Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Missouri
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court overruling Dollar Tree's motion to compel arbitration and stay proceedings on a former employee's claim of disability discrimination, holding that the order was supported by substantial evidence, was not against the weight of the evidence, and correctly applied the law. After Plaintiff, Dollar Tree's former employee, brought this complaint Dollar Tree filed a motion to compel arbitration and stay proceedings under an arbitration agreement in the employment contract. The parties, however, disputed whether there was assent to the arbitration agreement. The circuit court denied the motion to compel arbitration after hearing testimony but did not make any findings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no clear and unmistakable evidence of the existence of assent to a delegation provision, and therefore, the circuit court could not delegate the matter to an arbitrator whose existence depended upon the agreement. View "Theroff v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this suit alleging retaliation pursuant to section 213.070 of the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying Washington University judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), holding that Plaintiff failed to submit a cognizable claim under the MRHA. Plaintiff filed a complaint against the University claiming that her request for a reasonable accommodation of her herniated discs was a protected activity. A jury returned a verdict in Plaintiff's favor against the University. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in overruling the University's JNOV motion because merely requesting an accommodation is insufficient to support a claim of retaliation under the plain language of the MHRA. View "Lin v. Ellis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's claims for relief under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) for age discrimination and retaliation, holding that the Court was precluded from applying the MHRA to Appellant's claims. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss Appellant's claim, arguing that his petition did not state a claim upon which relief could be granted because the MHRA does not apply to an Illinois employee who faced alleged discriminatory acts in Illinois. The circuit court dismissed the petition with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Appellant was aggrieved solely in Illinois, the express language of the MHRA, coupled with the presumption against extraterritorial application of laws, precluded that Court from applying the MHRA to Appellant's claims. View "Tuttle v. Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the labor and industrial relations commission affirming the award of the administrative law judge (ALJ) determining that Douglas Cosby was not entitled to permanent total disability (PTD) or permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits from the second injury fund pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.220.3, holding that the commission did not err and that section 287.220.3, as applied to Cosby, does not violate the open courts provision or Cosby's due process and equal protection rights. Cosby injured his knee during the course of his employment. Cosby filed a workers' compensation claim against his employer and the second injury fund alleging that he was disabled as a result of his knee injury combined with his preexisting disabilities. An ALJ denied benefits, and the commission affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the commission properly interpreted section 287.220 to find that Cosby was not entitled to PPD benefits from the fund because his knee injury occurred after January 1, 2014; and (2) interpreting section 287.220.3(2) to not provide PPD benefits from the fund does not violate the Missouri open courts provision or Defendant's due process or equal protection rights. View "Cosby v. Treasurer of the State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court awarding Matthew Vacca actual and punitive damages, including substantial future lost wages, on his claim that he was retaliated against for filing a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging disability discrimination, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to apply judicial estoppel to Vacca’s claim of future lost wages. The circuit court found Vacca claimed in this case that he could have continued to work as an administrative law judge (ALJ) for twenty more years. In Vacca’s ongoing dissolution proceeding, however, he claimed he was entitled to maintenance because he was totally unable to work due to his disability. The circuit court concluded that it was barred from applying judicial estoppel because the dissolution judgment had been remanded for further proceedings based on evidentiary errors. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) once a party takes inconsistent positions, there are no fixed prerequisites to application of judicial estoppel; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to apply judicial estoppel to preclude Vacca from making the inconsistent claim that he was able to work as an ALJ for another twenty years with reasonable accommodations. View "Vacca v. Missouri Department of Labor & Industrial Relations, Division of Workers' Compensation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (Commission) on Appellants’ consolidated allegations of violations of the Missouri Human Rights Act (Act), Mo. Rev. Stat. 213.010 et seq., holding that the circuit court erred in finding that Appellants’ claims failed under Pittman v. Cook Paper Recycling Corp., 478 S.W.3d 479 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015). Specifically, the circuit court relied upon Pittman’s holding that the Act does not include claims for sex discrimination based upon sexual orientation and then extended that rationale to include claims for sex discrimination based upon sex stereotyping. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) the Commission improperly characterized Appellants’ claims as sexual orientation discrimination, and therefore, the circuit court’s reliance on Pittman was misplaced; and (2) the circuit court erred in issuing summary judgment in favor of Defendant because the Act covers sex discrimination. View "Lampley v. Missouri Commission on Human Rights" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court finding the board of regents of Harris-Stowe State University liable on Dr. Shereen Kader’s claims of national origin discrimination and retaliation under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), holding that the circuit court’s jury instructions were erroneous and prejudicial. The jury returned a verdict in Dr. Kader’s favor on her claims of national original discrimination and retaliation, awarding $750,000 in actual damages and $1.75 million in punitive damages. The circuit court entered judgment on the jury’s verdict. On appeal, Harris-Stowe argued that the circuit court’s disjunctive jury instructions Nos. 8 and 9 misled and confused the jury, thereby resulting in prejudice. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the circuit court’s jury instructions were erroneous and prejudicial because they included at least one alternative that did not constitute actionable conduct under the MHRA. View "Kader v. Board of Regents of Harris-Stowe State University" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s judgment granting summary judgment in favor of the Missouri Department of Public Safety’s Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control and dismissing Appellant’s first amended petition for review under Mo. Rev. Stat. 536 on the grounds that Appellant failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Appellant’s employment with the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control was terminated following a disciplinary action. Appellant filed a complaint with the Administrative Hearing Commission. The Commission dismissed the complaint, finding that Appellant was not a merit employee entitled to a hearing before the Commission and that the Division had internal appeal procedures for its employees. Thereafter, Appellant filed an amended petition for review. The circuit court dismissed the petition with prejudice because Appellant failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly dismissed Appellant’s action because it lacked authority to review the Division’s administrative decision as a “contested case” pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 536.100, as alleged in the first amended petition. View "Nowden v. Division of Alcohol & Tobacco Control, Missouri Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (Commission) declining to approve the agreement entered into Employer and Employee that Employer would make a lump sum payment to fully satisfy Employee’s award of permanent total disability benefits. Employee received a work-related injury and filed a workers’ compensation claim against Employer. A final award granted Employee permanent total disability benefits to be paid weekly. The parties later agreed that Employee would make a lump sum benefit to fully satisfy the award. The Commission declined to approve the agreement, concluding that the Commission had no authority to approve the agreement either as a settlement under Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.390 or as an application for a “commutation” under Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.530. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission did not have the authority to consider or approve the agreement under section 287.390; and (2) the Commission properly refused to approve a commutation pursuant to the agreement. View "Dickemann v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed as modified the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission’s determination that because Robert Casey’s exposure to asbestos occurred while he was employed by Employer, its insurer (Insurer), was liable to Dolores Murphy, Casey’s widow, for benefits under Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.200.4. Casey died from mesothelioma caused by repeated exposure to asbestos in the workplace. An administrative law judge (ALJ) found Employer liable and awarded section 287.200.4’s enhanced mesothelioma benefits to Murphy and Casey’s eight children. The Commission largely affirmed, limiting recovery to Murphy and determining Murphy to be the sole proper claimant because the amended claim did not identify Casey’s child as dependents or claimants. The Supreme Court modified the Commission’s decision to include Casey’s children in the final award and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) Insurer was liable for the enhanced mesothelioma benefits; (2) section 287.022 is constitutional as applied; and (3) because section 287.200.4 does not limit recovery to dependent children and because the children were properly listed on the amended claim, they should have been included in the final award. View "Accident Fund Insurance Co. v. Casey" on Justia Law