Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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Galveston County Commissioners Court may set a salary range for a county judicial employee while letting Galveston County district judges decide if compensation within that range is reasonable. While the judicial branch may direct the Commissioners Court to set a new range, it cannot dictate a specific salary outside that range. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment in this long-running dispute over who has the authority to set the compensation of a county judicial employee, holding that, in this case, the trial court lacked the authority to require a county judge to reinstate a county judicial employee at a specific salary, thus encroaching on the county’s legislative branch - the Commissioners Court. View "Honorable Mark Henry v. Honorable Lonnie Cox" on Justia Law

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SSC Selma Operating Company, LLC, doing business as Warren Manor Health and Rehabilitation Center, and SavaSeniorCare Administrative Services, LLC, appealed a circuit court order denying their motion to compel arbitration of a retaliatory-discharge claim filed against them by Jackie Fikes. Fikes sued the companies, seeking to recover worker's compensation benefits pursuant to the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act, and alleging that the companies had discharged her from her employment in violation of Ala. Code 1975, sec. 25–5–11.1, solely because she had filed a claim for worker's compensation benefits. Fikes alleged that in 2013, she suffered a work-related injury when she attempted to lift a patient while working for the companies as a certified nurse assistant; that she underwent medical treatment for her work-related injury; and that she returned to work under light-duty restrictions until Spring 2014, at which time, she says, the companies wrongfully terminated her employment. Fikes requested in the complaint that the worker's compensation claim and the retaliatory-discharge claim be severed in order for the retaliatory discharge claim to be tried by a jury. The companies moved to compel arbitration of the retaliatory discharge claim pursuant to their employment-dispute resolution program ("the EDR program") under which Fikes had agreed to be bound. Fikes responded, arguing that the retaliatory-discharge claim was not covered by the EDR program. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Fikes failed to demonstrate her retaliatory-discharge claim was not covered by the EDR program. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court's order denying the companies' motion to compel arbitration of that claim. View "SSC Selma Operating Company, LLC v. Fikes" on Justia Law

