Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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Daniel Sharp suffered an injury to his lower back from an accident at work in 2015. After surgery, he was repeatedly advised to lose weight by the medical providers treating his injury. However, Sharp gained considerable weight instead. The Industrial Commission found that Sharp’s functional ability had diminished between 2016, when he reached maximal medical improvement (MMI) after surgery, and 2019, when his permanent disability hearing was held. The Commission attributed the worsening of Sharp’s condition to his weight gain, which it held to be a superseding cause of any increase in Sharp’s disability post-MMI. Accordingly, the Commission evaluated Sharp’s disability based on his condition at MMI, despite the Idaho Supreme Court's opinion in Brown v. Home Depot, 272 P.3d 577 (2012), requiring that a claimant’s disability be evaluated based on circumstances at time of the hearing. After review in this case, the Supreme Court held that the Commission erred by departing from "Brown," by applying an incorrect standard to determine that Sharp was not entitled to compensation due to the aggravation of his injury, and by reaching certain factual conclusions not supported by substantial and competent evidence. Therefore, the Commission’s decision was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Sharp v. Thomas Bros Plumbing" on Justia Law

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After a 21-year career as a firefighter with the City of Pocatello, Richard Nelson was diagnosed with leukemia. Nelson brought a workers’ compensation claim against the City. The Industrial Commission determined that the City failed to rebut a statutory presumption of causation with substantial and competent evidence. The City appealed, arguing there was substantial evidence to rebut the presumption that Nelson’s cancer was caused by his employment. The City also argued Idaho Code section 72-438(14)(b) unconstitutionally discriminated between the employers of firefighters who had cancer and the employers of other employees who claim to have contracted an occupational disease. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the Industrial Commission. View "Nelson v. City of Pocatello" on Justia Law

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The case arose when four Micron Technology, Inc. employees filed a class action complaint against Micron in 2019, asserting violations of the Idaho Wage Claim Act. At the time, Micron had in place a compensation plan called the Incentive Pay Plan (IPP), in which eligible employees could earn yearly bonuses based on a number of performance metrics. The Employees alleged that the bonuses they received on November 23, 2018, for Micron’s 2018 fiscal year should have been greater. Micron moved for summary judgment, arguing that the Employees’ complaint was time-barred by Idaho Code section 45-614. Micron argued that section 45-614’s six-month statute of limitations applied to the Employees’ complaint because they sought “additional wages,” as opposed to “unpaid wages.” The district court granted Micron’s motion for summary judgment. The Employees timely appealed, arguing that the two-year statute of limitations applied. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision. View "Manning v. Micron Technology, Inc." on Justia Law

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Taleetha Fuentes filed a worker's compensation complaint against her employer Cavco Industries and Cavco’s surety, Sentry Casualty Company (collectively, Defendants). Fuentes filed her complaint in July 2019, and the Defendants denied the claim. During discovery, the Defendants filed a motion to compel in October 2019, which was granted. Following no response from Fuentes, the Defendants filed a motion for sanctions, and Fuentes again did not respond. On December 19, 2019, the full Idaho Industrial Commission issued an Order Dismissing Complaint, citing Industrial Commission Judicial Rule of Procedure (JRP) 12(B). Five months later, in May 2020, Fuentes responded to the initial discovery requests and moved to retain the case on the active calendar, but her filing and motion were returned “unfiled” as explained in an email from the assigned Referee. Fuentes also moved for reconsideration of the dismissal and filed a petition to vacate the order of dismissal under JRP 15. The Commission denied both motions. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the Commission acted in excess of its powers when it misapplied JRP12(B) in the initial dismissal order, and in applying JRP 16 to Fuentes' case. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Commission’s decision to dismiss Fuentes’ case, and vacated the order. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Fuentes v. Cavco Industries, Inc." on Justia Law

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Nathan Smith appealed a district court order granting summary judgment in favor of his former employer, Kount, Inc., and denying his cross motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the compensation agreement he signed unambiguously required Smith to remain employed until a specified date to earn the bonus compensation, and Smith resigned before that date. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Smith v. Kount Inc." on Justia Law

