Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii
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The Supreme Court held that, by and large, Hawai'i's public information law - the Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA) - required the state Attorney General (AG) to release a report it issued in 2016 documenting deceptive practices, incompetence, and workplace bullying in the Office of the Auditor.After the state AG compiled a record of its investigation a reporter with the Honolulu Civil Beat, an investigative news organization, asked for the investigative reports pursuant to UIPA. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the state AG, concluding that the report was exempt from the UIPA. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's final judgment, holding that, regarding the vast majority of the report, the UIPA's presumption favoring disclosure was not overcome. View "Honolulu Civil Beat Inc. v. Department of the Attorney General" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning the enforceability of a non-compete agreement the Supreme Court vacated the intermediate court of appeals' judgment on appeal and the circuit court's final order in favor of Lorna Gagnon with respect to her alleged breach of a non-solicitation clause as to one real estate agent but otherwise affirmed, holding that a genuine issue of material fact precluded summary judgment as to this issue.A non-compete agreement restricted Gagnon, a former employee of Prudential Locations, LLC, from establishing her own brokerage firm in Hawaii within one year after terminating her employment with Locations and from soliciting persons employed or affiliated with Locations. The Supreme Court held (1) the ICA erroneously failed to address whether the non-compete and non-solicitation clauses were ancillary to a legitimate purpose not violative of Haw. Rev. Stat. Chapter 480; (2) restricting competition is not a legitimate ancillary purpose; (3) to establish a violation of a non-solicitation clause, there must be evidence that the person subjective to the clause actively initiated contact; and (4) as to the non-compete clause, summary judgment was proper, but as to the non-solicitation clause, a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether Gagnon actively initiated contact. View "Prudential Locations, LLC v. Gagnon " on Justia Law

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In this case concerning two restrictive clauses within a non-compete agreement the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the entry of summary judgment in favor of Lorna Gagnon, a former employee of Prudential Locations, LLC (Locations), holding that summary judgment was improper as to one agent as to a non-solicitation clause.The non-compete agreement in this case restricted Gagnon from establishing her own brokerage firm in the state within one year after terminating her employment with Locations and from soliciting persons "employed by" or "affiliated with" Locations. The two restrictive clauses at issue were a non-compete clause and a non-solicitation clause. The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the lower courts, holding (1) summary judgment was properly granted in favor of Gagnon as to the non-compete clause because the clause was not ancillary to a legitimate purpose; and (2) a genuine issue of material fact existed as to one agent with respect to the non-solicitation clause. View "Prudential Locations, LLC v. Gagnon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted the State's request for attorney's fees in this appeal arising from a grievance arbitration, holding that the State "incurred" attorney's fees for the purposes of Haw. Rev. Stat. 658A-25.In the arbitration, the State was represented by an attorney employed by the State's Department of Attorney General. The union requested attorney's fees and costs, which the circuit court denied. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. Thereafter, the State filed a request for appellate attorney's fees and costs, citing section 658A-25 and Haw. R. App. P. 39(a). The ICA granted the State's request for costs but denied its request for attorney's fees on the grounds that the State "failed to demonstrate that it incurred, as an expense, liability, or legal obligation to pay, appellate attorney's fees[.]" The Supreme Court reversed and granted the State's request for attorney's fees, holding that the fees were erroneously denied on the grounds that they were not "incurred." View "In re Arbitration between United Public Workers and State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeal Board's (LIRAB) denial of Petitioner's request to reopen her workers compensation claims pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-89, holding that the LIRAB's finding that Petitioner failed to provide substantial evidence of a mistake was clearly erroneous.After her employment was terminated Petitioner was diagnosed with a disease known as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Petitioner filed multiple claims for workers' compensation benefits. At issue was the LIRAB's denial of Petitioner's request to reopen her claims and the ICA's affirmance of the denial. The LIRAB determined that Petitioner failed to produce substantial evidence to support her allegations of a mistake in fact related the the LIRAB director's determination that Petitioner had not suffered a compensable illness because MCS is not an "injury per se." The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's affirmance of the LIRAB's finding that Petitioner failed to provide substantial evidence of a mistake, holding that there was substantial evidence supporting Petitioner's contention that it was a mistake to dispose of her claims on the basis that MCS is not a legitimate diagnosis. View "Porter v. Queen’s Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court's order affirming the final decision of the Employees' Retirement System (ERS) Board and dismissing Appellant's appeal, holding