Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
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In this appeal concerning whether the district court properly determined that the City of Billings (City) did not owe unpaid longevity or other unpaid wages to its police officers (Officers) the Supreme Court affirmed the court's longevity determination and remanded for consideration of the non-longevity claims applying the appropriate limitations and look-back periods. The Officers sued the City to recover unpaid wages, including longevity pay and other employment benefits, under the Wage Protection Act, Mont. Code Ann. 39-3-206. In a prior appeal, the Supreme Court remanded for a determination of whether the City owed the Officers unpaid longevity and other wages, penalties, costs and attorney fees. The district court granted summary judgment to the City, finding the longevity issue dispositive. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding that the district court (1) correctly concluded that the City did not owe the Officers unpaid longevity; but (2) erred in dismissing without consideration the Officers' claims for non-longevity wage items and in declining to address the applicable statute of limitations, look-back period, and potential award of penalties, attorney fees and costs for those claims. View "Watters v. City of Billings" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court affirming in part and reversing in part a decision of the Department of Labor and Industry's Office of Administrative Hearings on Elizabeth Mays' wage claim against Sam's Inc., holding the district court's judgment was without error. Mays filed a wage claim against Sam's with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, alleging that she was misclassified as an independent contract and was owed to employment wages for the hours she worked. After the Independent Contractor Central Unit determined that Mays was an employee the Wage and Hour Unit determined that Mays was owed $33.43 in wages. The district court reversed the agency's determinations that Sam's was entitled to an offset for Mays' tips and that Sam's was not required to pay a penalty. Mays appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court's order constituted a final order in a contested case for which judicial review was available; (2) the district court did not err by affirming the agency's determination of the terms of Mays' employment; and (3) the district court did not err by affirming the agency's finding that Sam's was not obligated to reimburse Mays for fees. View "Wage Claim of Mays v. Sam's Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court denying the motion to compel arbitration filed by Edwards Jones & Company, Jeremy Kientz, and Nick Ferranto (collectively, Edwards Jones) of post-termination claims asserted against them by former Edward Jones employee Adam Bucy, holding that Bucy's claims were mandatorily arbitrable and within the scope of the arbitration agreements. Bucy, who worked for Edward Jones for approximately nineteen years primarily as a financial advisor, was terminated after an internal review. Bucy filed a complaint against Edward Jones asserting claims for statutory blacklisting, statutory defamation, and common law tortious interference with a prospective business relationship. Edward Jones moved to dismiss and compel arbitration of Bucy's claims on the basis that they were subject to arbitration under Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA) and National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. (NASD) regulations and two arbitration agreements between the parties. The district court denied arbitration of post-employment claims, concluding that the claims were not arbitrable within the scope of the arbitration agreements. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the arbitration agreements were valid and enforceable, that Bucy's claims were mandatorily arbitrable, and that the claims were within the scope of the arbitration agreements. View "Bucy v. Edward Jones & Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Workers' Compensation Court (WCC) granting summary judgment to Indemnity Insurance Company of North America on Brian Richardson's petition arguing that he was entitled to have Indemnity accept his claim for workers' compensation benefits, holding that the WCC correctly held that Richardson had not timely filed a written claim for benefits under Mont. Code Ann. 39-71-601. Richardson filed his claim for benefits almost four years after the alleged work-related accident. Indemnity denied Richardson's claim on the grounds that Richardson had failed to provide his employer with timely notice and that he had failed timely to file his claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Richardson failed to file a timely written claim under section 39-71-601. View "Richardson v. Indemnity Insurance Co. of N.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court affirming the final agency decision issued by the Montana Human Rights Commission (HRC) finding that Jerry James Bright was subjected to racial discrimination in his employment KB Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Snappitz (KB), holding the district court correctly affirmed the final agency decision and dismissed KB's petition for judicial review. On appeal, KB argued that the hearing officer made numerous incorrect findings of fact and that the HRC and district court wrongly upheld the hearing officer's decision. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the hearing officer's findings of fact were not clearly erroneous and did not misapprehend the effect of evidence and that no mistake was made. View "KB Enterprises, LLC v. Montana Human Rights Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court affirming the Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s Human Rights Bureau’s (HRB) decision concluding that Ronis Bollinger was properly terminated from her employment with the Billings Clinic, holding that the district court did not err in upholding Bollinger’s termination from employment because she failed to demonstrate that the Clinic retaliated against her for engaging in protected activity. Bollinger filed this complaint asserting that her history of discipline and investigative interactions with the Clinic demonstrated a retaliatory motive that caused or contributed to the Clinic’s decision to terminate her employment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in upholding the hearing officer’s conclusion that Bollinger was properly terminated by the Clinic for her dishonesty; (2) did not err in upholding the HRB's denial of Bollinger’s motion to compel Clinic production of certain emails; and (3) did not abuse its discretion in awarding costs to the Clinic. View "Bollinger v. Billings Clinic" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed an order of the district court affirming the Human Rights Commission’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of Costco Wholesale Corporation and dismissing Plaintiff’s claim of unlawful discrimination in employment on the basis of a disability and failure to make reasonable accommodation, holding that the district court did not err in affirming the Commission’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Costco where Costco rebutted Plaintiff’s prima facie case of discrimination with evidence that it terminated his employment for legitimate business reasons that were not a pretext for discrimination. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that Costco terminated him for conduct resulting from a disability, which cannot qualify as a legitimate, nondiscriminatory basis for termination. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that Costco came forward with a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating Plaintiff. View "Jackson v. Costco Wholesale" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of State Compensation Mutual Insurance Fund (State Fund) on Plaintiff’s claims that, inter alia, Mont. Code Ann. 39-71-605 was unconstitutional because it permits workers’ compensation insurers to obtain multiple medical examinations of a claimant and that State Fund committed a constitutional tort against her, holding that the district court properly dismissed the claims. Plaintiff brought this proceeding challenging State Fund’s handling of her workers’ compensation claims. The district court granted summary judgment for State Fund. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 39-71-605 is neither facially unconstitutional nor unconstitutional as applied in Plaintiff’s case; and (2) there was no basis to claim a constitutional tort. View "Robinson v. State Compensation Mutual Insurance Fund" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the jury verdict in favor of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company (BN) on Plaintiff’s claims that BN violated the standard of care under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) and the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA), holding that Plaintiff’s allegations of error on appeal were unavailing. Plaintiff alleged injury for exposure to asbestos during his work at a treatment plant operated by BN’s predecessor. A jury found in favor of BN. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding certain evidence at trial; (2) Plaintiff was not denied a fair trial due to any alleged trial misconduct on the part of BN; and (3) Plaintiff was not denied a fair trial due to any alleged discovery misconduct on the part of BN. View "Daley v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co" on Justia Law

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In this workers’ compensation case, the Supreme Court held that the Workers’ Compensation Court (WCC) erred in holding that Mont. Code Ann. 39-71-407(14) did not apply for purposes of determining liability for the exacerbation of Kim Wiard’s occupational disease (OD). Wiard was an employee at Tricon Timber, LLC. Liberty Northwest Insurance Corporation accepted liability for Wiard’s bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) as an OD. Liberty later ceased providing workers’ compensation insurance for Tricon, and State Fund became Triton’s workers’ compensation insurance provider. When Wiard filed an OD claim for left CTS with State Fund, State Fund denied the claim on the basis that Wiard’s OD diagnosis preceded State Fund’s coverage. Liberty also denied liability. The insurers filed cross-motions for summary judgment in the WCC on the issue of liability. The WCC granted summary judgment in favor of Liberty, concluding that Wiard had reached maximum medical improvement for her earlier CTS diagnosis and that her later job duties materially aggravated her OD. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the WCC erred when it held that section 39-71-407(14) did not apply in this case; and (2) under the statute, liability for the OD diagnosis remained with the insurer providing coverage at the time the OD was first diagnosed. View "Montana State Fund v. Liberty Northwest Insurance Corp." on Justia Law