Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Department of Labor determining that Appellant's knee surgery and related treatment were not compensable, holding that the Department did not err when it concluded that Appellant's work-related injury, in combination with his preexisting condition, did not remain a major contributing cause of his disability, impairment, or need for treatment. Appellant injured his left knee while working for Appellee. Appellee denied liability for Appellant's total knee replacement surgery and post-operative treatment. The Department found the work-related injury neither contributed independently nor was a major contributing cause of Appellant's need for surgery. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to prove causation under either S.D. Codified Laws 62-1-1(7)(b) or S.D. Codified Laws 62-1-1(7)(c). View "Armstrong v. Longview Farms, LLP" on Justia Law

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Katherine Morgan, as wrongful death representative of her husband, David Morgan, brought direct negligence liability claims against Baker Hughes Incorporated (“Baker Hughes”) for the acts of its subsidiary, Baker Petrolite Incorporated (“Baker Petrolite”). In 2012, David Morgan was crushed to death by a heavy chemical tote while operating a forklift at his place of employment, a warehouse in Casper, Wyoming. There have been two trials in this case. At the close of Morgan’s evidence in the first trial, Baker Hughes moved for judgment as a matter of law. The district court granted Baker Hughes’ motion. We reversed on appeal, holding that Morgan had presented sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that Baker Hughes was liable for David Morgan’s death In so doing, we interpreted Wyoming law on the liability of parent corporations for the acts of their subsidiaries. After the second trial, Morgan moved for judgment as a matter of law. The district court denied the motion, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Baker Hughes. However, before submitting the case to the jury, the court rejected Morgan’s proposed jury instructions and overruled her objections to the court’s instructions. Morgan timely appealed these decisions and moved to certify the controlling question to the Wyoming Supreme Court. The Tenth Circuit concluded that Wyoming law on this issue was consistent with the Restatement (Second) of Torts section 414 and its commentary. Accordingly, the Court held that the district court correctly instructed the jury with respect to the relevant legal standard and did not err in making various decisions Morgan challenges on appeal. View "Morgan v. Baker Hughes" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court concluding that Defendant committed a breach of an "anti-raiding" restrictive covenant entered into between between the parties but held that the equitable remedy fashioned by the trial judge, which expanded the restrictive covenant beyond its plain terms, constituted an abuse of discretion. The restrictive covenant in this case prohibited Defendant from soliciting or hiring employees from Plaintiff, his former company, for a defined period of time. Defendant, however, hired employees from his former company in breach of the restrictive covenant. The superior court judge concluded that the restrictive covenant was enforceable and that Defendant had committed a breach of the covenant. The judge issued injunctive relief extending the length of the restrictive covenant for an additional year beyond the date provided for in the contract. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the restrictive covenant was necessary to protect a legitimate business interest; (2) Defendant committed a breach of the anti-raiding provision; but (3) the use of an equitable remedy to extend the restriction beyond the plain terms of the contract was not warranted without a finding that damages would be inadequate. View "Automile Holdings, LLC v. McGovern" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Champion's motion for summary judgment on workplace-discrimination claims brought by plaintiff, an employee, who alleged that he was fired because of a diabetes-related condition. Champion claimed that plaintiff was sleeping at his desk during work hours, an immediately terminable offense. The court held that the district court did not err in finding no direct evidence of discrimination on the basis of disability. The court also agreed with the district court that the evidence suggested that plaintiff could not perform the essential functions of the job with or without an accommodation. The court also held that plaintiff's disability-based claim failed because any harassment plaintiff alleged was not severe or pervasive and did not create an abusive working environment. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to show that the harassment was based on his disability. The court held that the district court did not err in finding no failure to accommodate plaintiff's disability and no failure to engage in an interactive process. Even if plaintiff was a qualified individual, his failure-to-accommodate claim failed because he failed to carry his burden to show that he requested reasonable accommodations. The court further held that plaintiff failed to show a prima facie case of retaliation. Finally, the district court did not err by denying plaintiff's claims for damages. View "Clark v. Champion National Security, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Carla St. Myers worked as a nurse practitioner at a rural clinic that was part of a medical center owned and operated by defendant Dignity Health. During the three years she worked there, she submitted