Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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In the case before the Nebraska Supreme Court, Kathryn Wright was employed as a customer service agent for Southwest Airlines Co. (Southwest). In her volunteer role on a workplace social committee, she was found to have not kept adequate records of expenditures and to have spent committee funds for personal purposes. Consequently, Southwest terminated her employment. Wright then applied for unemployment insurance benefits, which were initially granted by the Nebraska Department of Labor (DOL) adjudicator. However, this decision was overturned by the DOL appeal tribunal, disqualifying her from receiving unemployment benefits for the week of the discharge and the 14 weeks thereafter. The district court affirmed this decision and Wright appealed.The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision, holding that Wright had committed misconduct connected with her work under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-628.10 (Reissue 2021). The court found that Wright's failure to keep a ledger and maintain supporting documentation for all committee expenses was misconduct connected with her work, regardless of the fact that her work on the committee was volunteer and separate from her paid job duties. The court also disagreed with Wright's argument that the committee funds were not Southwest's but her coworkers'. The court reasoned that the funds were contributed to the committee organized, promoted, supported, and regulated by Southwest, which had an interest in ensuring that the funds were spent appropriately. Therefore, Wright's failure to follow the rules harmed Southwest and was misconduct connected with her work. View "Wright v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law

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In the case involving Sandra Lopez and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Omaha, the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case, holding that the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act provides the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries. Lopez, an employee of Catholic Charities, sued her employer alleging assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress following a realistic active shooter drill conducted at her workplace. She claimed physical and mental injuries as a result of the drill. The district court dismissed the suit, asserting that her exclusive remedy was workers’ compensation. On appeal, Lopez argued that she should be able to pursue tort theories of recovery against her employer for injuries suffered if the employer acted with a specific intent to injure the employee. However, the court found that even if an employer acts with a specific intent to injure an employee, the resulting injury is accidental if it is unexpected or unforeseen to the person suffering the injury, and thus compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The court also rejected Lopez's constitutional challenge due to non-compliance with procedural requirements and her public policy argument because it was not grounded on any specific statute or recognized legal authority. View "Lopez v. Catholic Charities" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant's appeal of the judgment of the district court affirming the order of the Nebraska Police Standards Advisory Council denying Appellant admission into the basic officer certification training at the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center, holding that the district court lacked jurisdiction, and therefore, so did this Court.Appellant sought judicial review of the decision of the Council upholding the denial by the Director of the Training Center of Appellant's application for entrance into basic training for failure to meet the minimum requirements for admission. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant's appeal, holding that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider Appellant's petition because he failed properly to make the Director a party to the proceedings for review. View "Swicord v. Police Standards Advisory Council" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court determining that social media posts directed toward local public figures from a public account of an officer of a local bank did not constitute misconduct in connection with work disqualifying the employee from unemployment benefits, holding that the district court did not err.The posts at issue were not sent from the employee's work, during work hours, or using the employer's equipment and did not contain information obtained in the capacity as an employee, mention the employee's position at the bank, or refer to coworkers or customers. The Department of Labor determined that the employee was disqualified for benefits for the week in which the discharge occurred plus fourteen weeks because he had been discharged for misconduct. The Appeal Tribunal reversed, holding that the employer's social media policy was insufficient to transform the employee's personal social media postings into misconduct connected with his work. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant did not commit misconduct connected with his work, and therefore, the district court properly found that he was not disqualified for unemployment benefits. View "Pinnacle Bancorp v. Moritz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the compensation court concluding that a claimant who sustains injuries along the same extremity sustains an injury to a single member for workers' compensation purposes, holding that the compensation court's decision was based on an incorrect interpretation of Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-121(3).Claimant injured her right wrist and right elbow upon falling at work. Claimant filed a claim for benefits, asserting that the workers' compensation court should award her permanent disability benefits based on her loss of earning capacity. At issue was section 48-121(3), which provides for discretionary loss of earning capacity where there is a "loss or loss of use of more than one member of parts of more than one member[.]" The compensation court refused to consider an award based on the loss of earning capacity because "an injury to the wrist and the elbow of the same arm is still an injury to a single member and does not entitle an employee to a loss of earning power.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the compensation court erred in its interpretation of section 48-121(3). View "Espinoza v. Job Source USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant, Millard Public Schools, and dismissing Plaintiff's action brought under the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act (NWPCA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-1228, holding that the district court did not err.Defendant underpaid Plaintiff, a public school teacher, for several years. In 2018, the salary error was discovered, and Defendant corrected Plaintiff's salary retroactive to the start of the 2018-19 year. Relying on a provision in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) stating that any errors found in salutary "shall only be corrected retroactive to the beginning of the year in which the error was discovered." Plaintiff brought this suit, alleging that he had an individual statutory right to payment under the NWPCA and that this right could not be waived. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in determining that the compensation sought by Plaintiff was not "wages" as defined under the NWPCA and that the terms of the CBA on which the district court relied were not against public policy. View "Hoagbin v. School District No. 28-0017" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the petition and application filed by the State of Nebraska, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to vacate an arbitration award resulting from a labor dispute and confirming the award, holding that the district court did not err.On appeal, DHHS argued that the arbitrator exceeded his powers under DHHS' labor contract the Nebraska Association of Public Employees, Local #61 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and that the district court erred in finding that the arbitrator did not exceed his powers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) whatever insufficiency existed in the findings of fact and conclusions of law, DHHS was instrumental in bringing about that insufficiency; and (2) the district court did not err by finding that the arbitrator did not add to or modify the labor contract and concluding that the arbitrator did not exceed his powers. View "State v. Neb. Ass'n of Public Employees" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court that affirmed the decision of the Nebraska State Personnel Board upholding the termination of Scott Mollring's employment as a teacher for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, holding that there was no error.On appeal, Mollring argued that the district court erroneously determined that because he had not completed two calendar years of employment at the time of his dismissal, he was a probationary employee who could be terminated without cause. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in concluding that "two years" under Neb. Rev. Stat. 79-845 means two calendar years, and cause was not required; and (2) the court correctly determined that Mollring was still in the probationary period and that his employment could be terminated without cause. View "Mollring v. Neb. Dep't of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that the exclusivity provisions of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act (the Act), Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-101 to 48-1,117 barred the claim of an employee of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services that the Department violated the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (NFEPA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-1101 to 48-1125, holding that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the employee's NFEPA action.Plaintiff was injured while participating in mandated self-defense training and sought and received workers' compensation benefits from the time she was injured. After Plaintiff was unable to find a position with the Department that would accommodate her physical restrictions she brought this action against the Department for wrongful termination on the basis of her disability, in violation of NFEPA. The district court granted summary judgment for the Department on the basis of the exclusivity provisions of the Act barred Plaintiff's NFEPA claim as a matter of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly determined that it lacked jurisdiction over Plaintiff's NFEPA claim. View "Dutcher v. Nebraska Dep't of Correctional Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court affirming the determination of the Nebraska Department of Labor that Appellant was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits for fourteen weeks after his employment at JBS Swift Beef ended because he was discharged for misconduct, holding that remand was required.In his appeal to the district court, Appellant argued that the appeal tribunal erred in finding that he was disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because he was discharged for misconduct and in thus imposing a fourteen-week benefit disqualification upon him. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was no competent evidence to support the district court's finding that JBS met its burden to prove Appellant was discharged for misconduct. View "Badawi v. Albin" on Justia Law