Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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The case revolves around Thomas E. Hennig, Jr., who was discharged from his job at Money Metals Exchange, L.L.C. after making a controversial comment on the company's instant messaging system. Hennig referred to himself as his employer’s “good little Nazi” in a joke about enforcing the company’s time clock rules. After his termination, Hennig applied for unemployment benefits, but his application was denied by the Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL) on the grounds that he was discharged for misconduct connected with his employment. Hennig appealed this decision to the Idaho Industrial Commission, which upheld the IDOL's decision.Hennig then appealed to the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho, arguing that the Commission’s decision was unsupported by competent and substantial evidence. He contended that his use of the term "Nazi" was not objectively unprofessional and that the company had tolerated racist remarks from another employee. The Supreme Court of Idaho reversed the Commission’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court found that the Commission had failed to properly analyze whether the company's expectations of Hennig's behavior were objectively reasonable, given evidence that it had tolerated racist comments from another co-worker and then promoted him to a supervisory position. The court also found that the Commission had failed to consider Hennig's claim that the company had encouraged his unorthodox humor. View "Hennig v. Money Metals Exchange" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a workers' compensation claim filed by Christine Coray after she was injured at her workplace, Idaho Regional Hand & Upper Extremity Center. Following her injury, Coray's physician recommended back surgery. However, after an independent medical examination (IME) requested by her employer and its surety, they denied liability for the surgery and ongoing benefits, arguing that Coray had recovered from the workplace injury and that the surgery was necessitated by preexisting conditions. After undergoing surgery outside of the workers' compensation system, her employer requested a second IME by a different physician. Coray refused and sought a declaratory ruling from the Idaho Industrial Commission on whether the employer must use the same physician for multiple examinations of a single injury.The Idaho Industrial Commission ruled that the employer or surety is not required to use the same physician for multiple examinations of a single injury under Idaho Code section 72-433. However, it also held that each request for an IME is subject to a reasonableness standard, and the burden of proof for establishing reasonableness falls on the employer. Coray appealed this interpretation, while the employer cross-appealed the Commission's conclusion that it bears the burden of proving the reasonableness of a second IME.The Supreme Court of the State of Idaho affirmed the Idaho Industrial Commission's decision. It held that the plain language of Idaho Code section 72-433 does not prohibit an employer or surety from using different physicians to perform multiple examinations of a single injury. The court also affirmed the Commission's ruling that the employer bears the burden of establishing the reasonableness of its requested IME, including its choice of physician, if raised by the employee. View "Coray v. Idaho Regional Hand & Upper Extremity Center" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of the State of Idaho upheld a decision by the Idaho Industrial Commission that required an employer and its insurance company to pay the full amount of a medical invoice for an employee's workers' compensation claim, even though the employee's medical expenses were fully covered by Medicaid. The employee, Nickole Thompson, worked at Burley Inn, whose workers' compensation insurer was Milford Casualty Insurance Company. After Thompson suffered a work-related injury, Burley Inn and Milford denied her workers' compensation claim for a hip replacement surgery. Thompson underwent the surgery anyway, with Medicaid covering the cost.Thompson later filed a claim with the Industrial Commission, which found the hip replacement surgery was connected to her work injury and awarded her medical benefits based on the full invoice amount for the surgery. Burley Inn and Milford appealed the decision, arguing that the "full invoice" rule should not apply when Medicaid has already covered the medical expenses.The state Supreme Court, however, upheld the Commission's decision, asserting that excluding Medicaid recipients from the full invoice rule could encourage employers to deny workers' compensation claims of workers they suspect of being Medicaid recipients. The court also noted that the full invoice rule was consistent with Idaho's workers' compensation law and was intended to prevent employers from denying legitimate claims. The Court also concluded that the employer and insurer had standing to bring the appeal and that Thompson was not entitled to attorney fees on appeal. View "Thompson v. Burley Inn, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho was tasked with answering a certified question of law from the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho. The question centered on the appropriate point of accrual for wage discrimination claims under the Idaho Human Rights Act (IHRA) and the Idaho Equal Pay Act (IEPA). Plaintiff Lori S. Blasch accused her former employer, HP Inc., of wage discrimination and retaliation under the IHRA and the IEPA.The Idaho Supreme Court held that the one-year limitation period for IHRA claims begins when the pay-setting decision is made and communicated to the employee. As for IEPA claims, the court determined that they are subject to the four-year statute of limitations outlined in Idaho Code section 5-224. Furthermore, the limitation period for IEPA claims begins to run when the employee receives each discriminatory paycheck. The court made these decisions after reviewing the language of the relevant statutes and considering previous court decisions, legislative intent, and public policy. View "Blasch v. HP, Inc." on Justia Law

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Two online fundraising companies, Snap! Mobile, Inc. ("Snap") and Vertical Raise, LLC ("Vertical Raise"), were involved in a dispute. Snap accused Vertical Raise and its CEO, Paul Landers, of poaching its sales representatives and customers, which violated non-compete and confidentiality provisions in the former sales representatives’ employment agreements with Snap. The trial court granted Snap a preliminary injunction to prevent further violations and partially ruled in Snap's favor on some claims. A jury trial on damages resulted in an award of $1,000,000 to Snap. However, the trial court increased the award to $2,310,021. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed the trial court's award of discretionary costs for expert witness fees but reversed the trial court’s order granting an additur or new trial. The Supreme Court ordered the trial court to enter a judgment consistent with the original jury award. The Supreme Court also reversed the trial court’s decision granting Snap a permanent injunction. In a separate contempt proceeding, the Supreme Court affirmed the contempt court's decision to dismiss contempt charges against Vertical Raise and Paul Croghan, a former Snap employee. The contempt court had determined the preliminary injunction was vague, overbroad, and unenforceable. View "Snap! Mobile v. Vertical Raise" on Justia Law

