Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court following a jury verdict in favor of Plaintiff on a single claim of employment discrimination based on national origin. Both parties appealed the judgment. The Supreme Court denied and dismissed all appeals, holding that the superior court justice (1) did not err in instructing the jury on the law of evidentiary presumptions and its application to this discrimination claim; (2) properly weighed the evidence and did not invade the province of the jury; and (3) did not err when she vacated the jury’s finding that Plaintiff failed to mitigate his damages. Further, Plaintiff was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on a separate count in the complaint that also alleged employment discrimination. View "Yangambi v. Providence School Board" on Justia Law

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Michael Beagan was terminated from his employment with Albert Kemperle, Inc. after his manager discovered a disparaging post Beagan had made about him on Facebook. The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) denied Beagan’s application for unemployment benefits, finding that he had been discharged for “disqualifying reasons” under R.I. Gen. Laws 28-44-18. The district court affirmed the DLT’s decision. The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the district court and remanded with directions to award Beagan unemployment benefits, holding that no legally competent evidence existed that Beagan’s Facebook post was connected to his work in the manner contemplated by section 28-44-18, and therefore, there was no legally competent evidence to support a finding that Beagan was ineligible for unemployment benefits. View "Beagan v. Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training, Board of Review" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial justice’s determination that Plaintiff’s reappointment to his fourth consecutive two-year term as assistant zoning inspector in the Town of North Smithfield did not constitute a contract of employment. Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging breach of employment contract and a violation of his constitutional rights after his employment was terminated for budgetary reasons. The trial court entered final judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial justice’s decision, holding that Plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence to support his contention that a valid contract existed. View "Andoscia v. Town of North Smithfield" on Justia Law

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This certified question concerned an action pending in federal court in which Plaintiff alleged that he was illegally denied a promotion in the Providence Police Department. At issue in this proceeding was Plaintiff’s count claiming that Chief of Police of the Providence Police Department was liable, in his individual capacity, for the City’s failure to have promoted Plaintiff in violation of section 28-5-7-(6) of the Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act. Clements moved to dismiss the count, arguing that section 28-5-7(6) does not provide for individual liability. The district court then certified to the Supreme Court the question at issue here. The Supreme Court answered that section 28-5-7(6) does not provide for the individual liability of an employee of a defendant employer. Remanded. View "Mancini v. City of Providence" on Justia Law

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Mark Furia was injured while working for Ajax Construction Company. After Furia filed a petition against Ajax in the Workers’ Compensation Court, Ajax petitioned the Workers’ Compensation Court to determine which insurer - Beacon Mutual Insurance Company or Liberty Mutual Insurance Company - was obligated to pay Furia’s claim. The trial judge concluded that Ajax was liable to Furia and that Beacon was primarily liable to Furia. The judge also found that Ajax had dual or overlapping coverage regarding Furia’s claim and, given the overlapping coverage, Liberty must reimburse Beacon for fifty percent of the benefits that Beacon paid to Furia. The Appellate Division vacated the trial judge’s decree and ordered that Beacon be held fully responsible for paying workers’ compensation benefits to Furia and to reimburse Liberty for any benefits paid to beacon by Liberty under the prior decree. The Supreme Court quashed the Appellate Division’s decree, holding that the Appellate Division erred in finding Beacon solely responsible for the payment of Furia’s benefits. View "Ajax Construction Co. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Petitioner, after more than fifteen years of service in the City of Providence Police Department, was injured while on duty. The Department concluded that Petitioner’s injury interfered with her ability to handle a firearm. Later that month, Petitioner applied to the City of Providence Retirement Board for accidental-disability retirement. The Board voted to deny Petitioner’s application, finding that Petitioner’s condition was correctable with surgery and that Petitioner failed to mitigate her injury by undergoing surgery. The Supreme Court quashed the Board’s decision, holding that the Providence Code of Ordinances does not require an otherwise eligible employee to mitigate her injury by undergoing a surgical procedure in order to qualify for an accidental-disability pension. Remanded. View "Prew v. Employee Ret. Sys. of City of Providence" on Justia Law

