Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Deborah Barnhart, Brooke Balch, and Vickie Henderson, current and former officers of the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission ("the Commission") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief. The Commission sought to have the circuit court dismiss the claims asserted against them in the underlying class action or, in the alternative, to vacate the order certifying those claims for class-action treatment. The Commission is required by law to maintain records of its revenue and expenditures and to periodically make those records available for audit by the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts ("DEPA"). After an audit, DEPA determined the Commission had not complied with Alabama law (1) in its payment of annual longevity bonuses to Commission employees and (2) in the manner it compensated Commission employees for working on certain State holidays. The Commission disagreed with the results of the audit; none of the recommended changes were made, and as a result, several former Commission employees sued the Commission and the Commission officers, alleging that the plaintiffs, as well as other past and present Commission employees, had not received all the compensation to which they were entitled during their tenures as Commission employees. The Supreme Court determined the Commission did not establish the named plaintiffs’ retrospective relief and declaratory relief claims were barred by the doctrine of State immunity, and the trial court did not err by dismissing those claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. However, the individual-capacities claims were barred inasmuch as those claims were essentially claims against the State regardless of the manner in which they have been asserted, and the trial court accordingly erred by not dismissing those claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Further, the named plaintiffs met their burden for class certification, and the trial court did not exceed its discretion by certifying their retrospective-relief and declaratory-relief claims for class-action treatment. Accordingly, the trial court's order certifying this action for class treatment was reversed insofar as it certified the individual-capacities claims; in all other respects it was affirmed. View "Barnhart v. Ingalls" on Justia Law

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The Alabama Peace Officers' Standards and Training Commission ("the Commission") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief to direct the circuit court to dismiss a complaint against it filed by Bryan Grimmett. The Commission revoked Grimmett's law-enforcement certification. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed that portion of the trial court's judgment fully reinstating Grimmett's law-enforcement certification because Grimmett had conceded in the record that he had not satisfied the 80-hour refresher-training course required for reinstatement of his certification. At the time the Court of Civil Appeals issued its May 2017 opinion, the Commission had in place a rule requiring a previously certified law-enforcement officer absent from employment as a law-enforcement officer for two years or more to successfully complete an approved 80-hour academy recertification course. In October 2017, the Commission amended its rule on certification to include, among other things, a provision that, if the Commission approves an application for admission to certification training of a law-enforcement officer absent from law enforcement for more than 10 years, that applicant must satisfactorily complete the regular basic-training academy, which is a 520-hour course. It was undisputed that Grimmett had been not employed as a law-enforcement officer since 2000. Grimmett filed his complaint with the circuit court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the Commission, asserting that he was provisionally offered a job in law enforcement in December 2017; that he attempted to enroll in the 80-hour refresher- training program; and that the Commission refused to allow him to enroll in the refresher-training program, instead requiring him to complete the full 520-hour basic-academy training course. The Commission moved the circuit court to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the Commission, as an agency of the State of Alabama, is entitled to sovereign immunity. Finding that the Commission established a clear legal right to mandamus relief, the Alabama Supreme Court granted its petition and directed the circuit court to dismiss Grimmett's complaint. View "Ex parte Ex parte Alabama Peace Officers' Standards and Training Commission." on Justia Law

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Police officer Charday Shavers and the City of Montgomery ("City") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Shavers and the City's joint motion for a summary judgment in a tort action filed against them by Carlishia Frank and to enter a summary judgment for them. In 2013, Shavers was driving her patrol car when she received a dispatch about a vehicular accident. Shavers activated her siren and proceeded through an intersection. As Shavers's patrol car began to cross the intersection, Frank's vehicle entered the intersection and collided with the driver's side of Shavers's patrol car. The collision occurred between four and five seconds after Shavers began slowly proceeding into the intersection, approximately nine seconds after Shavers had activated her emergency lights and approximately five seconds after she had activated her siren. Shavers and the City moved for summary judgment on immunity grounds. Finding that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion, the Alabama Supreme Court found mandamus relief was warranted here. The Court directed the trial court to vacate its order denying Shavers and the City's joint motion for summary judgment, and to enter an order granting that motion. View "Ex parte City of Montgomery and Charday P. Shavers." on Justia Law

