Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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JB Construction, Inc. appealed the district court's judgment affirming Job Service's "Notice of Determination" stating Jesse Jahner's and Vance Jahner's services constituted employment under N.D.C.C. 52-01-01(17). On appeal, JB Construction argued the plain language of section 52-01-01(17)(a)(1) showed new corporate officers did not need to file for an exemption if an exemption was granted to prior officers and the current officers meeting all of the requirements under the statute. The Supreme Court found N.D.C.C. 52-01-01(17)(a)(1) unambiguously required corporate officers to file their own application for an exemption, and as such, affirmed the lower court's judgment. "The exemption of certain officers from 'employment' under the unemployment compensation law is granted to an officer as an individual, not to the officer's position. Under the unemployment compensation law, if an exempt officer transfers his interest and position in a corporation to another individual, the individual must apply for his own exemption." View "J B Construction, Inc. v. Job Service" on Justia Law

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Penny Bartholomay, individually for herself and the heirs of her deceased husband, Jon Bartholomay, appealed a judgment dismissing her wrongful death action against Jon Bartholomay's former employer, Plains Grain & Agronomy, LLC. On January 18, 2013, Jon was loading grain into railcars at the Sheldon Grain Elevator as an employee of Plains, which was an insured employer under the Workforce Safety and Insurance Act, N.D.C.C. tit. 65. Jon fell from the top of a railcar he was loading and suffered serious injuries. Plains had no safety equipment in place to protect against falls, but intended to install a fall protection system. Jon never regained consciousness and died as a result of his injuries approximately one month after the . Penny Bartholomay sued Plains for wrongful death damages alleging it intentionally exposed Jon to unsafe working conditions. Plains answered and claimed the lawsuit was barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the Act. The district court granted summary judgment dismissing the lawsuit because, as a matter of law, Plains' alleged conduct did not rise to the level of an intentional act done with the conscious purpose of inflicting the injury. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, because the facts alleged did not provide a genuine issue of material fact to avoid the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workforce Safety and Insurance Act. View "Bartholomay v. Plains Grain & Agronomy, LLC" on Justia Law

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Lori Jury appealed a district court's order denying her motion to vacate a summary judgment. Jury argued the district court should have provided notice of the summary judgment hearing independent of the notice provided by the Barnes County Municipal Airport Authority ("BCMAA"). Jury had sued BCMAA pro se after she was terminated from her at-will employment. Jury worked as a part-time clerk for the Airport under the direction of its board and manager. In 2012, Jury applied for the vacant manager position. The BCMAA board of directors did not hire Jury for the manager position and shortly thereafter the BCMAA terminated her, citing a lack of trust. Jury filed a charge with the North Dakota Department of Labor alleging, among other things, that the BCMAA discriminated against her based on her gender. The Department found no probable cause to substantiate Jury's allegations and dismissed her charge. Jury subsequently sued the BCMAA alleging workplace discrimination, wrongful termination, defamation of character, harassment, emotional distress, loss of income, and retaliation. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Jury v. Barnes County Municipal Airport Authority" on Justia Law

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The Williston Education Association ("WEA") sued the Williston Public School District No. 1 ("District") on behalf of Williston middle school teachers. The WEA claimed the District owed teachers compensation for extra classes they taught during the 2012-2013 school year. The underlying dispute was whether prime time constituted a "class period" under the terms of the Agreement. If the court interpreted "class period" to include prime time, the District would owe teachers additional compensation because they taught six or more class periods plus prime time during the 2012-2013 school year. If prime time was not a "class period," the majority of teachers only taught six class periods; the District would not owe them extra compensation. The district court interpreted "class period" to include prime time. It awarded summary judgment in favor of the WEA and ordered the District pay damages to the teachers. The District filed a timely appeal. When a trial court can reasonably draw conflicting inferences from undisputed facts, summary judgment is improper. The Supreme Court concluded the district court erred when it granted the WEA's motion for summary judgment, finding there were multiple issues of fact from which "differing reasonable inferences could be drawn." The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the trial court to resolve these issues of fact. View "Williston Education Association v. Williston Public School Dist. No. 1" on Justia Law

