Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s action brought under the Kansas Judicial Review Act (KJRA) based upon the decision of the University of Kansas to deny Plaintiff promotion and tenure, holding that the University’s decision was supported by substantial evidence. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s action for lack of prosecution. Plaintiff refiled within six months, relying on the savings statute, Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-518, to make her action timely. The district court ruled against Plaintiff on the merits of her challenge to the University’s decision. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded to the University to begin the promotion and tenure consideration process anew. The University appealed, arguing that section 6-518 should not have been applied and that the decision to deny Plaintiff promotion and tenure was supported by substantial evidence. The Supreme Court held (1) the savings statute applied to make Plaintiff’s KJRA action timely; but (2) the University’s decision was supported by substantial evidence under Kan. Stat. Ann. 77-621(c)(7). View "Harsay v. University of Kansas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court rejected the arguments of Plaintiffs, two public school teachers, who sought a judgment declaring the 2014 amendments to the Teacher Due Process Act, Kan. Stat. Ann. 72-5436 et seq., unconstitutional because the legislation constituted a taking of their property without due process. Before July 1, 2014, the contracts of tenured elementary and secondary teachers in Kansas school districts automatically continued into the next school year unless the school district gave a notice of termination or nonrenewal that set out the reasons for the termination or nonrenewal and notified the teacher of his rights to a due process hearing. The 2014 amendments removed both the requirement that the school district’s Board of Education state its reasons for the termination or nonrenewal and the right to a due process hearing. When Plaintiffs were informed that the Board would not be renewing their teaching contracts, they brought this action. The Supreme Court held that Plaintiffs did not have a property interest that was entitled to constitutional protection under either the federal or state constitution. View "Scribner v. Board of Education of U.S.D. No. 492" on Justia Law

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Substantial evidence supported the Workers Compensation Board’s decision to deny workers compensation benefits to Appellant, who was severely injured when he was hit by a drunk driver while walking from a bar to his hotel. At the time of the accident, Appellant was a laborer working an out-of-town roofing job. The Board found that Defendant’s injuries did not arise out of and in the course of his employment. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant’s injuries did not arise out of and in the course of his employment as defined by the Kansas Workers Compensation Act (KWCA). View "Atkins v. Webcon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s wrongful death suit. Plaintiff received workers’ compensation death benefits after her husband was killed while acting within the course and scope of his employment. Plaintiff participated in two wrongful death cases stemming from her husband’s death, both based on the Kansas wrongful death statute. Plaintiff filed a state court action in a Kansas district court and joined a federal action filed by her husband’s son in a federal district court. The plaintiffs eventually settled their wrongful death claims with the third-party tortfeasors. The federal court approved the settlement. After the federal case concluded, Plaintiff moved the district court to rule that her share of the federal settlement was attributable to her damages for loss of consortium and loss of spousal services, which are damages statutorily exempt from the workers compensation lien. The district court judge denied the motion and dismissed the case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that once the federal judge entered judgment approving the parties’ settlement agreement there was no longer a case or controversy underlying Plaintiff’s wrongful death action in Kansas, and therefore, it was proper for the district judge to dismiss the case. View "Heimerman v. Rose" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that certain evidence in this action filed under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) was improperly admitted and reversing the jury verdict in favor of Plaintiff. After slipping on diesel fuel spilled by a coworker, Plaintiff sued his employer, BNSF Railway Company (BNSF), under FELA. At trial, Plaintiff introduced evidence that the coworker had been disciplined for his conduct. BNSF objected to the evidence, arguing that the discipline was a subsequent remedial measure barred by Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-451. The district court overruled BNSF’s objection. The jury found that BNSF negligently caused Plaintiff’s injuries and awarded $1.72 million in damages. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial, concluding that the evidence of the coworker’s discipline was barred by section 60-451. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the disciplinary evidence, which qualified as a subsequent remedial measure was admitted for improper purposes under section 60-451; and (2) the error was not harmless. View "Bullock v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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The Wabaunsee Board of County Commissioners appointed Robert Miller to serve a four-year term as Wabaunsee County Appraiser. Nearly two years into Miller’s appointment, the Board voted to terminate Miller and stop paying his salary and benefits. Miller exercised his statutory right under Kan. Stat. Ann. 19-431 to have his termination reviewed in an administrative hearing. An administrative law judge (ALJ) initially ordered the Board to reinstate Miller, but the district court vacated the decision. On remand, the ALJ gave deference to the Board’s decision and upheld Miller’s termination. Miller appealed, arguing that his termination was not in accordance with Kan. Stat. Ann. 19-431 because the Board did not have the authority to terminate a county appraiser. The district court affirmed the termination. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 19-431 did not grant the Board the final authority to terminate Miller’s employment and thereby end his salary and benefits. Remanded with an order to determine the amount of back pay owed to Miller. View "Miller v. Board of Wabaunsee County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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Mark Byers, who worked as a grinder at Acme Foundry, was injured in a workplace accident. After Byers was released from the hospital he agreed to do a drug test. Byers’ urine sample was thrown into the trash, however, when Acme’s in-house nurse determined that there was not enough urine in the collection cup. An administrative law judge concluded that Byers forfeited his benefits under the Workers Compensation Act by providing an inadequate urine sample for testing. The Workers Compensation Board upheld that ruling. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Byers’ actions did not amount to a refusal. Remanded. View "Byers v. Acme Foundry" on Justia Law

