A pair of former employees of an information technology firm based in Lafayette scored a huge win at the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal recently when the panel of judges, in a split decision, reversed a ruling by a Lafayette judge and awarded the men what amounts to handsome going-away presents.

Matthew Newsome and Jared Pavlu signed employment agreements with Global Data Systems Inc. that, among other things, stipulated they “would reimburse the company for expenses arising out of education and training for the twelve months preceding separation.” When the pair left the company in 2008 for other jobs, the final paychecks they were anticipating turned out to be something else entirely.

As court documents indicate, Newsome was expecting about $5,600 in salary and bonus pay; Pavlu was counting on roughly $4,200. Instead, Newsome got a bill from GDS for $1,677.48 while Pavlu’s tab totalled $6,638.30 — the cost of sending them to seminars and other training during the year before they left GDS.

The former employees soon filed suit. But 15th Judicial District Court Judge Jules Edwards ruled in favor of GDS. Newsome and Pavlu appealed to the 3rd Circuit, which by a 3-2 decision found GDS’ policy in this case to be essentially unfair:

“The record shows GDS benefited greatly each time it sent Newsom or Pavlu to a seminar or when they received training or certifications. The employees had no choice but to undergo said training and education in order to keep their employment. GDS is in the business of selling and installing innovative technology products. It needs its employees to be trained in the latest technological advances in order to be functional. The terms in GDS’ employee handbook are void as they are manifestly unreasonable and against public policy.”

Moreover, citing additional state law, the appeals court not only ordered GDS to give Newsome and Pavlu their final paychecks, but to pay them the equivalent of 90 days’ wages plus $6,500 each in attorney’s fees.

Attorneys for both the plaintiffs and GDS, as well as GDS President Chris Vincent, did not return calls for this story by publication time. — Walter Pierce

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