and affirmed the tribunal's November 2016 decision. Thereafter, Ms. De La Rose filed a petition for judicial review with Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, seeking reversal of the Board of Review's decision to affirm the dismissal of her appeal. In May 2018, the trial court affirmed the Board's decision. Ms. De La Rose timely seeks review of the trial court's May 2018 ruling.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         La. R.S. 23:1634(B) sets forth the standard of review used by the trial court in reviewing decisions made by the Board of Review, which states in pertinent part:

In any proceeding under this Section the findings of the board of review as to the facts, if supported by sufficient evidence and in the absence of fraud, shall be conclusive, and the jurisdiction of the court shall be confined to questions of law.

Id.; Stuart Consulting Group, Inc. v. Loyless, 16-247, p. 4-5 (La.App. 5 Cir. 12/7/16), 209 So.3d 278, 282. "Judicial review of the findings of the Board is strictly limited to first, a determination of whether the facts are supported by competent evidence, and second, whether the facts as a matter of law, justify the action taken. Id., 16-247, p. 5, 209 So.3d at 282 (citing Lewis v. Administrator, 540 So.2d 491, 496 (La.App. 1st Cir. 1989)). Further, "[j]udicial review of the findings of the Board does not permit the weighing of evidence, drawing of inferences, reevaluation of ...


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