Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Missouri Supreme Court
Mickey v. BNSF Ry. Co.
At issue in this case was whether the Railroad Retirement Tax Act (RRTA) requires employers to withhold RRTA taxes on a personal injury plaintiff’s Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) suit. Plaintiff in this case received a judgment on his FELA claim against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF). BNSF tendered less than what it owed on the judgment, claiming that it was required to treat the judgment as if it were for lost wages and therefore subject to RRTA withholding taxes. The trial court concluded that BNSF failed to satisfy the judgment and ordered Safeco Insurance Company, BNSF’s surety, to pay Plaintiff the withheld amount. The Supreme Court affirmed, noting that damages received through a suit or settlement for personal injuries are normally not subject to retirement taxes, and holding that BNSF was incorrect in arguing that the RRTA creates an exception to this law for railroad retirement taxes. View "Mickey v. BNSF Ry. Co." on Justia Law
Seck v. Div. of Employment Sec.
Employer terminated Employee for falsifying his doctor’s return-to-work certificate. Employee sought unemployment benefits, but the Division of Employment Security denied the application on the ground that Employee had been fired for misconduct connected with his work. The Labor and Industrial Commission affirmed the denial of unemployment benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission did not err in denying benefits, as (1) willfulness is not required for all forms of misconduct; (2) Employee disregarded a standards of behavior that Employer had a right to expect from its employees; and (3) Employee’s misconduct was “connected to” his work. View "Seck v. Div. of Employment Sec." on Justia Law
Templemire v. W&M Welding, Inc.
In 2006, Appellant was injured in the course and scope of his employment when a large metal beam crushed his left foot. Appellant received workers’ compensation benefits for his injury. Appellant subsequently returned to work for Employer on “light duty.” Appellant was on a break to rest his foot when Employer’s owner terminated him. Thereafter, Appellant filed a claim of retaliatory discharge against Employer. A jury entered a verdict in favor of Employer. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) to make a submissible case for retaliatory discharge under Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.780, an employee must demonstrate his or her filing of a workers’ compensation claim was a “contributing factor” to the employer’s discrimination or the employee’s discharge; and (2) the trial court erred in instructing the jury that it had to determine Appellant was discharged exclusively in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Remanded for a new trial. View "Templemire v. W&M Welding, Inc." on Justia Law
Coday v. Div. of Employment Sec’y
Claimant worked part-time for Design Design from July 2008 until she obtained full-time employment in March 2010. Claimant received $320 in unemployment benefits and $25 in federal stimulus benefits for each of forty-eight weeks from May 2009 to March 2010. After the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission discovered Claimant’s employment with Design Design, the Commission found that Claimant willfully failed to disclose that she was working during the period she was receiving benefits. Therefore, the Commission determined that Claimant must return part of her benefits and pay certain penalties. The Supreme Court largely affirmed, the Commission’s decisions, holding that sufficient competent evidence in the record supported all of the Commission’s actions, except for the amount of one of the penalties. Remanded with instructions to reassess that penalty. View "Coday v. Div. of Employment Sec'y" on Justia Law
Lozano v. BNSF Ry. Co.
