Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Where Juliana Arechaga, a non-tenured teacher for Victor School District No. 7, did not receive written notice of the school district’s decision not to renew her employment contract for the 2017-2018 school year until June 7, Arechaga demonstrated that she was entitled to the school district’s performance of a “clear legal duty” to renew her contract for the upcoming school year and that there was no other “speedy and adequate remedy” available to her apart from a writ of mandamus. On May 23, 2017, the school district’s Board of Trustees voted not to renew Arechaga's employment contract for the 2017-2018 school year. Arechaga did not receive written notice of the decision until after June 1, the date a school district is obligated to provide such written notice pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 20-4-206(1). Arechaga sought a writ of mandamus, arguing that the school district was statutorily obligated to renew her contract. The district court denied the application, finding that Arechaga’s neglect in maintaining a current address on file with the school district was the sole cause of her failure to receive timely notice of the non-renewal of her contract. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred when it held that Arechaga did not satisfy the requirements for mandamus. View "Arechaga v. Victor School District No. 7" on Justia Law

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Where Juliana Arechaga, a non-tenured teacher for Victor School District No. 7, did not receive written notice of the school district’s decision not to renew her employment contract for the 2017-2018 school year until June 7, Arechaga demonstrated that she was entitled to the school district’s performance of a “clear legal duty” to renew her contract for the upcoming school year and that there was no other “speedy and adequate remedy” available to her apart from a writ of mandamus. On May 23, 2017, the school district’s Board of Trustees voted not to renew Arechaga's employment contract for the 2017-2018 school year. Arechaga did not receive written notice of the decision until after June 1, the date a school district is obligated to provide such written notice pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 20-4-206(1). Arechaga sought a writ of mandamus, arguing that the school district was statutorily obligated to renew her contract. The district court denied the application, finding that Arechaga’s neglect in maintaining a current address on file with the school district was the sole cause of her failure to receive timely notice of the non-renewal of her contract. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred when it held that Arechaga did not satisfy the requirements for mandamus. View "Arechaga v. Victor School District No. 7" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s decision upholding the decision of the hearing officer with the Montana Human Rights Bureau (HRB) in favor of All Star Painting on Plaintiff’s complaint alleging that the company’s owner had sexually harassed her at work. The Court held (1) the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s petition for judicial review because the hearing officer’s decision either ignored the testimony of four individuals, all of whom corroborated Plaintiff’s testimony, or misapprehended the effect of that evidence; and (2) the district court properly dismissed All Star Painting’s owner as a party to the action because he was never properly added as a party under Mont. R. Civ. P. 20. View "Jones v. All Star Painting Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s decision upholding the decision of the hearing officer with the Montana Human Rights Bureau (HRB) in favor of All Star Painting on Plaintiff’s complaint alleging that the company’s owner had sexually harassed her at work. The Court held (1) the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s petition for judicial review because the hearing officer’s decision either ignored the testimony of four individuals, all of whom corroborated Plaintiff’s testimony, or misapprehended the effect of that evidence; and (2) the district court properly dismissed All Star Painting’s owner as a party to the action because he was never properly added as a party under Mont. R. Civ. P. 20. View "Jones v. All Star Painting Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to the Wolf Point School District Board of Trustees (Board) on Plaintiff’s claim that the Board unlawfully terminated her employment in violation of the open meeting law, Mont. Code Ann. 2-3-203, and Mont. Const. art. II, 9. Plaintiff appeared before the Board for a hearing regarding the termination of her employment. The Board closed the meeting to the public and then re-opened the meeting to the public, at which time a trustee made a motion, seconded by another, for the Board to terminate Plaintiff’s employment. The meeting was then closed again to everyone except the Board and the superintendent to allow the Board to discuss unspecified litigation strategy at an “executive session” with the Board’s lawyer. When Plaintiff was allowed back into the room the Board voted to terminate Plaintiff’s contract. The Supreme Court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Board, holding that the district court (1) erred in granting summary judgment that the Board lawfully closed the hearing portion of the meeting based on third-party privacy rights; and (2) erred in granting summary judgment that the Board lawfully excluded Plaintiff from its “executive session” under the litigation strategy exception of section 2-3-203(4). View "Raap v. Board of Trustees, Wolf Point School District" on Justia Law

