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Teamsters Local 251 v. State, Department of Labor and Training

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Providence

December 30, 2019

TEAMSTERS LOCAL 251
v.
STATE OF RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND TRAINING and STEVEN M. LABRIE

          For Plaintiff: Marc B. Gursky, Esq.

          For Defendant: Joseph F. Penza, Jr., Esq. Robert J. Cosentino, Esq.

          DECISION

          CARNES, J.

         The Teamsters Local 251 (Local 251) challenges a decision by the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT or Department), after remand, finding Local 251 liable for unpaid vacation time, statutory interest and penalty, and attorneys' fees to Steven M. Labrie (Mr. Labrie). Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 §§ 25-3-5 and 42-35-15.

         I Facts and Travel

         This Court originally issued a decision on January 12, 2017 (hereinafter Superior Court Decision of January 12, 2017) on Mr. Labrie's administrative appeal of a DLT decision (hereinafter First Decision) in which DLT found Local 251 liable for unpaid vacation time for only the year of 2013, and not for the accumulation of time for the years 2008 through 2012 which Mr. Labrie had originally sought.

         A detailed recitation of the facts of this case can be found in Labrie v. State of Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training and Teamsters Local 251, No. PC-2015-5344, 2017 WL 235042 (R.I. Super. Jan. 12, 2017). This Court will discuss only those pertinent factual developments since its remand.

         In the Superior Court Decision of January 12, 2017, this Court reversed the portion of the First Decision denying Mr. Labrie payment for unused vacation time for the years 2008 through 2012. Labrie, 2017 WL 235042, at *12. The Court further held that Mr. Labrie ought to have prevailed on all of his claims before the DLT, and the request for attorneys' fees was not unreasonable. Id. at 13. The Court granted Mr. Labrie attorneys' fees in the amount of $19, 773.50. Id. The matter was remanded to the DLT to (i) calculate the balance of vacation pay owed to Mr. Labrie consistent with the Superior Court Decision of January 12, 2017; (ii) to calculate interest, if any, with respect to the balance of said vacation pay; and (iii) for the Hearing Officer to determine if additional attorneys' fees may be awarded pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 28-14-19(c) in connection with Mr. Labrie's successful appeal under the Administrative Procedures Act. This Court retained jurisdiction in the matter.

         Subsequent to the remand, the parties filed position statements with DLT and a hearing with counsel for Local 251 and Mr. Labrie took place on September 13, 2017. On January 8, 2019 Hearing Officer Barricelli (hereinafter Hearing Officer) issued his Amended Decision[1] (hereinafter Second Decision) in which he found Local 251 liable to pay Mr. Labrie $56, 540.53 for the balance of his 122.5 accrued vacation days, plus interest at the rate of twelve percent (12%) per annum from the date of nonpayment (January 1, 2014). (Second Decision at 2, 4.) As of January 8, 2019, the date of the Second Decision, the interest had accumulated to $36, 028.74. Id. at 5. The Second Decision also ordered Local 251 to pay Mr. Labrie and the DLT a civil penalty in the amount of $2500, with $1250 allocated to each party.[2] Id. at 6. Finally, the Second Decision awarded reasonable attorneys' fees to Mr. Labrie and directed counsel to submit an appropriate accounting to the Department for consideration. Id. at 8.

         On February 19, 2019, the Hearing Officer issued a Decision Addendum Regarding Attorneys' Fees (hereinafter Decision Addendum), wherein he confirmed the total award of attorneys' fees to be $39, 089.55. (Decision Addendum 3.) Local 251 then filed a timely appeal to this Court challenging both the Second Decision and the Decision Addendum as clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence on the record, and as arbitrary and capricious.

         II Standard of Review

         The review of a decision of a state agency by this Court is governed by the Administrative Procedures Act. Section 42-35-15(g) provides that:

"The court shall not substitute its judgment for that of the agency as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact. The court may affirm the decision of the agency or remand the case for further proceedings, or it may reverse or modify the decision if substantial rights of the appellant have been prejudiced because the administrative findings, inferences, conclusions, or decisions are:
"(1) In violation of constitutional or statutory provisions;
"(2) In excess of the statutory authority of the agency;
"(3) Made upon unlawful procedure;
"(4) Affected by other error of law;
"(5) Clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence on the whole record; or
"(6) Arbitrary or capricious or characterized by abuse of discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion."

         This section precludes a reviewing court from substituting its judgment for that of the agency in regard to the credibility of witnesses or the weight of the evidence concerning questions of fact. Costa v. Registrar of Motor Vehicles, 543 A.2d 1307, 1309 (R.I. 1988). The court's review is limited to determining whether substantial evidence exists to support the agency's decision. Newport Shipyard Inc. v. R.I. Commission for Human Rights, 484 A.2d 893, 897 (R.I. 1984). If '"competent evidence exists in the record, the Superior Court is required to uphold the agency's conclusions."' Auto Body Association of R.I. v. State Department of ...


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