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Morse, a long-time fire-rescue captain, had separate work-related back injuries in 2009 and 2011. In both cases he was eventually released to work. Morse injured his back again while lifting a patient during a 2012 rescue call. After the third injury, he did not return to work. Pursuant to the Providence Code of Ordinances, Morse was evaluated by three independent medical examiners. There was disagreement concerning whether the code covers disability as the result of multiple injuries. One of the consultants found Morse not to be disabled. The Retirement Board of the Employees Retirement System of the City of Providence denied Morse’s application for an accidental disability pension, based solely on the board’s self-imposed “unanimity rule,” requiring that all three physicians agree that the applicant was permanently disabled as a result of a work-related injury. The Rhode Island Supreme Court quashed the decision. The board’s adoption of the unanimity rule effectively abandoned its authority to a single disagreeing physician. Because the board failed to make any factual findings with regard to the petitioner’s application, this matter was remanded to the board for reconsideration. View "Morse v. Employees Ret. Sys. of the City of Providence" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Budlong, a Rhode Island Public Transit Authority bus driver, claimed that he was assaulted while on his bus route. Over a year later, Budlong identified Hall as his attacker. Budlong’s bus route went by the Halls’ Newport home about 32 times each day. Hall was ultimately acquitted. The Halls later alleged that Budlong “embarked on a pattern of harassment” and sent letters informing RIPTA of the alleged harassment. A superior court granted the Halls a temporary restraining order against Budlong and later entered mutual restraining orders. RIPTA informed the Halls that routes were assigned under a collective bargaining agreement and that this was “a private dispute,” or “a police matter.” The Halls filed suit against RIPTA, specifying incidents in which Budlong drove toward them, blocked their driveway, and engaged in other intimidating behavior. The Rhode Island Supreme Court vacated summary judgment in favor of RIPTA, stating the Halls’ letters put RIPTA on notice of the conflict and claims of harassing behavior, so that RIPTA had a duty to exercise reasonable care in conducting a full investigation, followed by appropriate action to ensure that its employee was not harassing the Halls. View "Hall v. City of Newport" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from a number of disputes that arose after the defendant corporation, Nuzzo Campion Stone Enterprises, Inc. (NCS), was purchased by its present owner. Plaintiff James Nuzzo alleged that he was owed $133,816 in unpaid commissions on orders that had been placed prior to his termination but not actually paid for by customers of NCS until after his termination. NCS filed a counterclaim for breach of contract, alleging that Plaintiff failed to indemnify NCS for certain amounts covered by the terms of an Asset Purchase Agreement signed by the parties. The trial justice concluded that Plaintiff was not entitled to the disputed commissions and that NCS was due nearly $17,000 for both “work in progress” and warranty work pursuant to the Agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not err in determining that Plaintiff was not entitled to commissions for orders that had been placed, but not actually paid for, prior to Plaintiff’s termination; and (2) the trial justice did not make “fundamental mistakes regarding the contract and damages” relating to the counterclaim. View "Nuzzo v. Nuzzo Campion Stone Enters., Inc." on Justia Law

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After Strine Printing Company terminated Richard Bisbano’s employment, Bisbano filed an eight count complaint against Strine Printing and its president, alleging, inter alia, wrongful termination. During the pendency of that lawsuit, the parties disagreed about the exact amount of commissions that Strine owed Bisbano. The federal district court granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on all counts. Bisbano subsequently filed another lawsuit against Strine Printing and Menasha Packaging Company, LLC in superior court, alleging unpaid commissions. The trial justice ruled in favor of Defendants, concluding that the three-year statute of limitations contained in Rhode Island’s Payment of Wages Act barred the claim and that res judicata barred Bisbano’s contract claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this action was barred by the statute of limitations contained in the Payment of Wages Act; and (2) because the statute of limitations issue is dispositive, the Court shall not address the issue of res judicata. View "Bisbano v. Strine Printing Co., Inc." on Justia Law