Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Workers' Compensation Board upholding the order of the administrative law judge (ALJ) denying Plaintiff a thirty percent enhancement of benefits from his employer, Defendant, as a result of workplace safety violations, holding that the safety-violation benefit enhancement did not apply.Plaintiff sustained a serious work-related injury while employed by Defendant, a temporary staffing company. At issue before the ALJ was whether Plaintiff was entitled to the thirty percent enhancement under Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.165(1) for Defendant's alleged workplace violations. The ALJ denied enhanced benefits. The Board and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was not liable for section 342.165's enhancement of benefits because extending liability for the safety violations at the facility where Defendant sustained his injuries to Defendant pursuant to the "intentional failure" standard in section 342.165(1) was contrary to the current statute and caselaw. View "Maysey v. Express Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this case to the Workers' Compensation Board, holding that Mark Ivey's pre-employment lower back disc herniation and two surgeries required an impairment rating to be carved out of his permanent partial disability rating for which his employer, ViWin Tech, would be responsible.An ALJ assigned a whole-person impairment of twenty-eight percent and rejected a carve-out for a pre-existing injury. The Board and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, based on a plain reading of the relevant statutes and the AMA Guides, the ALJ erred in concluding that a carve-out was unwarranted. View "Viwin Tech Windows & Doors, Inc. v. Ivey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming denial of disability retirement benefits by the Board of Trustees of the Kentucky Retirement Systems, holding that the lower courts misinterpreted the holding in Kentucky Retirement Systems v. West, 413 S.W.3d 578 (Ky. 2013), leading to multiple errors.At issue was the proof required of a public employee with less than sixteen years' credit to establish that his genetic condition that was present at conception but dormant until after twelve years on the job was not a "pre-existing" condition disqualifying him from benefits under Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.600(3)(d). Defendant was denied benefits, and the circuit court affirmed. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court's reading of West and its denial of disability retirement benefits. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that multiple errors occurred, and each error was arbitrary, capricious, View "Elder v. Kentucky Retirement Systems" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the decisions of the administrative law judge (ALJ) and the Workers' Compensation Board that the twelve percent interest on workers' compensation income benefits that were due but unpaid under the prior version of Ken. Rev. Stat. 342.040 applied in this case, holding that the six percent interest rate provided for in the 2017 amendment to the statute was applicable to all of Appellant's due but unpaid benefits.After the 2017 amendment, section 342.040 now provides for an interest rate of six percent on due but unpaid benefits. In 2016, Appellant experienced a compensable injury. Appellant filed a claim after the effective date of the amendment in 2017 and was awarded income benefits by an ALJ in 2018. Both the ALJ and the Board concluded that the twelve percent interest rate continued to apply to that portion of Appellant's benefit award that was attributable to the period before the 2017 effective date of the amendment. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, based on the General ASsembly's non-codified but express language regarding its intent with respect to the interest rate set forth in the 2017 amendment, the entirety of Appellant's benefit award was subject to the amended six percent interest rate. View "Martin v. Warrior Coal LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court dismissing this complaint brought under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA), Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 344, holding that the KCRA does not bar an employe from discharging an employee because of the disability of an individual with whom the employee associates.After Employer terminated Employee's employment for lack of work Employee sued, alleging that his firing violated the KCRA. Specifically, Employee claimed that Employer discriminated against him for his association with his wife, who suffered from cystic fibrosis. The trial court dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the text of the KCRA does not support a cause of action for discrimination based on an employee's association with a disabled individual. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Employee failed to state a claim supported under Kentucky law. View "Barnett v. Central Kentucky Hauling, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals' decision upholding an administrative law judge's (ALJ) award of benefits to Deborah Duckworth, holding that the ALJ had the authority to determine the manifestation date for cumulative trauma injury and properly applied controlling law to the facts of this case.On appeal, Ford Motor Company argued that the ALJ exceeded the scope of his authority in determining the manifestation dates of Duckworth's cumulative trauma injuries. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the ALJ had the authority to determine the manifestation date of Duckworth's cumulative trauma injury; and (2) Ford Motor Company was not deprived of due process because it had adequate notice and opportunity to be heard on the statute of limitations issue. View "Ford Motor Co. v. Duckworth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reinstated the trial court's summary judgment dismissing Mary Wilson's Kentucky Whistleblower Act (KWA) claims against Northern Kentucky Area Development District, Inc. (NKADD), holding that NKADD is one of the Commonwealth's political subdivisions, making it a KWA-covered employer and thus potentially liable for Wilson's claims.Wilson brought her KWA claim in circuit court against NKADD, her former employer, alleging that NKADD retaliated against her after she reported a co-worker's fraudulent billing practice by forcing her resignation. The trial court concluded that NKADD was not a KWA-covered employer and granted NKADD's motion for summary judgment. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that NKADD is not a political subdivision of the state because it does not serve an integral function of government; and (2) therefore, NKADD was not subject to the KWA as a political subdivision and was therefore not subject to Wilson's claims under the KWA. View "Northern Kentucky Area Development District v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals and Workers' Compensation Board affirming the determination of the Chief Administrative Law Judge (CALJ) denying Appellant's motion to reopen his workers' compensation claim as time barred, holding that the CALJ correctly denied Appellant's motion to reopen as untimely.In 1996 and 1997, Appellant incurred work-related injuries to his right and left shoulders. Income benefits were paid for his right shoulder injury, but no mention of the left shoulder injury appeared in the settlement agreement. In 2018, Appellant moved to reopen the left shoulder claim, asserting that he was entitled to income benefits based on a recent surgery and resulting increased impairment. The CALJ denied the motion. The Board and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant's motion was untimely. View "Slaughter v. Tube Turns" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals' opinion affirming the decision of the Workers' Compensation Board, holding that Karen Woodall, the surviving spouse of an employee who died as a result of a workplace accident, was entitled to a statutory income benefit and that the time limitation as to the lump-sum benefit does not violate the United States and Kentucky constitutional guarantees of equal protection or Kentucky's prohibition against special legislation.Ten years after a workplace injury, Steven Spillman died as a result of a surgery required by that injury. Woodall, Spillman's surviving spouse, sought income benefits under Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.750(1)(a), and Spillman's estate sought a lump-sum benefit under Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.750(6). The Board found that Woodall was eligible for the surviving spouse income benefits but that the Estate was not entitled to the lump-sum death benefit. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 342.750(1)(a) contains no temporal limitation on Woodall's receipt of income benefits; and (2) the time limitation as to the lump-sum benefit is constitutional. View "Calloway County Sheriff's Department v. Woodall" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Louisville & Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) on Mark Hill's claims under the Whistleblower Act, Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.101 et seq., and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA), Ky. Rev. Stat. 344.010 et seq., holding that Hill's KCRA claims were correctly dismissed but that MSD was not subject to the Whistleblower Act.With respect to Hill's Whistleblower claim, the trial court found that MSD was not to be considered an "employer" under the Whistleblower Act. The court also found that Hill failed to present any affirmative evidence in support of his KCRA claims. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court as to Hill's KCRA claims but reversed as to Hill's Whistleblower claim. The Supreme Court reversed as to the Whistleblower claim, holding that MSD was not an "employer" for purposes of the Whistleblower Act. View "Louisville & Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District" on Justia Law