Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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This appeal arose from conflicting interpretations of the statutory provisions that govern the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (“PERSI”) and the administration of employer contributions to the Firefighters’ Retirement Fund (“FRF”). Under Idaho Code sections 59-1391 and 59-1394, a city or fire district that “employs” firefighters participating in the FRF on October 1, 1980, was considered an “employer” and required to make additional contributions to ensure the FRF remains solvent. Having employed only a single firefighter who received funds from the FRF, Kuna Rural Fire District (“KRFD”) argued it was not an employer under the code and not required to contribute to the fund because that employee retired in 1985 and received a lump-sum benefit. KRFD notified PERSI of its intent to cease contributions, but PERSI denied this request. KRFD filed a notice of appeal to the PERSI Retirement Board (“Board”). A hearing officer issued a recommended decision concluding KRFD had to continue contributing under section 59-1394. The Board adopted this decision. KRFD petitioned for judicial review under the Idaho Administrative Procedure Act (“IDAPA”) with the district court, which affirmed the Board’s decision. KRFD timely appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. Finding no error, the Supreme Court also affirmed the Board's decision. View "Kuna Rural Fire District v. PERSI" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the determination of the court of appeals that Claimant's long drive in a commercial truck was not an unusual or extraordinary activity in comparison to the ordinary activities people perform in their nonworking, everyday lives and vacated the conclusion that there was substantial evidence to support the ALJ's finding that Claimant's "super obesity" was a preexisting condition, holding that Claimant was entitled to benefits.At the end of a three-day drive from Utah to California, Claimant was diagnosed with a blood clot in his left leg, which caused blood clots in his lungs. Claimant could not return to work and sought workers' compensation. Employer disputed the claim, arguing that his injuries were caused by his "super obesity" and that super obesity should be considered a preexisting condition under the circumstances. The ALJ granted benefits, concluding that Claimant had satisfied the Allen v. Industrial Comm'n, 729. P.2d 15 (Utah 1986), test for legal causation. The Labor Commission Appeals Board reversed, concluding that Claimant's work activities were not unusual or extraordinary under Allen. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Claimant's drive to California was an unusual activity; and (2) therefore, Claimant showed legal causation. View "JBS Carriers v. Hickey" on Justia Law

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In 2020, while wildfires swept through portions of Sonoma County, close to many homes, Sheriff Essick met with the County Board of Supervisors, fire officials, and members of the public in a streamed town hall meeting. Essick provided updates on an evacuation strategy and fielded questions from the public. When asked whether evacuated residents might be permitted to reenter mandatory evacuation zones to feed pets and animals left behind, Sheriff Essick refused to grant such permission, citing safety concerns. Sheriff Essick’s subsequent communications led to a harassment complaint. An independent investigator, Oppenheimer, conducted an inquiry and prepared a written report. A newspaper requested that the county release the complaint, the report, and various related documents) California Public Records Act (CPRA), Gov. Code 6250). The trial court denied Essick's request for a preliminary injunction barring the report's release. The court of appeal affirmed. The court rejected arguments that the Oppenheimer Report should be classified as confidential under CPRA exemptions for “peace officers” “personnel records,” or reports or findings relating to a complaint by a member of the public against a peace officer The county is not estopped from releasing the Oppenheimer Report nor bound to keep the results of the investigation confidential. Nothing in the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights explicitly grants or mentions confidentiality from CPRA requests, Sonoma County is not Essick's “employing agency.” View "Essick v. County of Sonoma" on Justia Law

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Patricia Allen appealed the Idaho Industrial Commission’s (the “Commission”) decision denying unemployment benefits. Allen was employed by Partners in Healthcare, Inc., doing business as North Canyon Medical Center (“NCMC”), between February 5, 1999, and May 8, 2020. On May 8, 2020, the CEO of NCMC and the HR director met with Allen to discuss her job performance. Allen was presented with a performance improvement plan (“PIP”), which outlined examples of Allen’s poor job performance and identified expectations for improving her performance. It was explained to Allen that if she wanted to forego the PIP, she could sign a severance agreement. Allen was then presented with a proposed severance agreement. Allen asked if she could discuss her options with her husband, but was pressed to make her decision then and there. The CEO told Allen that he thought it was in her best interest to take the severance package. Allen decided to forgo the PIP and took the severance agreement. After separating from NCMC, Allen filed an unemployment claim with the Idaho Department of Labor (“IDOL”). NCMC’s response to the Idaho Department of Labor was prepared by the Idaho Hospital Association (“IHA”), NCMC’s third-party administrator. IHA’s human resources director identified Allen’s reason for separation as “Fired/Discharged” and indicated Allen did not receive any compensation after her separation. IDOL determined Allen was eligible for unemployment benefits. NCMC’s HR director appealed the IDOL decision; IDOL sent NCMC and Allen a hearing notice on whether Allen quit voluntarily and, if so, whether she quit for good cause or was discharged for misconduct in connection with her employment. Following the hearing, the appeals examiner issued a written decision that denied Allen unemployment benefits. The examiner also found that Allen did not follow the grievance procedures to report her issues with her supervisor prior to quitting. In reversing the Commission’s decision, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded the Commission erred in failing to analyze whether the PIP was a viable option that would have allowed Allen to continue working. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Allen v. Partners in Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division denying coverage for Claimant's thoracic spine treatment, holding that the Medical Commission's decision was supported by the hearing evidence.After the Division denied Claimant's compensation coverage for his thoracic spine treatment Claimant appealed. The Compensation Commission upheld the denial of coverage following a contested pain hearing, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the record contained substantial evidence to support the Commission's findings that Claimant's thoracic spine injury was unrelated to his work-related accident; and (2) Claimant failed to meet his burden of proving that his thoracic spine evaluation and treatment were compensable under the "rule out" doctrine. View "Hart v. State of Wyoming, ex rel. Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division" on Justia Law