that Appellant was entitled to present argument on his exceptions to the ERS Board and to have the Board consider the merits of his exceptions.The ERS denied Appellant's application for service-connected disability retirement benefits after suffering a back injury. ERS subsequently received a document filed by Appellant entitled "Petitioner's Proposed Decision." The ERS Board later issued a final decision concluding that Appellant's filing did not constitute exceptions and confirmed its denial of his application. On appeal, Appellant argued that the ERS Board's proposed decision did not automatically become a final decision because he had timely filed exceptions. The circuit court and ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court remanded this case to the ERS Board for further proceedings, holding that Appellant's "Petitioner's Proposed Decision" filing satisfied the standard for exceptions and that Appellant was entitled to present argument on his exceptions. View "Watanabe v. Employees’ Retirement System" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals arising from Kenneth Skahan's claims for workers' compensation benefits against his former employer and its insurance carrier (collectively, Employer), the Supreme Court vacated in part the judgments of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board's (LIRAB) decisions, holding that the ICA erred in part.Skahan injured his back while working for Employer, and Employer accepted workers' compensation liability. After Skahan's employment with Employer ended, he experienced mid and low back pain and was diagnosed with diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) and filed multiple claims for additional workers' compensation benefits. LIRAB determined that Skahan's DISH injury was compensable because it was causally related to his work injury but that his low back injury was not compensable. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated in part, holding (1) the ICA erred in holding that Employer rebutted the Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-85 presumption that Skahan's low back claim was for a covered work injury; (2) LIRAB's finding that Skahan's injury was permanent and stationary and at maximum medical improvement by April 19, 2013 was clearly erroneous; and (3) LIRAB's conclusion of law ending Skahan's temporary total disability benefits on April 19, 2013 was clearly erroneous. View "Skahan v. Stutts Construction Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Plaintiff's injury-by-disease was compensable under Hawai'i's workers' compensation law because the employer failed to overcome the presumption in favor of compensability.Plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim for injury-by-disease. The Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) rejected the claim, concluding that the employer's Independent Medical Examinations (IME) reports provided sufficient substantial evidence to overcome the statutory presumption in favor of compensability. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment and the LIRAB's decision, holding that the employer's IME reports failed to provide substantial evidence to meet its burden to produce evidence that, if true, would overcome the statutory presumption that the injury was work-related. The Court remanded the case to the LIRAB with the instruction that Plaintiff's injury-by-disease was compensable under Hawai'i's workers' compensation law. View "Cadiz v. QSI, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeal (ICA) and the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board's (LIRAB) award of attorney's fees to Stanford Masui for his representation of Reginald Botelho in a workers' compensation case, holding that the ICA erred to the extent it held that Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-94 authorizes LIRAB to predetermine an attorney's hourly rate and erred in holding that LIRAB provided an adequate explanation for its reduction of Masui's requested attorney's fee.Masui submitted a request for attorney's fees requesting an hourly rate of $325. LIRAB approved the request but reduced Masui's hourly rate to $165. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment, holding (1) under section 386-94 LIRAB is not authorized to predetermine a workers' compensation attorney's authorized houry rate to be applied to that attorney's future cases; (2) the ICA did not err in interpreting section 386-94 as granting LIRAB discretion to vary the requesting attorney's hourly billing rate to arrive at an award of reasonable attorney's fees; and (3) the ICA erred in concluding that LIRAB provided an adequate explanation for its reduction of the requested attorney's fees, as required by McLaren v. Paradise Inn Hawai'i LLC, 321 P.3d 671 (2014). View "Botelho v. Atlas Recycling Center, LLC." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) dismissing this appeal on the grounds that appellate jurisdiction was lacking, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in finding the existence of "excusable neglect" under Haw. R. App. P. (HRAP) 4(a)(4)(B) to allow an extension of time to file a notice of appeal.Petitioner appealed from the circuit court's judgment in this labor dispute, asserting appellate jurisdiction pursuant to HRAP Rule 4. The ICA dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction, determining that the appeal was untimely under Rule 4(a)(1) because Petitioner did not establish excusable neglect to extend the time to file the notice of appeal. After clarifying the terms "good cause" and "excusable neglect" for purposes of the current HRAP Rule 4(a)(4)(A) and (B), the Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment and remanded this case to the ICA to address the merits of the appeal, holding that "excusable neglect" existed in this case, and therefore, the ICA erred in dismissing Petitioner's appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. View "Eckard Brandes, Inc. v. Department of Labor & Industrial Relations" on Justia Law