Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Under the facts of this case, the doctrine of sovereign immunity did not protect the State from an arbitrator’s award of prejudgment interest. This case arose from Grievant’s termination from her job as a public school teacher. The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) filed a grievance on Grievant’s behalf, and an arbitration hearing was held pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement between HSTA and the Hawaii State Department of Education (State). The arbitrator sustained the grievance and ordered that Grievant be restored to her former position. The arbitrator also determined that Grievant was entitled to interest on unpaid backpay. Before the circuit court, the State argued that Grievance was not entitled to the awarded interest. The circuit court vacated the portion of the award that gave Grievant prejudgment interest. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) reversed the circuit court’s order vacating the prejudgment interest award, concluding that the doctrine of sovereign immunity was not implicated in this case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ICA did not err in concluding that the State waived its sovereign immunity in the arbitration proceedings, even as to the issue of interest. View "In re Arbitration between Hawaii State Teachers Association and State of Hawaii, Department of Education" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated cases (Garner and Kawashima), the Supreme Court held that the circuit court erred in determining that Regulation 5203 was a Haw. Rev. Stat. chapter 91 rule and in granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs for their hourly back wages contract claims. Further, the court erred in finding in the Garner case that Plaintiffs were entitled to interest on their per diem and hourly back wages under Haw. Rev. Stat. 103-10. Plaintiffs in both cases - substitute and part-time temporary teachers (PTTs) who were employed by the State, Department of Education (DOE) - claimed they were underpaid by the State. In Garner, the circuit court awarded hourly back wages to Plaintiffs who worked in a part-time capacity and also awarded interest on both the per diem and hourly back wages owed. In Kawashima, the circuit court awarded the PTTs hourly back wages but ruled that the PTTs were not entitled to interest on their unpaid hourly wages. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment in Garner and affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment in Kawashima, holding that Plaintiffs were not entitled to hourly back wages or interest on any back wages, whether per diem or hourly, under section 103-10. View "Kawashima v. State, Department of Education" on Justia Law

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John Hasircoglu was an employee of a subcontractor to FOPCO, Inc., the general contractor on a tunnel construction project on Molokai. In response to a request by the State, FOPCO identified Donald Clark and Michael Estes, neither of whom were FOPCO employees, as “project superintendent and key personnel.” The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of FOPCO on all claims. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed on the grounds that Estes and Clark were not agents of FOPCO, and therefore, FOPCO could not be held vicariously liable for their alleged negligence. The Supreme Court vacated in part and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) there existed a genuine issue of material fact as to whether there was an agency relationship between FOPCO and Estes and/or Clark based on actual express or implied authority; and (2) summary judgment was proper as to Plaintiffs’ remaining claims. View "Hasircoglu v. FOPCO, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed this class action suit individually and on behalf of employees (and their dependent-beneficiaries) who began working for the State or its political subdivisions before July 1, 2003 and who had accrued or will accrue a right to post-retirement health benefits as a retiree a retiree’s dependent. Plaintiffs alleged that the State, the City and County of Honolulu, and the Counties of Kaua’i, Maui, and Hawai’i impaired Plaintiffs’ accrued retirement health benefits in violation of Haw. Const. art. XVI, 2. Specifically, Plaintiffs claimed that the State and Counties violated their statutory rights under Haw. Rev. Stat. 87 by not providing retirees and their dependents with dental and medical benefits that were substantially equal to those provided to active workers and their dependents. After a lengthy procedural history, the Supreme Court held that Plaintiffs’ accrued retirement health benefits have been diminished or impaired in violation of article XVI, section 2. Remanded for further proceedings. View "Dannenberg v. State" on Justia Law

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In 2010 and 2012, the Commission issued charges against William Boyd, a charter school employee, for alleged violations of Haw. Rev. Stat. 84-14 that occurred in 2006 and 2007. Boyd filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the Commission lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate proceedings against him because he was not an employee of the State subject to the code of ethics contained in Haw. Rev. Stat. Chapter 84. The Commission denied Boyd’s motion and concluded that Boyd was an “employee” as defined in Haw. Rev. Stat. 84-3. The Commission then concluded that Boyd committed several violations of Chapter 84 and imposed a total administrative fine of $10,000. The circuit court affirmed the Commission’s determination that Boyd as an “employee” under section 84-3 and was thus subject to the code of ethics in Chapter 84. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed the determination. The Supreme Court vacated the lower courts’ judgments and the Commission’s decision and order, holding (1) in accordance with Haw. Rev. Stat. 302B-9(a), charter school employees were exempt from Haw. Rev. Stat. 84-14 at the relevant time period in this case; and (2) therefore, the Commission did not have the authority to adjudicate the proceedings against Boyd. View "Boyd v. Haw. State Ethics Comm’n" on Justia Law