Plaintiff filed an action against his employer, BNSF Railway Company, for damages related to an injury he sustained while in the course and scope of his employment. Plaintiff asserted claims for negligence under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). The trial court granted judgment in favor of BNSF. Defendant appealed, asserting three claims of error relating to the trial court’s exclusion of certain evidence at trial. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in all respects, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in its evidentiary rulings challenged by Plaintiff. View "Lozano v. BNSF Ry. Co." on Justia Law
State Treasurer as Custodian of the Second Injury Fund v. Witte
These consolidated appeals concerned four separate decisions of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission that determined the Second Injury Fund was liable for compensation to injured claimants. On appeal, the Fund claimed that the Commission misapplied Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.220.1 by combining or "stacking" injuries to meet the statutory thresholds that trigger the Fund's liability and by considering injuries that did not meet the thresholds to calculate the extent of the Fund's liability. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the Commission misapplied section 287.220.1 in combining preexisting permanent partial disabilities to meet the thresholds for triggering the Fund's liability; (2) however, three Claimants in these appeals each had an individual preexisting permanent partial disability that met the statutory thresholds to trigger the Fund's liability, and therefore the Commission did not err when it found they were entitled to compensation and awarded an amount based on the combined disability of their preexisting injuries and the last injury; and (3) because the fourth Claimant did not have a preexisting permanent partial disability that met the statutory thresholds, the Commission erred in awarding compensation from the Fund to him. View "State Treasurer as Custodian of the Second Injury Fund v. Witte" on Justia Law
Smith vs. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation
The survivors of Barbara Smith appealed a punitive damage award of $1.5 million against the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation. The Smiths contended that certain evidence admitted by the trial court was outside the court of appeals' prior mandate, and erred in overruling their motion for a new trial on the grounds of juror nondisclosure. The company cross-appealed, contending that the Smiths failed to make a submissible case for punitive damages. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the appellate court's mandate did not address any issues concerning what evidence could be presented at the retrial of punitive damages, and that the trial court did not err in overruling the Smiths' motion for a new trial or the Company's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Accordingly, the Court affirmed. View "Smith vs. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation" on Justia Law
Farrow v. St. Francis Med. Ctr.
Plaintiff, who was formerly employed by Hospital, brought an eight-count petition against Hospital and Doctor (collectively, Defendants) alleging violations of the Missouri Human Rights Act (the MHRA) and other common law claims related to the termination of her employment. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all claims. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the circuit court's judgment with respect to Plaintiff's MHRA claims and wrongful discharge claim, holding (i) the circuit court erred in dismissing Plaintiff's MHRA claims on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to satisfy the statutory prerequisites for filing a lawsuit under the MHRA, and (ii) because Plaintiff's amended petition sufficiently invoked the public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine, the circuit court erred in sustaining summary judgment in Hospital's favor on Plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim; and (2) affirmed the circuit court's judgment as to all remaining counts. Remanded. View "Farrow v. St. Francis Med. Ctr. " on Justia Law
U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs v. Boresi
Veteran filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits alleging that he sustained an injury during the course of his employment with Employer. Veteran received care and treatment for that injury at a United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility, which Employer did not authorize. The VA petitioned for a writ to compel the chief ALJ to allow the VA's intervention in the proceeding, claiming entitlement to intervene as a matter of right under 38 U.S.C. 1729 and the U.S. Constitution's supremacy clause. The circuit court denied the VA's petition. The Supreme Court reversed and issued a permanent writ of mandamus, holding that section 1729 and the supremacy clause gave the VA the right to intervene in Veteran's workers' compensation claim to assert its claim for recovery of health care provided to him. View "U.S. Dep't of Veterans Affairs v. Boresi" on Justia Law
Billings v. Div. of Employment Sec.
Appellants Reva Billings and William Morrison worked at a Western Union Financial Services (Western Union) call center in Bridgeton. On July 3, 2008, Western Union advised Billings that she would be laid off on July 20 and Morrison that he would be laid off on August 7. The U.S. Department of Labor determined the employees were eligible for Trade Act benefits and set the impact date as July 15, 2008. Appellants subsequently applied for their benefits. The Missouri Division of Employment Security denied benefits to both on the grounds that they were separated from employment prior to the impact date, finding the date of separation for Appellants to be July 3, 2008. The Industrial Relations Commission affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the Commission erred in considering Appellants to have ceased work on the date they received their contractually required advance notice of the future dates on which they would be furloughed, as the correct dates were the dates Appellants' furloughs became effective, notwithstanding that Western Union chose not to be physically present at the workplace during the notice period. View "Billings v. Div. of Employment Sec." on Justia Law