Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Magdalena Guardado, an undocumented worker, was employed as a machine manager for Roos Foods when she was involved in a work-related accident. She injured her left wrist and thereafter received total disability benefits. The employer petitioned the Industrial Accident Board (“the Board”) to terminate those benefits on the ground that the worker was no longer disabled and could return to work. The Board found: (1) the employer met its initial burden of showing that the worker was no longer totally disabled; (2) that the worker was a prima facie displaced worker based solely on her status as an undocumented worker; and (3) the employer had failed to meet its burden of showing regular employment opportunities within the worker’s capabilities. Accordingly, it denied the employer’s petition. The questions this case presented for the Delaware Supreme Court's review were: (1) whether an injured worker’s immigration status alone rendered her a prima facie displaced worker; and (2) whether the Board properly found that the employer failed to meet its burden of showing regular employment opportunities within the worker’s capabilities because its evidence failed to take into account the worker’s undocumented status. The Court concluded that an undocumented worker’s immigration status was not relevant to determining whether she was a prima facie displaced worker, but it was a relevant factor to be considered in determining whether she is an actually displaced worker. The Court also concluded that the Board correctly rejected the employer’s evidence of regular employment opportunities for the worker because that evidence failed to consider her undocumented status. View "Roos Foods v. Guardado" on Justia Law

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Trascent Management Consulting, LLC hired a top executive, George Bouri, giving him part ownership, naming him Managing Principal, and naming him as a member of the Board of Managers of Trascent with responsibility for human resources, IT, and finance. Bouri occupied these positions for about sixteen months. When Trascent terminated Bouri and sued him, for among other things, violating his employment agreement, Bouri sought advancement to defend himself in accordance with the plain language of both his employment agreement and Trascent’s LLC agreement. Belatedly in the process of defending Bouri’s motion for summary judgment, Trascent argued that the same employment contract on which many of its claims against Bouri were premised was induced by fraud and that Bouri could not receive advancement because the employment agreement was thereby invalid (and presumably that he would not have become a member of Trascent’s board, and thus be entitled to advancement, under the LLC agreement absent that contract). The Court of Chancery rejected that defense to advancement, relying on the plain language of the agreements, which required that advancement be provided until a court made a final, nonappealable determination that indemnification was not required, and on the summary nature of the proceedings under 6 Del. C. sec. 18-108 (the LLC analogue to 8 Del. C. sec. 145). Trascent appealed, arguing the Court of Chancery erred in that ruling. Finding no reversible error after its review, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery's judgment. View "Transcent Management Consulting, LLC v. Bouri" on Justia Law

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Appellant Greenville Country Club, through its workers’ compensation carrier, Guard Insurance (“Guard”), appealed a Superior Court Order affirming a decision of the Industrial Accident Board (the “Board”). While working for Greenville Country Club, Jordan Rash suffered injuries to his lumbar spine in two separately compensable work accidents. The first accident occurred in 2009 while the country club was insured by Guard Insurance Group. The second accident occurred in 2012 while the country club was insured by Technology Insurance (“Technology”). In 2014, Rash filed two Petitions to Determine Additional Compensation, one against Guard and one against Technology. After a hearing, the Board determined that the condition at issue was a recurrence of the 2009 work injury and not an aggravation of the 2012 work injury, and concluded that Guard was therefore wholly liable for the additional compensation to Rash. Guard appealed, arguing: (1) the Board failed to properly apply the rule for determining successive carrier liability; and (2) there was no substantial evidence to support the Board’s finding that Rash fully recovered from the 2012 accident or that his ongoing condition was solely caused by the 2009 work accident. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court found no error in the Board’s decision, and that the decision was supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Board's decision. View "Greenville Country Club (Guard Insurance) v. Greenville Country Club (Technology Insurance)" on Justia Law

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Kenneth Davis was employed by Christiana Care Health Services as a dishwasher in its Nutrition Services department. In 2012, Davis was working when he slipped and fell backwards, landing on his back. A doctor saw Davis for a defense medical examination on in early 2013. The doctor wrote a report indicating “that any low back injury causally related to the work accident was “resolved” and any ongoing symptoms were non-work related.” Approximately one month later, Christiana Care’s counsel sent an “extremely modest” settlement offer to Davis’s attorney. Although it extended this settlement offer, Christiana Care’s position was that Davis’s back injury was due to a pre-existing gunshot injury that was unrelated to Davis’s employment. To the extent that any injury during his work contributed to Davis’s back troubles, Christiana Care maintained that this was resolved as of February 27, 2013 when Dr. Crain examined him. This appeal addressed the Superior Court’s decision to overrule a determination by the Industrial Accident Board (the “IAB”) that the parties had reached a settlement agreement, which barred a later claim for benefits due to permanent impairment. Because it lacked a complete release that would have avoided any question about its effect, the settlement agreement was “less than ideally clear.” But the IAB’s factual determination that the parties’ settlement, which involved an express agreement that the injury in question was resolved as an ongoing medical matter, precluded a future claim for permanent impairment based on the same “resolved” injury was supported by substantial evidence. The Superior Court was required to defer to the IAB’s factual determinations to the extent they were supported by substantial evidence, and in this case, the Superior Court erred by substituting its own factual findings for that of the IAB. Moreover, there was no question that the settlement agreement was, as a legal matter, a binding contract supported by adequate consideration. