Author Archives: Mary Gemeinhardt

LINDNER & MARSACK, S.C., ANNOUNCES 2018 SUPER LAWYER AND BEST LAWYER DESIGNATIONS

Lindner & Marsack, S.C. today announced seven attorneys acknowledged by Super Lawyers magazine. Honorees include Douglas M. Feldman, Daniel J. Finerty, Thomas W. Mackenzie, Gary A. Marsack, Chelsie D. Springstead, Jonathan T. Swain and Oyvind Wistrom. Feldman, Finerty, Mackenzie, Marsack and Swain were also recognized as Best Lawyers by U.S. News & World Report.

“Year after year, we have had several of our team members honored with Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers designations, and it is a recognition we greatly value and appreciate,” said Mackenzie, President of Lindner & Marsack. He added, “This recognition not only highlights the accomplishments of our individual attorneys but speaks volumes about the quality of work provided by the entire firm as we help employers in Wisconsin and across the country minimize risks and navigate their toughest legal challenges.”

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Attorneys are selected using a rigorous, multi-phase rating process in which peer nominations and evaluations are combined with third party research. The objective of the program is to create a credible, comprehensive, and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel.

Similarly, Best Lawyers rankings are based on a rigorous process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.

LINDNER & MARSACK, S.C. WELCOMES LAUREN MATTHIESEN TO TEAM  

 Lindner & Marsack, S.C., one of the region’s most respected and long-standing management-side labor and employment law firms, today announced Lauren Matthiesen has joined the firm as an Associate. Ms. Matthiesen will focus on defending worker’s compensation claims across a variety of industries. Prior to joining Lindner & Marsack, Ms. Matthiesen was a worker’s compensation defense attorney at Husch Blackwell and an associate attorney at Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer, S.C., where she focused on insurance defense and subrogation.

“Our worker’s compensation team has grown steadily in recent years, and Lauren will be a great asset to our clients in delivering efficient and effective representation for employers in all aspects of worker’s compensation defense,” said Thomas Mackenzie, Firm President.

Ms. Matthiesen received her law degree from Marquette University Law School in 2012. While in law school, she did pro bono work for LAMP (the Legal and Medical Partnership) and served as in intern in the Office of the Chief at the Milwaukee Police Department. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, after which she spent a year studying abroad at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

Licensed in both the Eastern and Western District courts in Wisconsin, Ms. Matthiesen is a member of CLM (Claims + Litigation Management). In addition to judging Wisconsin’s high school mock trial competition, she volunteers her time at Milwaukee area events including Germanfest and the Wauwatosa’s Farmer’s Market.

EMPLOYEE NOT ENTITLED TO FURTHER WORKER’S COMPENSATION BENEFITS BECAUSE HER DISABILITY-CAUSING SURGERY WAS NOT RELATED TO A COMPENSABLE WORK INJURY

By:      Daniel M. Pedriana and Claudia R. Harke

On August 28, 2018, District I of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that the Plaintiff was not entitled to further worker’s compensation benefits because her disability-causing surgery was not related to a compensable work injury.

In Theresa Payton-Myrick v. LIRC, Theresa Payton-Myrick was diagnosed with arthritic changes and degenerative disc disease in her spine. Payton-Myrick was employed as an administrative assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. On July 21, 2009, she fell out of her desk chair and sustained several muscle strains. She subsequently received opinions from several doctors, one of whom recommended a spinal fusion surgery.

Despite conflicting medical opinions, Payton-Myrick underwent surgery, which resulted in multiple procedures and left her “arguably disabled.” Payton-Myrick applied for worker’s compensation benefits. The UW System denied her benefits, which caused Payton-Myrick to file a worker’s compensation claim.

An administrative law judge concluded that Payton-Myrick had “suffered a work-related injury that aggravated Payton-Myrick’s back condition beyond its normal progression” and that “the treatment, including surgery, was necessary and reasonable.”

The Labor and Industry Review Commission (“LIRC”) reversed the ALJ and found that Payton-Myrick’s muscle strains were from a compensable work injury, however, the work injury had healed and did not aggravate her pre-existing condition enough to necessitate surgery. LIRC also made several factual findings including that Payton-Myrick’s disability causing surgeries treated her pre-existing condition, not her compensable work injury.

