Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court

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The State of Delaware appealed a superior court order that affirmed a determination by the Industrial Accident Board (the Board) that Nicholas Gates was working within the course and scope of his employment when he was injured in a motor vehicle collision. At the time of the collision, Gates was employed by the State as a road-maintenance equipment operator for the Department of Transportation (DelDOT). The collision occurred while he was responding to a “call-back” after his normal work hours. He was called back to attend to a roadside accident. Gates sought workers’ compensation benefits from the State for his injury. At the hearing before the Board, the State argued that State of Delaware Merit Rule 4.16 1 and a document titled “Call-Back Pay Guidelines and Recommended Procedure” (the Call-Back Pay Guidelines) were part of Gates’s employment contract. According to these provisions, Gates was not to be paid for a call-back until he arrived at the DelDOT yard. Because Gates’s collision occurred before he arrived at the yard, the State argued, his injury occurred outside the course and scope of his employment and was, therefore, not compensable under Delaware’s Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act).3 The Board looked to the parties’ prior course of conduct to determine the terms of the employment contract and found that Gates’s injury was compensable under the Act because, based on the parties’ prior course of conduct, he “was working within the course and scope of his employment contract when the motor vehicle accident occurred.” The Superior Court affirmed the Board’s decision. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court, and therefore the Board. Specifically, the Court determined the Board applied the correct legal standard and acted within its discretion in finding, based on Gates’s unrebutted testimony as to the parties’ course of conduct prior to the collision, that the terms of Gates’s employment contract established he was to be paid for a callback from the time he received the call and that, at the time of the collision, he was working within the course and scope of this contract. These factual findings were supported by substantial evidence; the Board did not err in determining that Gates’s injury was compensable under the Act. View "Delaware v. Gates" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue before the Delaware Supreme Court was the limits of the stockholder ratification defense when directors make equity awards to themselves under the general parameters of an equity incentive plan. In the absence of stockholder approval, if a stockholder properly challenges equity incentive plan awards the directors grant to themselves, the directors must prove that the awards are entirely fair to the corporation. But, when the stockholders have approved an equity incentive plan, the affirmative defense of stockholder ratification comes into play. Here, the Equity Incentive Plan (“EIP”) approved by the stockholders left it to the discretion of the directors to allocate up to 30% of all option or restricted stock shares available as awards to themselves. The plaintiffs alleged facts leading to a pleading-stage reasonable inference that the directors breached their fiduciary duties by awarding excessive equity awards to themselves under the EIP. Thus, a stockholder ratification defense was not available to dismiss the case, and the directors had to demonstrate the fairness of the awards to the Company. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Chancery’s decision dismissing the complaint and remanded for further proceedings. View "In Re Investors Bancorp, Inc. Stockholder Litigation" on Justia Law

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Magdalena Guardado, an undocumented worker, was employed as a machine manager for Roos Foods when she was involved in a work-related accident. She injured her left wrist and thereafter received total disability benefits. The employer petitioned the Industrial Accident Board (“the Board”) to terminate those benefits on the ground that the worker was no longer disabled and could return to work. The Board found: (1) the employer met its initial burden of showing that the worker was no longer totally disabled; (2) that the worker was a prima facie displaced worker based solely on her status as an undocumented worker; and (3) the employer had failed to meet its burden of showing regular employment opportunities within the worker’s capabilities. Accordingly, it denied the employer’s petition. The questions this case presented for the Delaware Supreme Court's review were: (1) whether an injured worker’s immigration status alone rendered her a prima facie displaced worker; and (2) whether the Board properly found that the employer failed to meet its burden of showing regular employment opportunities within the worker’s capabilities because its evidence failed to take into account the worker’s undocumented status. The Court concluded that an undocumented worker’s immigration status was not relevant to determining whether she was a prima facie displaced worker, but it was a relevant factor to be considered in determining whether she is an actually displaced worker. The Court also concluded that the Board correctly rejected the employer’s evidence of regular employment opportunities for the worker because that evidence failed to consider her undocumented status. View "Roos Foods v. Guardado" on Justia Law

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Trascent Management Consulting, LLC hired a top executive, George Bouri, giving him part ownership, naming him Managing Principal, and naming him as a member of the Board of Managers of Trascent with responsibility for human resources, IT, and finance. Bouri occupied these positions for about sixteen months. When Trascent terminated Bouri and sued him, for among other things, violating his employment agreement, Bouri sought advancement to defend himself in accordance with the plain language of both his employment agreement and Trascent’s LLC agreement. Belatedly in the process of defending Bouri’s motion for summary judgment, Trascent argued that the same employment contract on which many of its claims against Bouri were premised was induced by fraud and that Bouri could not receive advancement because the employment agreement was thereby invalid (and presumably that he would not have become a member of Trascent’s board, and thus be entitled to advancement, under the LLC agreement absent that contract). The Court of Chancery rejected that defense to advancement, relying on the plain language of the agreements, which required that advancement be provided until a court made a final, nonappealable determination that indemnification was not required, and on the summary nature of the proceedings under 6 Del. C. sec. 18-108 (the LLC analogue to 8 Del. C. sec. 145). Trascent appealed, arguing the Court of Chancery erred in that ruling. Finding no reversible error after its review, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery's judgment. View "Transcent Management Consulting, LLC v. Bouri" on Justia Law