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The Workers’ Compensation Court (WCC) erred by ruling that a chiropractor may not make a medical determination regarding the claimant’s 1991 work-related injury in this case. In 1991, Claimant suffered injuries while working for Employer. Based on Chiropractor’s opinion, Claimant presented claims to Employer’s successor (Employer) for permanent partial disability and vocational rehabilitation benefits. Employer denied the claim on the ground that it was premised upon the medical determination of a chiropractor, rather than a physician, as required by the 1991 workers’ compensation statutes. Claimant filed a petition in the WCC. The WCC granted summary judgment to Employer, concluding that the 1991 statutes rendered Chiropractor’s opinion inadmissible. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) EBI/Orion Group v. Blythe, 931 P.2d 38 (Mont. 1997), controlled the outcome here; and (2) reversal was required because the WCC determined it was bound to follow Fleming v. International Paper Co., 194 P.3d 77 (Mont. 2008), as this Court’s most recent holding on the issue, but this Court’s overboard analysis in Fleming was in error. View "Murphy v. Westrock" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court awarding summary judgment to the Missoula County Detention Facility and the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office (collectively, the County) on Plaintiff’s claim that the County had illegally discriminated against him based on his disability. Plaintiff initially filed a complaint with the Human Rights Bureau (HRB), which found no reasonable cause to believe that the County had discriminated against Plaintiff. The district court agreed. The Supreme Court Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in declining to consider evidence arising after Plaintiff filed his HRB complaint; and (2) the district court correctly granted summary judgment for the County. View "Borges v. Missoula County Sheriff’s Office" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court awarding summary judgment to the Missoula County Detention Facility and the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office (collectively, the County) on Plaintiff’s claim that the County had illegally discriminated against him based on his disability. Plaintiff initially filed a complaint with the Human Rights Bureau (HRB), which found no reasonable cause to believe that the County had discriminated against Plaintiff. The district court agreed. The Supreme Court Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in declining to consider evidence arising after Plaintiff filed his HRB complaint; and (2) the district court correctly granted summary judgment for the County. View "Borges v. Missoula County Sheriff’s Office" on Justia Law

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Christita Moreau appealed a Workers’ Compensation Court (WCC) order denying her motion for summary judgment and granting summary judgment to Transportation Insurance Company. Moreau’s husband Edwin worked at the W.R. Grace mine near Libby. In 2009, he died from asbestos-related lung cancer. In 2010 Moreau, as personal representative of Edwin’s estate, filed a workers’ compensation claim for occupational disease benefits. Transportation Insurance Company (Transportation) was W.R. Grace’s workers’ compensation insurer, and it denied liability for the claim. Edwin’s employer, W.R. Grace, established and funded the Libby Medical Plan (LMP) to pay the medical expenses of its employees who were injured by exposure to asbestos. LMP paid approximately $95,000 of Edwin’s medical expenses. In 2012, as part of Grace’s bankruptcy, “certain rights and duties of the LMP” were transferred to the Libby Medical Plan Trust. Grace remained responsible for LMP’s “ongoing payment obligations” incurred before that time. In 2013, Transportation accepted liability for the workers’ compensation claim and entered a settlement with Moreau. Transportation agreed to reimburse Medicaid, other providers, and Moreau personally for medical expenses each had paid for Edwin’s care. The parties stipulated that Transportation paid all of Edwin’s medical bills or reimbursed the other persons or entities that had paid them. Transportation did not reimburse the LMP for the $95,846 of Edwin’s medical bills it had previously paid because the LMP refused to accept it. After the LMP refused to accept reimbursement from Transportation, Moreau demanded that Transportation pay the $95,000 either to Edwin’s Estate, to the LMP or its successor, or to a charity selected by the Estate. Transportation refused and Moreau filed a second petition with the WCC to resolve the issue. The WCC determined that all of Edwin’s medical care costs had been paid; that Edwin had no liability to any health care provider; and that he had no right to claim any further payment from Transportation. The WCC determined that if the Estate were to receive the $95,000 from Transportation it would represent a double recovery because Edwin had already received the medical benefits themselves. The Court concluded that Moreau therefore lacked standing to proceed Moreau’s petition. The WCC also found that Moreau’s attorneys also represented the LMP Trust “for purposes of recovering the disputed $95,846” for the LMP Trust. At the time of the WCC order, the LMP Trust was not a party to this action and had not advanced a claim in the WCC for reimbursement of the amount paid by its predecessor LMP. The WCC therefore granted summary judgment to Transportation. Finding no reversible error in that WCC decision, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed. View "Moreau v. Transportation Ins." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company’s (BNSF) motion for summary judgment on Kelly Watson’s asbestos-related disease claim, brought under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, holding that the bankruptcy court’s order enjoining claims against W.R. Grace and other “affiliated entities,” including BNSF, tolled the statute of limitations on Watson’s claim. Thus, the district court erred in concluding that the bankruptcy court’s order expanding a previous injunction barring the commencement or filing of new claims to include BNSF as a nondebtor affiliate did not bar the commencement of new actions against BNSF. View "Watson v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law