The Court of Appeals upheld LIRC’s denial of further benefits based on a holding from the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Flug v. LIRC. In Flug, the Supreme Court ruled that Wis. Stat. § 102.42(1m), which states that if an employee who has sustained a compensable injury undertakes treatment in good faith that is medically acceptable, but unnecessary, the employer shall pay for all disability incurred as a result, only applies if the unnecessary, but acceptable surgery is to address the workplace injury.

Since LIRC made a factual finding that Payton-Myrick’s two spinal surgeries were focused on her pre-existing disc problems, not the workplace injury, the Court of Appeals upheld LIRC’s denial of further benefits.

This Decision does not drastically change the law surrounding whether an employee is entitled to further worker’s compensation benefits, however, it reinforces that Wis. Stat. § 102.42(1m) only applies if the unnecessary-but-acceptable surgery was done to address the workplace injury. However, it will be important to have treating and independent doctors specifically note the reason for an employee undergoing an unnecessary-but-acceptable surgery, as that will determine whether they are owed additional benefits.

The time to appeal this decision has passed and the decision remains unpublished.

If you have questions about this decision, please contact Daniel M. Pedriana by email at dpedriana@lindner-marsack.com or Claudia R. Harke by email at charke@lindner-marsack.com or any other attorney with whom you have been working with at Lindner & Marsack, S.C.

THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ISSUES TWO NEW ADVISORY OPINION LETTERS ON THE FMLA

By: Oyvind Wistrom

On August 28, 2018, for the first time in almost ten years,  the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (DOL) issued two new advisory opinion letters providing employers with guidance on the application of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to organ donors and a no-fault attendance policy.  While the advisory opinion letters are not binding authority or legal precedent, they signal DOL’s interpretation of the law and provide helpful guidance for employers in handing some interesting nuances of the law.

FMLA Protects Organ Donors

In one of the advisory letters, the DOL concluded that organ-donation surgery can qualify as a “serious health condition” under the FMLA, thus entitling an employee with up to 12 weeks of protected leave.  This is the case even if the employee was in good health before the donation and voluntarily elected to undergo the surgery.  The DOL reasoned that organ-donation surgery may require both “inpatient care” or “continuing treatment” and, therefore, meets the regulatory definitions of a serious health condition.  A serious health condition is defined as an illness or physical condition that requires inpatient care at a hospital.  Since the typical hospital stay after organ donation surgery is four to seven days, organ donation qualifies as a serious health condition.

No-Fault Attendance Policy under the FMLA

In another letter, the DOL addressed a company’s no-fault attendance policy and found that it did not violate the FMLA.  Under the company’s policy, employees accrued points for tardiness and absences, except for certain absences, including FMLA-protected leave.  The points remained on an employee’s record for 12 months, and the employer would extend that period for any time the employee was not in “active service,” such as during an FMLA leave.

The DOL concluded that “freezing” an employee’s attendance points while on FMLA leave did not violate the Act by denying a benefit to the employee who took FMLA leave.  The DOL reasoned that the FMLA does not entitle an employee to superior benefits because of FMLA leave, and the attendance policy placed the employee in the same position as if he or she had never taken leave.  The DOL cautioned, however, that employers must not treat FMLA leave different from other forms of leave.  Thus, the employer must “freeze” an employee’s attendance points for all similar types of leave.

This opinion letter highlights, first, that absences necessitated by an FMLA leave cannot be counted under a company’s no-fault attendance policy.  Additionally, an employer is not required to remove attendance points from an employee on FMLA leave where the employer has an “active service” component to their policy – as long as the company treats other employees on leave for other reasons the same (i.e., vacation, W.C. leave, etc.).

 

 

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS USE OF CLASS ACTION WAIVERS

By:  Jenna K. Leslie

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a significant victory for employers when ruling that class and collective action waivers in employment arbitration agreements are fully enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and do not violate an employee’s rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

In Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis (a companion case to National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA and Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris), the high court issued a 5-4 decision upholding the validity of class action waivers in arbitration agreements.  Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing the majority opinion, explained that the FAA unequivocally requires federal courts to enforce arbitration agreements according to their terms, and nothing in the NLRA, which was enacted after the FAA, was intended to negate that requirement.  The opinion specifically found that Section 7 of the NLRA focuses on an employee’s right to organize and bargain collectively, but it does not create a right to pursue class or collective action lawsuits.

