Justia Iowa Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Konchar v. Pins
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment to Defendants as to some of Plaintiff's claims and the judgment entered on the defense verdicts on Plaintiff's remaining defamation claims, holding that Plaintiff had not shown grounds for reversal.Plaintiff, the former principal at St. Joseph's Catholic School, brought this action against Father Josephs Pins, St. Joseph's Church, and the Diocese of Des Moines after her employment was terminated, alleging fraud and defamation by all defendants and breach of contract against Father Pins. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants as to Plaintiff's fraud, breach of contract, and defamation claims, and then a jury returned defense verdicts on the remaining defamation claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to reversal on his allegations of error. View "Konchar v. Pins" on Justia Law
Posted in: Contracts, Labor & Employment Law, Personal Injury
Green v. North Central Iowa Regional Solid Waste Authority
The Supreme Court affirmed the rulings of the district court and court of appeals that the workers' compensation commissioner erred in granting Employer's motion for summary judgment and dismissing Employee's review-reopening petition, holding that Employee was permitted to pursue a claim for a permanent injury in a review-reopening proceeding despite an earlier adjudication that her injury was not permanent.Employee was injured during the course and work of her employment. Employee filed a petition seeking workers' compensation for a permanent disability, but the deputy commissioner refused to order additional benefits beyond those that Employer had already paid. Employee filed a petition for review-reopening with the workers' compensation commission. The commission determined that Employee's claim for permanent disability benefits was barred by principles of res judicata. The district court reversed, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the agency erred in dismissing Employer's review-reopening petition. View "Green v. North Central Iowa Regional Solid Waste Authority" on Justia Law
Blasdell v. Linnhaven, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court reversing the decision of the workers' compensation commissioner denying the claim filed by the husband of a deceased employee for burial expenses and death benefits as the surviving spouse, holding that the district court did not err.Approximately two and a half years into her marriage Wife left her marital home with Husband, accepted a job in a different city, and moved in with a family friend. Husband and Wife never divorced. Wife was subsequently permanently and totally disabled as a result of a work injury and was awarded workers' compensation benefits. Four years later, Wife died from an overdose. Husband filed a claim for burial expenses and death benefits as the surviving spouse. Employer/Insurer denied the claim. The commissioner upheld the denial, concluding that Husband had willfully deserted Wife without any fault by her and thus was not entitled to benefits under Iowa Code 85.42(1)(a). The district court reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was not substantial evidence to support the commissioner's finding that Husband deserted Wife without fault by her under section 85.42(1)(a). View "Blasdell v. Linnhaven, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Labor & Employment Law, Personal Injury
Dornath v. Employment Appeal Bd.
The Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the district court and employment appeal board affirming the decision of the department of workforce development denying Appellant's claim for unemployment benefits, holding that Appellant's claims on appeal were unavailing.Appellant, an apprentice electrician, attended a week-long training as part of his apprenticeship curriculum, and his employer didn't pay him for that week. Appellant filed a claim for unemployment benefits under Iowa Code 96.4(3), arguing that he met the statute's criteria that he be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking work. The department of workforce development denied the claim, and the employment appeal board and district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the board's decision that Appellant had not established his eligibility for benefits was not an erroneous interpretation of the law, unsupported by substantial evidence in the record, or an abuse of the board's discretion. View "Dornath v. Employment Appeal Bd." on Justia Law
Feeback v. Swift Pork Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Defendants for wrongful termination, workplace harassment, and age discrimination, holding that the district court properly granted summary judgment on all claims.Plaintiff, an at-will employee, was promptly fired after he texted his plant manager "FUCK You!" and "Believe who and what you want" following the manager's criticism of his job performance. In response to Plaintiff's complaint, Defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff was lawfully fired for insubordination. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court modified the McDonnell-Douglas burden-shifting framework for summary judgment on discrimination claims under the Iowa Civil Rights Act to align with the causation standard at trial and adopted and applied the good-faith "honest believe rule" to affirm Defendant's decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment for insubordination. View "Feeback v. Swift Pork Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Rights, Labor & Employment Law
Copeland v. State
The Supreme Court held that Iowa Code 35C.8, an exception to the veterans preference statute that applies to veterans who "hold a strictly confidential relation to the appointing officer" does not apply unless the veteran had a direct reporting relationship with the appointing officer.At issue before the Supreme Court was whether to read the exception to apply to veterans who have no direct relationship with "the appointing officer" or to read it more narrowly, as it did in Ervin v. Triplett, to not apply to veterans who worked in jobs that require "skill, judgment, trust, and confidence." 18 N.W.2d 599, 602 (Iowa 1945). The Supreme Court held that Ervin's narrow reading was the better approach, thus preventing the exception from "swallowing" the veterans preference by largely confining it to jobs that require "no discretion or responsibility." The Court thus vacated the decision of the court of appeals and reversed the district court's denial of a petition for writ of certiorari, holding that the district court erred in finding that the exception applied to Petitioner, who did not report to the "appointing officer." View "Copeland v. State" on Justia Law
Posted in: Labor & Employment Law
City of Ames v. Iowa Public Employment Relations Bd.
