Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court affirming the decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) concluding that the Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Division (Division) had properly terminated Appellant’s temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. The Division terminated Appellant’s TTD benefits after determining that Appellant had reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) and suffered an ascertainable loss. After a contested case hearing, the OAH concluded that the Division had properly ceased paying TTD benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the OAH properly applied the relevant legal principals in reviewing the Division’s decision to terminate Appellant’s TTD benefits, and the OAH’s decision was supported by substantial evidence. View "Coggins v. State ex rel., Department of Workforce Services" on Justia Law

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In this employment dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed separate district court decisions holding that the International Association of Fire Fighters Local Union No. 5058 (IAFF Local 5058) and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local Union No. 5067 (IAFF Local 5067) were not properly constituted bargaining units under the Wyoming Collective Bargaining for Fire Fighters Act. IAFF Local 5058 and IAFF Local 5067 appealed from separate district court decisions governing their attempts to bargain collectively with their respective corporate entities. The district courts held (1) the Act’s definition of “fire fighters” included volunteers because they are “paid members of…regularly constituted fire department[s]”; and (2) IAFF Local 5058 and IAFF Local 5067, which were formed by and consisted of only full-time career fire fighters, were not entitled to be represented in collective bargaining negotiations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the definition of “fire fighters” is unambiguous and includes volunteer and part-time (pool) fire fighters in Campbell and Teton counties; and (2) the context in these consolidated cases does not require a different interpretation. View "International Ass’n of Fire Fighters Local Union No. 5058 v. Gillette/Wright/Campbell County Fire Protection Joint Powers Board" on Justia Law

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Wyo. Stat. Ann. 27-14-605 does not bar a claimant from receiving temporary total disability benefits for a second compensable injury when he has not filed a claim for benefits on his original injury within four years. Six years after receiving workers’ compensation benefits for a workplace injury to his right knee, James Hall underwent another knee surgery that was approved by the Workers’ Compensation Division. The Division denied Hall’s application for temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, concluding that, under section 27-14-605(b), Hall was not entitled to TTD benefits related to the surgery after not seeking benefits on his original injury for over four years. The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), however, concluded that section 27-14-605 did not govern Hall’s claim because Hall suffered a second compensable injury that section 27-14-605 did not control and that Hall was entitled to TTD benefits as a matter of law. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Hall suffered a second compensable injury and was therefore entitled to TTD benefits pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. 27-14-404(a). View "In re Worker's Compensation Claim of James A. Hall" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court ruling that the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) erred in upholding the Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Division’s denial of benefits to Richard Williams. Williams suffered a head injury while working as a well operator. Williams argued that a flash fire started him and caused him to fall backward and strike his head. The Division denied benefits, determining that Williams’ injury did not arise out of an in the course of his employment. The OAH upheld the denial of benefits, finding that Williams and his version of events lacked credibility. The district court reversed, concluding that the OAH decision was contrary to overwhelming medical evidence that Williams injured his head while engaged in work-related activities. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Williams offered evidence sufficient to raise a presumption that he suffered a head injury that arose out of his employment and that the Division failed to rebut that presumption. View "State ex rel. Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal from the district court’s order dismissing the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Labor Standards Appeals Division (WFS) from Appellant’s petition for review of a WFS hearing examiner’s decision denying Appellant’s request for damages on his claim that the Wyoming Department of Corrections (DOC) discriminated against him based upon his advanced age. The district court granted WFS’s motion to dismiss, concluding that WFS was not a proper respondent to the petition for review. Several months later, the district court denied Appellant’s motion to amend his petition for review to substitute or join DOC as respondent in the action, ruling that it had no jurisdiction to act on Appellant’s motion to amend because the case was finally resolved upon WFS’s dismissal. On appeal, the Supreme Court concluded that it did not have jurisdiction over this matter because the district court’s order dismissing WFS was final and appealable. View "Schmitz v. State, Department of Workforce Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision affirming the decision of the Medical Commission, which sustained the Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Division’s termination of Sarah Morris’s temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. The Division terminated the TTD benefits after determining that Morris had reached maximum medical improvement. The Supreme Court held (1) the Commission appropriately determined that Morris had reached MMI and terminated her TTD benefits; and (2) substantial evidence existed to support the Commission’s decision that Morris’s injury to her right knee was not work-related. View "Morris v. State ex rel. Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the Medical Commission’s denial of Dennis Howe’s claim for permanent partial impairment (PPI) benefits for a work-related injury Howe suffered. The district court affirmed the decision of the Commission. In affirming the district court, the Supreme Court held (1) the Commission’s determination that Howe did not prove he was entitled to an increased impairment rating due to the result of chlorine exposure was supported by substantial evidence, and the Commission could have reasonably concluded as it did; and (2) the Commission’s decision was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Howe v. State, ex rel., Department of Workforce Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s affirmance of the decision of the Medical Commission, which upheld the Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Division’s denial of benefits to James Boyce. Boyce suffered an inguinal hernia while working. Boyce received workers’ compensation benefits to cover that injury, but the Division denied benefits for subsequently discovered conditions in Boyce’s lumbar spine. The Supreme Court agreed with the decisions below, holding that the Medical Commission did not act unreasonably or contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence in rejecting the opinion of Boyce’s medical expert and concluding that Boyce failed to prove that his work injury caused his need for subsequent spinal surgery. View "Boyce v. State ex rel. Department of Workforce Services" on Justia Law

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Employee was terminated from her position as a custodian at a junior high school for stealing or attempting to steal a backpack belonging to a student. The Board of Trustees of Sweetwater County School District No. 1 (Board) upheld Employee’s termination, concluding that there was cause to terminate Employee and there was no prejudice from any claimed defect in the predetermination process. The district court reversed, concluding (1) there was substantial evidence to support the Board’s determination that there was just cause to terminate Employee, but (2) Employee was not provided adequate predetermination process. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision and reinstated the Board’s order upholding the termination, holding that the Board’s decision that Employee received adequate predetermination due process was legally correct and supported by substantial evidence. View "Sweetwater County School District Number One v. Goetz" on Justia Law

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Collateral estoppel is not given effect to an uncontested Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Division (Division) determination denying workers’ compensation benefits even when the denial is based on a finding that the employee did not suffer a compensable injury. Lea Porter, through her employer, submitted a report of injury to the Division, by which Porter reporter an injury to her left knee. The Division issued to Porter final determination informing her that it would not approve payments of benefits upon its determination that the injury was not a work-related injury. Porter did not object to the final determination or request a hearing but did object to a later final determination of the Division that denied payment of costs related to an MRI of her left knee. The Office of Administrative Hearings granted summary judgment for the Division, concluding that Porter could not challenge the denial of benefits for the MRI because she did not object to the Division’s earlier determination that her injury was not work related. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Porter’s failure to object to the Division’s compensability determination did not preclude her objection to the Division’s final determination denying benefits to cover her MRI costs. View "Porter v. State ex rel. Department of Workforce Services" on Justia Law