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Paul Irwin, Jr., appealed a final judgment of the Jefferson Circuit Court dismissing his claim for injunctive relief against the Jefferson County Personnel Board ("the Board") and the City of Trussville ("Trussville"). This case arose from Trussville's desire to hire a police chief following the retirement of its former chief. Trussville interviewed Irwin and two other candidates from a certified list of candidates. Trussville did not hire Irwin or any other candidate from the certified list supplied by the Board in January 2017. Instead, Trussville returned the list to the Board and requested that the Board administer a new test for the position of Police Chief II. On January 23, 2017, the Board "expired" the eligibility list. On January 27, 2017, the Board also approved Trussville's request to hire a provisional police chief until such time as a new assessment examination could be administered and a new eligibility list generated. On March 1, 2017, Irwin sued the Board and Trussville, contending that, once the Board issued to Trussville a certified list of eligible candidates for the position of police chief, Trussville was required to hire a candidate from that list and had no discretion to leave the position unfilled. The complaint sought only injunctive relief. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the specific actions Irwin sought to enjoin –- the administration of a new examination for the position of Trussville's police chief and the appointment of a candidate to the position of police chief who was not on the January 2017 certified list –- have since occurred. Accordingly, it was impossible to provide Irwin the relief he requested. Irwin's appeal was dismissed. View "Irwin v. Jefferson County Personnel Board" on Justia Law

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Alfa Insurance Corporation, ALFA Mutual General Insurance Corporation, ALFA Life Insurance Corporation, and ALFA Specialty Insurance Corporation (collectively, "Alfa") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus seeking review of an order entered by the Montgomery Circuit Court on December 18, 2015. Although Alfa set forth three issues for review, the Supreme Court reviewed only one: whether the circuit court had jurisdiction to enter the December 18, 2015, order and whether it exceeded its discretion by not setting that order aside. R.G. "Bubba" Howell, Jr., and M. Stuart "Chip" Jones were insurance agents for an Alfa insurance agency in Mississippi. Their agency agreements with Alfa included an arbitration provision, as well as a provision requiring Howell and Jones to purchase "errors and omissions" insurance coverage. In 2012, Alfa accused Howell and Jones of selling competing products in contravention of their agency agreements; Howell and Jones, however, alleged that their actions had been approved by Alfa. Regardless, Alfa forced Howell to resign his position as an Alfa agent on December 31, 2012, and discharged Jones on January 1, 2013. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the circuit court exceeded its discretion in entering the December 18, 2015, order compelling discovery pretermitted discussion of the other, two discovery issues. View "Ex parte Alfa Insurance Corporation et al." on Justia Law

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Alfa Insurance Corporation, ALFA Mutual General Insurance Corporation, ALFA Life Insurance Corporation, and ALFA Specialty Insurance Corporation (collectively, "Alfa") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus seeking review of an order entered by the Montgomery Circuit Court on December 18, 2015. Although Alfa set forth three issues for review, the Supreme Court reviewed only one: whether the circuit court had jurisdiction to enter the December 18, 2015, order and whether it exceeded its discretion by not setting that order aside. R.G. "Bubba" Howell, Jr., and M. Stuart "Chip" Jones were insurance agents for an Alfa insurance agency in Mississippi. Their agency agreements with Alfa included an arbitration provision, as well as a provision requiring Howell and Jones to purchase "errors and omissions" insurance coverage. In 2012, Alfa accused Howell and Jones of selling competing products in contravention of their agency agreements; Howell and Jones, however, alleged that their actions had been approved by Alfa. Regardless, Alfa forced Howell to resign his position as an Alfa agent on December 31, 2012, and discharged Jones on January 1, 2013. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the circuit court exceeded its discretion in entering the December 18, 2015, order compelling discovery pretermitted discussion of the other, two discovery issues. View "Ex parte Alfa Insurance Corporation et al." on Justia Law