The Supreme Court held that the Iowa Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) and the district court misinterpreted Iowa Code 20.32 by extending broader bargaining rights to nontransit employees in the same bargaining unit as public transit employees, holding that the plain meaning of the statute protects only transit employees, not nontransit employees in the same bargaining unit.The City of Ames sought guidance as to whether section 20.32 requires broader bargaining rights for nontransit employees in the same bargaining unit. PERB concluded that broader bargaining rights must be extended under the statute to nontransit employees in a bargaining unit consisting of at least thirty percent transit employees, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the City was not required to provide broader bargaining rights to nontransit employees, regardless of the percentage of transit employees in the bargaining unit. View "City of Ames v. Iowa Public Employment Relations Bd." on Justia Law
Tripp v. Scott Emergency Communication Center
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court affirming the decision of the workers' compensation commissioner denying Petitioner's petition for benefits for trauma-induced mental injuries she suffered on the job while working as emergency dispatcher, holding that because Petitioner established that her PTSD resulted from a manifest happening of a sudden traumatic nature from an unexpected cause or unusual strain, Petitioner was entitled workers' compensation benefits.Petitioner, a sixteen-year veteran of the county emergency dispatch system, sought benefits for the PTSD she suffered after taking a 911 call from a woman screaming over and over at a high pitch, "Help me, my baby is dead." The workers' compensation commissioner and district court denied benefits, concluding that the mother's call wasn't an "unexpected cause or unusual strain." The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioner was entitled to benefits because she established that her PTSD resulted from a manifest happening of a sudden traumatic nature from an unexpected cause or unusual strain. View "Tripp v. Scott Emergency Communication Center" on Justia Law
Chavez v. MS Technology LLC
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court affirming the conclusion of the workers' compensation commissioner that Claimant's rotator cuff injury was a scheduled shoulder injury rather than an unscheduled whole body injury under Iowa Code 85.34(2), holding that there was no error.Claimant sustained a work-related injury that was diagnosed as a "full thickness rotator cuff tear that has retracted to the level of the glenoid, severe AC arthrosis, tendonitis and tearing of the biceps tendon." In seeking permanent partial disability benefits, Claimant argued that her injury qualified as an unscheduled injury to the body as a whole, entitling her to industrial disability benefits. The commissioner concluded that Claimant's rotator cuff injury was a scheduled injury to the shoulder, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly determined (1) Claimant's rotator cuff injury was a scheduled shoulder injury under Iowa Code 85.34(2)(n); and (2) substantial evidence supported the commissioner's finding that Claimant failed to prove her biceps tear resulted in a permanent disability to her arm under section 85.34(2)(m). View "Chavez v. MS Technology LLC" on Justia Law
Vroegh v. Iowa Department of Corrections
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court denying Employer's motion for a new trial and motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict following a jury trial on Employee's claims of sex and gender identity discrimination and dismissing Employee's claims against a third-party administrator on summary judgment, holding that the court erred in part.Specifically, the Supreme Court (1) reversed the district court's denial of Employer's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and dismissed the jury's verdict as to Employee's sex discrimination claims, holding that the district court erred in submitting the sex discrimination claim to the jury; (2) affirmed the jury's verdicts as to employee's gender identity discrimination claims; (3) affirmed the jury's damages award in favor of Employee in the full amounts that the jury entered; and (4) affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Employer. View "Vroegh v. Iowa Department of Corrections" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Labor & Employment Law