Justia Wisconsin Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendant’s motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ complaint claiming entitlement to unpaid wages based on his commute time in a company van, holding that commute time in a company-provided vehicle is not compensable under Wisconsin law. Field service technicians employed by Defendant traveled to customers’ locations in Defendant’s vans and had the choice of commuting between work and home in either their personal vehicles or the company’s vans. Defendant did not provide compensation time for technicians’ travel time between home and work, leading Plaintiffs to file this lawsuit. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed, holding that genuine issues of material facts existed as to whether Wisconsin’s statutes and regulations require payment for commuting time in a company-provided vehicle. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that travel is not compensable where an employee drives a company-provided vehicle between home and a jobsite. View "Kieninger v. Crown Equipment Corp." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court interpreted Milwaukee County General Ordinance 201.24(4.1) to mean that employees not covered by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) were entitled to the benefit of the “Rule of 75” if they were hired prior to January 1, 2006, and that, on September 29, 2011, the operative date of the County’s amended ordinance, members of Milwaukee District Council 48 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (DC-48) were not covered by the terms of a CBA because the last CBA had expired. At issue were pension benefits, known as the Rule of 75, to certain DC-48 members. The County enacted an ordinance granting Rule of 75 benefits to all employees “not covered by the terms of a [CBA]” as long as those employees were hired before 2006. DC-48 sought a declaratory judgment that its members were not covered by the terms of a CBA and that all members hired prior to January 1, 2006 were eligible for the Rule of 75. The circuit court concluded that DC-48 members were not covered by the terms of a CBA on September 29, 2011. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, pursuant to an active CBA, the members of DC-48 were not “covered by the terms” of a CBA on September 29, 2011. View "Milwaukee District Council 48 v. Milwaukee County" on Justia Law

by
The City of Milwaukee’s 2013 amendment to its charter ordinance that reduced the right of each individual employee-member of the Employee Retirement System (ERS) to vote for three employees of his or her choice to serve on the ERS Annuity and Pension Board, modified the “other rights” of employee-members of the ERS who were members prior to the amendment and, therefore, was contrary to state law. In 1947, the State granted all first class cities the opportunity to manage the ERS pursuant to the exercise of home rule powers but also protected individual rights of those persons who were members of an ERS by precluding amendment that modified “the annuities, benefits, or other rights of any persons who are members of the system prior to the effective date of such amendment.” Laws of 1947, chapter 441, section 31(1). After the City amended its charter in 2013, Plaintiffs challenged the amendment, arguing that it violated state law. The Supreme Court agreed and restored the right of employee-members to vote for three employees of their choice to serve as employee-members of the Board. View "Milwaukee Police Ass’n v. City of Milwaukee" on Justia Law

by
In this dispute over unemployment compensation benefits, the Supreme Court held that the plain language of Wis. Stat. 108.04(5)(e) allows an employer to adopt its own absenteeism policy that differs from the policy set forth in the statute. Further, termination for the violation of the employer’s absenteeism policy will result in disqualification from receiving unemployment compensation benefits even if the employer’s absenteeism policy is more restrictive than the policy set forth in section 108.04(5)(e). Employee was denied unemployment compensation on the ground that she was terminated for “misconduct” - namely, absenteeism, as defined by section 108.04(5)9e). The circuit court concluded that an employer’s violation of the employer’s absenteeism rules constitutes “misconduct” under section 108.04(5)(e) barring unemployment compensation benefits. The court of appeals disagreed, holding that an employee who is terminated for violating an employer’s absenteeism rules is not barred from obtaining unemployment benefits unless the employee’s conduct violates the statutory definition of misconduct based on absenteeism. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employee was properly denied benefits under the circumstances of this case. View "Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development v. Wisconsin Labor & Industry Review Commission" on Justia Law

