Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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Dylan Devore appealed summary judgments dismissing his negligence and gross negligence claims against defendants American Eagle Energy Corporation, Integrated Petroleum Technologies, Inc. (“IPT”), and Brian Barony. Devore was a crew supervisor for Fort Berthold Services (“FBS”), which provided water transfer services for hydraulic fracturing operations at oil wells. In February 2014, American Eagle Energy Corporation began hydraulic fracturing operations on an oil well in Divide County, North Dakota and contracted with FBS to provide water. American Eagle also contracted with IPT, a consulting company. Though IPT coordinated American Eagle’s independent contractors, American Eagle authorized any contractor to stop work at any time if a work condition was unsafe. IPT had no contractual relationship with FBS. FBS took direction from IPT, but FBS controlled its own day-to-day activities, including how it performed its work. On the morning of March 2, 2014, ice had formed in a hose between a pond near the well site and a tank. While the hose was still pressurized from the compressed air, at least one FBS crew member struck it with a sledgehammer in an attempt to dislodge the ice obstruction. The sledgehammer blows caused the hose to break apart and uncontrollably jump and whip around. The flailing hose struck and injured Devore. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the facts, viewed in a light most favorable to Devore, did not support a conclusion that American Eagle, IPT, or Barony owed Devore a duty of care or proximately caused his injuries. Therefore the Court affirmed the summary judgments. View "Devore v. American Eagle Energy Corporation, et al." on Justia Law

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Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI) appealed a district court judgment reversing an Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) confirmation of a prior order of WSI. In 2014, Ellis began receiving partial disability benefits. In 2016, Ellis underwent a functional capacity assessment and further review by WSI. WSI determined Ellis continued to be eligible to receive partial disability benefits, but at a reduced amount. WSI ordered his partial disability benefits be reduced by the greater of his actual wages or his retained earning capacity as had been determined by WSI. Ellis appealed the WSI order, triggering review by the ALJ. WSI contended the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Ellis’ appeal of the ALJ’s decision because his appeal to the district court was untimely. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Ellis failed to timely file his appeal of the ALJ's decision. The Court therefore ordered the district court judgment vacated, and reinstated the decision of the ALJ. View "Ellis v. WSI" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court entering summary judgment in favor of the Town of Johnston and dismissing Plaintiff's suit alleging claims of governmental promissory estoppel and deprivation of property rights after the Town denied Plaintiff's requests for health benefits set forth in Ordinance 767, holding that Plaintiff was not eligible to receive benefits under the ordinance. Plaintiff served on the Johnston Town Council from 1981 until 1994. In 1989, the Town passed and adopted Ordinance 767, which established various benefits for certain town officials. In 1993, Ordinance 767 was repealed by Ordinance 913. In the early 2000s Plaintiff made several demands on the Town for the health benefits set forth in Ordinance 767, arguing that his entitlement to those benefits had vested as of 1991. After the Town denied those requests Plaintiff filed suit. The superior court granted summary judgment for the Town. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the clear and unambiguous language of Ordinance 767 indicates that Plaintiff was not eligible to receive benefits under the ordinance; and (2) Ordinance 767 sought to create a right to health benefits that did not previously exist, and therefore, the enactment could not be deemed a remedial ordinance. View "Zanni v. Town of Johnston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's conclusion that the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (the MFLSA) does not preempt the ordinance enacted by the City of Minneapolis that requires employers to pay minimum-wage rates that are higher than the rates set forth in the MFLSA, holding that district court correctly ruled that the MFLSA does not preempt the ordinance. The MFLSA establishes the minimum wage Minnesota employers must pay their employees. At issue was whether the City's ordinance requiring employers to pay minimum-wage rates higher than the rates set forth in the MFLSA was preempted by the MFLSA. The district court determined that state law does not preempt the ordinance because the MFLSA sets a floor, not a ceiling, for minimum-wage rates. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the MFLSA sets a floor, which does not prohibit, but instead permits, employers to pay the higher wage the ordinance requires; and (2) the Legislature did not intend to occupy the field of minimum-wage rates through the MFLSA. View "Graco, Inc. v. City of Minneapolis" on Justia Law

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Appellant Fraternal Order of Police ("FOP") sought the benefit of a grievance arbitration award that was overturned by an appeals court. The City of Pittsburgh hosts an annual marathon which, in 2016, was organized and administered by several large, private companies. About 100 police officers were needed to provide crowd control, road closures, and traffic management for the event. Initially, the Bureau of Police solicited volunteers from among those officers who would otherwise be off duty to work under a secondary employment arrangement. Numerous positions remained unfilled, and the Bureau asked approximately 70 officers to work on their "pass days." These officers were paid a minimum of four hours overtime at a time-and-a-half rate, plus additional overtime for any more hours worked. Pursuant to the terms of the CBA, the FOP filed a grievance asserting the City violated the bargaining agreement by “mandating officers work