Articles Posted in Hawaii Supreme Court

by
Appellant was permanently incapacitated while lifting boxes during a work shift for the City and County of Honolulu. Appellant applied for service-connected disability retirement benefits with the Board of Trustees of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) under Haw. Rev. Stat. 88-79, which allows for such benefits if an ERS member was permanently incapacitated for duty as the “natural and proximate result” of an “accident” occurring while in the actual performance of a duty “at some definite time and place.” The Board denied Appellant’s application, concluding (1) Appellant’s injury was not an “accident” because Appellant had failed to show that the injury occurred at “some definite time and place”; and (2) Appellant’s permanent incapacity was not the “natural and proximate result” of the incident. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the circuit court, holding that the “definite time and place” language in section 88-79 does not preclude the recovery of benefits despite Appellant’s inability to pinpoint the precise moment of injury where there was no dispute that Appellant was injured during her work shift. Remanded for a determination of whether Appellant’s permanent incapacity was not “the natural and proximate result” of the alleged incident. View "Panado v. Bd. of Trustees Employees' Ret. Sys." on Justia Law

by
United Public Workers, AFSCME, Local 646, AFL-CIO (“UPW”) filed an action on behalf of the employees it represented, alleging (1) then-Governor Lingle and members of her administration retaliated against UPW members for filing a lawsuit opposing her statewide furlough plan; and (2) the State was unlawfully privatizing positions customarily performed by civil servants under the merit system. The circuit court dismissed the complaint based on a lack of jurisdiction. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the circuit court’s judgment and remanded with instructions to stay the action pursuant to the primary jurisdiction doctrine so the parties could pursue appropriate administrative remedies before the Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB). The Supreme Court primarily affirmed, holding (1) the ICA did not err in concluding that the primary jurisdiction doctrine was applicable to UPW’s retaliation claims because the claims required the resolution of issues that have been placed within the special competence of the HLRB, and that a stay, rather than a dismissal, was appropriate under the circumstances; and (2) the primary jurisdiction doctrine did not apply to UPW’s privatization claims, and therefore, the circuit court erred in dismissing these claims, and the ICA erred in referring the claims to the HLRB. Remanded. View "United Pub. Workers, AFSCME, Local 636, AFL-CIO v. Abercrombie" on Justia Law

by
The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) filed a grievance against the University Laboratory School (ULS), alleging that the ULS refused to implement the proper salary placement for teachers as agreed to in a supplemental agreement negotiated by the HSTA and the Hawaii Board of Education. The ULS argued that the step placement chart the HSTA sought to enforce had never been agreed upon or incorporated into the agreement. The HSTA subsequently filed a grievance and a motion to compel arbitration of its grievance. The circuit court denied the HSTA’s motion to compel arbitration. The intermediate court of appeals concluded that the circuit court did not err in denying HSTA’s motion, determining that the Hawaii Labor Relations Board had primary jurisdiction over the issues raised in the HSTA’s grievance and that the HSTA’s motion to compel arbitration was premature. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment, holding that because the parties agreed to leave questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator, the circuit court erred in refusing to grant the HSTA’s motion to compel arbitration after concluding that an arbitration agreement existed. Remanded. View "Haw. State Teachers Ass'n v. Univ. Lab. Sch." on Justia Law

by
Raymond Gurrobat, individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated persons, filed an action against HTH Corporation and Pacific Beach Corporation (collectively, Defendants), asserting claims of unlawful withholding of wages and unfair methods of competition (UMOC) for Defendants’ alleged failure to distribute the entirety of the service charges they received from customers to service employees and for failing to disclose to customers their practice of retaining a portion of those charges. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Gurrabat on the unlawful withholding of wages claim but in favor of Defendants on the UMOC claim. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the circuit court’s order granting Gurrobat’s motion for class certification; (2) affirmed in large part the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment on Gurrobat’s claims for unpaid wages but vacated the portion of the order granting Gurrobat’s motion for summary judgment as to damages that imposed joint and several liability on Defendants; and (3) vacated the circuit court’s order granting Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on Gurrobat’s UMOC claim, as Gurrobat alleged sufficient facts to survive summary judgment on this claim. Remanded. View "Gurrobat v. HTH Corp." on Justia Law

