A response was submitted Monday by the Lafayette Housing Authority’s legal counsel denying all allegations made in a recently refiled back pay lawsuit by former City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams.

 Photo by Robin May
  Chris Williams

Williams received instructions in May from 15th Judicial District Judge Edward Broussard to refile the lawsuit — which originally claimed LHA owed back wages to his nonprofit corporation, the Lafayette Training and Career Development Center — as a personal claim since state law does not recognize back pay claims from corporations.

Though Williams did refile the suit in August, the amended version is nearly identical to the original, with the only noticeable difference being that it now focuses on an alleged breach of contract by LHA. As with the original suit, Williams is attempting to recover about $20,000 in damages for himself and his corporation. Despite its fight against Williams, it should be noted that LHA did settle with two of his former fellow DHAP workers.

The response submitted Monday to the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court’s office by LHA’s attorney Robert David Jr., denies all of Williams’ allegations and points to Louisiana RS 23:631, which excludes “independent contractors” from making post-termination claims for back wages.   

Williams’ lawsuit is the result of his stint as a contract worker through the federal Disaster Housing Assistance Program, which was administered by the LHA. In August 2010, Williams and several other case workers were terminated after an independent audit conducted by LHA revealed major discrepancies between the amount they were paid and the actual amount of time they worked. The audit’s most egregious discovery centered on a lack of time sheets or travel receipts submitted by Williams and the other case workers to substantiate their bi-weekly $600 car allowance and full-time pay rate of $37/hour. For Williams, more questions were raised with the discovery that he held a second “full-time” job with UL Lafayette’s Special Services Department, which would have required him to carry a weekly workload in excess of 80 hours.

The fate of the suit, and whether or not it will proceed to trial, is now pending a final decision from Judge Broussard.

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