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Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC, d/b/a GCR Tires & Service ("Bridgestone"), appealed a circuit court order denying Bridgestone's motion to compel arbitration of an employment-related dispute. Ottis Adams began working as a sales representative for Bridgestone or a related entity in May 2006 and that he resigned or his employment was terminated in August 2016. At some point at or around the time he was hired, Adams signed a document entitled "New Employee Agreement and Acknowledgment of the Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. Employee Dispute Resolution Plan" ("the agreement"), which stated that Adams agreed to the terms of the employee-dispute-resolution plan, fully titled, the "BFS Retail & Commercial Operations, LLC, Employee Dispute Resolution Plan" ("the EDR Plan"). The EDR Plan contained an arbitration provision. After leaving Bridgestone in 2016, Adams went to work for McGriff Tire Company, Inc. ("McGriff"). At some point thereafter, McGriff's principal, Barry McGriff, received a letter written on the letterhead of Bridgestone's corporate parent, asserting that Adams signed a noncompetition and nonsolicitation agreement with his previous employer, that his employment with McGriff violated that agreement, and that Adams allegedly had violated a duty of loyalty by selling tires for McGriff while still employed by Bridgestone. The letter also suggested that Adams may have disclosed, or might disclose, "confidential information and trade secrets." The letter stated that Bridgestone was planning to commence legal action against Adams and concluded with a suggestion that McGriff might be named as a defendant in that action if the matter was not resolved. Adams asserts that, because of the accusations in the letter, McGriff terminated his employment. Adams sued Bridgestone and related entities, alleging Bridgestone interfered with his business relationship with McGriff and had defamed him via the letter to Barry McGriff. Adams subsequently voluntarily dismissed all defendants except Bridgestone. Bridgestone filed an answer and a counterclaim. In its counterclaim, Bridgestone averred that Adams, while still employed by Bridgestone, had taken actions for McGriff's benefit and had "feigned acceptance" of an employment agreement he never actually signed that included a noncompetition provision. Although Bridgestone did not mention arbitration or the EDR Plan in its answer or counterclaim, approximately three months after filing those pleadings, it amended its answer to assert arbitration as a defense, and it filed a motion to compel arbitration of all claims pursuant to the terms of the EDR Plan. The trial court denied Bridgestone's motion to compel, and Bridgestone appealed. After review of the record, the Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court erred in denying Bridgestone's motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of the EDR Plan. Accordingly, the trial court’s judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC v. Adams" on Justia Law

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Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC, d/b/a GCR Tires & Service ("Bridgestone"), appealed a circuit court order denying Bridgestone's motion to compel arbitration of an employment-related dispute. Ottis Adams began working as a sales representative for Bridgestone or a related entity in May 2006 and that he resigned or his employment was terminated in August 2016. At some point at or around the time he was hired, Adams signed a document entitled "New Employee Agreement and Acknowledgment of the Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. Employee Dispute Resolution Plan" ("the agreement"), which stated that Adams agreed to the terms of the employee-dispute-resolution plan, fully titled, the "BFS Retail & Commercial Operations, LLC, Employee Dispute Resolution Plan" ("the EDR Plan"). The EDR Plan contained an arbitration provision. After leaving Bridgestone in 2016, Adams went to work for McGriff Tire Company, Inc. ("McGriff"). At some point thereafter, McGriff's principal, Barry McGriff, received a letter written on the letterhead of Bridgestone's corporate parent, asserting that Adams signed a noncompetition and nonsolicitation agreement with his previous employer, that his employment with McGriff violated that agreement, and that Adams allegedly had violated a duty of loyalty by selling tires for McGriff while still employed by Bridgestone. The letter also suggested that Adams may have disclosed, or might disclose, "confidential information and trade secrets." The letter stated that Bridgestone was planning to commence legal action against Adams and concluded with a suggestion that McGriff might be named as a defendant in that action if the matter was not resolved. Adams asserts that, because of the accusations in the letter, McGriff terminated his employment. Adams sued Bridgestone and related entities, alleging Bridgestone interfered with his business relationship with McGriff and had defamed him via the letter to Barry McGriff. Adams subsequently voluntarily dismissed all defendants except Bridgestone. Bridgestone filed an answer and a counterclaim. In its counterclaim, Bridgestone averred that Adams, while still employed by Bridgestone, had taken actions for McGriff's benefit and had "feigned acceptance" of an employment agreement he never actually signed that included a noncompetition provision. Although Bridgestone did not mention arbitration or the EDR Plan in its answer or counterclaim, approximately three months after filing those pleadings, it amended its answer to assert arbitration as a defense, and it filed a motion to compel arbitration of all claims pursuant to the terms of the EDR Plan. The trial court denied Bridgestone's motion to compel, and Bridgestone appealed. After review of the record, the Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court erred in denying Bridgestone's motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of the EDR Plan. Accordingly, the trial court’s judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC v. Adams" on Justia Law