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The Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s (KBI) official overtime policy requires monetary compensation at one-and-a-half times the normal hourly rate for hours worked in excess of eighty hours in a two-week period. Plaintiff, a former KBI agent, claimed that the Bureau pressured personnel to work overtime without claiming the overtime, in violation of the wage and hour law, and that he was fired in retaliation for complaining about this. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and vacated the district court’s judgment on those issues subject to review, holding (1) Plaintiff’s complaint about unpaid overtime was sufficient to preclude summary judgment as to whether he engaged in a protected activity; (2) Kansas law recognizes retaliatory discharge as a common-law tort when an employee is fired for invoking rights under either the Fair Labor Standards Act or the Kansas Minimum Wage and Maximum Hours Law; and (3) the court of appeals erred in sua sponte addressing the adequate alternative remedy question. View "Lumry v. State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s probationary employment was terminated by Kansas State University. Plaintiff sued the University, arguing that her employment termination was in retaliation for her potential claims under the Kansas Workers Compensation Act. The district court granted the University’s motion to dismiss, determining that Plaintiff did not exhaust her administrative remedies because Plaintiff was required under the Kansas Judicial Review Act (KJRA) to first present her retaliatory discharge claim to the University for determination. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiff’s claims were not governed by the KJRA and, therefore, jurisdiction was proper in the district court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s tort claim was not governed by the KJRA. Remanded. View "Platt v. Kansas State Univ." on Justia Law

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After Appellant quit her job, a Kansas Department of Labor denied Appellant’s claim for unemployment benefits. The Kansas Employment Security Board of Review affirmed the examiner’s denial. Appellant filed a motion to reconsider, which the Board declined to entertain. Thirty-six days after the Board mailed its decision affirming the examiner, Appellant filed a petition for judicial review. The district court judge dismissed Appellant’s petition for lack of jurisdiction because the thirty-six days exceeded a sixteen-day finality time period provided for in the Kansas Employment Security Law and a thirty-day filing deadline under the Kansas Judicial Review Act. The court of appeals reversed the dismissal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant’s motion for Board reconsideration of its initial decision was within the sixteen-day window for finality under the version of Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-709(i) in effect at the time, and Appellant’s petition for judicial review was filed well before thirty days since the Board’s final order had passed. Remanded. View "Norris v. Kan. Employment Security Bd. of Review" on Justia Law