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Ragona v. Louisiana Workforce Commission

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 27, 2019

MATTHEW RAGONA
v.
LOUISIANA WORKFORCE COMMISSION

          Appealed from the State Civil Service Commission, State of Louisiana, Case No. S- 18434 Honorable David Duplantier, Chairman; D. Scott Hughes, Vice -Chairman; John McLure, G. Lee Griffin, C. " Pete" Fremin, Ronald M. Carrere, Jr., and Jo Ann Nixon, Presiding Commissioners of the State Civil Service Commission, Byron P. Decoteau, Jr., Director, Department of State Civil Service

          Allison A. Jones Shreveport, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Matthew Ragona

          John W. Williams, Jr. Melissa S. Losch Alejandro R. Perkins Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Louisiana Workforce Commission

          Adrienne Bordelon Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Byron P. Decoteau, Jr., Director, Department of State Civil Service

          BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, PENZATO AND LANIER, JJ.

          LANIER, J.

         The plaintiff/appellant, Matthew Ragona, appeals the decision of the Civil Service Commission of the State of Louisiana (the Commission), which denied his application for review of the referee's decision to terminate his employment with the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC). For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 30, 2018, Mr. Ragona received notice from the LWC that he had been terminated from his position as a Workforce Development Specialist 2. The LWC stated in the notice that his position was a "job appointment, " which is a temporary, non-permanent position that could be terminated at any time. Mr. Ragona was further notified that his final day of employment would be May 31, 2018.

         On June 14, 2018, Mr. Ragona sent a letter to the Commission, in which he stated he was employed by the LWC from December 8, 2014 to May 31, 2018 as a Workforce Development Specialist 2. He claimed to have been "laid off due to false allegations of sexual harassment. He also claimed that he had a physical disability and that he was treated differently from other non-disabled employees. Mr. Ragona filed his appeal to the Commission on June 20, 2018.

         On August 7, 2018, the Commission mailed a notice of possible defects in the appeal to Mr. Ragona, which stated that under Louisiana Civil Service Rule 23.5, an appointing authority may terminate a "job appointment" at any time without legal cause.[1] The Commission advised Mr. Ragona that he had the right to appeal if he alleged that he had been adversely affected by a violation of the Civil Service Rules or had been discriminated against because of his religious or political beliefs, sex, or race, but not due to physical disability. The Commission advised that it does not have jurisdiction to hear cases dealing with discrimination based on a physical disability. The Commission also stated that Mr. Ragona's appeal did not make any specific factual allegations of discrimination as required by Louisiana Civil Service Rules 13.10 and 13.11.[2] The Commission gave Mr. Ragona fifteen calendar days to adequately amend his appeal to prevent it from being dismissed.

         On August 20, 2018, Mr. Ragona, through his retained counsel, sent an amended letter of appeal to the Commission, in which he expanded on his previous appeal by including additional allegations. He stated that false allegations of sexual harassment were brought against him by a female co-worker, Heather Daigrepont, who he claimed befriended him and led him to believe she was romantically interested in him. Mr. Ragona stated that Ms. Daigrepont "asked [him] out to lunch several times, repeatedly asked him to go out, paid for his food every time they went out to eat, asked him to dance, talked about her personal life with him, etc."

         Mr. Ragona stated that his physical disability is cerebral palsy, and that because of his disability he did not have much experience with romantic relationships. He stated that he believed Ms. Daigrepont was genuinely interested in him. Ms. Daigrepont was in a higher position of authority, so he wanted to build upon his relationship with her. He in turn asked Ms. Daigrepont out to lunch several times.

         Mr. Ragona stated he was surprised when Ms. Daigrepont filed sexual harassment charges against him. He stated that Ms. Daigrepont never indicated to him that his actions were unwelcomed by her. Mr. Ragona further claimed that no investigation was conducted regarding the allegations, and that he was never questioned about any incident. Mr. Ragona claimed that he was treated differently from his non-disabled female co-workers. Mr. Ragona advised that he had also filed a ...


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