Articles Posted in Labor & Employment 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

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The Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Division covered the surgery on Jeffrey Baker’s shoulder, which was injured at work. The Division, however, denied Baker’s subsequent request for temporary total disability benefits related to a neck injury Baker claimed occurred with the shoulder surgery. The Medical Commission Hearing Panel denied Baker’s claim on review, determining that Baker failed to prove a causal relationship between his neck injury and the work-related accident. The district court upheld the decision of the Commission. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission’s determination was supported by substantial evidence. View "Baker v. State ex rel. Department of Workforce Services" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Karen Hardy was injured during the course of her employment. In 2015, Hardy sought treatment for low back pain. The Department of Workforce Services, Workers’ Compensation Division denied payment for Hardy’s medical bills. The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) concluded that Hardy’s injury was not compensable because Hardy had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence a causal connection between her 2013 work-related injury and her 2015 back injury. The district court affirmed. Hardy appealed, arguing that she was entitled to benefits under the second compensable injury rule. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence supported the OAH’s conclusion that Hardy failed to demonstrate that it was more probable than not that her 2013 injury was causally related to her 2015 injury. View "Hardy v. State ex rel. Department of Workforce Services, Workers’ Compensation Division" on Justia Law

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In 2004, Appellant suffered a work-related injury. Appellant had shoulder surgery the next year, and the surgery was covered by the Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Division. In 2013, Appellant sought benefits for surgery on the same shoulder. During the 2013 surgery, Appellant’s surgeon found a hole in the fascia over Appellant’s acromioclavicular joint that may have occurred during the 2005 surgery. Appellant claimed that the 2013 surgery was a second compensable injury, but the Division denied her claim. On appeal, the Medical Commission concluded that there was no causal link between Appellant’s work-related injury and the need for her 2013 surgery. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission’s conclusion that Appellant’s medical treatment was not compensable was supported by substantial evidence. View "Price v. State, ex rel., Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division" on Justia Law

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Horsley Company, LLC was a Florida contractor hired to install equipment at the Jackson, Wyoming airport. Cody Beazer, Horsley’s employee, was injured while he was working on the airport project. The Workers’ Safety and Compensation Division notified Horsley that it was liable to the State for all payments made to Beazer because Horsley had not filed an “employee report” for the period in which Beazer’s injury occurred. Horsley objected to the Division’s determination that it was required to reimburse the Division for payments made to Beazer. The Office of Administrative Hearings granted summary judgment for Horsley, determining that Horsley had complied with the Worker’s Compensation Act in all respects and was not liable for payments made to Beazer by the Division. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Division’s challenge to the finding that the Division was estopped from seeking reimbursement for payments made to the claimant did not provide a sufficient basis to overturn the award of summary judgment; and (2) the Supreme Court was deprived of jurisdiction to consider the Division’s challenge to the award of attorney’s fees to Horsley. View "State ex rel. Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division v. Beazer" on Justia Law

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Appellant was discharged from his position as a firefighter with the City of Laramie after random breathalyzer tests performed while he was on duty detected alcohol in his system. The Civil Service Commission reduced Appellant’s discipline from discharge to a suspension. The district court reversed and remanded for further agency proceedings, concluding that the Commission had applied the wrong legal standard. On remand, the Commission found that the breathalyzer tests were invalid and ruled in favor of Appellant. The district court again reversed on remanded, concluding that the law and the record did not support the Commission’s conclusion. On remand, the Commission consented to Appellant’s discharge. The district court dismissed Appellant’s petition for review. The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal, holding (1) the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to consider the City’s petition for review of the Commission’s second decision because the legislature did not grant cities the right to judicial review of commission decisions refusing to consent to employee discharges; and (2) because the district court lacked jurisdiction to review the Commission’s second decision, it was final, and all of the proceedings that followed the Commission’s second decision were improper. View "Vance v. City of Laramie" on Justia Law

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Appellant suffered a work-related neck injury. The Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation Division awarded Appellant benefits related to that injury and paid his associated medical bills. In 2011, Appellant began experiencing black outs, known as “syncope,” which he attributed to treatment of his neck injury. After Appellant fell during a syncope event, he sought approval from the Division for lower back surgery to treat an injury he received during the fall. The Division denied approval. The Medical Commission upheld the denial, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission did not act arbitrarily and capriciously when it denied Appellant benefits after determining that the benefits requested for injuries sustained during a syncope event were unrelated to Appellant’s workplace injury; and (2) the fact that the Division previously paid uncontested medical claims related to Appellant’s syncope did not preclude the Division from contesting the causation of the black outs for purposes of future benefits. View "Hood v. State, ex rel. Department of Workforce Services" on Justia Law

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Appellant, a former fuel truck driver for Homax Oil Sales, Inc., was discharged from his position for unloading the incorrect fuels into tanks at various locations. Appellant applied for unemployment insurance benefits. The Department of Workforce Services, Unemployment Insurance Commission ruled that Appellant was disqualified from benefits because he was discharged for misconduct connect with his work. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) serious and/or repeated negligence qualifies as misconduct under Wyoming law; and (2) substantial evidence supported the Commission’s decision that Appellant committed misconduct connected with his work. View "Clark v. State, ex rel., Dep’t of Workforce Servs., Unemployment Ins. Comm’n" on Justia Law

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Appellant fractured his right hip when, during the course of his employment, he climbed from the bed of a dump truck and fell onto a rock. After surgery was performed on the hip, Appellant had constant pain in both hips and finally had a total hip replacement. After his hip replacement, Appellant was pigeon-toed. Appellant was later in an automobile accident that resulted in injuries. Appellant sought worker’s compensation benefits for the injuries sustained in the automobile accident, claiming that, due to his work-related hip injury, his foot was not functioning properly and slipped off the brake pedal and got stuck between the brake and gas pedals. The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) denied Appellant’s worker’s compensation claim, finding that Appellant failed to prove a causal relationship between his automobile accident and his prior work-related accident. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the OAH properly applied the second compensable injury rule; and (2) the OAH’s reasonably concluded that Appellant had not established by a preponderance of the evidence that his automobile accident was casually connected to his original work-related injury. View "Jensen v. State, ex rel., Dep’t of Workforce Servs., Workers' Comp. Div." on Justia Law

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In 2013, William Rogers was working for Russell Construction Company (Russell) when he claimed to have fallen against a ledge of old concrete. In 2014, the Workers' Compensation Division issued a determination that Rogers had suffered a compensable injury. Russell objected to that determination, arguing that the claim was fraudulent. A hearing officer with the Office of Administrative Hearing denied Rogers’s claim for worker’s compensation benefits, concluding that Rogers had not proved that he suffered a compensable injury in 2013. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing examiner’s determinations of fact were reasonable and based on substantial evidence. View "Rogers v. Russell Constr. Co., Inc." on Justia Law