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Friends of Duane Sand 2012 was a political campaign committee formed for the 2012 election of Duane Sand as a United States Senator from North Dakota. Friends of Duane Sand ceased operation in June 2012, when Sand was defeated in the state primary election. In 2013, the Job Service received an interstate request to investigate whether Friends of Duane Sand was required to pay unemployment insurance for Joe Meyer, a campaign worker who filed a claim for unemployment benefits in Minnesota. Friends of Duane Sand claimed its campaign workers were either independent contractors or volunteers and it was not subject to charges for unemployment insurance. After an investigation and a hearing, an administrative law judge determined Friends of Duane Sand was an employing unit, Meyer was an independent contractor and not an employee, and another campaign worker, Sarah Mohler, was an employee. Job Service declined to review the administrative law judge's decision. Friends of Duane Sand 2012 appealed a district court order denying a motion for reconsideration of a judgment affirming a Job Service decision that Friends of Duane Sand was an employing unit and that Sarah Mohler was an employee. The Supreme Court dismissed, finding that post-judgment motions under N.D.R.Civ.P. 59 and 60 were not applicable to a district court's review of an appeal from a Job Service decision. Further, the Court found Friends of Duane Sand 2012 did not timely appeal the judgment affirming Job Service's decision. View "Sand v. Job Service" on Justia Law

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Blume Construction, Inc. appealed a district court judgment affirming a Job Service North Dakota decision, finding Blume did not file a valid appeal and the agency's determination assigning Blume a final penalty tax rate. Blume received a notice of determination from Job Service informing Blume that it would be assigned a penalty tax rate for unemployment insurance. The notice stated the agency conducted an audit and concluded there was a transfer of ownership and payroll between Blume and another company that was knowingly done to obtain a lower tax rate for unemployment insurance. The notice informed Blume it would be assigned the highest tax rate assignable for the next three years. The notice advised Blume the determination would become final unless a written appeal was made to Job Service within fifteen days. Job Service received an electronic appeal request for Blume signed by Craig Fidler. Fidler was identified as a licensed attorney from Colorado. Fidler was not licensed to practice law in North Dakota. In approximately May 2014, Fidler notified the referee he was unable to secure a sponsoring attorney licensed in North Dakota. During that same time period, the referee was informed a North Dakota attorney would be representing Blume. Blume argued the referee erred in finding Blume's attorney engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and the appealed request the attorney filed was void. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Blume Construction, Inc. v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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Lori Yahna appealed from a summary judgment dismissing her complaint against Altru Health System for age discrimination and for wrongful termination of employment. In 1984, Yahna began working for the Grand Forks Clinic, the predecessor to Altru, as a licensed practical nurse. She received additional training in vascular technology to work with Dr. Rolf Paulson in the ultrasound department and by 1986 she was working solely as a vascular technologist. According to Yahna, she was the technical director of the vascular lab, she developed the vascular medicine practice at Altru. She initially worked full time as a vascular technologist with on-call responsibilities, but she received approval to work three days per week in 2001 with no on-call responsibility. According to Yahna, she became coordinator and technical director of the vascular lab in 2006. In February 2012, Altru created a new position for an education and quality assurance coordinator, and hired Derek Todd for that full-time position. According to Yahna, she did not apply for that position because it was full time. She claimed, however, she maintained her position as technical director of the vascular lab and understood she would still be doing quality assurance and reviewing other technologists' films. Yahna claimed Altru required her to work full time with on-call responsibilities in July 2012, and she was terminated on July 2, 2012, after she informed Altru "she would not be able to take call at this time." Yahna was forty-eight years old when she was terminated. The district court granted Altru's motion for summary judgment, concluding there were no disputed issues of material fact that Altru's employment policies and procedures did not abrogate Yahna's at-will employment status with Altru and that her termination did not constitute age discrimination. The court explained the provisions in Altru's employment policy manual unambiguously preserved the presumption of at-will employment and did not evidence an intent that the manual created a contractual right to employment. In rejecting Yahna's age discrimination claim, the court cited the requirements for a prima facie age discrimination claim and said that because Yahna refused to take required on-call responsibilities for an ultrasound technologist she failed to satisfactorily perform the duties of her position and she failed to establish employees outside her protected age class were treated more favorably than her. The court ruled Altru established it terminated Yahna because she refused to take on-call responsibilities for her job and granted summary judgment dismissing her complaint. On appeal, Yahna argued there were disputed issues of material fact on her claims that her termination constituted age discrimination and violated Altru's employment policies and procedures. Finding no error in the district court's decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Yahna v. Altru Health System" on Justia Law