by
John McLaren represented a claimant in a workers’ compensation case before the Disability Compensation Division (“Division”) of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (“Department”) that resulted in a settlement awarding the claimant benefits for disability and disfigurement. McLaren requested attorney’s fees and costs in the amount of $7,105. The Director of the Department approved the request but reduced the amount to $3,729. The Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board dismissed McLaren’s appeal as untimely and denied McLaren’s subsequent motion for reconsideration. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment, holding (1) the ICA erred in concluding that McLaren’s appeal was untimely made and that his requests to the Division for reconsideration were insufficiently supported; (2) the ICA did not err in concluding that McLaren did not have a right to a contested case hearing before the Division; but (3) the Division was required to provide its reasons for reducing McLaren’s request for attorney’s fees and costs. View "McLaren v. Paradise Inn Haw., Inc." on Justia Law

by
The State filed a third amended complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that public funds ported to certain unions under the Hawaii Public Employees Health Fund’s porting program exceeded the amounts allowed by law. The circuit court’s declaratory ruling interpreting the statutory phrase “actual monthly cost of the coverage” in Haw. Rev. Stat. 87 essentially ended the State’s case, and the court entered judgment against the State. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in interpreting “actual monthly cost of the coverage,” and (2) the State’s factual allegations did not constitute a violation of the provisions of chapter 87. View "State v. Haw. Gov't Employees Ass'n" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed a complaint against his former employer and supervisors, alleging that he suffered discriminatory conduct while employed as a car salesman. Plaintiff asserted claims for state harassment and retaliation, federal harassment and retaliation, unlawful termination as against public policy, and breach of his employment contract. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) (1) vacated the grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer and one of Defendant’s supervisors on the state harassment and retaliation claims and vacated the grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer on the federal harassment and retaliation claims and the public policy claim, and (2) otherwise affirmed. The Supreme Court (1) vacated the ICA’s judgment on the state harassment and retaliation claims with respect to Plaintiff’s supervisor, holding that individual employees are not liable as employers under Haw. Rev. Stat. 378-2(1)(A) and 378-2(2); and (2) otherwise affirmed. View "Lales v. Wholesale Motors Co." on Justia Law

by
Petitioner filed a workers’ compensation claim with the Director of Labor and Industrial Relations seeking compensation for the aggravation of his asthma resulting from his exposure to vog while working as a school teacher. The Director denied Petitioner’s claim, and the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) affirmed. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the LIRAB’s decision. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment and the LIRAB’s decision, holding that Petitioner was entitled to compensation pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-3(a), which provides that if an employee suffers an injury proximately caused by employment, the employee shall be paid compensation. Remanded to the Director for a determination of the amount of compensation to be awarded. View "Van Ness v. State, Dep't of Educ." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, food and beverage services employees of hotels, brought claims against their employers for violating Haw. Rev. Stat. 481B-14 by invoking Haw. Rev. Stat. 388-6, 388-10, and 388-11. Specifically, Plaintiffs contended that the hotel or restaurant violated section 481B-14 when it applied a service charge for the sale of food and beverage services but did not distribute the full service charge directly to Plaintiffs and failed to disclose this fact to consumers. The Supreme Court accepted certification to answer a question of law and held (1) when a hotel or restaurant applying a service charge for the sale of food or beverage services allegedly violates section 481B-14 by not distributing 100 percent of the service charge directly to its employees as "tip income" and by failing to disclose this practice to the purchaser of the services, the employees may bring an action under sections 388-6, 388-10, and 388-11 to enforce their rights and to seek remedies. View "Villon v. Marriott Hotel Servs., Inc." on Justia Law

by
Del Monte Fresh Produce Company decided to cease growing pineapples at its plantation on O'ahu. The company's subsidiary, Del Monte Fresh Produce (Hawaii), Inc, subsequently bargained with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 142, with regard to the effects of that decision on Del Monte employees in Hawaii. The Union believed the company was not negotiating in good faith and filed a complaint with the Hawai'i Labor Relations Board alleging that Del Monte had engaged in unfair labor practices. The Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB) entered an order concluding that Del Monte failed to bargain in good faith. The circuit court and intermediate court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the HLRB did not clearly err in finding Del Monte engaged in bad faith bargaining, because there was substantial evidence that the totality of Del Monte's conduct did not evince a present intention to find a basis for agreement and a sincere effort to reach common ground. View "Del Monte Fresh Produce (Haw.), Inc. v. Int'l Longshore & Warehouse Union, Local 142" on Justia Law