Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court
by
The Supreme Court ruled that Cree, Inc. did not unlawfully discriminate against Derrick Palmer based on his conviction record by rescinding its job offer, holding that Cree sufficiently established that the circumstances surrounding Palmer's prior convictions for domestic violence substantially related to the circumstances of the offered position.In 2013, Palmer was convicted for committing eight crimes of domestic violence against his live-in girlfriend. Palmer later applied to work for Cree as an Applications Specialist. Cree offered Palmer the job subject to a background check, which revealed Palmer's 2013 convictions. Cree then rescinded its offer of employment. Palmer subsequently filed a discrimination complaint. The Labor and Industry Review Commission concluded that the domestic crimes at issue did not substantially related to the Applications Specialist job, and therefore, Cree discriminated against Palmer when it rescinded its job offer. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Cree met its burden to establish a substantial relationship between the circumstances of Palmer's convicted offenses and the circumstances of the Applications Specialist position; and (2) therefore, Cree did not unlawfully discriminate against Palmer based on his conviction record. View "Cree, Inc. v. Labor & Industry Review Commission" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Department of Workforce Development rejecting Eden Senior Care's application to succeed the unemployment insurance account of Friendly Village Nursing and Rehab's previous owner, holding that Eden failed to demonstrate excusable neglect for the untimely filing of its application.After purchasing Friendly Village, Eden untimely filed its successorship application. The Labor and Industry Review Commission concluded that the record was insufficient to establish that Eden's application was late because of excusable neglect. Eden appealed, arguing that the Commission erred in failing to consider whether the interests-of-justice factors supported a finding of excusable neglect. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission applied the correct legal standard; and (2) there was no basis on which to excuse Eden's neglect in filing its successorship application after the statutory deadline. View "Friendly Village Nursing and Rehab, LLC v. State, Department of Workforce Development" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court ruling that the exclusive-remedy provision of the Wisconsin Worker's Compensation Act, Wis. Stat. 102.03(2), did not bar Petitioner's tort action against his employer's worker's compensation insurance carrier, holding that the Act provided Plaintiff's exclusive remedy for the injuries alleged in his complaint.In his tort action against Continental Indemnity Company Plaintiff alleged that Continental was negligent in failing to approve payment for a refill of his antidepressant medication that was prescribed after a workplace injury and that, as a result, he attempted suicide. Continental filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that section 102.03(2) barred Plaintiff's tort action. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the Act's exclusive remedy provision did not bar Plaintiff's action. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the allegations in Petitioner's tort action, if proven, would satisfy the conditions for worker's compensation liability, and therefore, the exclusive-remedy provision applied. View "Graef v. Continental Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court concluding that Employees' time spent "donning and doffing" personal protective equipment was compensable, holding that the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion when it summarily dismissed Employer's equitable defenses.Employees filed suit seeking unpaid wages for time spent at the start and end of their shifts donning and doffing personal protective equipment. The circuit court denied Employer's motion for summary judgment, concluding (1) the donning and doffing time was compensable; (2) Employees could not modify or eliminate compensation for donning and doffing through collective bargaining; (3) the time was not rendered non-compensable by the de minimis doctrine; and (4) Employer's four equitable defenses did not preclude Employees' recovery of damages. The Supreme Court affirmed with one exception, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion when it dismissed Employer's equitable defenses on the basis of Wis. Stat. 109.03(5). View "Piper v. Jones Dairy Farm" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendant’s motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ complaint claiming entitlement to unpaid wages based on his commute time in a company van, holding that commute time in a company-provided vehicle is not compensable under Wisconsin law.Field service technicians employed by Defendant traveled to customers’ locations in Defendant’s vans and had the choice of commuting between work and home in either their personal vehicles or the company’s vans. Defendant did not provide compensation time for technicians’ travel time between home and work, leading Plaintiffs to file this lawsuit. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed, holding that genuine issues of material facts existed as to whether Wisconsin’s statutes and regulations require payment for commuting time in a company-provided vehicle. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that travel is not compensable where an employee drives a company-provided vehicle between home and a jobsite. View "Kieninger v. Crown Equipment Corp." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court interpreted Milwaukee County General Ordinance 201.24(4.1) to mean that employees not covered by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) were entitled to the benefit of the “Rule of 75” if they were hired prior to January 1, 2006, and that, on September 29, 2011, the operative date of the County’s amended ordinance, members of Milwaukee District Council 48 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (DC-48) were not covered by the terms of a CBA because the last CBA had expired.At issue were pension benefits, known as the Rule of 75, to certain DC-48 members. The County enacted an ordinance granting Rule of 75 benefits to all employees “not covered by the terms of a [CBA]” as long as those employees were hired before 2006. DC-48 sought a declaratory judgment that its members were not covered by the terms of a CBA and that all members hired prior to January 1, 2006 were eligible for the Rule of 75. The circuit court concluded that DC-48 members were not covered by the terms of a CBA on September 29, 2011. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, pursuant to an active CBA, the members of DC-48 were not “covered by the terms” of a CBA on September 29, 2011. View "Milwaukee District Council 48 v. Milwaukee County" on Justia Law

