Justia Kansas Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Heimerman v. Rose
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
Bullock v. BNSF Railway Co.
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
Miller v. Board of Wabaunsee County Commissioners
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
Byers v. Acme Foundry
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
Lumry v. State
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
Posted in: Labor & Employment Law
Platt v. Kansas State Univ.
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
Norris v. Kan. Employment Security Bd. of Review
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
Hoesli v. Triplett, Inc.
Appellant was injured in a compensable workplace accident. Prior to his injury, Appellant was receiving social security retirement benefits and earning additional employment income without a reduction in his social security because he had reached full retirement age. Based on Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-501(h), the offset statute, an administrative law judge determined that Employer could use Appellant’s social security benefit to offset its workers compensation obligation. The Workers Compensation Board affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed the Board’s offset, holding that section 44-501(h) does not apply when the claimant has reached full retirement age and was already receiving social security retirement benefits at the time of injury. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Dickens v. Pizza Co., Inc. and its progeny, which limited the statutory offset under section 44-501(h) and permitted already-retired claimants working to supplement their social security at the time of injury, improperly give effect to a perceived legislative purpose underlying section 44-501 that is contrary to the statutory text’s clearly expressed meaning; and (2) section 44-501(h) unambiguously provides that any workers compensation payments are subject to the offset when the injured worker is simultaneously receiving social security retirement benefits. View "Hoesli v. Triplett, Inc." on Justia Law
Craig v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc.
Numerous class actions throughout the country were filed against FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. by former and current delivery drivers for the company. Plaintiffs claimed they were improperly classified as independent contractors rather than as employees under both state and federal law. The class actions were consolidated, and the Kansas class action was designated as the lead case. A federal district court granted summary judgment for FedEx, determining that the Kansas class plaintiffs were independent contractors under the Kansas Wage Payment Act (KWPA). The district court relied on this decision to enter summary judgment for FedEx in all the other statewide class actions, concluding that Plaintiffs were independent contractors, rather than employees, under each respective state’s substantive law. Plaintiffs appealed. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit certified to the Kansas Supreme Court questions regarding the proper classification of the FedEx drivers under the KWPA. The Supreme Court answered that, under the undisputed facts presented, the plaintiff delivery drivers were employees of FedEx for purposes of the KWPA. View "Craig v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc." on Justia Law
Denning v. Johnson County Sheriff’s Civil Serv. Bd.
Johnson County Sheriff’s Department Master Deputy Michael Maurer cracked a department vehicle’s windshield with a binder while attempting to shoo away a horsefly. Maurer initially reported that the cracked windshield was caused by a rock, but after a fellow deputy reported the true facts, Maurer eventually admitted his responsibility in damaging the windshield. After an investigation and hearing, the Johnson County Sheriff terminated Maurer’s employment for violating the department’s standards on truthfulness. Maurer appealed to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Civil Service Board (CSB), which reversed the Sheriff’s decision. The district court vacated the CSB’s decision and remanded to the CSB. On remand, the CSB upheld the Sheriff’s decision to terminate Maurer. The district court affirmed the CSB’s second decision. The court of appeals affirmed both district court decisions, upholding Maurer’s termination. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ decision affirming the district court’s decision to vacate the CSB’s first decision, holding that the CSB exceeded the scope of its authority and its decision was not substantially supported by the evidence. View "Denning v. Johnson County Sheriff's Civil Serv. Bd." on Justia Law