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court’s decision and reinstated the IAB’s determination. View "Christiana Care Health Services v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Appellant, Murphy & Landon, P.A. (the “Firm”), disputed the decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board which found that Chelsey Pernic, a paralegal at the Firm, had not been fired for just cause and was thus entitled to unemployment benefits. The Firm appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Board's conclusions were not supported by substantial evidence in the record. Further, the Firm contended that this error resulted largely because the Firm was unfairly restricted from presenting evidence of the broader scope of Pernic's poor job performance, including her lateness, disrespectful and uncooperative attitude, and shirking, in its hearing before the Appeals Referee. After review, the Supreme Court found that the Board's conclusions were not rationally grounded in the record, and thus, the Court found no need defer to them. "The uncontradicted record evidence shows that Pernic received a warning that her insubordination and poor performance could lead to her termination, but she continued to act disrespectfully and was therefore terminated. The Firm should not be penalized because it did not anticipate the precise form that Pernic's last act of misconduct would take. Nor should it be penalized for allowing Pernic time to improve her deficient performance. To do so would create a perverse incentive for an employer to discharge an employee at the first instance of poor performance in order to avoid the outcome that the Firm suffered here." Accordingly, the case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Murphy & Landon, P.A. v. Pernic" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the Superior Court abused its discretion by declining to exercise its mandamus jurisdiction to remedy various alleged violations of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR). Petitioners-appellants Shawn Brittingham and Christopher Story sought mandamus relief for several alleged violations of LEOBOR while they were police officers with the Georgetown Police Department (GPD). Respondents-appellees Town of Georgetown, Georgetown Chief of Police William Topping, and Captain Ralph Holm moved for summary judgment. The Superior Court granted the motion, thereby denying Brittingham and Story’s petition. In 2007, Chief Topping issued an oral order prohibiting GPD officers from meeting or speaking with the mayor or members of the Town Council to discuss internal police business without first obtaining his permission and going through the chain of command. In spite of this order, seven off-duty officers met with a Town Council member at her home to discuss police department issues. Captain Holm learned of the meeting, and informed appellants and the other officers involved that they were being investigated for violating GPD Rules and Regulations. A written reprimand was offered to each officer. Rather than accept the reprimand, appellants elected to request a hearing as to the allegations made against them (namely, for insubordination) with the Criminal Justice Council (CJC). The panel found substantial evidence to support the insubordination charge. Chief Topping imposed discipline against appellants: Brittingham received a four-week suspension without pay and a fourteen-day reduction in rank, and placed on disciplinary probation for a year; Story received a two-week suspension without pay, a seven-day reduction in rank, and disciplinary probation of a year. The officers appealed to the Town's Disciplinary Action Appeals Board, which upheld the CJC panel. Appellants filed a civil complaint against appellees, claiming (amongst other things) a violation of their First Amendment rights. On appeal, appellants argued that the process afforded them did not comply with LEOBOR, and that their only remedy was a mandamus writ ordering vacatur of the resulting disciplinary decisions. Appellees responded that they did not violate LEOBOR, that Appellants’ claims are now moot, and that the Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in denying the requested relief. After review, the Supreme Court found that Brittingham and Story were correct that a technical violation of LEOBOR occurred, but the Court rejected their claims as to all other alleged violations. However, as to the one meritorious claim, the matter was moot because neither Brittingham nor Story were then-employed by the GPD, and because the relief they sought was not relief that was available to them in a mandamus proceeding. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Superior Court’s decision as to all claims but one, and as to that claim, the Court held that the claim was moot. View "Brittingham v. Town of Georgetown" on Justia Law