by
The City of Milwaukee’s 2013 amendment to its charter ordinance that reduced the right of each individual employee-member of the Employee Retirement System (ERS) to vote for three employees of his or her choice to serve on the ERS Annuity and Pension Board, modified the “other rights” of employee-members of the ERS who were members prior to the amendment and, therefore, was contrary to state law.In 1947, the State granted all first class cities the opportunity to manage the ERS pursuant to the exercise of home rule powers but also protected individual rights of those persons who were members of an ERS by precluding amendment that modified “the annuities, benefits, or other rights of any persons who are members of the system prior to the effective date of such amendment.” Laws of 1947, chapter 441, section 31(1). After the City amended its charter in 2013, Plaintiffs challenged the amendment, arguing that it violated state law. The Supreme Court agreed and restored the right of employee-members to vote for three employees of their choice to serve as employee-members of the Board. View "Milwaukee Police Ass’n v. City of Milwaukee" on Justia Law

by
In this dispute over unemployment compensation benefits, the Supreme Court held that the plain language of Wis. Stat. 108.04(5)(e) allows an employer to adopt its own absenteeism policy that differs from the policy set forth in the statute. Further, termination for the violation of the employer’s absenteeism policy will result in disqualification from receiving unemployment compensation benefits even if the employer’s absenteeism policy is more restrictive than the policy set forth in section 108.04(5)(e).Employee was denied unemployment compensation on the ground that she was terminated for “misconduct” - namely, absenteeism, as defined by section 108.04(5)9e). The circuit court concluded that an employer’s violation of the employer’s absenteeism rules constitutes “misconduct” under section 108.04(5)(e) barring unemployment compensation benefits. The court of appeals disagreed, holding that an employee who is terminated for violating an employer’s absenteeism rules is not barred from obtaining unemployment benefits unless the employee’s conduct violates the statutory definition of misconduct based on absenteeism. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employee was properly denied benefits under the circumstances of this case. View "Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development v. Wisconsin Labor & Industry Review Commission" on Justia Law

by
The Labor and Industry Review Commission’s version of the “inference method” of finding discriminatory intent is inconsistent with Wis. Stat. 111.322(1) because it excuses the employee from his burden of proving discriminatory intent.Employee argued that Employer intentionally discriminated against him when it terminated his employment because of his disability. LIRC agreed and concluded that Employer violated the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) LIRC’s version of the “inference method” impermissibly allows imposition of WFEA liability without proof of discriminatory intent, which is inconsistent with the requirements of section 11.322(1); and (2) the record lacked substantial evidence that Employer terminated Employee’s employment because of his disability. View "Wisconsin Bell, Inc. v. Labor & Industry Review Commission" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s determination that real estate broker Mark McNally was entitled to a commission pursuant to a listing contract between the parties.Capital Cartage, Inc. argued before the Supreme Court that McNally was not entitled to a commission because the offer to purchase McNally procured contained substantial variances from the seller’s terms as set forth in the listing contract. The Supreme Court held (1) Kleven v. Cities Service Oil Co., 126 N.W.2d 64, is the law with regard to determining whether a substantial variance exists between a listing contract and an offer to purchase; (2) applying this standard, in the context of the sale of a business with real estate where the sale did not go through, McNally did not procure an offer to purchase “at the price and on substantially the terms set forth” in the listing contract; and (3) therefore, McNally was not entitled to a commission. View "McNally v. Capital Cartage, Inc." on Justia Law