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Civil Beat requested the disciplinary records of twelve Honolulu Police Department (HPD) officers who were suspended for various types of misconduct. HPD denied the request in its entirety. Civil Beat then filed a complaint seeking an order directing HPD to disclose the information Civil Beat sought. The circuit court ruled in favor of Civil Beat, concluding that police officers have a “non-existent” privacy interest in their disciplinary suspension records. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s judgment, holding that police officers have a significant privacy interest in their disciplinary suspension records, and disclosure of the records is appropriate when the public interest in access to the records outweighs this privacy interest. Remanded for a determination of whether the public interest outweighs the officers’ significant privacy interests. View "Peer News LLC v. City & County of Honolulu" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former employee of the State, Department of the Attorney General, filed a workers’ compensation claim after he was diagnosed with depression and was later terminated. The sole question before the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) was whether Plaintiff sustained a personal psychological injury arising out of and in the course of employment. LIRAB found that Plaintiff’s psychological injury was attributed to a “Notice to Improve Performance" (NTIP) issued by his employer. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed, concluding that Plaintiff’s injury resulted solely from “disciplinary action,” and therefore, Plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claim was barred by Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-3(c). The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment, holding (1) Plaintiff’s NTIP was not “disciplinary action,” as that term is defined by Haw. Rev. Stat. 386-1 and 386-3; and (2) therefore, Plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claim is not barred by section 386-3(c). Remanded to LIRAB for further proceedings. View "Gao v. State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a State of Hawaii employee, was injured in an accident on the premises of the University of Hawaii Leward Community College one hour after he ended work for the day. The State denied Plaintiff’s claim for compensation on the basis that his injury was not work related. The Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board (LIRAB) determined that the State had presented sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption that Plaintiff’s knee injury was a covered work-related injury. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment and the LIRAB’s decision and order, holding that the LIRAB erred in concluding that the State rebutted the presumption that Plaintiff’s knee injury was a compensable work injury. View "Yoshii v. State, Univ. of Hawaii" on Justia Law

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The City and County of of Honolulu provided refuse collection services through the use of front-end loader work crews to service 181 multi-unit residential properties and numerous City agencies. After the City decided to discontinue front loader collection services, United Public Workers (the Union) sued the City and County. The Union filed a motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin the City from unilaterally implementing the privatization of the collection and disposal services. The circuit court granted partial summary judgment to the Union and permanently enjoined the City from discontinuing the services at issue, concluding that the City and County’s cancellation of the services constituted impermissible privatization. The circuit court certified the partial summary judgment order for appeal and stayed the proceedings as to the remaining counts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the City and County’s decision to terminate front loader refuse collection services violated constitutional merit principles and civil service laws and deprived the civil service workers in this case of the protections guaranteed in Article XVI, Section 1 of the Hawaii Constitution and Haw. Rev. Stat. 76 and 77; and (2) the circuit court did not err in granting partial summary judgment in favor of the Union as to the asserted violations of constitutional merit principles. View "Salera v. Caldwell" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the former Chief of the General Medical & Preventative Services Division at the Hawaii Department of Health, filed a tort complaint against the State and Senator Rosalyn Baker, alleging that Baker eliminated his position in retaliation for whistleblowing activities. Baker filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that she was immune from suit based on legislative immunity, that the claims were untimely, and that the complaint failed to state a claim. The circuit court granted in part and denied in part Baker’s motion to dismiss, finding, as relevant to this appeal, that Baker was not entitled to dismissal on the basis of legislative immunity. Baker appealed. The Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s order and remanded to the ICA for determination of the appeal on the merits, holding that the ICA had jurisdiction to hear Baker’s appeal because the circuit court’s order was an immediately appealable collateral order. View "Greer v. Baker" on Justia Law