Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court's order granting a motion to dismiss filed by the Arkansas Governor and Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission Deputy Director and dismissing Plaintiff's claims pursuant to the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act, Ark. Code Ann. 21-1-601 et seq., as well as the state and federal constitutions, holding that sovereign immunity barred Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their official capacities but was no defense to Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their individual capacities. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he was terminated because he refused to violate state policy. The circuit court dismissed all claims against Defendants solely on the basis of sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) sovereign immunity precluded Plaintiff's official capacity claims; but (2) the circuit court erred when it found that sovereign immunity barred Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their individual capacities. View "Harris v. Hutchison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's dismissal of Plaintiff's action against the University of Arkansas, the Trustees of the University of Arkansas, and several individuals, both in their individual and official capacities, holding that the circuit court properly dismissed Plaintiff's claims. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) did not err by requiring Plaintiff to pay for counsel of the representatives of a class of students implicated in his 2015 Arkansas Freedom of Information Act data request; (2) did not err by dismissing Plaintiff's claims for monetary relief against the official-capacity defendants based on sovereign immunity; (3) did not err by dismissing individual-capacity claims against two individuals; (4) did not err in finding that Plaintiff's individual capacity claims under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act failed to state claims for which relief could be granted; and (5) properly dismissed Plaintiff's tortious interference with a contract claim and civil conspiracy claim. Finally, the Court held that the University did not waive its sovereign immunity on a claim under the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act. View "Steinbuch v. University of Arkansas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting class certification for nursing employer at a health and rehabilitation facility and the circuit court's rulings on Appellants' motions and objections, holding that Appellees met their burden to prove the class certification requirements and that the circuit court's class certification order was sufficient. Appellees, nursing employees at a health and rehabilitation facility, filed a putative class action alleging that the facility violated the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act (AMWA), Ark. Code Ann. 11-4-210(a) - 211(a). Appellees then filed a motion for class certification. The circuit court granted class certification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly determined that the requirements of Ark. R. Civ. P. 23 were satisfied and, in its class certification order, defined the class and sufficiently set forth the claims and defenses. View "Infinity Healthcare Management of Arkansas, LLC v. Boyd" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court certifying a class pursuant to Ark. R. Civ. P. 23, holding that the circuit court properly granted the class certification filed by Appellees. Appellees, employees of Appellant, filed their class-action complaint alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment based on Appellant's failure to compensate them for earned but unused vacation time. The circuit court entered an amended order granting class certification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellees met their burden of proof as to the commonality requirement; (2) Appellees met their burden of proof as to the predominance requirement; and (3) a class action was a superior means of resolving the contractual dispute at the heart of this case. View "Industrial Welding Supplies of Hattiesburg, LLC v. Pinson" on Justia Law

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In this case alleging unjust enrichment, breach of contract, and promissory estoppel the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Appellants' motion for class certification, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in concluding that Appellants did not meet the Ark. R. Civ. P. 23 requirements for class certification. Appellants, former employees of Cooper Clinic, P.A., filed a class-action complaint against Cooper Clinic and the entities that acquired Cooper Clinic's assets (collectively, Mercy). Appellants sought to certify a class to consist of individuals who worked for Cooper Clinic and were terminated as part of the merger with Mercy without being paid for their unused vacation time. The circuit court denied the motion for class certification on the basis that all former employees had eventually been paid for their unused vacation time. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the class of individuals who were not paid for their unused vacation time at the time of the termination of their employment with Cooper Clinic still existed and that the circuit court abused its discretion by relying on Cooper Clinic's payments to employees with unused vacation-time balances to defeat Rule 23's requirements. View "Vaughn v. Mercy Clinic Fort Smith Communities" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's petition for judicial review of an administrative decision by the director of the Arkansas State Police, holding that the circuit court erred in concluding that the petition was barred by the State's sovereign immunity from suit. Appellant, a California resident, submitted an application to the state police to become licensed as a private investigator in Arkansas. The application was denied, and Appellant filed an administrative appeal. Colonel William J. Bryant, in his capacity as the director of the state police, found that Appellant was ineligible to receive a license due to his prior convictions. The circuit court concluded that Appellant's petition for judicial review was barred by the State's sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the State's sovereign immunity from suit did not apply to this proceeding. View "Hackie v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying the motion to dismiss filed by Jimmy Banks, Warden of the Varner Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC), as to Sharon Jones's complaint alleging that she had been terminated from her employment at the Varner Unit due to racial and gender discrimination, holding that Jones failed to state factual allegations that alleged a deprivation of any constitutional right. In her complaint, Jones, an African American woman, alleged that she was subjected to unlawful racial and gender discrimination because she was discharged under circumstances that similarly situated white or male employees were not. Banks filed a motion to dismiss based on constitutional sovereign immunity, qualified immunity, and statutory immunity. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Banks was entitled to qualified immunity under Jones's 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims and statutory immunity against her state law claims. View "Banks v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss a claim brought under the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act (AWBA) and dismissed the complaint, holding that the complaint was barred by the State's sovereign immunity. Plaintiff, who had worked in the office of the Arkansas Treasurer of State before he was terminated, filed a complaint against Defendant, the treasurer, in his official capacity, alleging a violation of the AWBA. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the complaint was barred by sovereign immunity. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) pursuant to the Court's decision in Arkansas Community Correction v. Barnes, 542 S.W.3d 841 (Ark. 2018), the purported legislative waiver of the State's sovereign immunity in the AWBA is unconstitutional; and (2) the complaint in this case was barred by sovereign immunity. View "Milligan v. Singer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission adopting the finding of an administrative law judge (ALJ) that Appellant's additional benefits claim was barred by the statute of limitations, holding that the Commission did not err in finding that Appellant's claim was barred by the statute of limitations. After a hearing, the ALJ found that Appellant's claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The Commission affirmed and adopted the ALJ's findings. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the statute of limitations had tolled. The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals and affirmed the Commission's finding, holding that the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence. View "Farris v. Express Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this appeal from the circuit court's order certifying a class action lawsuit filed by Employees against Employer, the Supreme Court remanded the case with instructions to enter an order that complies with Ark. R. Civ. P. 23, holding that the order must reflect the circuit court's analysis to determine whether the Rule 23 requirements have been met. Employees filed this suit pursuant to the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act, Ark. Code Ann. 11-4-201 et seq., for unpaid overtime. After filing their complaint Employees moved to certify a class of individuals who were, are, or will be employed by Employer as hourly paid employees. The circuit court granted Employees' motion for class certification. The Supreme Court remanded the case with instructions, holding that, in conformity with Industrial Welding Supplies of Hattiesburg, LLC v. Pinson, 530 S.W.3d 854 (Ark. 2017), the class certification order was deficient. View "Koppers, Inc. v. Trotter" on Justia Law