Justia Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the decision of the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) affirming the decision of the compensation judge finding that Respondent sustained an occupational disease of hearing loss and ordering Relator to pay medical benefits under Minn. Stat. 176.135, subd. 5, holding that further proceedings were required.Respondent developed hearing loss after a career of handling occupational safety and health compliance and monitoring workplace noise levels. Respondent filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits against Relator, his most recent employer. The compensation judge ruled in favor of Respondent and denied his claim for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. The WCCA affirmed and clarified that the PPD issue was moot because of a Pierringer settlement between Respondent and one of his former employers. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) the occupational disease finding was supported by the evidence; (2) the award of medical benefits was appropriate under Minn. Stat. 176.135, subd. 5; and (3) the compensation judge did not properly apply the Pierringer settlement precedent, potentially prejudicing Relator's interests. View "Sershen v. Metropolitan Council" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the State of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging a violation of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act, Minn. Stat. 181.932, subd. 1(1), holding that there was no error.After Plaintiff, a former regional director with DNR, was terminated she brought this action alleging that her reporting of suspected illegal activity at a hotel where she was staying for a work-related conference caused her termination. The district court granted summary judgment for DNR. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact for trial over whether her alleged protected activity was a motivating factor in the decision of the DNR to terminate Plaintiff; and (2) therefore, summary judgment was properly granted. View "Hanson v. State, Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming in part and reversing in part the judgment of the district court granting the Attorney General's motion to compel responses to a civil investigative demand, holding that the demand must be narrowed and that the court of appeals erred in limiting the scope of the demand.The Attorney General issued the demand at issue under Minn. Stat. 8.31 to Madison Equities, Inc. and nine of its subsidiary and related companies (collectively, Madison Group) to investigate allegations of wage theft. The Madison Group sought a protective order from the district court, arguing that the demand was overbroad. The Attorney General, in turn, moved to compel responses to the demand. The district court denied the Madison Group's motion and granted the Attorney General's motion. On appeal, the court of appeals limited the demand to information related to security guards from only four of the Madison Group entities. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded the case, holding that the court of appeals (1) correctly determined that the definition of "worker" in the demand must be narrowed; and (2) erred in limiting the scope of the demand to certain of the companies. View "Madison Equities, Inc. v. Office of Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) upholding a compensation judge's order requiring Employer to reimburse Employee for medical cannabis, holding that the WCCA erred.Employee was injured while working for Employer. After multiple rounds of medical intervention proved to be unsuccessful, Employee's doctor certified her for participation in the state's medical cannabis program. Employee sought reimbursement for the cost of the cannabis from Employer. Employer asserted in response that the federal prohibition in the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. 801-971, on the possession of cannabis preempted the requirement under Minnesota law that an employer pay for an injured employee's medical treatment when that treatment is medical cannabis. The WCCA declined to address the preemption argument and upheld the compensation judge's order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the WCCA lacked subject matter jurisdiction to determine the preemption issue; and (2) the CSA preempted the compensation court's order mandating Employer to pay for Employee's medical cannabis. View "Musta v. Mendota Heights Dental Center & Hartford Insurance Group" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the workers' compensation court of appeals (WCCA) affirming the decision of the compensation judge granting Respondent's claim petition seeking reimbursement from his former employer for the cost of medical cannabis, holding that the WCCA erred.At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the WCCA correctly concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to decide arguments that require interpreting federal law and whether the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. 801-971, preempts the requirement in Minnesota law for an employer to reimburse an injured employee for the cost of medical treatment, Minn. Stat. 176.135, subd. 1(a). The Supreme Court held (1) the WCCA lacked subject matter jurisdiction to decide whether the relevant federal law preempted the relevant Minnesota law in this case; and (2) the CSA preempted the compensation court's order mandating Relators to pay for Respondent's medical cannabis. View "Bierbach v. Digger's Polaris" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) affirming the determination of the compensation judge that Respondent's treatment with opioid medication for a work-related ankle injury that resulted in a pain condition was compensable as a rare case exception, holding that the rare case exception to the treatment parameters did not apply.The opioid medication in this case was non-compliant with the long-term opioid medication parameter promulgated by the Department of Labor & Industry for that form of treatment. At issue was whether the medication was compensable under the workers' compensation laws as a "rare case" exception. The Supreme Court held that the rare case exception did not apply because the circumstances of this case were not exceptional and thus reversed the decision of the WCCA. View "Johnson v. Darchuks Fabrications, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff's complaint alleging that Defendant failed to pay her wages in accordance with Minnesota law, holding that Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment.Plaintiff worked as an on-site property caretaker at an apartment complex owned by Defendant. Because she also lived in an apartment on the property, Plaintiff was compensated primarily with credits toward her monthly rent. In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant's use of rent credits to pay her wages violated Minnesota law and that Defendant failed to pay her for every hour she worked during her on-call shifts. The district court dismissed all three claims, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the district court erred when it granted summary judgment to Defendant. View "Hagen v. Steven Scott Management, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) vacating factual findings made by the workers' compensation judge regarding the reasonableness and necessity of an employee's medical treatment for work-related injuries, holding that the WCCA erred.Respondent received a Gillette-style injury to her neck and upper spine. Respondent was later notified by her former employer, Appellant, that it would no longer approve reimbursement for certain injections. A compensation judge determined that the injections were neither necessary nor reasonable. The WCCA reversed, concluding that the decision of the compensation judge was not supported by substantial evidence in the record. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the WCCA erred in (1) vacating the workers' compensation judge's factual findings; and (2) directing the compensation judge to consider whether Respondent's case presented rare circumstances warranting an exception from the treatment parameters. View "Leuthard v. Independent School District 912" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the determination of the district court that the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners acted arbitrarily when it set the 2019 salary of the Freeborn County Sheriff at $97,020, holding that the district court did not clearly err.In the salary appeal, the district court concluded that the Board acted arbitrarily and without sufficiently taking into account the responsibilities and duties of the sheriff's office because the testifying commissioners did not explain why they decided on a salary of $97,020. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the district court's findings and conclusions were clearly erroneous. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court did not clearly err in setting aside the Board's salary decision because there was reasonable support in the record for the court's determination that the Board's salary decision was arbitrary. View "In re Year 2019 Salary of Freeborn County Sheriff" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court granting the City of Plainview's motion to dismiss Donald Hall's contract and statutory claims, holding that the City had a contractual obligation to pay accrued paid time off (PTO) to Hall.After the City terminated Hall's employment as manager of the City's municipal liquor store it refused to pay Hall accrued PTO due to Hall's failure to provide sufficient notice per the requirements of the City's personnel policies and procedures manual. Hall sued the City for breach of contract and violation of Minn. Stat. 181.13. The district court dismissed Hall's contract and statutory claims. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) disclaimer provisions in the City's employee handbook stating that the handbook's policies should not be construed as a contract did not unambiguously allow the City to refuse to pay accrued PTO in accordance with the employer policy set forth in the handbook; and (2) Minn. Stat. 181.13(a) does not create an independent substantive right to payment of accrued PTO in the absence of a contract between the employer and employee. View "Hall v. City of Plainview" on Justia Law