Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Claimant, a former police officer employed by the City of Buffalo, alleged that exposure to asbestos occurred during his employment, later leading to his diagnosis of mesothelioma. Claimant and his wife commenced this proceeding seeking permission to serve a late notice of claim on the City. The City argued, in opposition, that leave should be denied because N.Y. Gen. Mun. Law 207-c provides the exclusive remedy for the alleged work-related remedies. The Appellate Division denied the application. At issue on appeal was whether a police officer who is entitled to receive benefits under section 207-c for a duty-related injury is barred from bringing a claim against his or her employer under N.Y. Gen. Mun. Law 205-e. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that section 205-e does not bar a lawsuit by a police officer who suffers a line-of-duty injury caused by the employer’s statutory or regulatory violations when that police officer is employed by a municipality that has elected not to provide coverage pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation Law. View "Diegelman v. City of Buffalo" on Justia Law

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In Matter of Maron v. Silver, the Supreme Court concluded that the Legislature’s and Governor’s practice of directly and explicitly tying consideration of judicial compensation to unrelated policy initiatives - called linkage - during years 2006 through 2008 violated the separation of powers doctrine. As a result of the Court’s decision, the Legislature passed, and the Governor signed, legislation establishing the Independent Commission on Judicial Compensation, by which the issue of judicial compensation now receives consideration independent of other political matters. In the instant case, Plaintiffs, current and retired judges and justices, sought an award of money damages to remedy the constitutional violation that led to the court’s decision in Matter of Maron. The Appellate Division denied relief. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that neither Matter of Maron nor any other authority permitted the Court to grant monetary relief to Plaintiffs in this case. View "Larabee v. Governor of State of N.Y." on Justia Law

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In 1996, New York State Racing and Wagering Board (the Racing Board) reduced per diem wages for its seasonal employees by twenty-five percent. The Public Employees Federation (PEF) filed an improper practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), alleging that the reduction in wages violated the Racing Board’s duty to negotiate in good faith under N.Y. Civ. Serv. 209-a(1)(d). PERB dismissed the improper practice charge. Petitioner, then president of PEF, subsequently brought this N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding, asserting that PERB’s determination was arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law. Supreme Court dismissed the petition. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that PERB’s determination was arbitrary and capricious. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that PERB’s decision dismissing the improper practice charge was not affected by an error of law and was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. View "Kent v. Lefkowitz" on Justia Law

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After achieving tenure at Food and Finance High School, Petitioner voluntarily resigned from his teaching position. Petitioner was later hired as a teacher at Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual arts. Petitioner received a rating of “unsatisfactory” for the school year and, consequently, was terminated. Petitioner brought this N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding arguing that he was a tenured teacher upon his reappointment, and therefore, his termination without just cause and without following the procedures in N.Y. Educ. Law 3020-a was unlawful, arbitrary and capricious, or an abuse of discretion. Supreme Court denied the petition and dismissed the proceeding for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The Appellate Division affirmed on a different ground, holding that when Petitioner was rehired, his tenure was not ipso facto restored. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) a tenured teacher who resigns, and who later seeks to return as a tenured teacher must strictly comply with paragraph 29 of New York City Board of Education Chancellor’s Regulation C-205 (C-205(29)) and submit a written request to withdraw his prior resignation; and (2) absent a request to withdraw his resignation, Petitioner failed to meet the requirements of C-205(29) for reinstatement with tenure. View "Springer v. Board of Education" on Justia Law

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In 1993, Petitioner began receiving public assistance from the City of New York. At that time, the City required that Petitioner work thirty-five hours per week in the Work Experience Program (WEP). In 2000, Petitioner left the WEP, and his benefits were terminated. In 2007, Petitioner won $10,000 in the New York State lottery. The New York State Division of Lottery and the New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA) invoked N.Y. Soc Serv. Law 131-r, which authorizes the State to appropriate half of any lottery prize to reimburse itself to public assistance benefits paid to the prizewinner during the previous ten years. Petitioner filed this N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding alleging that were OTDA permitted to recoup a portion of the benefits paid to him through section 131-r, then he would be paid less than minimum wage in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Supreme Court ultimately granted Petitioner’s petition against OTDA and its Commissioner. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Petitioner was entitled to minimum wage for his hours worked as a participant in the WEP program, and the State could not retroactively deprive him of a minimum wage by recouping the funds through his lottery prize. View "Carver v. State" on Justia Law

