Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's claims that Defendant, his employer, fired him in violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in his compensation agreement with Defendant, holding that the court of appeals' application of the covenant was improper. In his complaint, Plaintiff claimed that Defendant fired him in an effort to avoid payment of commissions and that, even though he was an at-will employee, his termination violated the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In dismissing the claims, the district court concluded that the covenant could did not apply in this context. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the covenant can be invoked to prevent employers form using at-will termination to avoid obligations under the compensation agreement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the covenant of good faith and fair dealing may not be applied to contradict express contractual terms; and (2) the court of appeals' application was inconsistent with the express terms of the compensation agreement and with the parties' course of dealings. View "Vander Veur v. Groove Entertainment Technologies" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the award of benefits entered by the Utah Labor Commission in favor of Jessica Wilson, holding that the Commission did not err in concluding that Wilson's injuries arose out of, and in the course of, her employment with her employer, Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG). Wilson sustained injuries after tripping and falling in a parking lot while walking into work. Wilson requested benefits from IHG. IHG denied Wilson's claim, concluding that, under the going-and-coming rule, Wilson's accident did not arise out of and in the course of her employment. An ALJ with the Commission reviewed Wilson's claim and concluded that Wilson was entitled to benefits under the premises rule. The Commission affirmed, concluding that the communal parking area where the accident occurred was proof IHG's premises for purposes of determining compensability. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission properly determined that Wilson's accident occurred on IHG's premises and that, under case law, this constituted an accident in the course of her employment. View "Intercontinental Hotels Group v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court allowing Alarm Protection Technology (APT) to substitute itself as the plaintiff in this case and extinguishing Ryan Bradburn's claims against it, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in permitting APT's substitution as plaintiff. After Bradburn's employment with APT as a sales representative ended he sued APT for alleged unpaid commissions. Executing on a confession of judgment it had previously obtained from Bradburn, APT initiated a constable sale and purchased Bradburn's legal right to sue APT. APT then substituted itself into this case for Bradburn and dismissed all claims against itself. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing complete substitution because Utah law permits the tactic used by APT in this case. View "Bradburn v. Alarm Protection Technology, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in this labor dispute and vacated the the district court’s judgment, holding that the case was moot. A group of supervisors working for Utah Transit Authority (UTA) coordinated with a labor organization in an effort to unionize, which the UTA resisted. The union and supervisors subsequently filed an action seeking a declaration of their right to organize. After the district court entered a non-final order concluding that the supervisors had collective bargaining rights under Utah law, the supervisors voted not to unionize. Because the district court had not entered a final judgment, the case became moot. The district court then entered its final judgment, and UTA appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and vacated the judgment below, holding that the controversy became moot before the district court had entered its final judgment, and the district court should have dismissed the case as moot at that point. View "Teamsters Local 222 v. Utah Transit Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s ruling that Plaintiff, a municipal employee, had forfeited her merit protection status through contract, estoppel, and waiver without reaching the merits of Plaintiff’s claims because she failed to carry her burden of challenging all of the district court’s rulings, each of which was an independent basis for summary judgment. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that Supreme Court precedent allowing a contract in conflict with a statute to survive, provided it does not violate public policy, does not extend to contracts involving government employees. The Supreme Court held that, although it was possible that Plaintiff was correct, Plaintiff was not entitled to relief because she failed to challenge the district court’s ruling that she was equitably estopped from claiming merit status. View "Howick v. Salt Lake City Corp." on Justia Law

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A notice of termination may be an adverse employment action independent of an actual termination under the Utah Protection of Public Employees Act (UPPEA). Plaintiff filed suit against Employer, claiming infringement of her free speech rights under the Utah Constitution and under the UPPEA. Employer moved for summary judgment, arguing, inter alia, that the UPPEA claim was time-barred because Plaintiff suffered an “adverse employment action” triggering the 180-day filing requirement under the UPPEA. The United States District Court certified three questions for the Utah Supreme Court’s review. The Supreme Court declined to exercise its discretion to resolve the first two questions and instead answered only the third question. The court answered the question as set forth above and set forth an analytical framework for assessing whether such employment actions are independent of each other under the UPPEA. View "Zimmerman v. University of Utah" on Justia Law

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A notice of termination may be an adverse employment action independent of an actual termination under the Utah Protection of Public Employees Act (UPPEA). Plaintiff filed suit against Employer, claiming infringement of her free speech rights under the Utah Constitution and under the UPPEA. Employer moved for summary judgment, arguing, inter alia, that the UPPEA claim was time-barred because Plaintiff suffered an “adverse employment action” triggering the 180-day filing requirement under the UPPEA. The United States District Court certified three questions for the Utah Supreme Court’s review. The Supreme Court declined to exercise its discretion to resolve the first two questions and instead answered only the third question. The court answered the question as set forth above and set forth an analytical framework for assessing whether such employment actions are independent of each other under the UPPEA. View "Zimmerman v. University of Utah" on Justia Law

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Utah Code 34A-2-417(2)(a)(ii), a provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) that limits the time an injured worker has to prove a claim, is a statute of repose but is nevertheless constitutional under the Open Courts Clause of the Utah Constitution. Section 34A-2-417(2)(a)(ii) provides that an employee claiming compensation for a workplace injury must prove that he or she is due the compensation claimed within twelve years from the date of the accident. Petitioners filed claims to receive permanent total disability benefits more than twelve years after the original workplace accident that led to their injuries. Petitioners’ claims were dismissed as untimely under the statute. In petitioning for review, Petitioners argued that the statute acts as a statute of repose and is unconstitutional under the Open Courts Clause. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 34A-2-417(2)(a)(ii) is a statute of repose but withstands Open Courts Clause scrutiny. View "Waite v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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Utah Code 35-1-65, which provides that an injured worker who is temporarily totally disabled shall not receive compensation benefits over a period of eight years from the date of the injury, does not operate as an unconstitutional statute of repose under the Open Courts Clause of the Utah Constitution. Petitioner suffered a back injury while working for the Granite School District in 1982. An impartial medical panel concluded that Petitioner’s injury was the medical cause of a subsequent surgery in 2014, but an administrative law judge (ALJ) with the Utah Labor Commission denied Petitioner’s request for temporary total disability compensation on the ground that more than eight years had elapsed since the date of the injury. The Appeals Board of the Commission affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 35-1-64 does not abrogate any previously existing remedy and so is not subject to an Open Courts Clause challenge; and (2) the Workers’ Compensation Act is an adequate substitute remedy for Petitioner’s common law tort of action. View "Petersen v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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In this splintered opinion, two justices would affirm in part and reverse in part the final order of the Labor Commission, two justices would affirm, and one justice would vacate and remand. Therefore, the order the Commission stood as issued. Appellee claimed workers’ compensation benefits against her employer for injuries she sustained while working. Appellee’s employer and its insurers initially paid Appellee’s benefits but later concluded that Appellee’s condition did not constitute a compensable accident under the Workers’ Compensation Act but was rather an occupational disease under the Occupational Disease Act. An administrative law judge (ALJ) disagreed and found in favor of Appellee, concluding that the employer was subject to ongoing liability for Appellee’s injuries, which were caused by a workplace accident under a theory of “cumulative trauma.” The Commission upheld the ALJ’s decision in its final order. In dispute in this opinion was the effect of the 1991 amendments to the Occupational Disease Act on the Workers’ Compensation Act. View "Rueda v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law