Articles Posted in Labor & Employment 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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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) in this workers’ compensation case, holding that the compensation judge applied the wrong legal standard in granting Employer’s petition to discontinue Employee’s rehabilitation services. Relying on the definition of “qualified employee” in an administrative rule, the compensation judge concluded that because Employee had obtained “suitable gainful employment” she was no longer eligible for rehabilitation benefits. The WCCA reversed, ruling that an employer must show “good cause” before terminating rehabilitation benefits. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that when an individual receiving rehabilitation benefits no longer meets the definition of a “qualified employee,” a compensation judge may not terminate benefits without first applying the good-cause standard. View "Halvorson v. B&F Fastener Supply" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals’ (WCCA) reversal of the compensation judge’s dismissal of Respondent’s request for benefits under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act (Minnesota Act). At the time of his injury, Respondent was performing longshoreman work. The compensation judge concluded that the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provided Respondent’s exclusive remedy and that the case should be dismissed under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The WCCA reversed, determining that the compensation judge’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction was contrary to law and that the compensation judge lacked authority to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the compensation judge had jurisdiction to hear Respondent’s claims brought under the Minnesota Act and that the judge abused his discretion by dismissing Respondent’s claims under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. View "Ansello v. Wisconsin Central, Ltd." on Justia Law

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The 2013 amendment to the Minnesota Whistleblower Act defining the term “good faith” eliminated the judicially created requirement that the putative whistleblower act with the purpose of “exposing an illegality.” Appellant filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota alleging that Employer wrongfully terminated his employment in violation of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act. Employer argued in response that Defendant’s conduct was not protected under the Act. Employer based this argument on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Act in Obst v. Microtron, Inc., 614 N.W.2d 196, 202 (Minn. 2000), in which the court held that “good faith” requires a putative whistleblower to act with the purpose of “exposing an illegality.” Appellant argued in response that Obst is no longer good law following a 2013 amendment to the Act that defines “good faith” to mean “conduct that does not violate section 181.932, subdivision 3.” The district court certified the question to the Supreme Court as to whether the 2013 amendment abrogated the Supreme Court’s prior interpretation of “good faith.” The Supreme Court answered the certified question in the affirmative. View "United States District Court, District of Minnesota v. Edwards Lifesciences, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) to reverse the denial of Respondent's claim for ankle-fusion surgery. Respondent, who was injured during the course of her employment, filed a workers’ compensation claim petition for ankle-fusion surgery. The compensation judge denied Respondent’s claim for the ankle-fusion surgery. The WCCA reversed. Respondent’s employer appealed, arguing that the WCCA exceeded the scope of its review when it reversed the compensation judge’s decision to deny benefits to Respondent. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the compensation judge’s finding was “supported by evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate,” and therefore, the WCCA clearly and manifestly erred in rejecting this finding. View "Mattick v. Hy-Vee Foods Stores" on Justia Law

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The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) clearly and manifestly erred by rejecting the findings of the compensation judge and overturning the determination that Respondent failed to establish her claim for benefits by a preponderance of the evidence. Respondent filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits after falling and injuring her shoulder while rushing up a staircase at the workplace of her employer. The compensation judge denied the claim. The WCCA reversed the compensation judge’s decision. The Supreme Court reversed the WCCA’s decision and reinstated the compensation judge’s decision, holding (1) the WCCA impermissibly substituted its own view of the evidence for that of the compensation judge; and (2) the findings of the compensation judge were supported by substantial evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as adequate. View "Kubis v. Community Memorial Hospital Ass’n" on Justia Law

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Anibal Sanchez, an undocumented worker, brought suit against Dahlke Trailer Sales, Inc. under the workers’ compensation antiretaliation statute, alleging that Dahlke discharged him because he sought workers’ compensation benefits. The district court granted summary judgment to Dahlke, finding as a matter of law that Sanchez’s unpaid leave was a result of his immigration status and not his workers’ compensation claim. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) Sanchez raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Dahlke discharged him and as to whether the discharge was motivated by Sanchez seeking workers’ compensation benefits; and (2) federal immigration law does not preempt an undocumented worker’s claim that his employer discharged him in retaliation for seeking workers’ compensation benefits. View "Sanchez v. Dahlke Trailer Sales, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) was correct in concluding that Respondent’s injury was compensable. Respondent, who was employed by the University of Minnesota, slipped and fell on any icy sidewalk when walking from her workplace to a parking ramp owned and operated by the university. The compensation judge denied Respondent’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits, concluding that Respondent’s injury did not “arise out of” her employment. The WCCA reversed, concluding that Respondent was in the course of her employment when she was injured. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Respondent’s injury was compensable because it both arose out of, and was in the course of, her employment. View "Hohlt v. University of Minnesota" on Justia Law

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The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) abused its discretion when it granted Eddie Hudson’s petition to vacate an award of workers’ compensation benefits. Hudson was injured while working for Trillium Staffing and filed a workers’ compensation claim. The parties eventually settled. About one year later, Hudson filed a petition to vacate the award. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) granted the petition, finding that Hudson’s medical condition had substantially changed in a way that clearly was not, and could not reasonably have been, anticipated at the time of the award. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the WCCA abused its discretion when it granted Hudson’s petition because the medical opinion underlying the WCCA’s decision lacked foundation and therefore did not establish a substantial change in Hudson’s medical condition. View "Hudson v. Trillium Staffing" on Justia Law

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In this negligence lawsuit filed against Kraemer Construction, Inc., the Supreme Court held that Kraemer and Ulland Brothers, Inc. were engaged in a common enterprise as a matter of law when Richard Washburn was killed and that the election of remedies provision required dismissal of the suit. Jessica Kelly, as trustee for the next-of-kin of Washburn, filed this lawsuit against Kraemer for its alleged negligence in causing Washburn’s death by electrocution at a construction site. Kraemer moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was engaged in a common enterprise with Ulland, Washburn’s employer, when Washburn was killed and that the election-of-remedies provision of the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act prevented Kelly from bringing a civil action against Kraemer when her children had already recovered workers’ compensation benefits from Ulland. The court of appeals reversed the district court’s denial of summary judgment and remanded for entry of summary judgment in favor of Kraemer. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Kraemer and Ulland were engaged in a common enterprise and that the election of remedies provision required dismissal. View "Kelly v. Kraemer Construction, Inc." on Justia Law