Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the appeal brought by the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) appealing the circuit court’s denial of its motion to dismiss a complaint alleging violations of the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act (AMWA) based on sovereign immunity. Appellees, former employees of the ADVA, brought this complaint alleging that ADVA failed to compensate them for working overtime in violation of the AMWA. ADVA filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that AMWA’s abrogation of sovereign immunity violates Ark. Const. art. V, 20. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s denial of ADVA’s motion to dismiss on sovereign immunity, holding that Board of Trustees of University of Arkansas v. Andrews, 535 S.W.3d 616 (Ark. 2018), in which the Court struck the provision of the AMWA that provided this action could be brought against the state, controlled. View "Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs v. Mallett" on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court reversed an order of the circuit court denying Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint on the grounds that it was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant, Arkansas Community Correction (ACC), terminated her in violation of the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act (AWBA). Defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that it was an agency of the State and that the General Assembly could not validly waive the State’s sovereign immunity under the AWBA. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that to the extent the legislature subjected the State to liability in the AWBA, it was prohibited by Ark. Const. art. V, 20. View "Arkansas Community Correction v. Barnes" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and affirmed as modified in part the decision of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission awarding benefits to Employee for injuries that arose out of and in the course and scope of Employee’s employment with Employer. As pertinent to this appeal, the Commission found (1) Employee was entitled to a permanent anatomical-impairment rating of twenty-nine percent for his brain injury and twenty-four percent for his left-eye injury, both to the body as a whole; and (2) Employee was not entitled to benefits based on a permanent anatomical-impairment rating based on pain. Employer appealed, and Employee cross-appealed. The Supreme Court held (1) the Commission’s decision that Employee was entitled to a permanent anatomical-impairment rating of twenty-nine percent for his brain injury to the body as a whole for his brain injury was supported by substantial evidence; (2) the Commission’s finding of 100 percent impairment to Employee’s left eye was proper, but the award is modified to reflect that it is a scheduled injury; (3) the Commission’s decision denying twenty-four percent whole-body impairment rating for cranial nerve V and trigeminal nerve damage was supported by substantial evidence. View "Multi-Craft Contractors, Inc. v. Yousey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission that one-half of Oscar Gerard’s attorney’s fees must be paid by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission (AG&F). Gerard sustained a compensable injury, and AG&F accepted the injury as compensable and paid medical and indemnity benefits. After three surgeries related to his injury, Gerard sought additional benefits. The administrative law judge (ALJ) awarded Gerard additional benefits. Gerard then requested that the ALJ find AG&F responsible for his one-half of attorney’s fees. The ALJ ordered AG&F to deduct Gerard’s one-half of attorney’s fees from the additional benefits awarded and to pay that amount to his attorneys. The full Workers’ Compensation Commission affirmed and adopted the ALJ’s findings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission correctly found that one-half of Gerard’s attorney’s fees must be paid by the AG&F. View "Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. Gerard" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission finding that, at the time of his injury, Deputy Cleon Morgan, Sr., had two employers, Brookshire Grocery Company and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, and holding that all the factors to be considered in determining if Deputy Morgan was an employee or an independent contractor indicated that Morgan was an independent contractor. On appeal, Brookshire argued that Deputy Morgan, an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, was an independent contractor when he was injured while working part-time for Brookshire, and therefore, Brookshire was not responsible for Deputy Morgan’s workers’-compensation coverage and claims. The Supreme Court reversed after considering the factors set out in section 220 of the Restatement (Second) of Agency and remanded the case to the Commission for further proceedings. View "Brookshire Grocery Co. v. Morgan" on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying the motion filed by Appellant, the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas, to dismiss an action brought by Appellee for violations of the overtime of the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act (AMWA), Ark. Code Ann. 11-4-201 to -222. On appeal, Appellant argued that the doctrine of sovereign immunity applied, and therefore, the circuit court erred in denying the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the circuit court erred as a matter of law in denying Appellant’s motion to dismiss because it lacked jurisdiction over Appellee’s AMWA claim pursuant to the doctrine of sovereign immunity. View "Board of Trustees of University of Arkansas v. Andrews" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission’s denial of Appellant’s claim that she sustained a compensable brain injury while working in a Kroger store. The Commission found that Appellant’s injury was the result of a syncope, which was caused by an arrhythmic heart condition, rather than a slip and fall or an unexplained fall. On appeal, Appellant argued that substantial evidence did not support the Commission’s finding. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence supported the Commission’s stated reason for denying benefits that Appellant’s injury was caused by an idiopathic condition and not an unexplained, compensable fall. View "Asking v. Kroger Limited Partnership I" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the circuit court’s order certifying a class action filed by Employees failed to comply with Ark. R. Civ. P. 23(b). In their complaint, Employees alleged claims of breach of contract and unjust enrichment based on Employer’s failure to compensate Employees for earned but unused vacation time. The circuit court granted Employees’ motion for class certification. Appellants filed this interlocutory appeal arguing that Employees failed to demonstrate commonality, predominance, and superiority as to their breach of contract claim. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that the circuit court’s bare conclusion that “Plaintiffs have satisfied all elements of Rule 23 of the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure and class certification is appropriate in this case” was clearly insufficient for the Supreme Court to conduct a meaningful review. View "Industrial Welding Supplies of Hattiesburg, LLC v. Pinson" on Justia Law

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Hence forth, all briefed cases submitted to the court of appeals must be disposed of by full, written majority opinions. Thus, In re Memorandum Opinions, 700 S.W.2d 63 (Ark. Ct. App. 1985), in which the court of appeals promulgated its memorandum-opinion policy, is hereby overruled. In this workers’ compensation case, Appellants filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to review an opinion handed down by the court of appeals. Neither the full commission nor the court of appeals issued a formal opinion, as the full commission adopted the administrative law judge’s findings and the court of appeals issued a memorandum opinion. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’s opinion and remanded the case to that court to properly analyze this case, as the opinion provided no meaningful analysis. Because Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 5-2(e) has previously allowed the court of appeals to issue memorandum opinions, the rule is hereby amended to state that opinions of the court of appeals shall only be in conventional form. View "Brookshire Grocery Co. v. Morgan" on Justia Law

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In this wrongful termination case, Peggy Cryer, who was sued individually and in her official capacity as executive secretary of the Arkansas State Medical Board, was entitled to statutory immunity on some, but not all, of Plaintiff's claims. Kristi Byers was terminated from her employment with the Board for allegedly not using leave time on days that she did not come to work. Byers filed suit against the Board and Cryer for wrongful termination, alleging race discrimination and retaliation under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act (ACRA) and seeking damages and injunctive relief. The circuit court denied Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on immunity grounds, concluding that Defendants were not entitled to sovereign immunity and Cryer was not entitled to statutory immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that Cryer was entitled to statutory immunity on Byers’s individual-capacity race discrimination and retaliation claims under the ACRA but statutory immunity did not bar Byers’s federal civil rights claims against Cryer in her individual capacity. Remanded. View "Arkansas State Medical Board v. Byers" on Justia Law