COURTS RULE ON KEY WORKPLACE CASES
Eighth Circuit Court Addresses Key Issues
At will employment; salary plan not modified. A group of at-will management employees could not have their bonuses capped after higher amounts were agreed to as part of a compensation plan in an employment agreement they signed with their employer. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the compensation plan constituted an offer to enter into a unilateral contract, and the employer could not modify it after the managers had begun their performance. Boswell v. Panera Bread Company, 879 F.3d 296 (8th Cir. 1/5/2018).
Union organizing; failure to hire. An employment staffing agency wrongfully failed to hire four electricians who were helping to assist in organizing a labor union at the facility. The Eighth Circuit affirmed a determination of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that “anti-union” animus improperly contributed to the failure to hire them. Aerotek v. National Labor Relations Board, 2018 Minn. App. WL 987805 (8th Cir. 02/21/2018).
Union hiring; exclusive hall violation. The hiring practices of a labor union for employees who work at entertainment facilities violated the National Labor Relations Act. The Eighth Circuit denied the union’s challenge to a determination that union’s exclusive hiring hall infringed the Act. International Alliance et al. v. National Labor Relations Board, 885 F.3d 1123 (8th Cir. 3/6/2018).
Labor arbitration; reinstatement overturned. The reinstatement by an arbitrator of a Richfield police officer, who was fired for excessive use of force with a Somali youth, was overturned. The Court of Appeals held that “clear public policy” warranted the extremely rare step of reversing the arbitral ruling. Richfield v. Law Enforcement Labor Services (on behalf of Nathan Kinsey), 2018 WL 1701916 (Minn. App. 4/9/2018).
Disability discrimination; accommodation denied. A request by a UPS driver for a disability accommodation of an 8-hour workday without overtime was rejected. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a decision written by Judge James Loken of Minnesota, ruled that working overtime was an “essential function” of the package delivery position, which precluded an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Faidley v. United Parcel Service of America, Inc., 889 F.3d 993 (8th Cir. 5/11/2018).
Non-compete contract; inspection impermissible. The failure of a party seeking to enforce violation of a noncompete agreement to prove irreparable harm bars injunctive relief, through the contractual language recited that a breach would cause “irreparable” harm and warrant “an injunction” The state Supreme Court overturned an appellate court ruling and reinstated a lower court refused to issue an injunction on grounds that the boilerplate language alone did not merit equitable relief. St. Jude Medical, Inc. v. Carter, 913 N.W.2d 678 (S.Ct. 6/27/2018).
Forfeiture of commissions; proportionality standard. The standard for deciding whether an employee’s failure to satisfy a provision in the employment contract to return property upon termination justifying a forfeiture of earned commissions should be based on mutuality of the breach and its proportionality to the amount to be forfeited. The state Supreme Court remanded the determination of the significance of the failure to return the property balanced proportionality against the amount of the commissions sought by the employee. Capistrant v. Lifetouch national school studios, 2018 WL 3558943 (8th Cir. 7/25/2018) (unpublished).
FELA, Federal interest ratio applies. The Federal rate for prejudgment interest applies to Federal Employees Liability Act (FELA) claims brought in state court of appeals for workplace injuries. The Minnesota Court of Appeals, affirming a Hennepin County District Court ruling held that, to ensure “uniformity” on claims that concurrently can be brought under Federal or state law, the lesser Federal rate, capped at about 2% applies rather than the 10% Minnesota rate. Alby v. BNSF Railway Company, 2018 WL 3716257 (8th Cir. 8/6/2018) (unpublished).
Disability discrimination; “good faith bars claim. An employer who made a “good faith” effort to accommodate an employee’s disability prevailed in a lawsuit claiming violation of his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the parallel provision Minnesota Human Rights Act. Affirming a ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kyle In Minnesota, the 8th Circuit held that the employer made a “good faith” response to the request for accommodation made by the employee. Sharbono v. Northern States Power Company, 902 F.3d 891 (8th Cir. 9/6/2018).
Unemployment compensation; sleeping at work. A residential services overnight staffer was denied unemployment compensation benefits for sleeping on the job, which constituted disqualifying “misconduct.” Appolon v. Mentor Management, Inc., 2018 WL 48855407 (Minn. Ct. App. 10/8/2018)(unpublished).
Retaliation rejected; applicant lacks claim. A job applicant who was denied a scheduling accommodation due to religious observance was not entitled to pursue a retaliation claim. Affirming a ruling of U. S. District Court Judge David Doty, the Eighth Circuit, in a decision written by Judge Liken, held that withdrawal of a conditional job offer was not actionable as adverse action. EEOC v. North Memorial Health Corp., 908 F.3d 1098 (8th Cir. Nov. 13, 2018)
Unemployment compensation; trucker denied benefits. An over-the-road truck driver who quit his job was denied unemployment compensation benefits. The court of appeals held that the trucker did not have “good case” to quit because he wanted longer periods to stay at home. Welch v. Twin Express, Inc., 2018 WL 6273093 (Minn. Ct. App. 12/3/2018)(unpublished).
Compiled by Marshall H. Tanick