Admit it if you are wrong, fix it, and move on. The trial court did that here. In this Colorado Wage Claim Act case, the dispute was whether the employer would be liable for unpaid wages under the statute. The jury said yes, but failed to add statutory penalties. To correct that error, the court had the jury revisit its verdict; it then found for the employer. That was error. Damages are not facts for a jury to decide if, as in this case, a statute provides for mandatory penalties that can be mechanically determined by applying the statute. But, post-verdict, the trial court realized its mistake, reconsidered, found for the employee, and awarded mandatory penalties. The court of appeals agreed that the trial court erred by having the jury revisit its initial findings, and held that, though the error was avoidable, the trial court properly reconsidered its first ruling and fixed the problem.
Tag Archives: Employment
Western Logistics, Inc., d/b/a Diligent Delivery Systems, v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office, 2012COA186 (October 25, 2012)
Delivery drivers being directed and controlled are not independent contractors. The Division of Employment and Training made a determination that 220 drivers working for a delivery business were employees for unemployment tax liability purposes, notwithstanding language in the drivers’ contracts stating they were independent contractors. The court of appeals upheld the administrative ruling based on the following facts: 1) the drivers were not customarily engaged in the delivery business, 2) they did not offer those services to others, 3) they were paid under their own names, 4) the business set prices, determined clients, and required compatible cell phones, among others, and 5) employer could terminate contracts without penalty, demonstrating a right to control the drivers. Thus, the drivers were employees for unemployment tax purposes under CRS 8-70-115(1)(b).
Gary Justus, et. al. v. Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association, et. al., 2012COA (October 11, 2012)
Can the rules change in the middle of the game? No—sort of. The US and Colorado Constitutions’ Contract Clauses prevent subsequent legislatures from impairing a public contractual obligation created by prior laws. This case involves the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA), and the benefits it provides to government employee retirees; specifically, the cost of living increases (COLA) to PERA benefits. The court of appeals, reversing the trial court in part, held that government employees have a constitutional contractual right to the COLA rates set by statute at the time their rights to PERA benefits vested. But, such rights are violated only if they are substantially impaired, and there was no reasonable, necessary or legitimate public purpose for changing the rates. Those issues were returned to the trial court for further proceedings.
Communications Workers of America, Local 7750 v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office 2012COA148 (August 30, 2012)
Unions are employers too, and, in this case, contested an award of unemployment compensation to a former employee – its president. Claimant worked for both Quest and as the union president, but was only paid by one or the other for the time spent on each job respectively. When the union merged and restructured, he lost his employment as union president. He filed for unemployment benefits from the union, which were granted. On appeal, the union argued that it only replaced Quest’s wages not that it paid “wages” itself. The union did not argue that it was not an employer or that it did not provide employment to Claimant. The court of appeals upheld the grant of benefits for two main reasons: 1) he received payment for required services on behalf of the union and, 2) failure to consider payments as wages could result in lost unemployment benefits from Quest too, by reducing available benefits.