News

Vacations taken during Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) absences can be permitted depending on the trip and the reasons for leave. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) believed it acted in good faith after terminating an employee who vacationed during his FMLA leave. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) rejected the claim and awarded liquidated damages pursuant to the FMLA. To avoid a similar scenario requires more than “good faith” by employers.
The Supreme Court of Mississippi rendered summary judgment for Mar-Jac, a chicken processor because an employer’s responsibility for their employee’s actions is limited to the employee’s job responsibilities. Senah Carter, whose primary job responsibilities required him to bring chicken in and out for employees on the line, secured employment at Mar-Jac for two friends. Carter drove these friends to work each day. One morning on the way to work, Carter hit a school bus killing the two co-workers in his vehicle.
Jose Carlos Caycho Melgar attempted to file a retaliation and discrimination complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) following the end of his employment with T.B.B. Printing, Ltd. He failed to provide the requested information before the statute of limitations ran out. TWC forwarded his complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which has a longer statute of limitations.
In June, the United State’s Supreme Court overruled Williamson County Regional Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank, 473 U.S.
Gary Netto, an employee of Pearl River County, Mississippi, sustained injuries in a car accident when an alleged uninsured motorist hit the county-owned vehicle in which he was a passenger. As a matter of policy, Pearl River County does not release copies of county insurance policies to employees. As an “unnamed additional insured” on Pearl River County’s policy with Atlantic Specialty Insurance, Netto did not know the policy included a “consent to settle” exclusion.
Mississippi’s Uninsured Motorist (UM) Act includes a section which requires automobile insurers to provide UM coverage to the extent the insured is “legally entitled to recover”. The UM Act goes on to define an “uninsured motor vehicle” to include vehicles “owned or operated by a person protected by immunity under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act” (MTCA). 
In 1980, Phillip Bivens, Bobby Ray Dixon, and Larry Ruffin were wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of a woman in Forrest County Mississippi. By the time they were exonerated, they’d served a collective 83 years in prison. Ruffin died in prison while Dixon and Bivens died shortly following their release. Their estates filed suit against Forrest County for the wrongful conviction.
A Texas man learned a $200,000 lesson about following directions when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s summary judgment awarded to Llyod’s Insurance Company. Ali Ekhlassi purchased a flood insurance policy from Lloyd’s which administered the policy under the National Flood Insurance Program’s Write-Your-Own program. The policy, like policies issued by the Federal Government, included strict instructions about time limitations and jurisdiction.
Juanita Nichol’s job at Peco Foods, Inc. as a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Coordinator exposed her to temperatures around 40 degrees as a routine part of her job in the chicken processing plant. When she developed a circulatory disorder, Raynaud’s phenomenon, she could no longer work in cold environments and filed for long-term disability benefits. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company issued the policy to Peco.
When McDonnel Groups, L.L.C., filed against its insurers for failing to pay on a claim related to covered property in Lousiana the insurers invoked the contract’s arbitration provision. The policy included a “conformity to statute” provision which required the policy terms to conform to the statutes of the jurisdiction where the insured property is located. Lousiana, where the property was located, has a state law which prohibits arbitration agreements in insurance contracts.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals became the fourth appeals court to hold obesity is not an ADA impairment unless there is evidence of an underlying physiological cause. The Second, Sixth and Eighth Circuit Courts of Appeal have upheld similar dismissals. The Seventh Circuit case involves a 596-pound bus driver who was terminated by the Chicago Transit Authority due to safety issues related to his weight.
We’ve published links to a number of cases involving ADA violations related to inaccessible websites. The case of Diaz v. The Kroger Co. is different from many we’ve covered.
Worker classification has come under more intense scrutiny as more and more workers participate in the gig economy. The Department of Labor released an opinion in early May which outlined six factors it considers when determining worker classification. These six factors are specifically applied to virtual marketplace companies, but provide guidance for all companies and their employees.
In order for a company to compel arbitration, both parties must have given consent. This principle also applies to arbitration on a class-wide basis. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that an arbitration agreement that is silent on class-wide arbitration cannot be used to compel that arbitration even if the agreement includes consent for individual arbitration.
Anxiety and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are making headlines all over the country this year. In Arkansas, Crain Automotive Holdings, LLC terminated Judith Vaughan, an employee, after she began to suffer panic attacks at work. When the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought a suit against the company, Crain disputed Vaughan’s disability and the company’s knowledge of her disability at the time of her termination. The court sided with Vaughan.
Armslist is a website which allows buyers to find private sellers of firearms and contact those sellers. These private transactions do not require background checks. When an estranged husband purchased a gun from a private seller he found on Armslist and used the weapon to kill his wife and others, his wife’s estate sued Armslist for designing and operating a website to facilitate unlawful transactions in firearms.
Alta Devices, Inc. learned the hard way that trade secret misappropriation claims have a statute of limitations. The company’s 2011 non-disclosure agreement with LG Electronics, Inc. ended in June 2012, but LG failed to return Alta’s confidential information at that time. Four years later Alta learned LG might be developing similar solar film technology as Alta. They requested their confidential information back and eventually sued LG.
The Tennessee Supreme Court became the latest state court to rule on whether or not the labor component of the actual cash value (ACV) amount of property damage can be depreciated. According to the Court, the term “depreciation” is ambiguous and the policy language holds that labor cannot be depreciated. Tennessee joins Kentucky in not allowing labor to be depreciated. Other states such as Nebraska and Kansas have ruled labor can be depreciated.
Employers are most familiar with disability accommodation requests for time off or “light duty” assignments. Not every disability request falls into those two categories though. A Pennsylvania jury award recently awarded a former billing assistant $285,000 in damages after her employer refused to allow her extra breaks to address her anxiety. A request for a “less stressful” environment can be vague but employers could avoid a similar ADA suit simply by discussing what accommodations the employee needs.
On April 3, 2019, Governor Phil Bryan approved House Bill 444 amending The Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Law, more commonly referred to as the “Wind Pool” law. The Wind Pool provides windstorm and hail coverage in certain coastal counties to those who cannot find coverage in the private market. Prior to the current amendments, policies issued under the Wind Pool were limited to coverage for the actual cash value of the insured structure and contents.

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