Writing for the dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the majority opinion “egregiously wrong” and argued that the NLRA was intended to equalize the power imbalance in most employment relationships by allowing employees to band together through collective action to improve the terms and conditions of their employment.  The majority opinion rejected this notion, concluding that there is nothing in the NLRA that suggests a clear intention to displace the provisions of the FAA.

In recent years, employees have effectively used class and collective action procedures to bring massive wage and hour claims in both state and federal court.  This decision will curb those lawsuits and allow employers to rely on the enforceability of class and collective action waivers and arbitration provisions within their employment agreements.  Class and collective action waivers are useful tools used to preserve confidentiality, resolve claims more quickly, and limit potential exposure to collective action lawsuits.

This decision is said to affect at least 25 million existing employment agreements.  Employers should review their employment arbitration agreements carefully to determine which agreements are affected by this decision.  Employers should also consider whether it makes sense to implement such agreements prospectively, as the decision paves the way for employers to include class and collective action waivers in future employment agreements.

If you have questions about this material, please contact Jenna K. Leslie or  any other attorney you have been working with at Lindner & Marsack, S.C.

We look forward to seeing many of you tomorrow at our 2018 Annual Compliance/Best Practices seminar held at the Sheraton Hotel in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

LINDNER & MARSACK, S.C. WELCOMES DAVID KEATING TO TEAM

Lindner & Marsack, S.C. is pleased to announce the hire of Attorney David Keating.

Keating comes to Lindner& Marsack with significant experience advising clients in the long-term care industry. He served as Chief Legal Officer and Secretary for Fortis Management Group, LLC, where he provided legal advice and assistance on issues relating to resident care, regulatory compliance, reimbursement, fraud and abuse, human resources, labor relations, transactions and other areas affecting client operations. Prior to that, he held several positions over more than a decade with Extendicare Health Services, Inc., eventually serving as that organization’s Vice President and General Counsel.

“David has proven experience navigating complex legal challenges in an industry that is rapidly evolving and significant among Lindner & Marsack’s client portfolio, which will be a great asset to our clients in healthcare and beyond,” said Thomas Mackenzie, Firm President.

Keating is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, the American Bar Association and the Legal Committee of the American Health Care Association. He received his J.D. from the Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1995.  He also earned a Master of Labor and Industrial Relations from Michigan State University in 1992 and a Bachelor of Arts in Labor and Industrial Relations and Political Science from Pennsylvania State University in 1991.

“Lindner & Marsack’s long history and excellent reputation as a top-tier, management-side labor and employment law firm, along with the firm’s growth in the healthcare sector, make this a great fit,” says Keating. “As a member of the Lindner & Marsack team, I look forward to serving clients in a way that exceeds expectations and delivers proactive, legally-sound strategies and solutions.”

REGISTER NOW! ANNUAL COMPLIANCE/BEST PRACTICES REVIEW

WHEN: May 23, 2018

8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

WHERE: Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel

375 South Moorland Road

Brookfield, WI

Registration and a continental breakfast will be served beginning at 7:30 a.m.  Click here to register.

This COMPLIMENTARY half-day event will address the latest labor and employment topics impacting employers including:

  • Legal Updates – Labor, Employment and Worker’s Compensation
  • In Search of the Truth for Workplace Investigations: What are the Legal Pitfalls?
  • The Role of Human Resources in Protecting Company Information Before, During and After the Employment Relationship
  • Best and Worst Practices: Common Corporate, HR and Employment Policies that Hinder Employers’ Work Comp Claims and Create FMLA and Disability Law Nightmares
  • Stump the Chumps: Our panel of experts will address all of your burning employment questions

2018 Worker’s Compensation Gamble

Lindner & Marsack’s worker’s compensation defense practice is well recognized as an industry leader in providing work injury defense services to many of Wisconsin’s largest employers and insurance carriers.

