Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s partial denial of Plaintiffs’ partial denial of their request for preliminary injunctive relief against Defendant, their former agent, holding that the circuit court did not err by enjoining Defendant only from soliciting business from Plaintiffs’ existing customers without also enjoining Defendant from selling to those customers. Plaintiffs, Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co. and Farm Bureau Property and Casualty Insurance Co., argued in their complaint that Defendant, after leaving Farm Bureau, breached the agency contracts he entered into with Farm Bureau by selling insurance policies to clients to whom he had previously sold Farm Bureau policies. In partially denying Plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief, the circuit court concluded that portions of the agency contracts that prohibited Defendant from selling to Farm Bureau’s existing customers was an invalid restraint on trade under S.D. Codified Laws chapter 53-9. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the plain meaning of section 53-9-12 supported the circuit court’s decision to adhere to that statute’s language. View "Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co. v. Dolly" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Employer and certain members of its management staff in this suit brought by Employee after Employee was terminated for allegedly slapping and secluding a senior care facility resident. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment against Employee on his slander claim, intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, malicious prosecution claim, claim for punitive damages, wrongful termination claim, negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, and breach of contract claim. View "Harvey v. Regional Health Network" on Justia Law

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Mark Black was hired as an agent of the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) in 2005. Approximately one decade later, DCI terminated Black’s employment after a series of incidents and disciplinary actions. The Civil Service Commission (CSC) found that DCI had just cause to terminate Black’s employment. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) CSC did not err in finding that DCI had just cause to terminate Black’s employment; and (2) DCI complied with the applicable rules and regulations and afforded Black due process of law. View "Black v. Division of Criminal Investigation" on Justia Law

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James Mordhorst was injured while working for Fischer Furniture. Almost one year later, Dakota Truck Underwriters and Risk Administration Services (collectively, Insurers) terminated all workers’ compensation benefits. The South Dakota Department of Labor subsequently ordered Insurers to pay all past medical bills and interest as well as future medial expenses. Mordhorst then filed an action seeking punitive damages for an alleged bad-faith denial of workers’ compensation benefits. The circuit court granted Insurers’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief could be granted. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred by granting Insurers’ motion to dismiss because Mordhorst asserted facts that, if true, state a claim for bad faith denial of a workers’ compensation claim and that Insurers’ reliance on an independent medical examiner’s report to deny benefits was not per se reasonable. View "Mordhorst v. Dakota Truck Underwriters" on Justia Law

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James Leach, a South Dakota attorney who represents clients in workers’ compensation cases, petitioned the Department of Labor for a declaratory ruling regarding the application of a statute under which the Department excludes discretionary bonuses from the earnings used to calculate an injured worker’s average weekly wage. The Department issued a declaratory ruling that discretionary bonuses may not be included in the wage calculation. Leach appealed. The circuit court sua sponte dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, ruling that, in the absence of an actual case, the Department was without subject matter jurisdiction to issue the declaratory ruling. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Department and the circuit court had jurisdiction to consider Leach’s petition for a declaratory ruling. Remanded to consider the appeal on the merits. View "In re Petition for Declaratory Ruling" on Justia Law

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Adam Ray, a former employee of Granite Buick GMC, Inc., and Scott Hanna, a former employee of McKie Ford Lincoln, Inc., left their respect employment and started their own automobile dealership. Granite Buick and McKie Ford sought injunctions to enforce non-compete agreements Defendants signed during the course of their employment. After the Supreme Court reversed and remanded, the circuit court concluded that the non-compete agreements were valid but granted judgment in favor of Defendants on their affirmative defenses. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly determined (1) Ray’s covenant not to compete was fraudulently induced; and (2) McKie Ford waived its right to enforce Hanna’s covenant not to compete. View "Granite Buick GMC, Inc. v. Ray" on Justia Law

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On December 31, 2009, Employee was injured during the scope of her employment at Employer. One week later, Employee suffered a massive intraventricular hemorrhage in her brain, which caused her to undergo brain surgery. Employer denied Employee’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits, alleging that Employee’s brain injuries were the result of a different incident on January 4, 2010. After a hearing, the Department of Labor ruled in favor of Employee, finding (1) the work-related injury was a major contributing cause of the hemorrhage and Employee’s resulting disabilities, and (2) the alleged second incident did not take place after the workplace incident as Employer claim, if it occurred at all. After the Department clarified compensable damages, the circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Department was not clearly erroneous in finding that the workplace injury was a major contributing cause to Employee’s injury and disability and that there was no second incident; and (2) the Department did not abuse its discretion in admitting the undisclosed testimony of an expert witness. View "Sorensen v. Harbor Bar, LLC" on Justia Law

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Appellant injured his right shoulder while working for Employer. Due to his injuries and Employer’s lack of workers’ compensation coverage, Appellant sued to recover for his disability, arguing that Employer was in violation of South Dakota’s workers’ compensation law by failing to provide workers’ compensation insurance for its employees. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Redstone, concluding that Redstone was exempt from the requirement to purchase workers’ compensation insurance under S.D. Codified Laws 62-3-15, which exempts “farm or agricultural laborers” from coverage. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the applicable test for determining an employee’s status as an agricultural laborer under section 62-3-15 is examining the entire nature of the employee’s work, which involves looking at the nature of the employer’s business; and (2) in this case, Appellant’s employment was agricultural in nature and performed for an exclusively agricultural employer, and therefore, Appellant was an agricultural laborer under the code and thus exempt from workers’ compensation coverage. View "Hofer v. Redstone Feeders, LLC" on Justia Law

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Wharf Resources, Inc., a mining company, terminated Lisa Davis for “disruptive behavior in the workplace.” Several months later, Davis filed a gender discrimination claim and a retaliatory discharge claim with the South Dakota Department of Labor, Division of Human Rights (Department). The Department concluded that there was no probable cause for Davis’s claims. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err by (1) affirming the Department’s finding of no probable cause; (2) determining that Davis was terminated for permissible factors; and (3) affirming the findings of fact and conclusions of law submitted by the Department. View "Davis v. Wharf Res. (USA), Inc." on Justia Law

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Dakota Trailer Manufacturing, which makes radiator components for an unrelated company, performs its component work in one of Dakota Trailer’s locations that was originally classified as a “machine shop” for workers compensation insurance rating purposes. After an inspection, the National Council on Compensation Insurance changed the location’s classification to “welding or cutting.” Both the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board and the South Dakota Department of Labor affirmed the new classification. The circuit court reversed and reinstated the machine shop code. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court properly found that Dakota Trailer’s activities fit within the machine shop code. View "Dakota Trailer Mfg. v. United Fire & Cas. Co." on Justia Law