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In this case raising two questions concerning Hawaii law of workers’ compensation as it relates to permanent partial disability (PPD) awards, the Supreme Court held (1) a PPD award for an unscheduled injury that is not comparable to a scheduled injury must be supported by some factual finding of a determinate percentage of impairment of a physical or mental function of the whole person; and (2) a PPD determination may be based on a claimant’s post-injury inability to perform the usual and customary work activities in the position the claimant occupied prior to the injury. In the instant case, the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) awarded Employee $250 in PPD benefits. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated LIRAB’s ruling and remanded for a determination of whether Employee had suffered a permanent impairment and, if so, the percentage of the impairment and the award of PPD benefits based on that percentage. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated the Board’s $250 lump sum award and remanded to LIRAB for it to determine the relevant percentage of Employee’s impairment, as well as an award of PPD benefits based on that percentage. View "Ihara v. State" on Justia Law

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Mainstay Business Solutions (Mainstay), a division of the Blue Lake Rancheria Economic Development Corporation, was a tribal government-sponsored entity of Blue Lake Rancheria, a federally recognized Indian tribe. Mainstay operated a temporary staffing business, assigning temporary workers to its clients. It also operated an employee leasing business in which employees of Mainstay’s clients were placed on Mainstay’s payroll and leased back to the clients. The California Self-Insurers’ Security Fund (SISF) assumed the workers’ compensation obligations when Mainstay defaulted on its obligations to self-insure. SISF then sued Mainstay, Mainstay’s clients and others to recover its costs and liabilities. Among other things, the trial court granted SISF’s motion for judgment on the pleadings against Mainstay’s clients. Mainstay’s clients filed a petition for writ of mandate and/or prohibition to challenge the trial court’s order. SISF argued on appeal: (1) writ review was not appropriate because the main issue presented was rendered moot by the enactment of Labor Code section 3701.9. On the merits, Mainstay’s clients argued: (2) SISF’s claim was subject to the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers Compensation Act and should have been brought before the Workers Compensation Appeals Board; and (3) their agreements with Mainstay in compliance with Labor Code section 3602(d) serve to bar SISF’s civil action. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "American Cargo Express v. Super Ct." on Justia Law

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Progressive publishes and sells business publications, using sales representatives who are paid an hourly wage plus bonuses based on the number of sales per hour while they are logged onto their workstation computers. Progressive previously gave employees two 15-minute paid breaks per day. In 2009, Progressive eliminated paid breaks but allowed employees to log off of their computers at any time, for any duration. Progressive does not pay them for time they are logged off of their computers, including bathroom breaks and time used to prepare for the next call. Sales representatives estimate the total number of hours that they expect to work during the upcoming pay period. They are subject to discipline for failing to work that number of hours. Progressive sends representatives home for the day if their sales are not high enough and sets fixed schedules for representatives when that is deemed necessary. The Department of Labor alleged that this policy violated the Fair Labor Standards Act “by failing to compensate . . . sales representative employees for break[s] of twenty minutes or less . . . .” The district court agreed that that 29 C.F.R. 785.18 created a bright-line rule. The Third Circuit affirmed that the Act requires employers to compensate employees for all rest breaks of 20 minutes or less. View "Secretary United States Department of Labor v. American Future Systems Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, three Laotian correctional officers, filed suit against the County pursuant to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Government Code section 12900 et seq., while simultaneously pursuing their workers' compensation remedies. Administrative law judges denied plaintiffs' claims in separate workers' compensation proceedings. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the County, holding that res judicata barred plaintiffs' claims. The court reasoned that, while workers' compensation was not plaintiffs' exclusive remedy, once they elected to pursue that remedy to a final, adverse judgment instead of insisting on the primacy of their rights under the FEHA, the WCAB became the exclusive forum to recover for their injuries. View "Ly v. County of Fresno" on Justia Law

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Gregg has a compensation policy whereby its retail and sales employees, who are paid solely on the basis of commission, are advanced a “draw” to meet the minimum-wage requirements whenever their commissions fall below minimum wage. The amount of the draw is then deducted from future earnings in weeks when the employees’ commissions exceed the minimum-wage requirements. Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and other former and current Gregg employees, brought suit claiming violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state law. The district court found that defendants’ compensation policy was legal and dismissed all of plaintiffs’ federal claims. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The district court incorrectly applied the retail or service establishment exemption, which relieves employers from only their overtime obligations, 29 U.S.C. 207(i). Department of Labor regulations state that when an employee earns less in commissions than he was advanced through a draw, “a deduction of the excess amount from commission earnings for a subsequent period, if otherwise lawful, may or may not be customary under the employment arrangement,” 29 C.F.R. 779.416. Plaintiffs alleged sufficient facts to indicate that Gregg violated the FLSA by policies and practices that encouraged employees to work “off the clock” without compensation View "Stein v. hhgregg Inc." on Justia Law