Doug Feldman heads the Firm’s highly regarded work injury defense team and is a founding Board Member and current President of Kids’ Chance of Wisconsin.  Kids’ Chance is a non-profit organization that provides college scholarships to children of seriously injured workers in Wisconsin.

Kids’ Chance of Wisconsin is presenting a complimentary half-day worker’s compensation seminar on March 8, 2018 at Potawatomi Hotel and Casino, followed by a networking cocktail hour and raffle.  This year’s conference will focus on the opiate crisis in this country and its impact on workers compensation claims.  Funds raised at the event will directly support the Kids’ Chance mission of providing financial support, in the form of scholarships, to children of parents who have been seriously injured at work.

We encourage you to attend this dynamic and thought provoking conference. If you are interested in attending this event, click Kids’ Chance of WI – Here’s The Deal Seminar – March 8, 2018 for more information.

Lindner & Marsack owes much of its success to its good friends and clients in Wisconsin and is proud to support this worthy endeavor and give back to the community in such a meaningful way. We hope you will consider joining us for this educational opportunity.

 

Employers Who Utilize Temporary Or Loaned Employees Are Now Potentially Liable For Third Party Claims Brought By An Injured Employee

By:  Daniel Pedriana, Joseph Birdsall and Claudia Harke

On January 9, 2018, District III of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals decided that Wis. Stat. § 102.29(6)(b)1 allows an injured temporary employee to choose between filing a worker’s compensation claim and suing the temporary employer for tort damages.

In Rivera v. West Bend Mutual, Carlos Rivera and two other individuals died in a single-vehicle accident. Rivera was survived by five children, two of whom were minors at the time of his death. At the time of the accident, Rivera was a passenger in a vehicle owned by Alpine and insured by West Bend. Rivera was employed by Alex Drywall, which, in turn, had provided him to perform work for Alpine. Alpine paid Alex Drywall for Rivera’s services and Alex Drywall paid Rivera for his work.

In February 2016, Rivera’s two minor children and the special administrator of Rivera’s estate commenced a wrongful death lawsuit against Alpine and West Bend. The Estate had not filed a claim for worker’s compensation under the Act. A Milwaukee County Circuit court judge granted summary judgment for Alpine and West Bend, concluding that because Rivera was an employee of a temporary help agency (Alex Drywall), the Estate was prohibited from bringing a tort action against Alpine.

On appeal, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed the circuit court, ruling that the exclusive remedy provision of the Worker’s Compensation Act does not bar a temporary employee from bringing tort claims against a third party.  The Court found that Alex Drywall was Rivera’s employer, and therefore, the exclusive remedy provision prohibited the Estate from bringing a tort claim against Alex Drywall, but it did not prohibit the Estate from pursuing tort claims against Alpine and West Bend, which the Court found to be third parties in this case.

The Court concluded that Wis. Stat. § 102.29(6)(b)1 only bars tort claims from temporary employees who make claims for worker’s compensation. In this case, it was undisputed that the Estate had not made a worker’s compensation claim. As a result, the Estate was not barred from pursuing tort claims against Alpine and West Bend—the temporary employer and its insurer.  The Estate was still barred from suing Rivera’s primary employer, Alex Drywall, which the Court treated as a temporary help agency in this case.

The Rivera decision is significant because it exposes certain Wisconsin employers to tort liability that they were previously sheltered from. Under the Decision, if a temporary employee is injured, the temporary employee may pursue tort claims against the employer that they are placed with or they may file a worker’s compensation claim against their primary employer—the temporary employment agency.

Employers who compensate temporary employment agencies for the services of employees primarily employed by the temporary help agencies should be concerned about tort liability in the event of an injury. Even if other employers do not advertise themselves as temporary help agencies, they may fit the definition of temporary help agency under the statute like Alex Drywall did in the Rivera decision. Furthermore, the Rivera decision indicates that loaned employees under Wis. Stat. §102.29(7) produce the same tort liability as temporary employees who are primarily employed by a temporary help agency.

This decision is currently unpublished, but was recommended for publication by the Third District of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. The parties have 30 days to file a petition for review to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. This 30 day period will expire on February 8, 2018. As of January 24, 2018, no petition has been filed.

