Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Plaintiffs, former Starbucks baristas, sued the company claiming it improperly calculated state and federal tax withholding, and as a result, improperly deducted those withholdings from plaintiffs’ paychecks. As a result, plaintiffs claimed they were not paid the full wages they had earned, violating state wage-and-hour laws. After the case was removed to federal court and then remanded back to state court, the trial court ruled on numerous issues. Starbucks moved the trial court to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims. Starbucks petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for an alternative writ of mandamus, raising questions of whether plaintiffs’ claims were prohibited by the AIA, and whether they were prohibited by the statutory immunity provisions. The trial court issued an alternative writ of mandamus. After the trial court declined to vacate its order, the matter returned to the Supreme Court. To determine whether direct appeal provided Starbucks with an adequate remedy, the Supreme Court would have had to resolve numerous complex issues of both state and federal law, not all of which had been briefed adequately. The Court therefore dismissed the alternative writ of mandamus as improvidently allowed, and remanded the case for further development of the record. View "Fredrickson v. Starbucks Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jeff Gist worked as a driver for defendant Driver Resources, LLC. The other two defendants were related companies. In November 2013, plaintiff filed a class-action complaint against defendants, on behalf of himself and other similarly situated drivers. At issue was defendants’ compliance with Oregon’s wage and hour laws. In January 2014, defendants filed a petition to compel arbitration, on the basis of an agreement that plaintiff had signed with one defendant. Plaintiff responded to the petition by arguing that the agreement was unconscionable, and therefore that arbitration should not be compelled. The trial court granted defendants’ petition, requiring plaintiff to proceed to arbitration. Plaintiff made several attempts to obtain appellate review of the trial court’s order compelling arbitration. This case required the Oregon Supreme Court to determine whether the Court of Appeals correctly dismissed plaintiff’s appeal of a judgment dismissing his complaint with prejudice on the grounds that the appeal was barred by the Supreme Court’s decision in Steenson v. Robinson, 385 P2d 738 (1963). That decision set out the common-law rule that a party may not appeal from a voluntarily-requested judgment. The Court concluded the judgment was appealable and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals. View "Gist v. Zoan Management, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Oregon Supreme Court previously denied employer Shearer's Foods' petition for review in this workers’ compensation case, but addressed claimant William Hoffnagle's petition for an award of attorney fees for time that his counsel spent in response to employer’s unsuccessful petition for review. Employer objected that the Supreme Court lacked authority to award fees and also objects to the amount of requested fee. Although the Supreme Court often resolved attorney fee petitions by order rather than written opinion, employer’s objection to the Supreme Court's authority to award fees presented a legal issue that was appropriately resolved by opinion. Employer insisted the Oregon legislature had not authorized an award of fees for work that a claimant’s attorney performs in response to an unsuccessful petition for review; employer did not dispute that, after a series of amendments, ORS 656.386 specified a claimant who prevails against a denial was entitled to an award of attorney fees for work performed at every other stage of the case, including in the Supreme Court, if the Supreme Court addressed the merits of the case. "Employer offers no reason why the legislature would have intentionally created that one carve-out to what is otherwise a comprehensive authorization of fees when a claimant relies on counsel to finally prevail against the denial of a claim. Indeed, such a carve- out would be incompatible with what we have described as 'a broad statement of a legislative policy' reflected in ORS 656.386, 'that prevailing claimants’ attorneys shall receive reasonable compensation for their representation.'" The petition for attorney fees was allowed. Claimant was awarded $2,200 as attorney fees on review. View "Shearer's Foods v. Hoffnagle" on Justia Law

