Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
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In 2011, Dennis Kay was driving a van owned by Budget Truck Rental when the van slid off an icy road. Kay was ejected from the vehicle and died as a result of the accident. Kay was driving the vehicle during the course of his employment with Douglas Wiggins, who died in 2013 of unrelated causes. Kay’s estate brought a wrongful death action against Wiggins’s estate and Budget Truck. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of Wiggins and Budget Truck, concluding (1) Kay’s claim was barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act (Act), and (2) Budget Truck did not proximately cause Kay’s injuries. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the court did not err in granting summary judgment for Wiggins on the ground that Kay’s claim was barred by the Act; and (2) the court did not err in granting summary judgment for Budget Truck. View "Estate of Kay v. Estate of Wiggins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an application for disability retirement benefits alleging that she was unable to perform her job with the Maine Department of Transportation because of her numerous disabilities. The Maine Public Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees denied benefits after considering Plaintiff’s medical records. Plaintiff appealed, challenging only the denial of benefits as to her fibromyalgia. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the medical board’s reports were a proper part of the evidentiary record; and (2) the record did not compel a finding that Plaintiff met her burden of proving that her fibromyalgia caused functional limitations that made it impossible for her to do her job. View "Behr v. Maine Pub. Employees Ret. Sys." on Justia Law

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Brenda Freeman was injured in a work-related accident in 2007. Freeman returned to work but in a lower-paying position. Because of the decrease in her wages, Freeman received partial incapacity benefit payments. In 2011, Freeman suffered a second work-related injury. During Freeman’s period of incapacity, her employer paid 100 percent partial incapacity benefits based on the 2007 injury. Freeman filed a petition for award of compensation claiming that although she was already receiving benefits that equaled the maximum compensation rate as a result of her 2007 injury, she was eligible for additional compensation for the same period as a result of her 2011 injury. The hearing officer concluded that Freeman was ineligible for compensation beyond the statutory maximum benefit, regardless of the number of injuries. The Workers’ Compensation Board Appellate Division affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the hearing officer correctly construed the statutory maximum benefit provision of the Workers Compensation Act as a total ceiling on the potential benefits available to an injured employee, regardless of the number of injuries the employee suffers. View "Freeman v. NewPage Corp." on Justia Law

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A Deputy of the Department of Labor, Bureau of Unemployment Compensation determined that Plaintiff had been overpaid $13,157 in unemployment insurance benefits and was required to reimburse the Bureau in that amount. Nearly one year after the expiration of the appeal period Plaintiff appealed the Department’s decision. The Department of Labor, Division of Administrative Hearings dismissed the appeal as untimely. On appeal, the Unemployment Insurance Commission remanded the matter to the Division to develop an evidentiary record on the timeliness of Plaintiff’s appeal and the merits of her appeal. On remand, the Division developed the record and submitted the record to the Commission for decision. The Commission concluded that Plaintiff’s appeal to the Division was untimely. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the Commissioner correctly concluded that the Deputy’s decision had become final and that it was without jurisdiction to address the merits of her untimely appeal. View "Ramelli v. Unemployment Ins. Comm’n" on Justia Law

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After Plaintiff was discharged from her employment at a nursing home owned by Defendant, Plaintiff commenced this action alleging that Defendant violated the Maine Whistleblowers’ Protection Act (WPA) by terminating her because she had made complaints about staffing and patient safety. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) the record was sufficient to allow a jury to reasonably find that Plaintiff’s complaints constituted a protected activity under the WPA and that the adverse employment action was substantially motivated at least in part by retaliatory intent; and (2) accordingly, Plaintiff presented a prima facie case of unlawful retaliation. View "Cormier v. Genesis Healthcare LLC" on Justia Law

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Gerard Brady brought a claim against Cumberland County for employment retaliation pursuant to the Maine Whistleblowers’ Protection Act (WPA), alleging that disciplinary action taken against him by the County was motivated by complaints he made about the investigation of an incident at the Cumberland County jail. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the County on Brady’s WPA claim, concluding that Brady failed to present a prima facie case of retaliation. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) Brady produced sufficient evidence to allow a jury to find that the adverse employment action taken against Brady was substantially motivated at least in part by retaliatory intent; and (2) the application of the compartmentalized three-step process set out in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green to the summary judgment stage of WPA retaliation cases is not appropriate. View "Brady v. Cumberland County" on Justia Law

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In 2009, John Flynn joined the law firm of Daniel G. Lilley Law Office, P.A. (LLO). In 2011, Flynn left LLO to open his own practice. LLO and Daniel Lilley subsequently filed a complaint against Flynn seeking a judicial declaration that any contingency fees earned in cases that Flynn brought to LLO were the property of LLO to be distributed at Lilley’s sole discretion and seeking the return of such fees that Flynn had already received. Flynn counterclaimed. In 2012, the superior court denied LLO’s motion to consolidate this case with the closely-related cases at issue in Tucker v. Lilley. After a jury trial, the superior court entered judgment awarding Flynn unpaid salary from his tenure at LLO and apportioned attorney fees between the parties in cases that Flynn brought to LLO from his former law firm. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that the superior court abused its discretion in declining to consolidate this case with the cases at issue in Tucker v. Lilley, as this case was an integral member of the set of cases that “must be resolved in one consolidated action before a single fact-finder.” Remanded with instructions to grant LLO’s motion to consolidate. View "Daniel G. Lilley Law Office, P.A. v. Flynn" on Justia Law