Justia Wisconsin Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Operton v. Labor & Industry Review Commission
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
Milwaukee Police Ass’n v. City of Milwaukee
Since 1938, the City of Milwaukee has required its city employees to comply with a residency requirement. The residency requirement is set forth in section 5-02 of the City’s charter. In 2013, the Legislature enacted Wis. Stat. 66.0502, which bans residency requirements. Despite enactment of the statute, the City continued to enforce its residency requirement, claiming it had the authority to do so under the state Constitution’s home rule amendment. The Milwaukee Police Association sought relief and damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that the City can no longer enforce its residency requirement because section 66.0502 trumps section 5-02 of the City’s charter. With respect to Association’s section 1983 claim, the court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s decision not to award relief or damages, concluding that because section 66.0502 did not involve a matter of statewide concern and did not affect all local government units uniformly, it did not trump the City’s ordinance. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) section 66.0502 precludes the City from enforcing its residency requirement; and (2) the Police Association is not entitled to relief or damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983 because the Association failed to meet the requirements necessary to prevail on a section 1983 claim. View "Milwaukee Police Ass’n v. City of Milwaukee" on Justia Law
United Food & Commercial Workers Union v. Hormel Foods Corp.
United Foods & Commercial Workers Union, Local 1473 filed a class action against Hormel Foods Corporation alleging that Hormel violated Wisconsin wage and hour laws by failing to pay employees for time spent putting on and taking off company-required clothing and equipment before and after shifts at one of Hormel’s canning plants. The circuit court ruled in favor of the Union, ordered Hormel to compensate its employees for time spent “donning” and “doffing” the required clothing and equipment, and awarded the class monetary damages of $195,087. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Hormel is required to compensate its employees for the 5.7 minutes per day spent donning and doffing the clothing and equipment at the beginning and end of the day; and (2) the required donning and doffing of clothing and equipment at the beginning and end of the day does not fall within the doctrine of de minimis non curat lex, as the wages involved are not a “trifle” either for the employees or Hormel. View "United Food & Commercial Workers Union v. Hormel Foods Corp." on Justia Law
State Dep’t of Justice v. State Dep’t of Workforce Dev.
The Equal Rights Division of the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) concluded that Joell Schigur had proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the Department of Justice (DOJ) took unlawful retaliatory action against her because she lawfully disclosed, or the DOJ believed that she lawfully disclosed, information under Wis. Stat. 230.81. The circuit court reversed the decision of the DWD. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an opinion alone, as to the lawfulness or appropriateness of government activity, is not “information” as defined in section 230.80(5); (2) the communication at issue in this case was not a “disclosure” under section 230.81 because the information was already known to the persons receiving the communication; and (3) Schigur’s assertion that the DOJ believed that she disclosed information rested on a misinterpretation of section 230.80(8)(c) and therefore failed. View "State Dep’t of Justice v. State Dep’t of Workforce Dev." on Justia Law
Aguilar v. Husco Int’l, Inc.
After exhausting their administrative remedies, Plaintiffs, six employees of Husco International, Inc., brought this wage claim case behalf of themselves and others similarly situated seeking back pay for unpaid twenty-minute meal breaks taken during the two-year period preceding the filing of their complaint. The union had previously agreed to unpaid meal breaks in every collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiated since 1983 at the company’s Waukesha plant. This provision, however, was in conflict with a Department of Workforce Development (DWD) regulation that requires employers to pay employees for meal breaks that are shorter than thirty minutes. The practice was later ended. The circuit court denied both parties’ summary judgment motions. The court of appeals granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs, reasoning that the CBA could not trump the DWD meal-break regulation. The Supreme court reversed, holding that the employees were not entitled, under the DWD regulation, to back pay for the unpaid meal breaks in this case. View "Aguilar v. Husco Int’l, Inc." on Justia Law
Wis. Fed’n of Nurses and Health Prof’ls v. Milwaukee County
A Milwaukee County General Ordinance prospectively eliminated Medicare Part B premium reimbursement upon retirement for employees who did not retire before retirement dates established by Milwaukee County. Plaintiffs were of retirement age, had fifteen years of credited service to the County, but did not retire by the dates established in the ordinance. Plaintiffs claimed that the ordinance impaired their vested contract right to reimbursement of Medicare Part B premiums when they retire. The court of appeals granted summary judgment to Milwaukee County. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the County did not abrogate a vested contract right when it prospectively modified a health insurance benefit it offered for employees who had not yet retired; (2) County employees have a vested contract right to Medicare Part B premium reimbursement when they fulfill all three criteria for its payment, including actual retirement; and (3) because Plaintiffs did not meet all three criteria in this case, they did not fulfill the requirements necessary to establish a vested contract right to reimbursement. View "Wis. Fed’n of Nurses and Health Prof’ls v. Milwaukee County" on Justia Law
