Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Several carpenters, including one single-member LLC, an installer of cement siding, and a painter contended they were employees of Bourbeau Custom Homes, Inc. for the purposes of Vermont’s unemployment compensation system. Bourbeau challenged that classification, contending that it was not liable for unemployment taxes on monies paid to a carpenter operating as a single-member LLC because an LLC was not an “individual” under the unemployment tax statute and therefore not subject to the ABC test established by 21 V.S.A. 1301(6)(B). Second, Bourbeau argued the Employment Security Board erred in applying the ABC test with respect to all of the workers whose remuneration is the subject of this appeal. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed with Bourbeau on the first point and held that an LLC was not an “individual” for the purposes of assessing unemployment taxes. However, the Court affirmed the Board’s determination that the remaining four individuals were employees for purposes of Vermont’s unemployment compensation system. View "In re Bourbeau Custom Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant Hector LeClair, plaintiff Joseph LeClair’s grandfather, was experienced in construction and has developed several properties around the Vermont. In 2011, defendant approached his son, Ricky LeClair, who also worked in construction, about replacing the roof on the building in which defendant had his office. Defendant’s son, Ricky, then approached his twenty-seven-year-old son, plaintiff, about working on defendant’s roofing project. Plaintiff had also worked in construction and was an experienced roofer, but was unemployed at the time. Plaintiff’s father told him he would make “good money” for working on defendant’s roof. Plaintiff’s father supplied the tools, equipment, and materials for the roof job. On October 7, 2011, plaintiff arrived at the property with another person to work on the roof. They had already removed the shingles from the roof, leaving only the underlayment, which on that October morning was covered with dew and early frost. Plaintiff claimed that he initially decided not to work on the roof because the frost made it slippery but changed his mind when defendant arrived at the property and ordered him to begin work. Plaintiff climbed a ladder onto the property’s roof; plaintiff fell from the second-story roof and landed on the paved driveway below, sustaining serious and permanent head and spinal injuries. Plaintiff sued defendant for his injuries, and appealed when the trial court granted defendant summary judgment. Plaintiff argued the trial court erred by concluding that defendant owed him no duty and that the court abused its discretion by denying his motion to amend his complaint to add a new liability theory. Given the circumstances of this case, the Vermont Supreme Court agreed that the trial court erred in concluding, as a matter of law on summary judgment, that defendant owed no duty to plaintiff. View "LeClair v. LeClair" on Justia Law

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The Employment Security Board (ESB) affirmed a Department of Labor audit of appellant, Great Northern Construction (GNC). The Department's auditor concluded that GNC had improperly classified two of its workers as independent contractors rather than employees for the purposes of unemployment insurance taxes. In accordance with Vermont's Unemployment Compensation Law, the Department issued GNC an assessment for unpaid taxes from 2011 to 2014 plus interest and a penalty. GNC sought review of the assessment before an administrative law judge, who upheld the Department's tax assessment, and GNC appealed that decision to the ESB. The ESB concluded that the workers in question were not independent contractors but employees according to Vermont's statutory definition of the term. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the ESB concerning one worker, but reversed as to the other. View "Great Northern Construction, Inc. v. Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a Labor Relations Board decision to reverse its dismissal of grievant John Lepore, instead suspending him for thirty days without pay. The Board agreed with the State that grievant committed serious offenses and demonstrated 'poor judgment and dishonesty related to his fitness for state employment' while serving as a juror in a capital murder trial. It concluded, however, the State could not dismiss grievant given its delay in imposing discipline and its failure to restrict grievant's job duties during the investigation into grievant's misconduct. The State argued that neither ground undermined its conclusion that grievant's serious misconduct warranted dismissal, particularly because grievant suffered no prejudice from the delay. After review, the Supreme Court agreed, and therefore reversed the Board's decision. View "In re Grievance of John Lepore" on Justia Law

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Employer Entergy Corporation challenged the denial of its request for a credit against future workers’ compensation benefits owed to claimant Sharon Conant. Employer argued on appeal that, given the payments it made to claimant under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, as well as the retroactive temporary total disability (TTD) payments it was ordered to make, claimant received more money as wage replacement than she was owed. After review, the Supreme Court agreed, and reversed the Commissioner of the Department of Labor’s decision on this point. View "Conant v. Entergy Corporation" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered on two petitions filed on behalf of sixty-nine sworn law enforcement officers of the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife, Vermont Department of Liquor Control, and Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles. Here, the New England Police Benevolent Association (NEPBA) filed a petition seeking an election of collective bargaining representatives among the sworn officers, currently represented by the Vermont State Employees’ Association (VSEA) as part of the Non-Management Bargaining Unit. VSEA moved to dismiss the petition. The State agreed, and notified the Board by letter that the proposed bargaining unit would not be an appropriate unit. NEPBA appealed an order of the Vermont Labor Relations Board dismissing the petition. Finding no reversible error in the Board's decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Petition of New England Police Benevolent Association" on Justia Law

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The Burlington Administrators’ Association and Nicolas Molander (collectively the Association) appealed a trial court’s confirmation of an arbitration decision that Molander, in his capacity as an interim assistant principal, was not entitled to the contractual and statutory protections applicable to regular assistant principals who were not hired on an interim or acting basis. In particular, they challenged the trial court’s conclusion that it had no authority to review the merits of the arbitrator’s ruling for “manifest disregard of the law,” and argued that in this case, the arbitrator’s ruling evinced such a disregard. Because the Supreme Court concluded that the arbitrator’s award did not in any event reflect a manifest disregard of the law, it did not address the question whether the trial court had authority to review an arbitration award under such a standard. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Burlington Administrators' Ass'n v. Burlington Bd. of School Comm'rs" on Justia Law

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Claimant Debra Morisseau appealed a decision by the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Labor awarding summary judgment to employer Hannaford Brothers on the question of whether the employer was obligated to pay for voice recognition technology, either as a vocational rehabilitation or medical benefit, as a consequence of her compensable work injury. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Morisseau v. Hannaford Brothers" on Justia Law

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The Vermont State Employees’ Association (VSEA) filed eight petitions with the Vermont Labor Relations Board to elect collective bargaining representatives under the Vermont Municipal Employee Relations Act (MERA). VSEA sought to represent the employees within the State’s Attorney’s Offices (SAOs), including deputy state’s attorneys, victim advocates, and secretaries, in the counties of Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Orange, Rutland, Windsor, Addison, and Windham. The Board ultimately denied all eight petitions. "Plainly, the Legislature has endeavored to act comprehensively in covering government employees, including those working for local government entities such as the SAOs." The Supreme Court reversed the Board’s decision, and remanded the matter for the Board to proceed with the certification process. View "In re Election Petitions" on Justia Law

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The Vermont Human Rights Commission and three female employees of the Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC) filed suit against the State (the DOC and the Vermont Department of Human Resources (DHR)) claiming that the DOC violated the Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act (VFEPA) by paying a male employee in the same position as the female plaintiffs as much as $10,000 more annually without a legally defensible, gender-neutral reason. The trial court granted summary judgment to the State, concluding that although plaintiffs established a prima facie case, the undisputed facts established that the wage disparity was due to legitimate business reasons and not gender-based. After review, the Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed dismissal of plaintiffs' case. View "Vermont Human Rights Comm'n v. Vermont" on Justia Law