Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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In 2009, Carlton Curry was appointed as superintendent of Lawrence Utilities, the City of Lawrence’s municipally owned water and sewer utility. Just over two years later, Dean Jessup was elected as mayor of the City in the general election. Mayor Jessup terminated Curry after their differences in policy became apparent. Curry filed a complaint against the City, claiming he was wrongfully discharged under the utility superintendent statute, he was owned unpaid wages under the Wage Payment Statute, and the mayor tortiously interfered with his employment contract. The trial court (1) granted summary judgment in favor of Curry on the wrongful discharge claim, (2) granted summary judgment in favor of the City on the Wage Payment Statute claim, and (3) denied summary judgment on the tortious interference claim. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court in all respects, holding (1) Mayor Jessup lacked authority to remove Curry as the utility service board superintendent; (2) Curry was not entitled to wages under the Wage Payment Statute; and (3) a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding Curry’s claim for intentional interference with an employment relationship. View "City of Lawrence Utilites Service Board v. Curry" on Justia Law

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Pursuant to 2011 amendments to statutes addressing collective bargaining for teachers and their employees, when parties failed to reach a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) regarding salaries and wages, the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board (IEERB) appoints a mediator. If the mediation fails, the parties must exchange their last best offers (LBOs). A factfinder appointed by the IEERB then selects which side’s LBO to adopt as the CBA. In this case, a teachers association appealed a factfinder’s decision to adopt a school’s LBO. The IEERB affirmed the factfinder’s decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the adopted LBO was collectively bargained and lawful. View "Jay Classroom Teachers Ass’n v. Jay School Corp." on Justia Law

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In this employment termination discrimination case, Plaintiff claimed, inter alia, that he had been harassed, discriminated, and retaliated against on the basis of his sex. The trial court granted summary judgment to Plaintiff’s former employer as to Plaintiff’s federal and state constitutional claims and as to Plaintiff’s retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted transfer and summarily affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals with respect to the federal and state constitutional claims. As to the retaliation claim, the Supreme Court held (1) to prevail on summary judgment on a claim for retaliation under Indiana procedural law, it is an employer’s burden to affirmatively negate the plaintiff’s claim, not the plaintiff’s burden to make a prima facie case of Title VII retaliation; and (2) the employer in this case satisfied its burden on summary judgment to affirmatively negate Plaintiff’s retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. View "Gaff v. Indiana-Purdue Univ. of Fort Wayne" on Justia Law

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James Armour’s employment contract with AM General LLC entitled him to payment of a long-term incentive plan (LTIP). When Armour retired, he was to receive a lump sum LTIP payment, but instead he started receiving quarterly installment payments in the form of checks. AM General attempted to make the final installment payment with a subordinate promissory note. Armour rejected the Note and requested full payment. Thereafter, AM General filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that it had not breached the LTIP portion of its agreement with Armour. Armour counterclaimed, asserting that AM General breached the employment agreement by failing to pay Armour the full LTIP payment when it was due and claiming that, by attempting to pay the remaining portion of the LTIP payment with a promissory note, AM General breached the duty of good faith and fair dealing. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Armour. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding a genuine issue of material fact with regard to how “payment” could be made under the LTIP provision of the agreement. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed the grant of summary judgment, holding that AM General breached its employment agreement with Armour because the Note did not constitute payment under the employment agreement. View "AM General LLC v. Armour" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an elementary school principal, was terminated after the school board learned that he had been involved in a sexual relationship with a teacher. Plaintiff filed a complaint against school defendants, alleging breach of contract and that the notice and procedure utilized by the school board in terminating his administrator’s contract denied him due process. The superior court granted summary judgment for the School. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the hearing process described in the teacher’s termination statute does not apply to termination of an administrator when his underlying teaching contract is not being terminated; (2) the language in Plaintiff’s form teacher’s contract referring to a hearing with the benefit of counsel and a just cause determination applies only to Plaintiff’s underlying teacher’s contract and not his administrator’s contract; and (3) under the circumstances of this case, Plaintiff received constitutional due process. View "Hewitt v. Westfield Washington Sch. Corp." on Justia Law