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Douglas Waite appealed an Idaho Industrial Commission (“Commission”) decision requiring him to repay unemployment benefits he received, along with interest and penalties. Waite claimed the Commission’s determination that he willfully misstated a material fact for the purpose of obtaining unemployment benefits was not supported by substantial and competent evidence and was incorrect as a matter of law. Additionally, Waite argued the Commission erred when it concluded that Idaho Code section 72-1366(12) required him to repay the unemployment benefits he received. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s decision and order. View "Waite v. Moto One KTM, LLC" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a years-long dispute between Robert Elgee and the Retirement Board of the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (“PERSI”) regarding the payment of retirement benefits accrued during Elgee’s service as a magistrate judge. Elgee became eligible for PERSI benefits in 2010, but operating under an erroneous interpretation of the statutes it administers, PERSI maintained Elgee was not then entitled to receive benefits. Eleven years, numerous administrative determinations, and two judicial review actions later, the parties continued to disagree on issues relating to the calculation of benefits, the interest due on benefits, and whether Elgee was entitled to damages for the tax consequences of receiving a lump sum payment of retroactive benefits. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court as to the applicable rate of interest, reversed as to the remaining issues, and remanded for entry of judgment. On remand the district court was directed to enter judgment that reflected: (1) the PERSI Board’s determination that Elgee was due interest at the regular rate of interest under the PERSI statutes was affirmed; (2) the PERSI Board’s determination that Elgee was due interest from 2013, rather than 2010, was set aside; (3) the PERSI Board’s determination that Elgee was due benefits under the contingent annuitant option, rather than the regular retirement option was affirmed; (4) the PERSI Board’s determination that Elgee failed to prove his tax loss claim in 2018 was set aside; and (5) the PERSI Board’s determination that tax loss damages were not available under the PERSI statutes was affirmed. View "Elgee v. Retirement Brd. of the Public Employee (PERSI)" on Justia Law

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TRC Fabrication, LLC, (TRC) purchased steel tubing from Brown Strauss Steel Co. (Brown Strauss), a company located in Fontana, California. Under the sales contract, Brown Strauss sold the tubing “free on board” to TRC. Brown Strauss contracted with Jay Transport, a trucking company based in Rigby, Idaho, which in turn engaged Dale Kelly, an independent owner-operator of a semi-truck to transport the tubing. Kelly hauled the tubing to Idaho Falls and delivered the load to TRC. When employees of TRC began to unload the tubing from the trailer, a forklift operator dropped the steel tubing, which then slid across the pavement and struck Kelly, seriously injuring his right leg, ankle, and foot. Kelly and his wife Nancy filed a complaint against TRC, seeking to recover damages for negligence and loss of consortium. After TRC filed a motion seeking summary judgment, the district court granted the motion and dismissed the Kellys’ complaint. The district court concluded that Idaho’s worker’s compensation law extended statutory immunity to TRC and limited the Kellys’ recovery to workers’ compensation benefits. The question this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review was whether the immunity afforded a statutory employer applied to TRC to bar the Kellys' complaint for damages. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order granting summary judgment, vacated the judgment entered, and remanded the case for further proceedings: the district court erred in concluding that TRC was Kelly’s category one statutory employer. View "Kelly v. TRC Fabrication LLC" on Justia Law

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J.R. Simplot Company (“Simplot”) hired Erik Knudsen for a position as a packaging engineer. Early on in his employment, Knudsen was told that he would be the startup manager on a Simplot project in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Knudsen was unfamiliar with the startup manager position and questioned whether those job duties were fairly within the scope of his employment as a packaging engineer. Simplot and Knudsen disagreed as to the nature of his job, leading to the eventual termination of Knudsen’s employment. After his dismissal, Knudsen filed this action, alleging fraud, promissory estoppel, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The district court granted Simplot’s motion for summary judgment as to all of Knudsen’s claims and denied Simplot’s subsequent motion for attorney’s fees. The Idaho Supreme Court determined Knudsen's fraud claim was cognizable notwithstanding the at-will employment doctrine. However, the Supreme Court concluded summary judgment on all of Knudsen's claims was appropriate. View "Knudsen v. J.R. Simplot Company" on Justia Law

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This case arose from an Idaho Industrial Commission determination denying an application for unemployment benefits. William Wittkopf appealed pro se the Commission’s determination that he was ineligible for unemployment benefits because he voluntarily quit his job without good cause and he willfully made a false statement or willfully failed to report a material fact in his unemployment application. On appeal, Wittkopf challenged the factual findings made by the Commission and argued it violated his right to due process by taking into consideration the fact that he voluntarily terminated his employment approximately two and a half years prior to applying for unemployment benefits. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded: (1) Wittkopf failed to provide a cogent argument on appeal regarding whether his right to due process was violated; (2) the Commission’s determination that Wittkopf voluntarily terminated his employment at Stewart’s Firefighter without good cause and without exhausting all reasonable alternatives was supported by substantial and competent evidence; and (3) the Commission’s determination that Wittkopf willfully made a false statement or willfully failed to report a material fact in order to obtain benefits was supported by substantial and competent evidence. Accordingly, the Commission’s decision and order denying Wittkopf’s application for unemployment benefits was affirmed. View "Wittkopf v. Stewart's Firefighter Food Catering, Inc." on Justia Law