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The Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA; Gov. Code 3500) requires public agencies to meet and confer (bargain) in good faith with recognized employee organizations regarding changes to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. The Associations filed unfair practice complaints alleging the County violated the MMBA when its board of supervisors placed Measure P on the November 2020 ballot. The measure, which the voters ultimately approved, amends the Sonoma County Code to enhance the investigative and oversight authority of the County’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO) over the Sonoma County Sheriff-Coroner's office.The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), which has jurisdiction over MMBA claims, agreed, finding that, before placing the measure on the ballot, the County was required to bargain with the Associations. The court of appeal reversed in part and remanded. PERB failed to consider whether the decision to place certain Measure P provisions on the ballot significantly and adversely affected the working conditions of the Associations’ members and exceeded its authority by issuing a remedial order declaring voter-approved Measure P provisions void and unenforceable. View "County of Sonoma v. Public Employment Relations Board" on Justia Law

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Several public-sector employees filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 seeking to recover any agency fees taken from their paychecks by the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association and Santa Clara County. Specifically, Plaintiffs sought a refund for fees paid before the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Janus v. Am. Fed’n of State, Cnty., & Mun. Emps., Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018) (prohibiting public-sector unions from collecting compulsory agency fees).In the district court, Defendants successfully moved for summary judgment, claiming they were entitled to a good-faith defense because their actions were expressly authorized by then-applicable United States Supreme Court law and state law. Plaintiffs appealed.On appeal, Plaintiffs acknowledge that Danielson v. Inslee, 945 F.3d 1096 (9th Cir. 2019) precludes their claim against the Union. The Ninth Circuit held that the rule announced in Danielson also applies to municipalities because "precedent recognizes that municipalities are generally liable in the same way as private corporations in sec. 1983 actions." Thus, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' claim against both the Union and the County. View "SEAN ALLEN V. SANTA CLARA CNTY CORR. POA" on Justia Law

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Washington enacted a workers’ compensation law that applied only to Hanford site workers who were “engaged in the performance of work, either directly or indirectly, for the United States.” The Hanford site, once used to produce nuclear weapons, is undergoing decontamination. Most workers involved in the cleanup process are employed by private companies under contract with the federal government; a few are state employees, private employees, and federal employees. As compared to Washington’s general workers’ compensation scheme, the law made it easier for Hanford's federal contract workers to establish entitlement to workers’ compensation, thus increasing workers’ compensation costs for the federal government. The Ninth Circuit upheld the law as within the scope of a federal waiver of immunity, 40 U.S.C. 3172.A unanimous Supreme Court reversed. Washington’s law facially discriminates against the federal government and its contractors; section 3172 does not clearly and unambiguously waive immunity from discriminatory state laws, so Washington’s law is unconstitutional. While section 3172(a) says that “[t]he state authority charged with enforcing and requiring compliance with the state workers’ compensation laws . . . may apply [those] laws to all land and premises in the State which the Federal Government owns,” and “to all projects, buildings, constructions, improvements, and property in the State and belonging to the Government, in the same way, and to the same extent as if the premises were under the exclusive jurisdiction of the State,” the waiver does not “clear[ly] and unambiguous[ly]” authorize a state to enact a discriminatory law that facially singles out the federal government for unfavorable treatment.The Court held that the case was not moot, despite Washington’s enactment of a new statute that, arguably, applies retroactively. View "United States v. Washington" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals denying a writ of mandamus ordering the Industrial Commission of Ohio to vacate its decision granting a specific safety requirement (VSSR) award to Josue Morales, holding that Target Auto Repair failed to establish plain error in the proceedings below.Morales sustained injuries while working as a technician for Target Auto Repair. His workers' compensation claim was allowed for multiple conditions. The Commission further granted Morales's application for a VSSR award in the amount of fifty percent of the maximum weekly rate. Target Auto Repair subsequently brought this mandamus action. The court of appeals denied the mandamus request. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Target Auto Repair may not appeal the court of appeals' adoption of findings of fact or conclusions of law to which it failed timely to object. View "State ex rel. Target Auto Repair v. Morales" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Department of Labor of Regulation granting Employer/Insurer's motion for summary judgment regarding medical expenses Claimant incurred while being treated by Dr. Donald Corenman, holding that the circuit court erred in part.Employer and Insurer denied coverage for the medical expenses Claimant incurred by being treated for her back injury by Dr. Corenman. Claimant filed a petition for hearing with the Department, which granted summary judgment for Employer/Insurer as to these medical expenses. The circuit court affirmed. Claimant appealed, and Employer/Insurer filed a notice of review regarding an earlier Department ruling. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the Department erred in granting summary judgment denying compensation for Dr. Corenman's medical services. View "Dittman v. Rapid City School District" on Justia Law