secondary employment when the CBA states it is strictly voluntary.” The City stressed that the CBA specifically established a rate of pay for scenarios in which officers are required to work outside of their regularly scheduled shifts, and that officers had been compensated by the City in strict conformity with this provision. An arbitrator ultimately ruled in favor of the FOP, but an appeals court reversed, finding "no authority within the four corners of the collective bargaining agreement to justify the award." Disagreeing with the Commonwealth Court's affirmance of the appeals court, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for reinstatement of the arbitration award. View "City of Pgh v. Frat. Order of Police" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Roseburg Forest Products Company's motion to set aside default judgment, holding that the district court did not slightly abuse its discretion in denying Roseburg's motion to set aside default judgment. Jerome Frye, a former employee at Roseburg, filed a complaint alleging violations of the Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act. The clerk of court entered default against Roseburg after Roseburg did not file an appearance or an answer to the complaint with the district court. Roseburg later moved to set aside the entry of default judgment. The district court denied the motion, determining that Roseburg failed to proceed with diligence and that Roseburg's neglect was not excusable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Roseburg's neglect in answering the complaint was not excusable. View "Frye v. Roseburg Forest Products Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court holding that Montana law precluded a jury trial on Plaintiff's federal discrimination claims even though federal law allows a jury trial for federal claims, holding that the district court erred when it concluded that Montana procedural law applied under the Montana Human Rights Act (MHRA) and denied Plaintiff a jury trial on his federal claims. Plaintiff, who has a visual disability, brought claims alleging that the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services engaged in intentional employment discrimination on the basis of his sex and/or disability, in violation of state and federal anti discrimination statutes. The district court concluded that state law precluded a jury trial on Plaintiff's federal discrimination claims because Montana's antidiscrimination statutes do not provide for a trial by jury and because state procedural rules govern procedures in state courts. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff's claims were separate and distinct from his state law claims and that Plaintiff had a right to a jury trial on his federal claims in state district court. View "Spillers v. Third Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the superior court's denial of administrative mandamus relief in an action stemming from the Appeals Board's decision finding that the company violated various state regulations. The court held that the superior court properly applied the substantial evidence standard of review. The court also held that, based on an examination of the administrative record, substantial evidence supported the Appeals Board's findings that the company freely and voluntarily consented to the inspection; Cal/OSHA's failure to preserve the original inspection file did not deprive the company of due process; and the violations underlying the four contested citations were properly classified. View "Nolte Sheet Metal v. Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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Young, diagnosed with emphysema in 2002, had worked in coal mines for 19 years, retiring from Island Creek Coal in 1999. During and after work, Young would often cough up coal dust. For 35 years, Young smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day. Young sought benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 902(b). Because Young had worked for at least 15 years as a coal miner and was totally disabled by his lung impairment, he enjoyed a statutory presumption that his disability was due to pneumoconiosis. If Young was entitled to benefits, Island Creek, Young’s last coal-mine employer, would be liable. After reviewing medical reports, the ALJ awarded benefits. The Benefits Review Board affirmed, noting that if there was any error in the ALJ’s recitation of the standard, that error was harmless. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review, first rejecting an Appointments Clause challenge as waived. The ALJ did not err by applying an “in part” standard in determining whether Island Creek rebutted the presumption that Young has legal pneumoconiosis. To rebut the “in part” standard, an employer must show that coal-mine exposure had no more than a de minimis impact on a miner’s lung impairment. The ALJ reasonably weighed the medical opinions and provided thorough explanations for his credibility determinations. View "Island Creek Coal Co. v. Young" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the district court's judgment denying a petition for writ of mandate pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure sections 1085 and 1094.5. Plaintiff alleged that the Department improperly extended his probation; he became a permanent employee 12 months after his hire date; and as a permanent employee, he was entitled to a hearing before discharge. The court held that there was no prohibition against the Department acting unilaterally so long as the other requirements of rule 12.02(B) of the Los Angeles County Civil Service Rules were met; rule 12.02 expressly permits the Department to exclude from the calculation of the probationary period, those times when an employee is absent from duty, and makes no reference as to whether that absence is paid or unpaid; the court interpreted the term "absent from duty" to mean that an employee is missing from his or her obligatory tasks, conduct, service, or functions, arising from his or her position, here, the position of deputy sheriff; and plaintiff failed to articulate what, if any, duties he was required to perform during the period he was on Relieved of Duty status. View "Amezcua v. L.A. County Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law