If you have questions about this material, please contact Daniel M. Pedriana (dpedriana@lindner-marsack.com), Claudia R. Harke (charke@lindner-marsack.com), or Joseph D. Birdsall (jbirdsall@lindner-marsack.com) or any other Lindner & Marsack, S.C. attorney.

 

Wisconsin Supreme Court Declares that Non-Solicitation of Employee Provisions are Governed by the Same Wisconsin Statute that Addresses Non-Compete Provisions

By Oyvind Wistrom

The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a landmark decision on Friday in the case of The Manitowoc Company, Inc. v. John Lanning, 2018 WI 6.  The case represented the Court’s first opportunity to determine whether a Non-Solicitation of Employee (NSE) provision in a contract between an employer and an employee is governed by the same statute, Wis. Stat. § 103.465, that governs the enforceability of non-compete restrictive covenants.  The majority of the Court concluded that NSE provisions are indeed governed by Wis. Stat. § 103.465, and then proceeded to find the NSE at issue overbroad and unenforceable because it restricted Lanning’s ability to engage in ordinary competition attendant to the free market.

The case involved the interpretation of a NSE provision signed by Lanning while he was previously employed by The Manitowoc Company, which prohibited him, for a period of two years following the termination of his employment, from soliciting, inducing or encouraging any employee of The Manitowoc Company to terminate his/her employment with The Manitowoc Company or to accept employment with a competitor, supplier or customer of The Manitowoc Company.  After separating from The Manitowoc Company, Lanning accepted employment with SANY, a competitor of The Manitowoc Company’s crane division.  It was alleged that he subsequently engaged in recruitment efforts in which he encouraged employees of The Manitowoc Company to accept employment with SANY.

The Circuit Court initially ruled in favor of The Manitowoc Company and awarded damages related to the alleged breach.  The Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed and ruled in favor of Lanning, finding the NSE provision unenforceable under Wis. Stat. § 103.465 because it was broader than reasonably necessary to protect a legitimate business interest of The Manitowoc Company.  Specifically, the NSE was overbroad because it restricted Lanning from encouraging as many as 13,000 employees of The Manitowoc Company, many of whom worked in a different division of the company and with whom Lanning had no contact, to terminate their employment with The Manitowoc Company.

The majority of the Justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals.  In so doing, the Court first concluded that Wis. Stat. § 103.465 governed the enforceability of NSE provisions.  The Court thus clarified that in order for a NSE provision to be enforceable under Wisconsin law, it must be (1) reasonably necessary for the protection of the employer; (2) provide a reasonable time period; (3) provide a reasonable territorial limit; (4) not be harsh or oppressive as to the employee; and (5) not be contrary to public policy.  The lead opinion of the Court concluded that the NSE at issue was not reasonably necessary to protect a legitimate interest of The Manitowoc Company.  In particular, as the restriction was worded, it prevented Lanning from encouraging any Manitowoc Company employee, no matter the employee’s job or location, to terminate his or her employment with Manitowoc for any reason, or soliciting any Manitowoc Company employee to take any position with any competitor, supplier or customer of The Manitowoc Company.  Without a specified territory or class of employees, the provision restricted Lanning’s conduct with respect to all employees of The Manitowoc Company everywhere.  The restriction was simply too broad for the Court to enforce.

The primary lesson to be learned from this case is that in order for a Non-Solicitation of Employee provision to be enforceable under Wisconsin law, the provision must be narrowly tailored to protect a legitimate business interest.  An employer does not have a protectable interest in restricting competition of the type that an ordinary stranger can provide.  For instance, while The Manitowoc Company’s NSE was extremely broad, a NSE that, for example, only prevents the recruitment or poaching of key employees with whom a former employee had contact for a specified period of time, may still be enforceable under Wisconsin law.  Even such a restriction must still be drafted in such a way as to ensure it satisfies all five statutory requirements outlined above.  Employers who utilize NSE provisions should review these provisions carefully with legal counsel to ensure they are compliant and enforceable under Wisconsin law.

For further information, or assistance in drafting or reviewing your restrictive covenants, please contact Attorney Oyvind Wistrom at (414) 273-3910 or via email at owistrom@lindner-marsack.com.  Mr. Wistrom was lead counsel in The Manitowoc Company case and successfully argued the case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.