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After a jury found that EmCare terminated three employees in retaliation for complaining of sexual harassment in the workplace, the district court denied EmCare's motion for judgment as a matter of law. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the EEOC presented sufficient evidence of causation because the jury could have logically inferred that the supervisor knew of one of the employee's complaints or that the supervisor was involved in the decision to fire the employee. View "EEOC v. Emcare, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought review of the Board's decision and order finding that the Hospital violated section 8(a)(1) and (a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1), (5), by unilaterally ceasing the payment of longevity-based wage increases to its nurses after the expiration of the parties' collective bargaining agreement (CBA). As a preliminary matter, the DC Circuit rejected the Hospital's claim that all the acts of Director Walsh were ultra vires and his appointment was invalid. On the merits, the court held that the Hospital violated section 8(a)(1) and (a)(5) by unilaterally ceasing the payment of longevity-based wage increases to nurses after the expiration of the parties' collective bargaining agreement. Accordingly, the court denied the Hospital's petition for review and granted the Board's cross-application for enforcement. View "Wilkes-Barre Hospital v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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A Dubuque civil rights ordinance exempts “any employer who regularly employs less than four individuals.” The former employee of Appellant, a landscaper whose hiring needs fluctuate seasonally, filed a complaint with the Dubuque Human Rights Commission (DHRC) alleging discrimination in violation of the ordinance. The DHRC found in favor of the employee. Appellant filed a petition for judicial review arguing that it did not employ the requisite number of employees to be subject to the ordinance. The district court affirmed the DHRC’s decision and upheld the damages awarded to the employee. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the DHRC correctly determined that Appellant “regularly employed” the requisite four or more individuals during its landscaping season; (2) the DHRC properly used a payroll approach and rejected Appellant’s proposed twenty-week test; and (3) substantial evidence supported the DHRC’s findings. View "Simon Seeding & Sod, Inc. v. Dubuque Human Rights Commission" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who was paralyzed in an accident during a work accident, filed a petition seeking a determination of permanent total disability (PTD) and also sought partial commutation of benefits in a lump sum. Defendant, the workers’ compensation insurer, disputed whether Plaintiff was PTD and resisted the commutation, although it continued to pay full weekly PTD benefits and explore settlement. The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner granted Plaintiff’s petition for partial commutation. Plaintiff then sued Defendant for first-party bad faith. On summary judgment, the district court determined that Defendant acted in bad faith. The jury awarded punitive and compensatory damages at a ratio of 88:1. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the judgments for compensatory and punitive damages, holding that, while Defendant knew or should have known it lacked any reasonable basis to dispute Plaintiff’s PTD status, the district court erred in ruling that Defendant was in bad faith as a matter of law for resisting the commutation; and (2) the district court properly denied Plaintiff an award of attorney fees incurred in prosecuting the bad-faith action. View "Thornton v. American Interstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Fair Labor Standards Act claims, not dependent on interpretation of collective bargaining agreement, need not be arbitrated, where arbitration clause does not include a clear waiver. Certified nursing assistants, sued their employer, Silver Care, for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and related New Jersey laws, claiming that Silver underpaid them for overtime by failing to include certain hourly wage differentials in the calculation of plaintiffs’ regular rate of pay, and by deducting plaintiffs’ half-hour meal breaks from their total hours worked, although they often worked through those breaks. Silver unsuccessfully moved to dismiss or to stay the proceedings, citing the arbitration clause in the governing collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The Third Circuit affirmed. A court may compel arbitration of a plaintiff’s federal statutory claim when the arbitration provision clearly and unmistakably waives the employee’s ability to vindicate that right in court and the federal statute does not exclude arbitration as an appropriate forum. If no clear or unmistakable waiver exists, arbitration may be compelled if the plaintiff’s FLSA claim “depends on the disputed interpretation of a CBA provision,” which must “first go to arbitration.” Silver did not dispute that the arbitration provision lacks a clear and unmistakable waiver. Neither of the FLSA claims depend on disputed interpretations of CBA provisions. View "Jones v. SCO Silver Care Operations LLC" on Justia Law

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After the West Virginia Department of Education (DOE) terminated Plaintiff’s employment, Plaintiff filed a complaint containing a constitutional tort claim and a claim for wrongful termination. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that the DOE leaked a letter it received from her previous government employer revealing that she was under investigation for misallocating public funds for personal use and that the leak of this letter violated her constitutionally-protected liberty interest. The circuit court denied the DOE’s motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to outline a liberty interest violation sufficient to overcome the DOE’s qualified immunity because the truth of the allegedly leaked letter was not disputed; and (2) therefore, the DOE’s qualified immunity barred Plaintiff’s claims. View "West Virginia Department of Education v. McGraw" on Justia Law

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The circuit court awarded Plaintiff $500,000 in damages on his claim against the Kansas City School District for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. The Supreme Court remitted the award to $403,189 and affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in all other respects, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err in overruling the district’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict; (2) did not err in overruling the district’s motion for new trial based on alleged errors in a jury instruction; but (3) erred in overruling the district’s motion for remittitur because the award exceeded that which is allowed by law. View "Newsome v. Kansas City, Missouri School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the City, seeking enforcement of the Department of Industrial Accidents' (DIA) order to restore plaintiff's workers' compensation payments. The City suspended plaintiff's payments under the suspension statute, G.L. c. 268A, 25, after it learned that plaintiff had been indicted on charges related to misuse of controlled substances. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that workers' compensation benefits are not "compensation" as defined in the suspension statute, because they are not payments made "in return for services rendered." Therefore, the Superior Court actions brought by plaintiff to enforce the orders of the DIA were dismissed in error. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed and remanded. View "Benoit v. City of Boston" on Justia Law