Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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In this workers' compensation case, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals denying Employee's motion for attorney fees for his counsel's appellate work, holding that the affidavit submitted by Employee's attorney sufficiently justified under Neb. Ct. R. App. P. 2-109(F) reasonable attorney fees to which Employee had a statutory right. Employee was awarded permanent total disability benefits. Employer appealed the award to the court of appeals, which affirmed the award in all respects. Employee then filed a motion for an award of reasonable attorney fees under Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-125(4)(b) for the reason that Employer appealed the trial court's decision and there was no reduction in the amount of the award on appeal. Attached to the motion was the affidavit of Employee's counsel who worked on the appeal. The court of appeals denied the motion on the ground that the affidavit did not provide sufficient information to justify the reasonableness of the attorney fees sought. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the affidavit contained sufficient justification of the extent and value of the appellate attorney services to make a meaningful determination of the amount of "reasonable" attorney fees to which Employee was entitled. View "Sellers v. Reefer Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal held that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding any attorney fees to plaintiff. Labor Code section 218.5 mandates an attorney fee award in any action brought for the nonpayment of wages, if any party requests them at the initiation of the action. Furthermore, Kirby v. Immoos Fire Protection, Inc. (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1244, 1255, held that a plaintiff cannot obtain attorney fees in an action for failure to provide rest breaks or meal periods. In this case, there was no basis for the trial court's award of fees where the only wage and hour claims alleged and litigated were for rest break and meal period violations. The court held that plaintiff's claim that it must affirm the judgment because defendants presented an inadequate record for judicial review is unfounded. The court also rejected plaintiff's contention that the predicate misconduct of her wage and hour claims was not rest period violations, but rather failure to pay earned wages. The court explained that this theory was reflected nowhere in the record of the attorney fee proceedings—until plaintiff filed her reply papers. In those reply papers, plaintiff cited no evidence of any work performed before the settlement that referred to or suggested the existence of a claim or cause of action for failure to pay earned wages. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment to the extent it awarded attorney fees to plaintiff, remanding for entry of a new and different judgment denying recovery of attorney fees. View "Betancourt v. OS Restaurant Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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New Jersey Transit Corporation (New Jersey Transit) sought to recover workers’ compensation benefits paid to an employee, David Mercogliano, who sustained injuries in a work-related motor vehicle accident. It sued the individuals allegedly at fault in the accident, defendants Sandra Sanchez and Chad Smith, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:15-40, a provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act that authorized employers and workers’ compensation carriers that have paid workers’ compensation benefits to injured employees to assert subrogation claims. The issue this case presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court's review was whether that subrogation action was barred by the Auto Insurance Cost Recovery Act (AICRA). The trial court granted defendants’ motion, ruling that New Jersey Transit could not assert a claim based on economic loss. It noted that N.J.S.A. 39:6A-2(k) defined economic loss for purposes of AICRA to mean “uncompensated loss of income or property, or other uncompensated expenses, including, but not limited to, medical expenses.” In the trial court’s view, because New Jersey Transit’s workers’ compensation carrier paid benefits for all of Mercogliano’s medical expenses and lost income, he had no “uncompensated loss of income or property,” and thus sustained no economic loss for purposes of AICRA. The trial court relied on Continental Insurance Co. v. McClelland, 288 N.J. Super. 185 (App. Div. 1996), and policy considerations in reaching its decision. The Appellate Division reversed that judgment, agreeing with New Jersey Transit that its subrogation action arose entirely from “economic loss comprised of medical expenses and wage loss, not noneconomic loss.” However, it rejected the trial court’s view that an employer’s or workers’ compensation carrier’s subrogation claim based on benefits paid for economic loss contravened AICRA’s legislative intent. Finding no error in the appellate court's judgment, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Jersey Transit Corporation v. Sanchez" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal granted summary judgment to plaintiff St. Charles Gaming Company d/b/a Isle of Capri Casino Lake Charles ("Grand Palais"), holding the casino was a :vessel" for the purposes of general maritime law. The decision contradicted Benoit v. St. Charles Gaming Company, LLC, 233 So. 3d 615, cert. denied, 139 S. Ct. 104 (2018), which held the Grand Palais was not a vessel. Plaintiff Don Caldwell worked for Grand Palais Riverboat, LLC, and was injured when the gangway attached to the riverboat malfunctioned and collapsed. Plaintiff petitioned for damages, alleging the Grand Palais was a vessel under general maritime law, and that he was a seaman under the Jones Act at the time of the accident. After a de novo review of the record, the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded the Grand Palais was a not vessel under general maritime law. Therefore, it reversed the judgment of the court of appeal and granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing plaintiff’s suit. View "Caldwell v. St. Charles Gaming Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit pro se against Brivo, alleging discrimination based on race in violation of Title VII. In this case, within an hour of starting orientation at Brivo, Brivo's security architect approached plaintiff and confronted him about a newspaper article that he had found after running a Google search on plaintiff. The article reported plaintiff's tangential involvement in a shooting for which he faced no charges. Nonetheless, the security architect berated plaintiff about the incident, declared plaintiff unfit for employment at Brivo, and terminated him on the spot. The district court dismissed the case with prejudice, because plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to plausibly support a claim of discrimination. The Fourth Circuit held that it had appellate jurisdiction despite the district court's dismissal of the complaint without prejudice. Under Domino Sugar Corp. v. Sugar Workers Local Union 392, 10 F.3d 1064, 1067 (4th Cir. 1993), the order is appealable because the district court held that the circumstances surrounding plaintiff's termination did not expose Brivo to legal liability, and plaintiff has no additional facts that could be added to his complaint; under Chao v. Rivendell Woods, Inc., 415 F.3d 342, 345 (4th Cir. 2005), the order is appealable because the district court dismissed the complaint and directed that the case be closed; and the order is likewise appealable under Chao and In re GNC Corp., 789 F.3d at 511, because plaintiff has elected to stand on his complaint as filed. On the merits, the court held that the district court did not err by dismissing the Title VII claims at this point in the proceedings. The court held that plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to plausibly claim his termination or the Google search that lead to it was racially motivated. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Bing v. Brivo Systems, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court denying the motion filed by a teachers' union and Jennifer Leyden (collectively, the Union) to vacate an arbitration award and granting the City of Providence's motion to confirm the award, holding that the trial justice erred in holding that the decision of the Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island (the Retirement Board) granting Leyden's application for an ordinary disability retirement retired Leyden as a matter of law. Leyden, a school teacher, was awarded workers' compensation benefits after she was assaulted by students. The Retirement Board later approved Leyden's application for an ordinary disability retirement. While she was receiving workers' compensation benefits, Leyden sought reinstatement to her former teaching position. However, the School Department considered her to be retired. The Union filed a grievance, and the matter proceeded to arbitration. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the School Department, concluding that the Retirement Board had retired Leyden when it granted her request for an ordinary disability pension, and therefore, the Union had no standing to represent her. The superior court confirmed the award. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court's order, holding that Leyden's grievance that she was denied an appointment for the upcoming academic year was substantively arbitrable. View "Providence Teachers' Union Local 958, AFT, AFL-CIO v. Hemond" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted the Northern Berks Regional Police Commission’s petition for appeal in this Police and Firemen Collective Bargaining Act (Act 1111) grievance arbitration appeal. An arbitrator reinstated Officer Charles Hobart to the Northern Berks Police Department, but the trial court vacated the award based on a finding that the award required the Department to commit an illegal act. The trial court’s ruling was based on factual developments occurring after Hobart’s termination. The Commonwealth Court reversed, finding that Hobart had not yet exhausted administrative remedies that would theoretically remove the purported illegality. After review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found the arbitrator's award was not illegal, and therefore reversed the Commonwealth Court. View "N Berks Reg. Police Comm. v. Berks Co. FOP" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted allowance of appeal in this matter to consider whether a government employer properly terminated a probationary employee based on messages she posted to a social networking website. After review, the Court concluded the Commonwealth Court failed to engage in the required balancing of interests, and therefore erred when it reversed the adjudication and order of the Pennsylvania State Civil Service Commission (Commission) dismissing the probationary employee’s challenge to her termination. View "Carr v. PennDOT" on Justia Law

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Susan Burren was injured at work, and she received temporary workers’ compensation benefits after her employer admitted liability. Many months passed, with many efforts to treat her injuries, but none of her authorized treating physicians (“ATPs”) placed her at “Maximum medical improvement” (“MMI”). Her employer and her employer’s insurer sought a second opinion regarding Burren’s MMI status, and Burren subsequently underwent a Division Independent Medical Examination (“DIME”). The DIME doctor who examined Burren also declined to place her at MMI. The employer and insurer then challenged the DIME doctor’s opinion under section 8-42-107(8)(b)(III), C.R.S. (2019), of the Workers’ Compensation Act (“Act”). An administrative law judge (“ALJ”) concluded that the employer and insurer had overcome the DIME doctor’s finding. The ALJ then placed Burren at MMI with a finding of no permanent impairment, making Burren ineligible to receive permanent disability benefits. An administrative panel agreed with the ALJ. Burren appealed. A division of the court of appeals concluded that the ALJ had no authority to place Burren at MMI. Instead, Burren should have been allowed to resume treatment with her ATPs until either an ATP or a DIME doctor placed her at MMI. The employer and its insurer petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court for review, and the Supreme Court reversed: once an ALJ concludes that an employer or an employer’s insurer has overcome a DIME doctor’s MMI opinion under section 8-42-107(8)(b)(III), the ALJ may determine the claimant’s MMI status and permanent impairment rating as questions of fact. View "Destination Maternity v. Burren" on Justia Law

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In June 2018, Appellants Mary Jackson and her non-profit organization, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, Inc. (“ROSE”), filed a complaint against the Secretary of State challenging the constitutionality of the Georgia Lactation Consultant Practice Act (the “Act”), which prohibited the practice of “lactation care and services” for compensation without a license from the Secretary of State. Specifically, Appellants alleged that, under the Act, they were ineligible for a license because they lacked a privately issued credential that the Act required for licensure, even though they had other private credentials that made them equally competent to provide lactation care and services and pose no risk of harm to the public. Accordingly, they argue that the Act violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the Georgia Constitution. The trial court granted the Secretary’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Specifically, the trial court ruled that Appellants failed to state a claim that the Act violated due process, because the Georgia Constitution did not recognize a right to work in one’s chosen profession, and that Appellants failed to state a claim that the Act violated equal protection, because the complaint did not sufficiently allege that Appellants were similarly situated to those who are able to obtain a license. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court agreed with Appellants that the trial court erred in both rulings. "We have long interpreted the Georgia Constitution as protecting a right to work in one’s chosen profession free from unreasonable government interference. And the trial court erred in concluding that the Appellants are not similarly situated to lactation consultants who can be licensed because, according to the allegations in the complaint, they do the same work." Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded with direction to the trial court to reconsider the motion to dismiss. View "Jackson v. Raffensperger" on Justia Law