Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) vacating factual findings made by the workers' compensation judge regarding the reasonableness and necessity of an employee's medical treatment for work-related injuries, holding that the WCCA erred.Respondent received a Gillette-style injury to her neck and upper spine. Respondent was later notified by her former employer, Appellant, that it would no longer approve reimbursement for certain injections. A compensation judge determined that the injections were neither necessary nor reasonable. The WCCA reversed, concluding that the decision of the compensation judge was not supported by substantial evidence in the record. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the WCCA erred in (1) vacating the workers' compensation judge's factual findings; and (2) directing the compensation judge to consider whether Respondent's case presented rare circumstances warranting an exception from the treatment parameters. View "Leuthard v. Independent School District 912" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her former boss, the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff, for race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and for retaliatory discharge under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The district court granted summary judgment against plaintiff.The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment, concluding that there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the sheriff's proffered reason for firing plaintiff -- sleeping on the job -- is pretext for Title VII race discrimination and FMLA retaliation. In regard to plaintiff's Title VII claim, the court explained that plaintiff has produced substantial evidence of pretext based on disparate treatment. In this case, the sheriff treated plaintiff worse than a similarly situated white male who also was caught sleeping on the job. In regard to the FMLA claim, the court explained that the record reflects that "sleeping on the job" is not an infraction that results in termination, the sheriff tolerated "sleeping on the job" by at least one other dispatch supervisor, and the sheriff could not recall any dispatcher that he had ever fired for this reason. Furthermore, when combined with the discredited reason of "sleeping on the job," the near-immediate temporal proximity of the discharge to the protected activity leaves no room to doubt that plaintiff has carried her summary-judgment burden of producing substantial evidence that the sheriff would not have fired her but for her FMLA-protected activity. View "Watkins v. Tregre" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the judgment of the Compensation Review Board finding that the City of Bridgeport was liable for the payment of Plaintiff's workers compensation benefits as his principal employer, holding that the City was in the "trade or business" of maintaining and repairing municipal buildings and facilities.The City hired Contractor do repair work on the roof of the City's transfer facility, and Contractor hired Subcontractor. Plaintiff, an employee of Subcontractor, was injured in the course and scope of his employment and sought workers' compensation benefits from the City, Contractor, and Subcontractor. The Workers' Compensation Commissioner concluded that, because Howie's Roofing was uninsured, the Second Injury Fund was required to pay Plaintiff benefits under Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-355. The Fund contested liability, arguing that the City was required to pay the benefits owed to Plaintiff as his principal employer. The Commissioner determined that the City was Plaintiff's principal employer and ordered the City to pay workers' compensation benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that roof repair was a part or process in the City's trade or business under Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-291. View "Barker v. All Roofs by Dominic" on Justia Law

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Laura Register appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Outdoor Aluminum, Inc., as to her claim alleging retaliatory discharge. Register worked as a laborer for Outdoor Aluminum. As part of her employment, Register laid out metal material, drilled or punched holes in the material, and deburred and cut the material. Register punched holes in the metal material with a hydraulic-press machine. The hydraulic press became misaligned and was not punching through the metal. When Register attempted to fix the press, the press exploded, causing a two-inch long and half-inch thick piece of metal to strike Register on the head above her right eye and temple. Register reported the incident to her supervisor, Roger Wise. As a result of the incident, Register's neck and head were injured and she had headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, balance problems, and pain. Register sought workers' compensation benefits and medical treatment from Outdoor Aluminum. Approximately a year after Register’s accident and subsequent medical treatments, Outdoor Aluminum management expressed concern with the length of Register’s rehabilitation. In June 2017, a nurse case manager reported to Outdoor Aluminum that Register had been released to full duty with zero impairment by one doctor; by July, Register had not returned to work under advice of another doctor. Because she had not returned to work, and based on the nurse case manager’s report, Outdoor Aluminum terminated Register. In 2018, Register sued Outdoor Aluminum seeking workers' compensation benefits and damages for retaliatory discharge. The parties engaged in discovery. In May 2020, Outdoor Aluminum moved for summary judgment, arguing Register could not show that her workers' compensation claim was the sole motivating factor behind the termination of her employment. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed, finding Register presented substantial evidence that there were genuine issues of material fact that should have been resolved by a jury. View "Register v. Outdoor Aluminum, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that a fact issue existed as to whether a general contractor on a construction project owed a duty of care to its independent contractor's employee who was injured on the job, holding that no genuine issue of material fact existed regarding the existence of a duty.The trial court entered judgment in favor of the general contractor, concluding that there was no evidence to support the negligence elements of duty, breach, and causation. The court of appeals reversed as to the negligence claim, concluding that a fact issue existed regarding whether the contractor exercised actual control and thus owed the employee a duty, whether the contractor breached that duty, and whether the contractor's breach proximately caused the employee's injuries. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the contractor owed the employee no duty as a matter of law. View "JLB Builders, LLC v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit certified a question of law to the Oregon Supreme Court concerning whether a statutory damages cap applied to an award of noneconomic damages in an unlawful employment practice action. Plaintiff Max Zweizig filed suit in the federal district court in Oregon, alleging that corporate defendants had retaliated against him and that defendant Timothy Rote had aided and abetted the corporations in violation of Oregon statutes. The jury found for plaintiff and awarded him $1,000,000 in noneconomic damages. Over plaintiff’s objection, the district court entered a judgment for only half that amount after applying the non- economic damages cap set out in ORS 31.710(1). Defendant appealed, and plaintiff cross-appealed, challenging the reduction of the noneconomic damage award. The Supreme Court determined the damages cap in ORS 31.710(1) did not apply to an award of noneconomic damages for an unlawful employment practice claim under ORS 659A.030 in which the plaintiff did not seek damages that arose out of bodily injury and instead sought damages for emotional injury. View "Zweizig v. Rote" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who was employed with Andersen from 2000-2018, was terminated for violating lock-out, tag-out (LOTO) safety procedures. After plaintiff filed suit against Andersen, he voluntarily dismissed four of his eight claims and the district court granted summary judgment on the remaining four claims.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment, concluding that Andersen did not violate the Minnesota Whistleblower Act by terminating his employment in retaliation for his previous sexual harassment and falsified documentation complaint. The court explained that plaintiff failed to show causation between the protected activity and his discharge, and summary judgment was therefore appropriate. The court also concluded that plaintiff was unable to establish the causal link necessary for a prima facia case of retaliation under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Finally, the court concluded that plaintiff's retaliation claim under the Family Medical Leave Act also failed for lack of causation. View "Lissick v. Andersen Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the VA in an action brought by plaintiff under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging race discrimination, retaliation, constructive discharge, and a hostile work environment she experienced during her employment at the Kansas City VA.Applying the McDonnell Douglass burden-shifting framework, the court concluded that plaintiff's claims failed at the first step because she did not establish a prima facie case of race discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliation, or constructive discharge. In this case, many of the events plaintiff presents as adverse employment actions—the decision not to "board" the Coding Document Improvement Program (CDI) position, inadequate training on CDI duties, assignment of additional coding work, her performance review, and the written counseling—are not adverse employment actions for purposes of Title VII. View "Watson v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the district court did not err in determining that a class of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics has been properly paid overtime compensation in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime provision.The court also concluded that the district court did not err in determining that a separate class of dual-function firefighter/paramedics were properly classified as partially exempt from overtime compensation because its members are "employee[s] in fire protection activities" who have the "responsibility to engage in fire suppression" activities under 29 U.S.C. 203(y). View "Zimmerli v. The City of Kansas City" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the superior court revoking Appellant's pension benefits and denying his request for return of his retirement contributions paid into the Employees' Retirement System of the State of Rhode Island (ERSRI), holding that the superior court erred in part.The superior court revoked Appellant's pension benefits, denied his request for return of his retirement contributions paid to the ERSRI, and ordered that retirement payments made to his spouse be applied towards his restitution obligations. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment in part, holding that the trial justice (1) did not err in revoking Defendant's pension benefits; (2) did not err in declaring that Appellant's spouse was an innocent spouse and awarding pension payments; (3) erred in directing the spouse to pay her payments as an innocent spouse towards Defendant's restitution obligations; and (4) vacated the portion of the judgment declining to apply Appellant's pension contributions to his restitution obligations. View "Retirement Board of Employees' Retirement System of State of R.I. v. Randall" on Justia Law