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Jose Campos was injured while working for Daisy Construction Company. While Campos was receiving total disability payments from Daisy, Daisy performed an investigation of his social security number at the request of its workers' compensation insurance carrier and discovered that Campos was an undocumented worker. When Campos could not provide a valid number, Daisy terminated his employment. Around the same time, Daisy hired a doctor to re-evaluate Campos' medical condition. The doctor concluded that although Campos remained partially disabled, he could perform "light duty" work with restrictions. Daisy then filed a petition with the Industrial Accident Board to terminate Campos' total disability benefit payments. The Board granted Daisy's petition because Campos was physically capable of working and therefore was not totally disabled. The Board also found that Campos was not eligible for partial disability benefits, reasoning that Daisy had met its burden of showing that Campos had no decrease in earning capacity by testifying that Campos would be eligible for light duty jobs at Daisy at his pre-injury wage rate if he could provide a valid social security number. The Superior Court affirmed the Board's decision. After its review, the Delaware Supreme Court concluded the Board erred when it found that Campos was not eligible for partial disability benefits: "If we were to hold that Daisy's testimony constituted sufficient proof of job availability, an employer could always hire an undocumented worker, have him suffer a workplace injury, and then avoid partial disability benefit payments by 'discovering' his immigration status, offering to re-employ him if he could fix it, and claiming that a job is available to him at no loss in wages. This outcome would be contrary to the Workers' Compensation Act and our case law interpreting it, [...] which prevents employers from depriving undocumented workers of employment benefits. [...]Accordingly, Daisy must continue to pay partial disability payments until it can demonstrate that Campos has no decrease in earning power from his workplace injury, or until the statutory period for partial disability benefit eligibility expires. Federal restrictions that prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers may make it more difficult for Daisy to prove job availability, but any difficulty is appropriately borne by it as the employer, who must take the employee, Campos, as it hired him." View "Campos v. Daisy Construction Co." on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant-cross-appellee R.T. Vanderbilt Company, Inc. appealed a Superior Court judgment on a jury verdict of $2,864,583.33 plus interest to Plaintiff-appellees-cross-appellant Darcel Galliher, individually and on behalf of the Estate of Michael Galliher. The decedent, Michael Galliher, contracted and died from mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos or asbestiform material while employed by Borg Warner at a bathroom fixtures facility. Vanderbilt provided industrial talc to Borg Warner, which was alleged to be the source of the substance that caused Michael's illness. At trial, Vanderbilt denied causation and claimed that Borg Warner was responsible because it did not operate the facility in a manner that was safe for employees like Michael. Vanderbilt argued: (1) the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury on the duty of care required of Borg Warner, as Michael's employer; and (2) the trial court erred when it failed to grant a new trial based on the admission of unreliable and inflammatory evidence that previously was ruled inadmissible. Galliher argued on cross-appeal that the trial court erred as a matter of law when it disallowed post-judgment interest for a certain period of months. The Supreme Court found that the trial court erred when it failed to provide any instruction to the jury on Borg Warner's duty of care to Michael, despite Vanderbilt's request that it do so. The trial court also abused its discretion when it denied Vanderbilt's motion for a new trial based upon the substantial prejudice resulting from the admission of evidence, not subject to cross-examination, that it had engaged in criminal conduct. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment and remanded for a new trial. View "R.T. Vanderbilt Company, Inc., v. Galliher, et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant-Cross Appellee Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. appealed a final judgment of the Court of Chancery identifying specific steps Wal-Mart must take in searching for documents, and specific categories of documents Wal-Mart must produce, in response to a demand made by Plaintiff -Appellee-Cross Appellant Indiana Electrical Workers Pension Trust Fund IBEW pursuant to title 8, section 220 of the Delaware Code. The Court of Chancery conducted a Section 220 trial on the papers to determine whether Wal-Mart had produced all responsive documents in reply to IBEW’s demand. The Court of Chancery entered a Final Order and Judgment, requiring Wal-Mart to produce a wide variety of additional documents, including ones whose content was privileged or protected by the work-product doctrine. Wal-Mart appealed the Court of Chancery’s Final Order with regard to its obligations to provide the additional documents. IBEW filed a cross-appeal, arguing that the Court of Chancery erred in failing to require Wal-Mart to correct the deficiencies in its previous document productions and in granting in part Wal-Mart’s motion to strike its use of certain Whistleblower Documents. After its review of the matter, the Delaware Supreme Court concluded that all of the issues raised in this appeal and cross-appeal were without merit. Therefore, the judgment of the Court of Chancery was affirmed. View "Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Indiana Electrical Workers Trust Fund IBEW" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented to the Delaware Supreme Court arose out of a situation where a police officer retired while his conduct was under investigation by his employing police force. After the officer retired, the Council on Police Training revoked his certification as a police officer in the State of Delaware on the grounds that the officer’s retirement itself constituted a knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to a hearing under the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court concluded that because the plain language of section 8404(a)(4)(e) provided that the Council could only revoke the certification of a retired officer if the officer both retired pending the resolution of an investigation that could have resulted in his discharge from the police force and “knowingly and voluntarily waived” his right to a hearing under the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights, the Council erred. The Superior Court’s reversal of the Council’s revocation of his certification was affirmed. View "Council on Police Training v. Delaware" on Justia Law