Justia Wisconsin Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Plaintiffs in this case filed an amended complaint seeking a declaration that certain portions of 2011 Wis. Acts 10 and 32 violated the Wisconsin Constitution and asking for injunctive relief. The circuit court entered a declaratory judgment that granted partial summary judgment to Plaintiffs. During the pendency of the appeal, the circuit court held Defendant Commissioners in contempt. Thereafter, State Defendants brought an emergency motion to stay the contempt order, which the court of appeals denied. State Defendants subsequently petitioned the Supreme Court to stay the declaratory judgment and any subsequent circuit court orders. The Supreme Court (1) vacated the contempt order, which rendered State Defendants' motion to stay the contempt order moot, holding that the contempt order constituted an impermissible interference with the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court; and (2) declined to rule on the stay of the declaratory judgment. View "Madison Teachers, Inc. v. Walker" on Justia Law

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After receiving a work-related injury during his employment by Employer, Employee applied for worker's compensation benefits. An ALJ ordered that further medical procedures were required to determine whether Employee was permanently and totally disabled, but the Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC) proceeded to award benefits to Employee for his permanent total disability. Employer filed a complaint seeking judicial review of LIRC's decision. The circuit court affirmed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the circuit court was required to dismiss Employer's complaint for lack of competency based on Employer's failure to name its insurer (Insurer) as an "adverse party" pursuant to Wis. Stat. 102.23(1)(a). The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with instructions to affirm LIRC's decision, holding (1) the circuit court had competency to adjudicate Employer's complaint notwithstanding Employer's omission of Insurer because Insurer was not an "adverse party" for purposes of section 102.23(1)(a); and (2) LIRC did not exceed its authority in awarding Employee permanent total disability benefits, and its finding that Employee was entitled to benefits on an odd-lot basis was supported by credible and substantial evidence. View "Xcel Energy Servs., Inc. v. Labor & Ind. Review Comm'n " on Justia Law

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Petitioners commenced this action against Defendants - a voluntary firefighter (Firefighter), the fire department of which Firefighter was a member, and their insurers - alleging that Firefighter negligently caused their injuries when he drove his vehicle through a red stop signal and collided in the intersection with a vehicle carrying Petitioners. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that Firefighter was subject to public officer immunity and that his acts did not fall within the ministerial duty exception to that immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because Firefighter was within the scope of his employment when the collision occurred, he was within the class of individuals that may be shielded by public officer immunity; but (2) Firefighter was not entitled to that immunity because his acts in proceeding through the red stop signal without an audible signal violated a ministerial duty. Remanded. View "Brown v. Acuity, A Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint against St. Patrick Congregation, alleging that her employment was terminated for an improper reason. The circuit court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint, concluding that because St. Patrick was a religious institution and Plaintiff was a ministerial employee, Plaintiff's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a court may not review whether St. Patrick improperly terminated its ministerial employee because St. Patrick's choice of who shall serve as its ministerial employee is a matter of church governance protected from state interference by the First Amendment and by Wis. Const. art. I, 18; and (2) accordingly, Plaintiff's complaint failed to state a claim upon which a court may grant relief. View "DeBruin v. St. Patrick Congregation" on Justia Law

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This case concerned a circuit court's order to transfer to a tribal court a civil suit that was brought against a tribally owned entity by a nonmember of the tribe. The question before the Supreme Court was whether the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion when it transferred the action to tribal court. At issue was the interpretation and application of Wis. Stat. 801.54, which authorizes the circuit court, in its discretion, to transfer an action to the tribal court and sets forth the conditions for doing so. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the facts and the applicable law were not fully stated and considered together in making the determinations that the statute requires, the order to transfer was an erroneous exercise of the circuit court's discretion. Remanded. View "Kroner v. Oneida Seven Generations Corp." on Justia Law

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Employee filed state discrimination claims against Employer. Employee first filed her claims with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which dismissed her claims. In the meantime, Employee filed a civil action in the U.S. district court. Employer moved for summary judgment, claiming that Employee's charge was time-barred because it was received by the EEOC more than 300 days after her demotion. Employee argued that the intake questionnaire she submitted to the EEOC constituted a valid charge and was within the 300-day statutory time period. The U.S. district court granted summary judgment for Employer. Employee's claims later went to the Equal Rights Division (ERD) of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, which found concluded that Employee's claims had merit. An ALJ dismissed the proceeding on the basis of claim preclusion. The Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC) affirmed. On remand, the ALJ again dismissed, concluding (1) Employee's claims were untimely, and (2) the doctrine of issue preclusion prevented Employee from relitigating the issue of when her charge was filed with the EEOC. LIRC affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that applying the doctrine of issue preclusion in this case did not comport with principles of fundamental fairness. Remanded. View "Aldrich v. Labor & Ind. Review Comm'n" on Justia Law

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After Employee suffered a work-related injury and was terminated by Employer due to Employer's inability to accommodate his physical restrictions, Employee filed a worker's compensation claim for permanent and total disability. The Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC) determined that Employee was permanently and totally disabled as a result of his work injury. LIRC made this determination after denying Employer's last-minute request to cross-examine or make further inquires of Dr. Jerome Ebert, an independent physician appointed by the Department of Workforce Development to examine Schaefer and report on the cause of his disability. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Employer did not have a statutory right to cross-examine Dr. Ebert, (2) LIRC did not violate Employer's due process rights when it declined to remand for cross-examination, and (3) LIRC did not erroneously exercise its discretion by declining to remand for a third time to allow Dr. Ebert to be questioned further. View "Aurora Consol. Health Care v. Labor & Indus. Review Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Employee was employed by Employer as a driver. Due to lack of work, Employee was laid off indefinitely. Three months later, Employer recalled Employee. Employee was required to submit to a pre-employment drug test, to which he tested positive. Subsequently, Employer discharged Employee. The Labor and Industry Review Commission determined that Employee was eligible for unemployment benefits after rejecting Employer's argument that Employee was discharged for misconduct connected with his work under Wis. Stat. 108.04(5). The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court granted review but dismissed it as improvidently granted, concluding that a decision by the Court in the instant case would not develop or clarify the law, as a Wis. Stat. 108.04(8)(b), enacted while the case was proceeding, clarified that an employee is ineligible for benefits if the employer withdraws or fails to extend an offer of work due to a positive test result for illegal drugs. View "Michael J. Waldvogel Trucking, LLC v. State Labor & Indus. Review Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Charles Swenson sustained a work-related injury while working as a driver for deBoer Transportion. Upon returning to work, Swenson completed the company's orientation requirements with the exception a check-ride, which required him to be away from his terminally ill father. DeBoer then discharged Swenson. Swenson sought benefits under Wis. Stat. 102.35(3), alleging that deBoer unreasonably refused to rehire him. Following a hearing, the ALJ for the Department of Workforce Development concluded deBoer unreasonably refused to rehire Swenson and was, therefore, liable to Swenson for a year of lost wages. DeBoer appealed to the Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC), which concurred with the order of the ALJ and concluded that deBoer failed to show reasonable cause for its refusal to rehire Swenson. On review, the circuit court affirmed, and the court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals, holding that (1) in reaching its conclusion that deBoer failed to show reasonable cause, LIRC applied an unreasonable interpretation of Wis. Stat. 102.35(3), and (2) LIRC's conclusion that deBoer failed to show reasonable cause based on LIRC's finding that the check-ride policy was pretext was not supported by credible and substantial evidence. Remanded. View "DeBoer Transp., Inc. v. Swenson" on Justia Law