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Petitioner ACN Opportunity, LLC (ACN) sold satellite television, telephone, internet, and home security services, as well as some goods related to those services, through a network of direct-to-consumer sellers that it calls “independent business owners” (IBOs). The Employment Department determined that ACN was an employer and thus was required to pay unemployment insurance tax on earnings that ACN paid to the IBOs for their sales work. An administrative law judge (ALJ) affirmed that determination, concluding that the IBOs did not fall within the exemption from employment under ORS 657.087(2) and were not independent contractors under ORS 670.600. ACN appealed the department’s final order, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Oregon Supreme Court accepted review of this case primarily to address the statutory interpretation questions that this case presented. First, the Court concluded the IBOs did not qualify as independent contractors, because ACN failed to establish that the IBOs were customarily engaged in an independently established business. In reaching that conclusion, (1) the Court construed “maintains a business location” in ORS 670.600(3)(a) as the Court of Appeals did, and (2) the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that the IBOs lacked the required authority to hire others to provide services, as provided in ORS 670.600(3)(e). Finally, the Supreme Court rejected ACN’s reading of the in-home sales exemption from employment in ORS 657.087(2) and concluded the IBOs do not fall within that exemption. As a result, the Court of Appeals’ decision and the final order of the ALJ were affirmed. View "ACN Opportunity, LLC v. Employment Dept." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District (TriMet), sought a declaration that planned, future collective bargaining sessions between TriMet’s bargaining team and the bargaining team for defendant Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 (ATU) would not be “meetings” subject to the open meetings requirements of Oregon’s Public Meetings Law, ORS 192.610 to ORS 192.695. ATU opposed the declaration, and the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The trial court agreed with TriMet and granted its motion, but the Court of Appeals vacated and remanded, reasoning that, even if the bargaining sessions were not “meetings” as that term was defined in the Public Meetings Law, ORS 192.610(5), when the TriMet team participates in the sessions, it may be subject to the prohibition in ORS 192.630(2) that, generally: “A quorum of a governing body may not meet in private for the purpose of deciding on or deliberating toward a decision on any matter[.]” The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals’ construction of that statute was correct, and TriMet failed to establish, on this summary judgment record, that no “quorum” of the TriMet team would “meet” during the negotiations; thus, TriMet failed to establish as a matter of law that the bargaining sessions at issue will not be subject to ORS 192.630(2). Finally, the Supreme Court rejected ATU’s proposal that another provision of the Public Meetings Law, ORS 192.660(3), required that all bargaining sessions of a public body be conducted in an “open meeting” unless both parties consent to private meetings. View "TriMet v. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Oregon Supreme Court in this matter was whether the Court of Appeals correctly construed the scope of ORS 656.019 in a case arising out of plaintiff’s attempt to allege civil negligence claims against his employer, defendant NuStar GP, LLC, for harm arising out of plaintiff’s exposure to gasoline vapors at work. The trial court denied plaintiff Danny Bundy’s motion to amend his complaint to allege those claims after concluding that the claims were barred by the so-called “exclusive remedy” provision of the Workers’ Compensation Law, ORS 656.018, a provision that generally immunizes employers from civil liability for injuries to a worker arising out of the worker’s employment. Plaintiff argued his negligence claims were not barred because they were allowed by ORS 656.019, a statute that governed negligence actions for an injury “that has been determined to be not compensable [under the Workers’ Compensation Law] because the worker has failed to establish that a work-related incident was the major contributing cause of the worker’s injury.” Although plaintiff alleged that he suffered from medical conditions that were determined to be “not compensable” under that major contributing cause standard, the trial court and Court of Appeals concluded that ORS 656.019 did not apply to plaintiff’s negligence action because the conditions on which plaintiff relied were denied after defendant accepted a compensable workers’ compensation claim for plaintiff’s initial condition arising out of the same workplace incident. The Oregon Supreme Court expressly reserved the comprehensive statutory analysis needed to resolve whether the legislature intended ORS 656.019 to function as a substantive exception to the exclusive remedy provision, and resolved only the single issue of statutory construction that was raised by the petition for review and argued by the parties. Because the parties assumed that ORS 656.019 would allow plaintiff to file his Fourth Amended Complaint if the statute applied to plaintiff’s negligence claims, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of plaintiff’s motion to amend. “That limited holding is not intended to preclude these or future parties from properly presenting an argument that the legislature did not intend ORS 656.019 to function as a substantive exception to the exclusive remedy provision.” The decision of the Court of Appeals and the circuit court was reversed, and the case was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Bundy v. NuStar GP, LLC" on Justia Law