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Appellant Greenville Country Club, through its workers’ compensation carrier, Guard Insurance (“Guard”), appealed a Superior Court Order affirming a decision of the Industrial Accident Board (the “Board”). While working for Greenville Country Club, Jordan Rash suffered injuries to his lumbar spine in two separately compensable work accidents. The first accident occurred in 2009 while the country club was insured by Guard Insurance Group. The second accident occurred in 2012 while the country club was insured by Technology Insurance (“Technology”). In 2014, Rash filed two Petitions to Determine Additional Compensation, one against Guard and one against Technology. After a hearing, the Board determined that the condition at issue was a recurrence of the 2009 work injury and not an aggravation of the 2012 work injury, and concluded that Guard was therefore wholly liable for the additional compensation to Rash. Guard appealed, arguing: (1) the Board failed to properly apply the rule for determining successive carrier liability; and (2) there was no substantial evidence to support the Board’s finding that Rash fully recovered from the 2012 accident or that his ongoing condition was solely caused by the 2009 work accident. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court found no error in the Board’s decision, and that the decision was supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Board's decision. View "Greenville Country Club (Guard Insurance) v. Greenville Country Club (Technology Insurance)" on Justia Law

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Kenneth Davis was employed by Christiana Care Health Services as a dishwasher in its Nutrition Services department. In 2012, Davis was working when he slipped and fell backwards, landing on his back. A doctor saw Davis for a defense medical examination on in early 2013. The doctor wrote a report indicating “that any low back injury causally related to the work accident was “resolved” and any ongoing symptoms were non-work related.” Approximately one month later, Christiana Care’s counsel sent an “extremely modest” settlement offer to Davis’s attorney. Although it extended this settlement offer, Christiana Care’s position was that Davis’s back injury was due to a pre-existing gunshot injury that was unrelated to Davis’s employment. To the extent that any injury during his work contributed to Davis’s back troubles, Christiana Care maintained that this was resolved as of February 27, 2013 when Dr. Crain examined him. This appeal addressed the Superior Court’s decision to overrule a determination by the Industrial Accident Board (the “IAB”) that the parties had reached a settlement agreement, which barred a later claim for benefits due to permanent impairment. Because it lacked a complete release that would have avoided any question about its effect, the settlement agreement was “less than ideally clear.” But the IAB’s factual determination that the parties’ settlement, which involved an express agreement that the injury in question was resolved as an ongoing medical matter, precluded a future claim for permanent impairment based on the same “resolved” injury was supported by substantial evidence. The Superior Court was required to defer to the IAB’s factual determinations to the extent they were supported by substantial evidence, and in this case, the Superior Court erred by substituting its own factual findings for that of the IAB. Moreover, there was no question that the settlement agreement was, as a legal matter, a binding contract supported by adequate consideration. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court’s decision and reinstated the IAB’s determination. View "Christiana Care Health Services v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented to the Delaware Supreme Court arose out of a situation where a police officer retired while his conduct was under investigation by his employing police force. After the officer retired, the Council on Police Training revoked his certification as a police officer in the State of Delaware on the grounds that the officer’s retirement itself constituted a knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to a hearing under the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court concluded that because the plain language of section 8404(a)(4)(e) provided that the Council could only revoke the certification of a retired officer if the officer both retired pending the resolution of an investigation that could have resulted in his discharge from the police force and “knowingly and voluntarily waived” his right to a hearing under the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights, the Council erred. The Superior Court’s reversal of the Council’s revocation of his certification was affirmed. View "Council on Police Training v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Claimant-appellee and cross-appellant-appellant Amanda Wyatt appealed a Superior Court judgment reversing an Industrial Accident Board finding that she had a compensable, work-related injury. The employer-appellant and cross-appellee-appellee is Wyatt’s former employer, Rescare Home Care. On appeal, Wyatt argued: (1) the Superior Court erred in reversing the Board’s decision that her injury was a compensable industrial accident, since the Board’s decision was based upon substantial evidence; and (2) the Board erred in denying the medical expenses for her emergency back surgery. After careful consideration, the Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court erred in reversing the Board’s decision that the Claimant had a compensable work related injury. Furthermore, the Court concluded the Board properly determined that her back surgery was not compensable. View "Wyatt v. Rescare Home Care" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed a Court of Chancery order that granted summary judgment and dismissed his suit on laches grounds. The underlying dispute arose over capital investments plaintiff made in two companies. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded plaintiff's arguments made on appeal lacked merit, however, the Court reversed and remanded on different grounds. View "Levey v. Brownstone Asset Management, LLP, et al." on Justia Law

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Employee-appellant, Gary Andreason appealed a Superior Court judgment affirming two Industrial Accident Board decisions. The first decision awarded compensation to Andreason for his work-related knee and right shoulder injuries, but denied compensation for a separate and unrelated lower back injury. The second decision denied Andreason's reargument motion challenging the Board's denial of compensation for his lower back injury. Andreason argued on appeal to the Supreme Court: (1) the Board erred as a matter of law when it determined that there was no implied agreement to compensate him for his lower back injury; (2) that title 19, section 2322(h) does not apply when compensation is paid as the result of a unilateral mistake. The Court concluded all of Andreason's arguments were without merit. View "Andreason v. Royal Pest Control" on Justia Law