over 50 complaints about working conditions and was also the subject of several investigations based on anonymous complaints. All the investigations concluded the complaints against St. Myers were unsubstantiated and no action was taken against her. She found another job and resigned. But claiming her resignation was a constructive termination due to intolerable working conditions, St. Myers sued Dignity Health and Optum360 Services, Inc., setting forth three causes of action for retaliation under various statutory provisions and constructive discharge in violation of public policy. The complaint sought both general and punitive damages. The trial court granted the separate motions of Dignity Health and Optum360 for summary judgment and St. Myers appealed those judgments. As to Optum360, the Court of Appeal found St. Myers failed to establish a triable issue of material fact that Optum360 was her employer, a prerequisite under the pleadings for all her claims. As to Dignity Health, the Court found St. Myers failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to any adverse employment action. Accordingly, the Court affirmed summary judgment. View "St. Myers v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

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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 Second Circuit affirmed the district court's award of summary judgment in favor of Aetna, plaintiff's employer. The court held that, when interpreting the scope of a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exemption, courts must give the exemption a fair reading and shall not construe it narrowly against the employer seeking to assert the exemption. The court also held that the first prong of the professional exemption's primary duty test requires courts to: (A) identify what qualities or skills are characteristic of the work of the profession at issue; and (B) determine if the employee's primary duty reflects those qualities or skills; central to the profession of registered nursing is the ability to act independently, or under limited supervision, on the basis of collected clinical data; and the district court did not err in concluding that plaintiff's job satisfied the first prong. In this case, plaintiff's primary duty as an appeals nurse consultant—to conduct utilization review and approve insurance coverage for medically necessary services under minimal supervision—reflects the discretion and requires the judgment characteristic of other registered nurses. Therefore, plaintiff's job as an appeals nurse consultant required the use of advanced nursing knowledge. The court also held that, in cases where, as here, the employer requires the possession of an advanced academic degree, the third prong of the primary duty test for the professional exemption of the FLSA requires courts to: (A) identify the job's primary duty which requires the use of advanced knowledge; and (B) determine if that duty is consistent with the employer's minimum academic qualifications. The court held that the district court did not err in concluding that plaintiff's job satisfied the third prong. Accordingly, the undisputed facts demonstrated that plaintiff was properly classified as exempt under the FLSA's overtime-pay requirements. View "Isett v. Aetna Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying without a hearing Plaintiff's petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate the absence or inadequacy of alternative remedial routes. Plaintiff referenced Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 when seeking relief from an order of the single justice of the Appeals Court denying Plaintiff leave to file a late notice of appeal more than one year after the Department of Industrial Accidents approved a lump sum agreement in Plaintiff's workers' compensation case. A single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that where Plaintiff had an alternative remedy by way of an appeal, the single justice did not err in denying relief. View "Greci v. Travelers Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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United Airlines hired Taha in 1988 and laid him off in 2003. He retained recall rights under a collective bargaining agreement. After a 12-year furlough, Taha returned to work. Weeks later, Taha learned his mother had suffered a heart attack. She lived in Saudi Arabia. Taha asked for six months off to travel and care for her. United gave him 30 days. He sought assistance from Starck, a human resources representative, and the union’s president, Stripling. United denied Taha’s extended-leave request in a letter sent to his Indiana home. Taha never saw it; he remained in Saudi Arabia and did not return to work, which the airline construed as job abandonment. He was fired. Taha grieved his firing. At a Joint Board of Adjustment (JBA) hearing, Stripling represented Taha. The JBA denied Taha’s grievance. Taha asked the union to demand arbitration; the union replied, more than six months later, that the CBA barred further pursuit of his grievance. Taha then sued, alleging a breach of the duty to fairly represent him under the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. 151–188. He cited only two facts: before the JBA hearing began, Taha overheard Stripling and Starck “chatt[ing] genially” about Starck acquiring airline tickets for Stripling’s friends, and, during the hearing, Stripling “prevented Taha from presenting several strong and important exhibits.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint, finding no evidence of unlawful union conduct. View "Taha v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters" on Justia Law