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Seventy-year-old James Higginbotham was employed by Industrial Contractors, Inc. ("ICI") as a welder and pipefitter in May 2010 when he sustained an injury to his left rotator cuff. The medical records demonstrated that Higginbotham's injury arose out of and in the course of his work for ICI. Prior to his injury, Higginbotham made $34.61 per hour, but only worked part time. He often traveled to work sites some distance from his home near Hazen, including a site north of Mandan. Since his injury, Higginbotham was no longer able to make the trip from Hazen to Bismarck without stopping, and he could no longer perform welding or pipefitting work. Higginbotham lived in a mobile home near Hazen, approximately 70 miles from Bismarck and 80 miles from Minot. He indicated he was having difficulty paying bills, which he did not have before the injury, and he wanted to maintain the lifestyle he had prior to his injury. Following left rotator cuff surgery, WSI referred Higginbotham to vocational rehabilitation with Kim Hornberger, a vocational rehabilitation consultant, who identified the first appropriate rehabilitation option for Higginbotham and developed a vocational consultant's report ("VCR"). The VCR concluded that it was appropriate for Higginbotham to return to an occupation in the statewide job pool suited to his education, experience, and marketable skills: cashier, telephone sales representative, gaming dealer, and greeter, and the expected income of $332 per week exceeded 90% of Higginbotham's pre-injury income of $227 per week. WSI approved the vocational plan and notified Higginbotham that it intended to discontinue his benefits. Higginbotham asked for reconsideration, and WSI issued an order affirming the rehabilitation plan and denying further disability benefits. Higginbotham appealed, and an ALJ affirmed the WSI order. Higginbotham appealed the ALJ's decision, and the district court affirmed. Higginbotham now appeals the district court judgment. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Higginbotham v. WSI" on Justia Law

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Before the 2013-2014 school year, the Dickinson Education Association and the Dickinson Public School District conducted negotiations and developed and agreed upon a series of negotiated master agreements that contained the terms and conditions of employment between the certified staff and the District. Between December 2012 and May 2013, the Association and the Dickinson Board of Education held collaborative bargaining team meetings for purposes of formulating a negotiated agreement. The Association and the District's negotiations covered various provisions for both the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years, but the parties were ultimately unable to come to a resolution on all issues. In May 2013, after declaring an impasse, the parties sought the involvement of an education fact-finding commission. The Commission's report recommended: (1) a two-year contract; (2) that all items previously agreed to remain in the agreement; (3) the Board's final offer on salary in year one and year two of the two-year contract; and (4) the addition of one professional development day in year two of the contract. In late-July 2013, with the parties still unable to reach an agreement, the District unilaterally issued contracts based on the Commission's recommendations, containing provisions for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years. In August 2013, the Association petitioned the district court for a writ of mandamus and also filed an application for temporary restraining order and other supporting documents. The district court granted an alternate writ of mandamus, suspending the continuing contract offers made by the Board for the 2013-2014 school year, prohibiting the District from requiring the contract offers be returned until further court order, and ordering the District to execute a negotiated agreement for only the 2013-2014 school year. Later, district court issued an order quashing the alternate writ of mandamus and ordering that individual teaching contracts for the 2013-2014 school year based on the Board's final offer were due September 13, 2013. The Association's petition for writ of mandamus remained pending, and the parties agreed the issue before the court was whether the District could unilaterally issue contracts for the 2014-2015 school year based on the negotiation process. In October 2013, the district court granted the petition, concluding the unilateral offer of a two-year negotiated agreement was not lawful in North Dakota and the Association was entitled to an order of mandamus requiring the District to offer the Association a one-year negotiated agreement for the 2013-2014 school year. The District appealed. Finding no abuse of discretion or reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Dickinson Education Association v. Dickinson Public School District" on Justia Law

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Scott's Electric, Inc. was an electrical contracting business providing commercial, residential, industrial and farm services. Scott's employed Patrick Anderson, Adam Barton, Greg Boumont, Jason Richter, Michael Rick, Rick Schake, and Zach Scheeley as journeymen or apprentice electricians. In 2008, they filed claims with the North Dakota Department of Labor seeking unpaid wages from Scott's for travel time while driving company-owned vehicles. Their claims for unpaid wages spanned from April 1991 to March 2008. After investigating the claims, the Department notified Scott's of the wage claim determinations and requested payment of wages the Department determined to be valid and enforceable. After unsuccessful efforts to collect the unpaid wages, the Department took assignments in trust for wages from the claimants and brought this action to collect the unpaid wages, penalties and interest. After a bench trial, the district court ruled in favor of the Department and awarded a judgment for unpaid wages, penalties and interest against Scott's for $149,551.03. Scott's appealed. Concluding the district court's findings of fact were not clearly erroneous and the court did not missapply those facts to the controlling law, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota ex rel. Storbakken v. Scott's Electric" on Justia Law