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Delta Logistics, Inc. was a "for-hire carrier" licensed by the federal government to transport goods interstate. Delta did not own any trucks; rather, it leased trucks from owner-operators, who operated, furnished, and maintained the trucks. The Oregon Employment Department assessed Delta unemployment insurance taxes on the funds that Delta paid the owner-operators, on grounds the owner-operators did not come within the exemption in ORS 657.047(1)(b) because the leases that the owner-operators entered into with Delta were not "leases" within the meaning of the statute: to come within the exemption, the owner must be the only person operating the truck. An administrative law judge (ALJ) agreed and issued a final order upholding the assessment. Delta appealed. The Court of Appeals was not persuaded by the Department's arguments and overturned the ALJ's decision, finding ORS 657.047(2) made clear that the exemption included owners who hire employees to help operate their trucks. Considering the text, context, and legislative history of ORS 657.047(1)(b), the Oregon Supreme Court did not agree with the department that Delta owed unemployment taxes on owner-operators who hired employees to help them operate the motor-vehicles they leased to Delta. The Court of Appeals was affirmed that the final of the ALJ was reversed. View "Delta Logistics, Inc. v. Employment Dept. Tax Section" on Justia Law

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The issue in this case is whether the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (county) complied with the requirements of ORS 408.230(2)(c) to “devise and apply methods” of giving veterans and disabled veterans “special consideration” in the hiring process, or as here, when it failed to promote a disabled veteran. The Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) concluded that the county did fail to comply with the statute, as well as administrative rules that implement it. BOLI ordered the county to comply with the law, to train its staff, and to pay the disabled veteran $50,000 in damages for his emotional distress. The county appealed, but the Oregon Supreme Court concluded BOLI correctly construed ORS 408.230(2)(c) and that, given the unchallenged findings in the agency’s final order, there was no basis for the county’s contention that BOLI erred in finding a violation of that statute. With regard to BOLI’s authority to award damages for emotional distress, the county failed to preserve that argument. The Court therefore affirmed the Court of Appeals and the final order of BOLI. View "Multnomah County Sheriff's Office v. Edwards" on Justia Law

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The issue in this workers’ compensation case was whether claimant was entitled to benefits for his “combined condition” claim. Claimant filed- and his employer’s insurer, SAIF Corporation, initially accepted-a claim for a lumbar strain combined with preexisting lumbar disc disease and related conditions. SAIF later denied the combined condition claim on the ground that the lumbar strain had ceased to be the major contributing cause of the combined condition. Claimant objected. He did not contest that his lumbar strain had ceased to be the major contributing cause of his combined condition. Instead, he argued that the otherwise compensable injury was not limited to the lumbar strain that SAIF had accepted as part of his combined condition claim. In claimant’s view, an “otherwise compensable injury” within the meaning of ORS 656.005(7)(a)(B) referred not just to the condition that SAIF accepted, but also includes any other conditions not accepted that might have resulted from the same work-related accident that caused the lumbar strain, and that larger group of work-related conditions continued to be the major contributing cause of his combined condition. As a result, claimant contended that an employer could not close a combined condition claim if any of those non accepted conditions remained the major cause of the combined condition claim. The Workers’ Compensation Board rejected claimant’s argument and upheld SAIF’s denial of claimant’s combined condition claim, concluding that existing precedent defined the “otherwise compensable injury” component of combined conditions to consist of the condition or conditions that the employer has accepted as compensable. The Court of Appeals reversed, acknowledging that its holding was “potentially at odds” with existing precedents from both that court and the Oregon Supreme Court. It nevertheless concluded that those precedents were either distinguishable or should be reconsidered. The Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeals erred and that the Workers’ Compensation Board was correct. View "Brown v. SAIF Corp." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the City of Lebanon (city) committed an unfair labor practice under Oregon’s Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA) when one of its council members, Campbell, wrote a letter to a local newspaper disparaging labor unions in general and calling for city employees to decertify their existing union. The Employment Relations Board (ERB or board) concluded that the city had engaged in an unfair labor practice based on Campbell’s conduct. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the city was not liable because Campbell had not acted as a “public employer or its designated representative” within the meaning of PECBA. The Supreme Court disagreed, reversed and remanded the matter back to the ERB for further proceedings. View "AFSCME Council 75 v. City of Lebanon" on Justia Law