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Former Seattle Public Schools (SPS) employees sought reversal of a Court of Appeals decision that affirmed summary judgment in favor of their bargaining representative, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 609-A (IUOE). The appeal raised two issues: (1) whether petitioners' negligent and unauthorized practice of law and Consumer Protection Act claims against the union were subsumed within their claims that the IUOW breached its duty of fair representation; and (2) whether a six-month statute of limitations for unfair labor practices brought before the Public Employment Relations Commission applied to petitioners' claims they brought to the superior court. The Washington Supreme Court concluded the claims arising out of the union's representation were subsumed into a duty of fair representation claim, and that the six-month statute of limitations did not apply to unfair labor practices filed in superior court because the applicable statutes referred only to claims filed with the Public Employment Relations Commission. The Court held the trial court erred in granting summary judgment because petitioners' claims were timely. View "Killian v. Seattle Pub. Schs." on Justia Law

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The Illinois Department of Human Services Home Services Program pays personal home health care assistants to care for elderly and disabled persons. The assistants are considered public employees under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, which authorizes collective bargaining. Since 2003, the Union has been the assistants' exclusive representative, required to represent all public employees, including non-members. Under the collective bargaining agreement, the Union collected limited "fair share" fees from workers who chose not to join, which were automatically deducted from the assistants' pay. Workers who objected to this fair-share arrangement sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of their claim; the Supreme Court reversed. On remand, the Objectors sought certification of a class of all non-union member assistants from whom the fees were collected until June 30, 2014, when the state stopped the fair-share deductions. They argued that their proposed class of around 80,000 members is entitled to a refund of approximately $32 million. The Seventh Circuit affirmed a holding that class certification was inappropriate, stating that: the class definition was overly broad in light of evidence that a substantial number of class members did not object to the fee and could not have suffered an injury; named plaintiffs were not adequate representatives; individual questions regarding damages predominated over common ones; the class faced manageability issues; and a class action was not a superior method of resolving the issue. View "Riffey v. Rauner" on Justia Law

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The Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (MFLSA), Minn. Stat. 177.21-.35, provides a private cause of action for an employee who is discharged for refusing to share gratuities. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the dismissal of Employee’s complaint alleging a violation of the MFLSA for Employer’s decision to terminate him for not “properly sharing his tips.” In dismissing the complaint, the district court concluded that the MFLSA does not recognize a wrongful-discharge cause of action. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the MFLSA, by express wording, provides a cause of action for an employee who is terminated for refusing to share tips. View "Burt v. Rackner, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, three officers of Latino descent, filed suit against the City and Westminster Police Chiefs, alleging claims of discrimination and retaliation on the basis of race and religion. The jury awarded plaintiffs general and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees and costs. The panel held that the district court properly denied the City's motion for a new trial and renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law on the issue of whether Plaintiff Flores failed to establish his claim of retaliation in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov't Code 12900–12996. In this case, the evidence at trial would permit a trier of fact to conclude he was subjected to adverse employment actions, that his protected conduct was a substantial motivating factor behind the adverse employment actions, and that the City's proffered reasons for its actions were pretextual. Accordingly, the panel affirmed as to this issue and also affirmed the jury's award of damages to Officer Flores on the FEHA retaliation claim. The panel further held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in regard to evidentiary rulings, and the jury's verdict against two police chiefs for race discrimination was not fatally inconsistent. However, the panel vacated the judgment against Chief Mitchell Waller, who died before trial, and remanded to the district court to grant two officers leave to substitute the Chief's estate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(a)(1). View "Flores v. City of Westminster" on Justia Law

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Claimant Lydia Diamond appeals the summary judgment decision of the Commissioner of the Department of Labor denying her claim for PPD benefits associated with the C3-4 levels of her spine. In April 2001, claimant was injured in a motor vehicle collision while delivering newspapers for employer. The crash exacerbated claimant’s preexisting right carpal tunnel syndrome. She underwent right carpal tunnel release surgery in February 2002, and had a surgical release of her left carpal tunnel in January 2003. After the surgeries, it became clear that claimant had unresolved neck pain relating to the work accident. Her doctor diagnosed disc herniations in her cervical spine and in September 2003 performed discectomies at the C5-6 and C6-7 levels of her cervical spine and a two-level cervical fusion at C4-C6. The issue this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court’s review centered on whether a workers’ compensation award of permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits based on damage to the C4-6 levels of claimant’s cervical spine precluded a subsequent award of PPD benefits, more than six years later, for damage to the C3-4 levels of claimant’s spine that arose, over time, from the same work injury. Claimant appealed the grant of summary judgment by the Commissioner of the Department of Labor that denied her claim for PPD benefits associated with the C3-4 levels of her spine. The Commissioner determined that claimant’s request for the additional PPD benefits amounted to a request to modify the prior PPD award and was time-barred. The Supreme Court concluded, based on the specific language of the initial PPD award, it did not purport to encompass injury to other levels of claimant’s cervical spine beyond the C4-6 levels. Accordingly, claimant was not seeking to modify the prior PPD award but, rather, sought PPD benefits for physical damage not encompassed within a previous PPD award. Her claim was therefore timely, and accordingly the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Diamond v. Burlington Free Press" on Justia Law