Suzanne Stoker v. Milwaukee County
Milwaukee County calculates pension payments for its retired employees by multiplying a retiree’s final average salary by a certain percentage known as a multiplier. The resulting number is then multiplied by the retiree’s total years of county service. Suzanne Stoker and her labor union filed a complaint against the County and the Milwaukee County Pension Board, arguing that an ordinance passed by the County in 2011 that reduced the multiplier for all county service performed on or after the effective date of the ordinance was a breach of contract because she had a vested right to have the former, higher multiplier apply to her post-2011 county service and because she did not personally consent to the reduction. The circuit court granted summary judgment and declaratory and injunctive relief to Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the County did not breach Stoker’s contractual right to retirement system benefits earned and vested when it amended the pension multiplier, and the County did have the ability to make the reductions of the multiplier without Stoker’s personal consent. Remanded. View "Suzanne Stoker v. Milwaukee County" on Justia Law
Madison Teachers, Inc. v. Walker
Madison Teachers, Inc. and Public Employees Local 61 sued Governor Walker and three commissioners of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission challenging several provisions of Act 10, a budget repair bill that significantly altered Wisconsin’s public employee labor laws. Plaintiffs (1) alleged that certain aspects of Act 10 violate the constitutional associational and equal protection rights of the employees they represent; and (2) challenged Wis. Stat. 62.623, a separate provision created by Act 10, as a violation of the home rule amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution, and argued, in the alternative, that section 62.623 violates the constitutionally protected right of parties to contract with each other. The circuit court invalidated several provisions of Act 10, including the collective bargaining limitations, annual recertification requirements, and the prohibitions of fair share agreements and on payroll deductions of labor organization dues. The Supreme Court reversed and upheld Act 10 in its entirety, holding (1) Plaintiffs’ associational rights argument is without merit; (2) Act 10 survives Plainiffs’ equal protection challenge under rational basis review; (3) Plaintiffs’ home rule amendment argument fails because section 62.623 primarily concerns a matter of statewide concern; and (4) Plaintiffs’ Contract Clause claim fails. View "Madison Teachers, Inc. v. Walker" on Justia Law
Adams v. Northland Equip. Co., Inc.
Russell Adams sustained injuries while plowing snow for his employer, the Village of Fontana. Adams sued Northland Equipment Company, which had repaired the plow before the accident, and its insurer, pursuant to Wis. Stat. 102.29(1). The Village’s worker’s compensation insurer accepted Northland’s offer to settle Adams’ claim and moved the circuit court to compel Adams to accept the settlement as well. The circuit court granted the motion. Adams appealed, arguing that a worker’s compensation insurer cannot compel an employee to accept settlement of a third party tort claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a circuit court may compel an employee to accept settlement of the claim the legislature created in Wis. Stat. 102.29(1); and (2) the circuit court’s authority to compel an employee to accept settlement does not violate the employee’s right to a jury trial or procedural due process. View "Adams v. Northland Equip. Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Masri v. State Labor & Indus. Review Comm’n
At issue in this case was whether unpaid interns are entitled to the anti-retaliation protections of Wis. Stat. 146.997, Wisconsin’s health care worker protection statute. In the instant case, Asma Masri’s position as an uncompensated intern at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) was terminated after Masri reported “clinical/ethical” concerns to an MCW administrator. Masri filed a retaliation complaint against MCW with the Equal Rights Division (ERD) of the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). ERD determined that Masri was not entitled to anti-retaliation protection under section 146.997 because the statute is limited to employees, and Masri was not an employee where she received no financial compensation. The Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC) affirmed. Granting due weight deference to LIRC’s decision, the circuit court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) LIRC’s decision is accorded due weight deference because LIRC has experience interpreting the meaning of “employee” and various statutes and is charged with administering section 146.997; and (2) LIRC correctly found that section 146.997 applies only to employees, a category that does not include interns who do not receive compensation or tangible benefits. View "Masri v. State Labor & Indus. Review Comm’n" on Justia Law