Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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In this administrative appeal brought by the Kentucky Retirement Systems from the decision of the circuit court in two consolidated cases concerning application of Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.598 the Supreme Court held that the Retirement Systems improperly applied the statute to pay spikes to a certain extent.Section 61-598, commonly known as the pension spiking statute, identifies artificial increases in creditable compensation to public pension-member employees occurring in the last five years preceding retirement, effectively increasing the employee's retirement benefits. In both cases, the alleged spikes were partly due to a change in the Jefferson County Sheriff's office (JCSO) accounting method and partly due to the employees' accrual of overtime hours. The Retirement Systems assessed JCSO for payment increased actuarial costs attributable to the alleged pension spikes. The circuit court reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) an isolated transition in JCSO's new accounting method did not amount to an increase in compensation; (2) the Retirement Systems properly assessed the increased actuarial costs to the extent it was caused by regular overtime work and was not the result of a bona fide promotion or career advancement; and (3) the circuit court erred in reversing the Retirement System's original assignment of the burden of proving a bona fide promotion. View "Kentucky Retirement Systems v. Jefferson County Sheriff's Office" on Justia Law

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Claimant John West appealed a Vermont Department of Labor decision concluding that the 2014 amendment to 21 V.S.A. 644(a)(6) did not apply retroactively. In March 2013, West fell fifteen to twenty feet while working in the course of his employment for North Branch Fire District. He was transported to the hospital and treated for extensive injuries. In September 2014, West relocated to Florida, and at some point thereafter, began working at the Freedom Boat Club. Between 2014 and 2016, several different physicians provided conflicting opinions on the level of West’s permanent impairment. In February 2016, Dr. Joseph Kandel conducted an independent medical examination (IME) at North Branch’s request. At a deposition in September 2018, Dr. Kandel testified that it would be accurate to say that “West suffered an injury to the skull resulting in [a] severe traumatic brain injury causing permanent and severe cognitive, physical, or psychiatric disabilities.” West filed a request for a formal hearing, asserting that he was permanently and totally disabled under section 644(a)(6). Between the date of West’s injury and his request for a formal hearing, the Vermont Legislature amended section 644(a)(6). In January 2019, North Branch filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the pre-amendment version of 644(a)(6), which defined total and permanent disability as “an injury to the skull resulting in incurable imbecility or insanity,” applied to West’s claim because that was the law on the date of his injury in March 2013. Further, North Branch argued that the 2014 amendment did not apply retroactively because despite the Legislature’s stated purpose, the amendment created a substantive change in the law. In any event, because West was employed, North Branch maintained that he was not totally and permanently disabled under either version of 644(a)(6). West argued that, contrary to the Commissioner’s conclusion, the 2014 amendment to 644(a)(6) applied retroactively because it did not create any new substantive rights. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the 2014 amendment applied retroactively and therefore reversed and remanded. View "West v. North Branch Fire District #1" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court finding that a 2019 Waterloo "ban the box" ordinance was not preempted, holding that the ordinance was preempted to the extent that it purported to regulate a term and condition of employment.In 2017, the legislature adopted a statute, codified at Iowa Code 364.3(12)(a), that prohibits cities from adopting or administering an ordinance providing for any terms or conditions of employment exceeding or conflicting with state or federal law requirements relating to certain employment issues. In 2019, the City of Waterloo enacted the ordinance at issue, which regulated the time when an employer can inquire into a prospective employee's criminal history. The district court concluded that no part of the ordinance was preempted. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the ordinance was preempted to the extent it purported to regulate whether an employer can consider an employee's criminal history at all; and (2) the ordinance was not preempted where it only regulated timing because that was not a term or condition of employment. View "Iowa Ass’n of Business & Industry v. City of Waterloo" on Justia Law

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Tecnocap petitioned for review of the Board's decision affirming an ALJ's finding that the company engaged in several unfair labor practices in violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The Board cross-petitioned for enforcement of the order.The Fourth Circuit denied the petition for review and granted the cross-petition for enforcement as to the partial implementation of the last, best and final offer without reaching a good faith impasse and locking out union members in support of a demand that was a permissive subject of bargaining; granted the petition for review and denied the cross-petition for enforcement as to direct dealing; denied the petition for review and granted the cross-petition for enforcement as to Tecnocap's discouragement of union membership in how it undertook the lockout; and remanded for the Board to determine the effect the court's limited grounds for enforcing its order has on the remedies it ordered and for entry of a remedial order that is consistent with the court's decision. View "Tecnocap, LLC v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the holding of the Workers' Compensation Board that the Administrative Law Judge properly found that Plaintiff's claim for workers' compensation benefits was barred by the applicable statute of limitations, holding that there was no error.Plaintiff received a workplace injury and filed a claim for benefits. Plaintiff never sought or received any temporary total disability benefits prior to the applicable statute of limitations expiring. The insurance adjuster for the employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier offered to settle Plaintiff's claim, but the parties never reached a settlement agreement. Plaintiff later filed an application for resolution of his claim, but the employer denied the claim on the grounds that it was time barred. The ALJ found that the claim was not timely under Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.185. The Board affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ALJ properly determined that equitable principles did not warrant the tolling of the statute of limitations. View "Davis v. Blendex Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court upholding that decision of the Retirement Systems's Administrative Review Board affirming the decision of the Kentucky Retirement Systems applying the Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.598, the pension-spiking statute, to assess actuarial costs to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO), holding that the Retirement Systems did not properly apply the spiking statute in this case.The Kentucky Retirement Systems assessed the costs because it found a JCSO employee took unpaid leave for two months, causing a temporary decrease in gross compensation in that year, but then returned to his earlier pay. The circuit court agreement with the Retirement Systems, finding that section 61.598 as applied was not arbitrary, and therefore, the circuit court was bound by the Board's decision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the plain language of section 61.598 does not direct the retirement System to determine changes in compensation over a five-year period; and (2) the burden of proving a bona fide promotion was properly placed on the employer. View "Jefferson County Sheriff's Office v. Kentucky Retirement Systems" on Justia Law