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After Plaintiff was removed from his position at his place of employment and demoted, he commenced this action pursuant to N.Y. Civ. Serv. Law 75-b, the whistleblower statute, alleging that he was retaliated against for reporting improper governmental activity. Defendants moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, arguing that Plaintiff failed to comply with section 75-b by not reporting the allegedly wrongful actions to the appointing authority before contacting the Inspector General’s office. Supreme Court granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment and dismissed the complaint. The Appellate Division reversed and granted Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that Plaintiff’s good faith efforts in the manner and filing of his reporting met the requirements of section 75-b(2). After a trial on damages, Supreme Court awarded Plaintiff back pay, interest, and attorney’s fees and costs and directed Defendants to reinstate Plaintiff to his position. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) under the circumstances of this case, Plaintiff demonstrated good faith compliance with section 75-b; and (2) Plaintiff was entitled to prejudgment interest. View "Tipaldo v. Lynn" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-insurance intermediaries were Brown & Brown, Inc., a Florida corporation, and its New York subsidiary, Brown & Brown of New York, Inc. (BBNY). When Theresa Johnson began working for BBNY she signed an employment agreement that contained a Florida choice-of-law provision and a non-solicitation provision precluding Johnson from soliciting, accepting, or servicing any customer of Plaintiffs. One month after Johnson was terminated, she began working for a competitor of BBNY. Plaintiffs commenced this action against Johnson and her new employer (collectively, Defendants) alleging that Johnson breached the employment agreement by soliciting Plaintiffs’ customers. The Appellate Division dismissed the portion of the breach of contract cause of action based on the non-solicitation provision, concluding that the provision was overbroad and unenforceable and that the choice-of-law provision was unenforceable as against public policy. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the agreement’s choice-of-law provision was unenforceable in relation to the non-solicitation provision; and (2) questions of fact existed as to whether Plaintiffs engaged in overreaching or used coercion to obtain the non-solicitation restrictive covenant, and therefore, dismissal was inappropriate. View "Brown & Brown, Inc. v Johnson" on Justia Law

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The New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA), on behalf of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), retained P.A.L. Environmental Safety Corp. (PAL) to perform asbestos removal from electrical cables underneath city streets. PAL contracted with IMS Safety Inc. (IMS) to serve as site safety consultant. Plaintiff, an asbestos handler employed by PAL, sustained work-related injuries after falling through an uncovered manhole. Plaintiff commenced this action against IMS, the City of New York, NYCTA, and MTA alleging violations of the Labor Law and common law negligence. Supreme Court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint against all defendants, concluding that Plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of his injuries because he disregarded his supervisor’s instructions. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding (1) IMS was not a statutory agent subject to liability; and (2) Plaintiff’s actions were the sole proximate cause of his injuries. The Court of Appeals modified the order of the Appellate Division, holding (1) the Appellate Division erred in concluding that Plaintiff’s conduct was the sole proximate cause of his injuries; and (2) Plaintiff raised triable issues of fact as to whether IMS, as a potential statutory agent, had the authority to supervise that portion of the work that brought about Plaintiff’s injury. Remitted to Supreme Court. View "Barreto v. Metro. Transit Auth." on Justia Law

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Joseph Saint suffered work-related injuries while he was engaged in the installation and removal of a billboard advertisement. Joseph and his wife, Sheila Saint (together, Plaintiffs), brought this complaint against the owner of the property where the billboard was located, alleging violations of N.Y. Labor Law 240(1) and (2) and 241(6), among other claims. Defendant moved for summary judgment to dismiss Plaintiffs’ complaint, asserting that Joseph was not engaged in a covered activity under the Labor Law. Supreme Court denied the motion, concluding that Labor Law 240 and 241 applied to Joseph’s claim. The Appellate Division reversed and dismissed the complaint, determining that Plaintiff’s work on the billboard did not constitute altering the building or structure for purposes of section 240 and that Plaintiff was not engaged in construction work within the meaning of section 241(6). The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff was engaged in alteration of the structure within the meaning of Labor Law 240(1); and (2) Plaintiff properly asserted claims for unprotected construction work under Labor Law 240(2) and 241(6) based on the lack of a guardrail on the billboard platform. View "Saint v. Syracuse Supply Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a construction worker, slipped on ice and fell to the floor while using stilts to install insulation in a ceiling. Plaintiff commenced this action, asserting common-law negligence and N.Y. Labor Law 200, 240(1) and 241(6) claims against the owner of the premises upon which Plaintiff was working, as well as the general contractor for the construction project. Supreme Court granted Plaintiff summary judgment with regard to liability on the Labor Law 240(1) claim as against the owner of the premises and the contractor, determining that section 240(1) applied because Plaintiff’s accident resulted from an elevation-related risk as contemplated by the statute. The Appellate Court affirmed as modified. The Court of Appeals modified the order of the Appellate Division, holding that Plaintiff’s accident did not fit within the ambit of section 240(1) because Plaintiff’s injuries resulted from a slip on ice, which was a separate hazard unrelated to the elevation risk. View "Nicometi v Vineyards of Fredonia, LLC" on Justia Law