Former NOLA death investigator's overtime pay case survives dismissal motion

By Glenn Minnis | Mar 18, 2018

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana has denied an Orleans Parish Coroner’s office motion to dismiss a case in which a former death investigator in the office filed a federal suit alleging that she was improperly denied overtime pay during her tenure.

In an order signed by District Judge Eldon E. Fallon, the court also stipulated that plaintiff Jennifer Trigueros may amend her complaint over the next 30 days to plead additional facts.

In the suit, Trigueros states that she worked in the office of coroner Jeffrey Rouse, also named as a defendant, for nearly two years, but was never paid for the overtime she was routinely forced to work. According to Trigueros, not only did her superiors misclassify her job title as being ineligible for overtime compensation, but they moved to terminate her after she complained about her treatment on Facebook.

Her suit seeks compensation for overtime wages and damages for retaliatory termination. She is also seeking accrued vacation pay.

In addition to denying Trigueros’ allegations, City of New Orleans officials in their motion to dismiss also argued that she failed to state a claim and prescription, and failed to mitigate.

According to the New Orleans Advocate, lawyers for Trigueros point out in their filing that "most coroner's offices in the state of Louisiana pay those in her position overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week.” Federal law generally requires employers to pay workers overtime if they go over 40 hours, though some employees — often executives on salary — are exempt from that requirement.

Trigueros' further argues that her Facebook posting is protected under federal law, meaning that her subsequent termination amounted to an illegal act of retaliation.

In rendering its verdict, the court noted that according to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure the  “complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt” that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of her claim which would entitle her to relief.

The court added, “to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ The district court must construe facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint.” 

Finally, the court added given it was “provided only the bare bones facts in plaintiff’s complaint,” not enough information was presented for the court to make any other determination.

 Trigueros is represented by Christa H. Forrester of the Peragine Law Firm in nearby Covington.

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