Articles Posted in Employment Law

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Zaloudek Grain Company held a workers' compensation policy with CompSource Oklahoma for approximately ten years prior to 2011. Zaloudek was required each year to provide payroll audit information to CompSource. The audit information was used to determine the proper premium for each year. CompSource sent a notice in late 2010 to Zaloudek requesting audit information. In January, 2011, Zaloudek's policy was renewed for all of 2011 through January 1, 2012. On January 18, 2011, CompSource sent another letter requesting Zaloudek provide the necessary payroll audit information, but Zaloudek was unresponsive. Subsequently, CompSource sent Zaloudek a notification to inform the company that the process of canceling its policy would begin if CompSource did not receive the audit information. The audit information was not provided; CompSource ultimately canceled the policy when Zaloudek ignored several subsequent requests. CompSource issued a refund for payments made under the policy. Later that summer, two teenage workers were seriously injured in the grain auger at Zaloudek's facility. CompSource did not accept the company's new insurance application because it was incomplete and was not signed by an owner of Zaloudek. Zaloudek sued a few weeks following the rejection of its application, asking for a judgment against CompSource for breach of contract and bad faith and further requested declaratory relief in the form of an order requiring CompSource to provide workers' compensation coverage. Zaloudek filed a motion for summary judgment claiming CompSource lacked legal justification for terminating its policy and requested orders to establish there was no lapse in coverage and requiring CompSource to provide coverage for its two injured employees. Zaloudek further requested a finding that CompSource was in breach of contract. CompSource moved for summary judgment, arguing Zaloudek was not covered at the time of the incident and its policy was properly canceled. Zaloudek filed a counter-motion for summary judgment asserting CompSource should be estopped from denying coverage because it retained premiums and acted in a manner toward Zaloudek consistent with continued coverage. The trial court issued an order dismissing Zaloudek's bad faith claim but left pending its claims for breach of contract and declaratory relief. CompSource appealed. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded that CompSource was authorized to cancel a policy for an insured's failure to participate in the audit. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings on the other contract issues raised.View "Zaloudek Grain Co. v. CompSource Oklahoma" on Justia Law

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An employee of a tribal enterprise sought to invoke the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court. Petitioner John A. Waltrip fell on a patch of ice while working as a surveillance supervisor at a casino and injured primarily his right shoulder. Petitioner initially obtained treatment from his personal physician but Tribal First, the employer Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino's claim administrator, sent him to an orthopedic specialist who recommended surgery in 2009. Petitioner filed a claim in the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court on July 17, 2009, seeking medical treatment and temporary total disability. The Casino and Insurer Hudson Insurance Company asserted that court lacked jurisdiction based on the tribe's sovereign immunity. A hearing was held solely on the jurisdictional issue; the Workers' Compensation Court denied jurisdiction and dismissed the claim holding that the tribe enjoyed sovereign immunity and that the provisions of the tribe's workers' compensation policy did not subject the insurance company to liability for claims in state court. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed and the Supreme Court granted certiorari review. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that: (1) the tribe enjoyed sovereign immunity and was not therefore subject to the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court; and (2) the workers' compensation insurer did not enjoy the tribe's immunity and was estopped to deny coverage under a policy for which it accepted premiums computed in part on the employee's earnings.View "Waltrip v. Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit certified two questions under the Revised Uniform Certified Questions of Law Act. Plaintiff-Appellant Oklahoma Corrections Professionals Association having a membership of approximately nineteen hundred state employees, filed suit against Defendant-Appellee Oscar B. Jackson, Jr., Administrator and Cabinet Secretary for Human Resources, in federal district court. It sought a preliminary injunction prohibiting the termination of voluntary payroll deductions for members of the Corrections Association scheduled to terminate on January 31, 2011 along with preservation of the "status quo" which it defined as an order requiring reinstatement of dues collection through the voluntary payroll deduction program should payroll deductions be terminated before the district court could act. The Corrections Association alleged that the 2008 amendment was designed to eliminate, by doubling the membership requirements for voluntary payroll deductions, the organization as a rival to the Oklahoma Public Employees Association. The Corrections Association contended that its very existence was dependent on collecting membership dues through the payroll deduction system. It asserted that: 1) the Public Employees Association was unfairly exempted from the numerosity requirement; and 2) the new membership requirement should be invalidated as unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The federal district court issued an order dismissing the Correction Association's federal claims for lack of standing and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any state law claims. Specifically, the district court held that the Correction Association had not met standing requirements of redressability. Even assuming the statutory provision's unconstitutionality, it reasoned that: 1) striking the offending statutory subsection would not restore the availability of voluntary payroll deductions; and 2) because the Legislature would not have included the provision without the numerosity provision, severing the requirement would amount to "rewriting" the law. Thus the question from the federal district court, reformulated as a question of first impression for the Oklahoma Supreme Court was: "[w]hether the two thousand (2,000) membership numerosity requirement of 62 O.S. 2011 sec. 34.70(B)(5), if determined to conflict with constitutional guarantees of free speech, may be severed pursuant to 75 O.S. 2011 sec. 11a?" The Court answered the question "yes."View "Oklahoma Corrections Professional Assoc., Inc. v. Jackso" on Justia Law