by
The Labor and Industry Review Commission’s version of the “inference method” of finding discriminatory intent is inconsistent with Wis. Stat. 111.322(1) because it excuses the employee from his burden of proving discriminatory intent. Employee argued that Employer intentionally discriminated against him when it terminated his employment because of his disability. LIRC agreed and concluded that Employer violated the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) LIRC’s version of the “inference method” impermissibly allows imposition of WFEA liability without proof of discriminatory intent, which is inconsistent with the requirements of section 11.322(1); and (2) the record lacked substantial evidence that Employer terminated Employee’s employment because of his disability. View "Wisconsin Bell, Inc. v. Labor & Industry Review Commission" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s determination that real estate broker Mark McNally was entitled to a commission pursuant to a listing contract between the parties. Capital Cartage, Inc. argued before the Supreme Court that McNally was not entitled to a commission because the offer to purchase McNally procured contained substantial variances from the seller’s terms as set forth in the listing contract. The Supreme Court held (1) Kleven v. Cities Service Oil Co., 126 N.W.2d 64, is the law with regard to determining whether a substantial variance exists between a listing contract and an offer to purchase; (2) applying this standard, in the context of the sale of a business with real estate where the sale did not go through, McNally did not procure an offer to purchase “at the price and on substantially the terms set forth” in the listing contract; and (3) therefore, McNally was not entitled to a commission. View "McNally v. Capital Cartage, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s declaration that the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) exceeded its authority under Wis. Stat. ch. 111 in promulgating Wis. Admin. Code chs. ERC 70 and 80 and the circuit court’s order that WERC hold certification elections for the Wisconsin Association of State Prosecutors (WASP) and the Service Employees International Union, Local 150 (SEIU). The Supreme Court reinstated WERC’s orders dismissing the Unions’ petitions for election as untimely, holding (1) WERC did not exceed its authority because it had express authority under Wis. Stat. ch. 111 to promulgate rules that require a demonstration of interest from labor organizations interested in representing collective bargaining units; and (2) WERC may decertify a current representative labor organization on September 15 or at the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, whichever occurs later, where there are no timely petitions for election filed because the statute requires WERC to conduct elections on or before December 1. View "Wisconsin Ass’n of State Prosecutors v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission" on Justia Law

by
Although Wis. Stat. 103.465 explicitly refers to a covenant not to compete, the plain meaning of the statute is not limited to covenant in which an employee agrees not to compete with a former employer. Plaintiff imposed a non-solicitation of employees provision as part of Defendant’s employment agreement. The provision prohibited Defendant from soliciting, inducing, or encouraging any employee of Plaintiff to terminate his or her employment or to accept employment with a competitor, supplier or customer of Plaintiff. Plaintiff claimed that Defendant engaged in actions that violated the non-solicitation of employees provision. The circuit court concluded that the provision was reasonable and enforceable under section 103.465. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s non-solicitation of employees provision was a restraint of trade governed by section 103.465 and was unenforceable under the statute because it did not meet the statutory requirement that the restriction be “reasonably necessary for the protection of the employer.” View "Manitowoc Co. v. Lanning" on Justia Law

by
An employee is not eligible for benefits under Wis. Stat. 102.42(1m) if the disability-causing treatment was directed at treating something other than the employee’s compensable injury. Plaintiff suffered from a soft-tissue strain, which was work-related, and a degenerate disc disease, which was not work-related. In the belief that it was necessary to treat her soft-tissue strain, Plaintiff underwent surgery, which, in actuality, was treating the unrelated degenerative disc disease. The procedure left Plaintiff with a permanent partial disability. Plaintiff filed a workers’ compensation claim, which the * Commission denied. The circuit court affirmed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that, based on its interpretation of section 102.42(1m), an employee need only have a good faith belief that the treatment was required. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and affirmed the Commission’s order dismissing Plaintiff’s claim for disability benefits, holding that Plaintiff’s claim must be allowed because her surgery treated her pre-existing condition, not her compensable injury. View "Flug v. Labor & Industry Review Commission" on Justia Law

by
The circuit court affirmed a determination by the Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC) that Appellant was ineligible for unemployment benefits because she was terminated for substantial fault. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant was entitled to unemployment compensation because her actions did not fit within the definition of substantial fault as set forth in Wis. Stat. 103.04(5g)(a) where she was terminated for committing “one or more inadvertent errors” during the course of her employment. Remanded to LIRC to determine the amount of unemployment benefits Appellant was owed. View "Operton v. Labor & Industry Review Commission" on Justia Law