Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the determination of the Industrial Commission that Plaintiff was not entitled to any compensation for permanent partial disability under N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-31. Plaintiff suffered a compensable accident and sustained injuries while he was walking at his job site. During the years after his work-related accident, Plaintiff continued to have neck pain. Plaintiff later sought permanent partial disability benefits. After a remand from the Supreme Court, the Commission entered an amended opinion and award denying benefits. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the Commission did not err in concluding that Plaintiff was not entitled to any compensation for permanent partial disability. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the Commission failed to carry out the court of appeals’ mandate that it make additional findings of fact and conclusions of law on the issue of Plaintiff’s entitlement to benefits under section 97-31. View "Harrison v. Gemma Power Systems, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the determination of the Industrial Commission that Plaintiff was not entitled to any compensation for permanent partial disability under N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-31. Plaintiff suffered a compensable accident and sustained injuries while he was walking at his job site. During the years after his work-related accident, Plaintiff continued to have neck pain. Plaintiff later sought permanent partial disability benefits. After a remand from the Supreme Court, the Commission entered an amended opinion and award denying benefits. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the Commission did not err in concluding that Plaintiff was not entitled to any compensation for permanent partial disability. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the Commission failed to carry out the court of appeals’ mandate that it make additional findings of fact and conclusions of law on the issue of Plaintiff’s entitlement to benefits under section 97-31. View "Harrison v. Gemma Power Systems, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was injured while working for Defendant. The North Carolina Industrial Commission accepted Plaintiff’s claim as compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act, and Defendant began paying Plaintiff compensation for temporary total disability. Plaintiff later filed a Form 33 requesting a medical motion hearing regarding his symptoms. The Commission concluded that Plaintiff failed to meet his burden of establishing that his anxiety and depression were a result of his work-related accident and that Plaintiff was not entitled to disability payments made after January 2011. The court of appeals (1) vacated and remanded in part, ruling that, on remand, the Commission should give Plaintiff the benefit of a presumption that his anxiety and depression were related to his injuries; and (2) reversed in part, ruling that Plaintiff had met his burden of establishing disability. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified and remanded for further proceedings, holding (1) Plaintiff was entitled a presumption of compensability in regard to his continued medical treatment; and (2) the Commission failed to address the effects of Plaintiff’s tinnitus in determining whether Plaintiff lost wage-earning capacity. View "Wilkes v. City of Greenville" on Justia Law

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After his employment with Scenera Research LLC ended, Robert Morris (Plaintiff) sued Scenera and its CEO (collectively, Defendants), alleging Defendants owed him $210,000 in bonuses and that he was fired in retaliation for threatening to bring a lawsuit. Defendants filed a counterclaim for a declaratory judgment that Scenera owned all inventions Plaintiff developed during his employment and that Plaintiff was not entitled to bonuses for patent applications filed or patents issued after a certain date. The trial court court granted Defendants’ motion for a directed verdict with respect to the issue of patent ownership. The jury then awarded patent bonuses under the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (WHA) and damages for violations of the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA). The trial court awarded attorneys’ fees and liquidated damages for patents that have already issued. The Court of Appeals largely affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the trial court properly submitted to the jury the issue of whether Plaintiff was entitled to issuance bonuses and properly denied Defendants’ motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict; (2) calculability of wages under the WHA is a question of fact to be submitted to the jury; (3) Plaintiff was not entitled to liquidated damages based on the WHA or treble damages based on REDA; and (4) Plaintiff may pursue rescission. View "Morris v. Scenera Research LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s employment as a deputy sheriff was terminated following the reelection of Defendant to the office of Sheriff of Mecklenburg County. Plaintiff filed suit alleging wrongful termination in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 153A-99 and N.C. Const. art. I, 14 and 36. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that Plaintiff could not establish a claim for wrongful termination in violation of section 153A-99 and that Plaintiff’s state constitutional claims lacked merit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff was not a county employee as defined in section 153A-99, and therefore, Plaintiff was not entitled to the protections provided in that statute; and (2) Defendant’s actions did not violate Plaintiff’s right to freedom of speech. View "Young v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a trooper, was dismissed from the State Highway Patrol for allegedly violating the Patrol’s truthfulness policy. The State Personnel Commission (SPC) concluded that Petitioner’s dismissal was supported by just cause. The superior court reversed, determining that Petitioner’s conduct did not provide just cause for dismissal and that the decision to dismiss Petitioner was arbitrary and capricious. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) the official who dismissed Petitioner proceeded under a misapprehension of the law that he had no discretion over the range of discipline he could administer; and (2) as such, by upholding the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety’s use of a per se rule of mandatory dismissal for all violations of a particular policy, the SPC failed to examine the facts and circumstances of Petitioner’s individual case as required by the state’s jurisprudence. Remanded for a decision by the employing agency as to whether Petitioner should be dismissed based upon the facts of this case and without the application of a per se rule. View "Wetherington v. N.C. Dep't of Pub. Safety" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a resident of Georgia, entered into an employment contract with Employer. Plaintiff was in South Carolina when he signed the offer letter. Plaintiff later transferred to Employer's Charlotte, North Carolina division, but Plaintiff never had a route that involved any deliveries in North Carolina during his employment with Employer. After Plaintiff received a work-related injury, Plaintiff began receiving disability and medical compensation according to Georgia law. Plaintiff later filed a claim for benefits with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. The Commission concluded that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claim. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiff’s transfer to Employer’s Charlotte division involved a modification of Plaintiff’s employment contract, and that the modification was a proper basis to find the contract was “made” within North Carolina for purposes of establishing the Commission’s jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-36, which authorizes compensation pursuant to North Carolina law if an individual’s employment contract was “made” in North Carolina, does not apply to a contract initially made in another state and subsequently modified in North Carolina. View "Burley v. U.S. Foods, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff injured his shoulder while working for Employer. Plaintiff was terminated later that year for “reduction of staff due to lack of work.” Employer accepted Plaintiff’s injury as compensable. In January 2009, Plaintiff began to receive unemployment benefits from Employer and Insurer (together, Defendants). In December 2010, Defendants sought to terminate payment of compensation, alleging that Plaintiff could no longer show he was disabled. The Industrial Commission concluded that Plaintiff was not entitled to disability payments made after December 2010 and that Defendants were entitled to a credit for any payments they had made after that date, finding that Plaintiff’s inability to find work was not due to his injury but to large-scale economic factors. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission properly concluded that Plaintiff failed to prove that his inability to earn the same wages as before his injury resulted from his work-related injury. View "Medlin v. Weaver Cooke Constr., LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff suffered a compensable injury while working for Defendant. Since Plaintiff's injury, his wife (Wife) attended to his needs. The North Carolina Industrial Commission later determined that Plaintiff required attendant care services, which Wife provided. Plaintiff and Defendant disagreed whether Wife should be compensated for the attendant care she provided Plaintiff before the Commission approved her rendering that service. The Commission concluded that Wife's attendant care services were medical compensation for which Defendant was responsible and further compensated Wife for the attendant care services previously provided. The court of appeals reversed in part the opinion and award entered by the Commission that provided retroactive compensation for Wife's attendant care services to her husband. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals on that issue because the court relied on a provision of the Commission's medical fee schedule that was not authorized by the legislature. Remanded. View "Mehaffey v. Burger King" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a secretary and office assistant at a middle school, was sprayed when a fire extinguisher Defendant was handling was abruptly discharged. Defendant was the principal of the school. Plaintiff sued Defendant, alleging gross negligence and loss of consortium on the part of her husband. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant willfully and wantonly engaged in reckless behavior when he was playing with the fire extinguisher, causing it to spray her, and that the spraying aggravated a preexisting medical condition. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, contending that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act provided the exclusive remedy for Plaintiff's claim, as well as a summary judgment motion. The trial court denied both motions. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiff and Defendant were co-employees, allowing Plaintiff to sue Defendant personally under the exception to the Workers' Compensation Act's exclusivity provision established in Pleasant v. Johnson; but (2) Plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to survive Defendant's motion for summary judgment. View "Trivette v. Yount" on Justia Law