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Eaton was an apprentice in 2011 when Local 139 dispatched her to Findorff. At the end of Eaton’s first day on the job Findorff’s Project Superintendent, Szymkowski, terminated Eaton, concluding that she was inadequately trained. Local 139 filed a grievance. Findorff agreed to hire Eaton for a different job when that position became available. Weeks later, Findorff hired Eaton. Szymkowski privately told Eaton that she was slow and inefficient but rated her an average apprentice when filling out reports, which addressed only her technical skills. In late 2011, Findorff found itself overstaffed and implemented a rotating layoff schedule. Eaton filed a charge with the EEOC alleging that her layoff amounted to discrimination on the basis of sex; her complaint was dismissed. In August 2012, Findorff no longer needed a skip hoist operator and her employment was terminated.In 2017, Eaton left a resume at Findorff. Szymkowski told the company’s receptionist that he would not rehire her. Later, a position opened. Local 139 notified Findorff’s receptionist that it was dispatching Eaton. Szymkowski sent a letter to Local 139, declining to hire Eaton due to past performance issues.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Findorff. Eaton waived a claim of sex discrimination. She lacks any evidence that the decision-makers knew that she had engaged in protected activity; she has failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact in support of causation for her retaliation claim. View "Eaton v. J.H. Findorff & Son, Inc." on Justia Law

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Employer-appointed trustees filed a complaint in the district court seeking the appointment of an impartial umpire to resolve a deadlock on a motion, pursuant to Section 302(c)(5) of the Labor Management Relations Act, brought by one of the employer-appointed trustees. The district court dismissed the complaint and declined to appoint an umpire.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that, based on the entirety of the Trust Agreement, the delegation proposed by the employer trustees' motion is beyond the trustees' authority to implement. The court explained that because the proposed delegation and amendment to the Trust Agreement are beyond the trustees' authority to implement, the deadlocked motion is not a matter arising in connection with the administration of the plan or a matter within the trustees' jurisdiction. Therefore, the Trust Agreement does not authorize the appointment of a neutral umpire to resolve the deadlocked motion. Furthermore, because the court found that adopting the employer trustees' proposed motion would require amending the Trust Agreement, the court also necessarily concluded that the deadlocked motion does not concern trust fund "administration" under section 302(c)(5). Accordingly, the deadlocked motion is not a matter of trust "administration" under either the Trust Agreement or section 302(c)(5), and thus the district court did not err in declining to appoint an umpire. View "Gillick v. Elliott" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the order of the circuit court concluding that a "subsistence allowance" provided by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) to Natural Resources Police Officers is "compensation" for purposes of the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), holding that the allowance was not compensation.Beginning in 1997, DNR reported the payments of the subsistence allowances to the Consolidated Public Retirement Board as part of the officers' "compensation," which is a key component in calculating the officers' retirement annuities under PERS. In 2014, the Board determined that the subsistence allowance was not compensation and that the error had led to the miscalculation of benefits paid to retired officers. Respondents - current and retired officers and their widowers and widows - appealed and requested declaratory relief with the Board, alleging that the Board's determination violated their vested pension rights. The Board denied relief, but the circuit court reversed. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the subsistence allowance was not compensation under PERS; and (2) the Board may not recover the excess retirement benefits already paid due to the error in treating the allowance as PERS compensation. View "W. Va. Consolidated Public Retirement Board v. Clark" on Justia Law

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Gould was appointed as a business agent for the Carpenters Regional Council by the Executive Secretary-Treasurer (EST). Gould began complaining of financial and administrative waste in 2008. The EST removed Gould. Gould sued, asserting wrongful termination. Gould received voluminous Council documents in discovery and, in a letter to the EST, outlined alleged financial improprieties and breaches of fiduciary duties. The Council hired the Calibre accounting firm to perform an audit and invited Gould to assist in the investigation. Gould questioned Calibre’s independence but agreed to provide documents.Gould subsequently sought to amend his state court suit to add Labor Code breach of fiduciary duty counts against the EST, 29 U.S.C. 501(b). The Council declared that the EST’s approval of expenditures was outside the scope of Gould’s demand letter and therefore “Calibre was not asked to investigate” The state court denied Gould leave to add the claims. The documents Gould provided were never forwarded by the Council's attorney to Calibre. The audit concluded that the Council’s expense reimbursement policy was sound. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of Gould’s motion for leave to file a federal complaint under 29 U.S.C. 501(b) against the EST. A union member who files a Section 501(b) lawsuit after a union has taken action in response to the member’s request should show an objectively reasonable ground for belief that the union’s accounting or other action was not legitimate. Gould failed to make the necessary showing and failed to meet the condition precedent of a timely and appropriate request to sue or recover damages or secure an accounting or other appropriate relief within a reasonable time. View "Gould v. Bond" on Justia Law