Laid off employees sue over Jindal's layoff rule changes

Michelle Massey Aug. 9, 2010, 10:00am


After being laid off, several Louisiana state employees have filed suit over Governor Jindal's changes to the Louisiana Civil Service Commission's layoff rules.

Cary Richardson, Russell Bartley, Willie McLester, Cassandra Woods, Bobbie Roy, Deborah Lacen, Marolyn Wilson, Mary Jack, Carl Dennis, Melvin Mitchell and Charles Watkins, all employees of Louisiana's Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, are suing Pam Breaux and Sam Rykels, in their official capacities as department secretary and assistant secretary.

The lawsuit was filed July 30 in federal court in New Orleans.

The plaintiffs challenge the layoffs and a seven percent reduction in their previously-attained salaries.

They had been assigned to the Louisiana State Museum police force but were allegedly laid-off or had their salaries reduced in October 2009.

The laid off workers' claim their procedural and substantive due process rights were violated because they were not provided any meaningful opportunity to be heard on the subject of a layoff plan.

According to the complaint, at the time the employees obtained a permanent classified status in the Louisiana Civil Service system, they had "bumping rights" and other job protections.

However, the employees argue that Jindal, the former Lt. Governor of Louisiana Mitchell J. Landrieu, and the Louisiana legislature pressured the Louisiana Civil Service Commission to amend the layoff rules.

"This political pressure was, and is, designed to systematically cripple the protections afforded state workers by the Louisiana Civil Service Commission, thus enlarging the political power of elected officials that results from patronage hiring and other politically driven personnel actions," the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit argues the amendments to the civil service rules are unconstitutional and in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Louisiana Constitution.

The employees are asking for an award of compensatory damages, including economic and emotional losses, injuries and damages,
damages to their reputation, punitive damages, interest, attorney's fees and court costs. They are also asking the court to order reinstatement to their positions and salaries they held before the layoffs plus restitution of all fringe benefits.

The petitioners are represented by J. Arthur Smith, III of Smith Law Firm in Baton Rouge. A jury trial is requested.

U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:10cv02295

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