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Defendant Cheryl Price and Greg Lovelace petitioned for mandamus relief. Price was formerly the warden at Donaldson Correctional Facility ("the prison"), which was operated by the Alabama Department of Corrections ("the DOC"). Lovelace was a deputy commissioner of the DOC in charge of construction and maintenance. Plaintiff Marcus Parrish was a correctional officer employed by the DOC. Parrish was supervising inmate showers in a segregation unit in the prison. Parrish left the shower area briefly to retrieve shaving trimmers, and, when he returned, inmate Rashad Byers had already entered a shower cell, which had an exterior lock on it. Byers indicated that he was finished with his shower, and Parrish told him to turn around to be handcuffed, then approached Byers's shower door with the key to the lock on the door in his hand. Byers unexpectedly opened the door, exited the shower cell, and attacked Parrish. During the attack, Byers took Parrish's baton from him and began striking Parrish with it. Parrish was knocked unconscious, and he sustained injuries to his head. Parrish sued Price and Lovelace in their official capacities. Parrish later filed an amended complaint naming Price and Lovelace as defendants in their individual capacities only (thus, it appears that Price and Lovelace were sued only in their individual capacities). Parrish alleged that Price and Lovelace willfully breached their duties by failing to monitor the prison for unsafe conditions and by failing to repair or replace the allegedly defective locks. Price and Lovelace moved for a summary judgment, asserting, among other things, that they are entitled to State-agent immunity. The trial court denied the summary-judgment motion, concluding, without elaboration, that genuine issues of material fact existed to preclude a summary judgment. Price and Lovelace then petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, arguing that they were immune from liability. After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded Price and Lovelace established they were entitled to State-agent immunity. Accordingly, the Court directed the trial court to enter a summary judgment in their favor. View "Ex parte Cheryl Price & Greg Lovelace." on Justia Law

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James Wood, a retired circuit court judge, appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of: the State of Alabama; Luther Strange, in his capacity as Attorney General for the State of Alabama; David Bronner, in his capacity as chief executive officer of the Employees' Retirement System of Alabama; the Board of Control of the Employees' Retirement System of Alabama ("the Board of Control"); and Thomas White, Jr., in his capacity as Comptroller for the State of Alabama. At issue were increases in the rates of contributions judges and justices are required to pay into the Judicial Retirement Fund ("the Fund"), pursuant to section 12- 18-5, Ala. Code 1975. The Fund was established under the provisions of Act No. 1163, Ala. Acts 1973, codified at section 12- 18-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, to provide retirement benefits to qualified judges and justices. Judge Wood was serving his second official term when increases in contribution rates took effect. Judge Wood retired on January 15, 2013. In June 2012, Judge Wood, individually, and on behalf of a purported class of "all members" of the Fund, sued the State defendants, alleging that the mandatory increases in contributions to the Fund reduced Judge Wood's net pay without affording him any additional retirement benefits. He alleged that the increases in contributions violated the Judicial Compensation Clause of Art. VI, section 148(d), Constitution of Alabama of 1901 ("the Compensation Clause"). In his complaint, Judge Wood sought a judgment declaring the Act unconstitutional as violative of the Compensation Clause. Because Judge Wood's claim for money damages was not shown to be within the Alabama Supreme Court's subject-matter jurisdiction and his claim for prospective injunctive relief was moot, also defeating subject-matter jurisdiction, the Court did not address the constitutionality of the Act. Accordingly, the Court held the trial court's judgment upholding the Act against Judge Wood's constitutional challenge was void. Therefore, the Court dismissed the appeal, vacated the summary judgment in favor of the State defendants, and dismissed the action for failure to establish subject-matter jurisdiction as to the claim for monetary damages and on the basis of mootness as to the claim for prospective injunctive relief. View "Wood v. Alabama" on Justia Law