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Amy Shumway was employed as a receptionist at Evans Chiropractic in Idaho. Her employment was terminated by Dr. John Hitchcock, one of the owners, for insubordination. Following her termination, Shumway applied for unemployment benefits. Her application was initially approved by an Appeals Examiner from the Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL) who found Shumway eligible for benefits despite her termination for insubordination. On appeal by Evans Chiropractic, the Industrial Commission affirmed the decision, but on different grounds. Evans Chiropractic then appealed to the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho.In the Supreme Court, Evans Chiropractic argued that Shumway should not be eligible for benefits because her employment was terminated for job-related misconduct, namely her refusal to meet with Dr. Hitchcock for discussions about her behavior at work. The Supreme Court agreed, finding that the Commission erred in its application of the law. The Court noted that the Commission had focused on Shumway's subjective reasons for not meeting with Hitchcock, rather than the employer's expectations. The Court found that Hitchcock directly communicated his expectation for Shumway to meet with him and that her refusal to do so constituted insubordination, which is a form of job-related misconduct. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the Commission’s decision and held that Shumway was ineligible for unemployment benefits as a matter of law. View "Shumway v. IDOL" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho upheld a lower court's summary judgment in favor of the defendants, George and Jesse’s Les Schwab Tire Store, Inc., and two of its owners, Bruce and Richard Byram. The plaintiff, Adam Davis, had been employed as an assistant manager at Les Schwab from April 2016 till June 2019. In March 2019, there was a shortage in the cash deposits and surveillance footage showed Davis bending down out of camera view in the area where the cash deposits were kept while he was alone in the store. This led to Davis being arrested and charged with grand theft, and his employment was terminated. Although the charges against Davis were later dropped, he sued the defendants for breach of his employment contract, false arrest, defamation per se, and for knowingly giving a false report to the police. The district court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on all of Davis’s claims. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision, finding no genuine issue of material fact that could support Davis’s claims. The court found that Davis was an at-will employee who could be terminated without cause and that there was no evidence to show that the defendants had acted with malice. The court also found that the plaintiff's attorney had violated Rule 11.2 by submitting arguments that were not well grounded in fact, and awarded a portion of the defendants' attorney fees to be paid by the plaintiff's counsel. View "Davis v. George and Jesse's Les Schwab Tire Store, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellants Walmart and New Hampshire Insurance Company appealed the Idaho Industrial Commission’s determination that the employee’s widow, Sue Jordan, was entitled to medical and death benefits. More specifically, they challenged the Commission’s application of the presumption set forth in Idaho Code section 72-228 where there was unrebutted prima facie evidence indicating that the employee’s death arose in the course of his employment. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Idaho Industrial Commission. View "Jordan v. Walmart Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

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Moranda Morley lost one of her two jobs due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Morley applied for and received state unemployment compensation benefits and federal pandemic unemployment assistance through the Idaho Department of Labor. However, it was later determined that Morley was ineligible for benefits because she was still employed full-time at her other job. Morley appealed that determination to the Appeals Bureau of the Idaho Department of Labor, which affirmed her ineligibility. Morley then appealed to the Idaho Industrial Commission (“the Commission”), which dismissed Morley’s initial appeal and later denied her request for reconsideration, finding both to be untimely. Morley then appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, but her notice of appeal was timely only as to the denial of her request for reconsideration. Thereafter, the Supreme Court issued an order dismissing the appeal as to the issues that were determined to be untimely. What remains was a limited review of whether the Commission properly denied her request for reconsideration. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s denial of reconsideration. View "Morley v. IDOL" on Justia Law

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Mitchell Smith was employed by Amalgamated Sugar Company (“Amalgamated”) in Nampa, Idaho, when he was injured falling from a flight of stairs after the handrail gave out. Amalgamated had contracted with Excel Fabrication, LLC (“Excel”), to construct and install the flight of stairs and the handrail. Smith received worker’s compensation benefits from Amalgamated. Smith then sued Excel as a third-party tortfeasor, alleging that Excel had been negligent in its construction and installation of the staircase. Excel moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was a “statutory co-employee” with Smith and, therefore, it was immune from liability as a result of the exclusive remedy rule. The district court agreed and granted Excel’s motion for summary judgment. The district court then dismissed the case, with prejudice. Smith appealed. Based on the district court’s failure to recognize the differences between an independent contractor from either a contractor or a subcontractor, the Idaho Supreme Court held that the district court erred in granting Excel’s motion for summary judgment: the text of the Worker’s Compensation Law indicated that “independent contractors” were fundamentally different from “contractors and subcontractors” as those terms were used throughout the Idaho Worker’s Compensation Act. Because of this fundamental difference, an independent contractor was not immune from third-party tort liability as a statutory employer. The judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Smith v. Excel Fabrication, LLC" on Justia Law