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A law firm (Plaintiff) filed a quantum merit claim for part of the contingent fees earned in cases that were first handled by the law firm’s attorneys, including Defendant, and later by Defendant and his law firm after he left Plaintiff’s law firm. The trial court denied quantum merit relief, finding that Defendant was not unjustly enriched. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted transfer and (1) reversed and remanded with instructions to determine, in accordance with Galanis v. Lyons & Truitt, what proportional contributions toward the results in the cases at issue were made by attorneys working for Plaintiff, and to enter a corresponding judgment in Plaintiff’s favor; and (2) summarily affirmed the portion of the court of appeals’ opinion addressing whether Plaintiff should have sued its former clients to recover attorney fees from them. View "Cohen & Malad, LLP v. Daly" on Justia Law

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The operator of a wholesale greenhouse business hired a contractor to remove a large tree at its business. As a result of the work, the contractor received the wood from the removed tree, and the business paid the contractor $600. To complete the work, the contractor hired Appellant, a tree climber-cutter, to remove the trunk of the tree. Appellant was severely injured while working and rendered a paraplegic. The business brought this declaratory judgment action seeking to establish that it had no secondary liability because the value of the work by the contractor was less than $1,000. The trial court granted summary judgment for the business. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the “value” attributable to the performance of work that triggers secondary liability under Ind. Code 22-3-2-14(b) includes both direct monetary payment as well as ancillary consideration received for the work; and (2) the business was not entitled to summary judgment because it failed to designate evidence establishing that the undisputed value of the ancillary consideration it received - the wood - plus the $600 monetary payment did not exceed $1,000. View "Young v. Hood’s Gardens, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, an exclusive-agency union and several of its members and officers (collectively, the Union), filed a complaint against the Attorney General and the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Labor (collectively, the State), seeking a declaratory judgment that certain provisions of the Indiana Right to Work Law were unconstitutional. The trial court granted relief on the Union’s claim that two provisions of the Indiana Work Law violated Article 1, Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution, which provides that “[no] person’s particular services shall be demanded, without just compensation.” The first challenged provision of the Indiana Work Law prohibits employers from requiring union membership or the payment of monies as a condition of employment, and the second provision makes the knowing or intentional violation of the first provision a Class A misdemeanor. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the two provisions do not violate Section 21 because the challenged provisions do not constitute a demand by the State for particular services. View "Zoeller v. Sweeney" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was fired from her job at the Indiana Department of Workforce Development for alleged misconduct. After it was discovered that Petitioner kept several items of state property in her possession, Petitioner was charged with theft. The charges were later dismissed. Thereafter, the State filed an ethics proceeding against Petitioner, alleging that she violated 42 Ind. Admin. Code 1-5-12. After an adjudicative hearing, the Indiana State Ethics Commission found that Petitioner did commit the alleged violation and barred her from future State executive branch employment. The Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s decision, holding (1) double jeopardy did not bar the proceeding before the Commission, and the criminal court’s probable cause determination was not binding upon the Commission; (2) there was sufficient evidence to support the Commission’s determination; and (3) the sanction imposed in this case was within the Commission’s discretion. View "Ind. State Ethics Comm’n v. Sanchez" on Justia Law

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Howard Price was the Fayette County Highway Supervisor from 1991 to 2002 and again resumed the position in 2006. In 2011, the Fayette County Board of Commissioners decided not to reappoint Price as Highway Supervisor. Thereafter, Price brought this action requesting a review of the Board’s decision to terminate his continued employment. The Board filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court treated as a motion for summary judgment, asserting that its employment decision was not subject to judicial review. The trial court denied summary judgment, concluding that the Board’s decision was quasi-judicial in nature and thus subject to judicial review. The court of appeals affirmed on interlocutory appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Board’s employment decision with respect to Price was a ministerial decision, not a quasi-judicial one, and therefore not subject to judicial review. View "Fayette County Bd. of Comm’rs v. Price" on Justia Law