Justia Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment 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

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that personal care assistants were entitled to access a list of contact information for personal care assistants who provide home-based services to participants in state programs, holding that the personal care assistants were not entitled to the list.Respondents were a group of personal care assistants who were denied access to the list to gather support for their attempt to decertify a public union as their exclusive representative. Respondents sued the pertinent government agencies under a provision of the Public Employment Labor Relations Act, Minn. Stat. 179A.54, subd. 9 (the PERLA provision). The district court ordered disclosure of the list, determining that personal care assistants are state employees for purposes of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, Minn. Stat. 13.01-.90, rendering their "personnel data" publicly accessible. The court of appeals held that Respondents were not entitled to the list under the PERLA provision but were entitled to the list under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, Minn. Stat. 13.01-.90. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Respondents were not entitled to the list under either the PERLA provision or the Data Practices Act. View "Greene v. Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a health care provider who did not intervene in an employee's pending workers' compensation proceeding after receiving adequate notice of the right to intervene cannot initiate a collateral attack on the compensation award under Minn. Stat. 176.271, .291 or Minn. R. 1420.1850, subp. 3B.Scott Koehnen was injured during the course and scope of his employment for Flagship Marine Company. Koehnen received chiropractic treatment from Keith Johnson. Johnson submitted his charges to the workers' compensation insurer for Koehnen's employer, but both the employer and insurer (collectively, Flagship Marine) denied liability for Koehnen's injury. When Koehnen filed a claim petition seeking workers' compensation benefits his attorney sent a notice informing Johnson of his right to intervene. Johnson, however, did not move to intervene, and the proceeding continued without him. Koehnen and Flagship Marine subsequently entered into a settlement agreement. The compensation judge approved the stipulation for settlement and issued an award on stipulation. Johnson later filed a petition for payment of medical expenses pursuant to section 176.271, .291.The compensation judge dismissed the petition, and the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Johnson chose not to intervene his petition was correctly dismissed. View "Koehnen v. Flagship Marine Co." 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 dismissing Plaintiff's Minnesota Human Rights Act and common-law negligence claims against a university and a hospital for race- and sex-based discrimination, holding that the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff's employment discrimination claim under the Act and Plaintiff's common-law negligence claims.Plaintiff's claims stemmed from discrimination she allegedly experienced during a practicum program as a graduate student. The district court dismissed Plaintiff's claims under the Act as time barred and dismissed her common-law negligence claims for failure to establish that Defendants owed her a common-law duty separate from the obligations owed under the Act. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiff's employment discrimination claim under the act against Allina Health System was timely, and the district court erred in determining that Plaintiff's lack of compensation from the practicum barred her claim; (2) Plaintiff's remaining statutory discrimination claims against Defendants were time barred; and (3) Plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to maintain her common-law negligence claims. View "Abel v. Abbott Northwestern Hospital" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the district court's decision that the Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance violated the extraterritoriality doctrine, holding that because the primary purpose and effect of the Ordinance is the regulation of sick and safe time within the City of Minneapolis, the Ordinance does not violate the extraterritoriality doctrine.The Ordinance at issue required employers to provide sick and safe time to employees who worked within the city. The district court enjoyed the City from enforcing the Ordinance against employers resident outside the City because the Ordinance violated the extraterritoriality doctrine. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Ordinance's primary purpose and effect was to regulate activity within the geographic boundaries of Minneapolis, and therefore, the Ordinance did not violate the extraterritoriality doctrine. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the primary purpose and effect of the Ordinance is the regulation of sick and safe time within the City, the Ordinance does not violate the extraterritoriality doctrine. View "Minnesota Chamber of Commerce v. City of Minneapolis" 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 district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant after concluding that Plaintiff failed to allege conduct sufficiently severe or pervasive to support a claim for sexual harassment, holding that the conduct alleged by Plaintiff was sufficiently severe or pervasive for a reasonable person to find the work environment to be hostile or abusive.In granting summary judgment to Defendant, the district court determined that the conduct alleged did not meet the severe-or-pervasive standard for actionable sexual harassment based on a hostile work environment. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiff has not presented the Court with a compelling reason to abandon the severe-or-pervasive standard for analyzing the objective component of a claim for sexual harassment under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, Minn. Stat. 363A.01-.44; and (2) considering the totality of the circumstances, Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to decide that the complained of behavior was sufficiently severe or pervasive to substantially interfere with Plaintiff's employment or to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment environment. View "Kenneh v. Homeward Bound, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's conclusion that the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (the MFLSA) does not preempt the ordinance enacted by the City of Minneapolis that requires employers to pay minimum-wage rates that are higher than the rates set forth in the MFLSA, holding that district court correctly ruled that the MFLSA does not preempt the ordinance.The MFLSA establishes the minimum wage Minnesota employers must pay their employees. At issue was whether the City's ordinance requiring employers to pay minimum-wage rates higher than the rates set forth in the MFLSA was preempted by the MFLSA. The district court determined that state law does not preempt the ordinance because the MFLSA sets a floor, not a ceiling, for minimum-wage rates. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the MFLSA sets a floor, which does not prohibit, but instead permits, employers to pay the higher wage the ordinance requires; and (2) the Legislature did not intend to occupy the field of minimum-wage rates through the MFLSA. View "Graco, Inc. v. City of Minneapolis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) reversing the judgment of the compensation judge denying a qualified rehabilitation consultant's reimbursement claim for rehabilitation services provided during a period in which an employee was no longer suffering from a work-related injury, holding that the WCCA erred by imposing liability on the employer for rehabilitation services provided after the date that the employee's injury had resolved.In reversing the compensation judge, the WCCA concluded that the employer must pay for rehabilitation services until the employer filed a rehabilitation request for assistance. The Supreme Court reversed the WCCA's decision and reinstated the decision of the compensation judge, holding that the WCCA erred in concluding that the employer was required to show good cause to terminate the employee's rehabilitation services provided after the date that the employee's injury resolved. View "Ewing v. Print Craft, Inc." on Justia Law