Wyatt Employment Law Report


Employers Beware: Kentucky Court of Appeals Rules that Employers Must Now Have Counsel in Unemployment Proceedings

By Mitzi Wyrick

In a ruling that will undoubtedly affect how employers choose to proceed with respect to unemployment claims, the Kentucky Court of Appeals held that employers must have counsel to represent them in referee hearings and before the Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Commission.  In Nichols v. Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Commission, et al., the Kentucky Court of Appeals reviewed a decision in which the claimant was denied unemployment benefits after his employment was terminated.  The claimant, Michael Nichols, was terminated by his employer, Norton Healthcare, Inc. (“Norton”), for failure to comply with instructions, falsification of records, and misfeasance of company resources.  After being fired, Nichols submitted an application for benefits saying that he had been terminated for lack of work.  Norton contested the claim.  The unemployment division determined that Nichols had been terminated for misconduct and had intentionally misrepresented this fact on his application for benefits.  Nichols appealed the decision to the referee.  An evidentiary hearing was conducted at which Norton was represented by a non-lawyer.  The referee affirmed and the decision was affirmed on appeal to the Commission and again at the Jefferson Circuit Court.

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New Kentucky Law Ensures That Employees Can Be Required To Arbitrate Claims

By Michelle Wyrick

On March 25, 2019, Governor Bevin signed legislation providing that an employer may require an employee to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of employment. The legislation, which amends KRS 336.700, is designed to reverse the Kentucky Supreme Court’s decision in Northern Ky. Area Development Dist. v. Snyder,  2017-SC-000277-DG (Ky. 2018), which held that employers may not condition employment upon execution of an arbitration agreement.
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U.S. Supreme Court Finds that Lafe Solomon’s Service as Acting NLRB General Counsel Violated the FVRA

By Courtney Samford

On March 21, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court finally resolved the issue of Lafe Solomon’s role as Acting General Counsel of the NLRB in National Labor Relations Board v. SW General, Inc.  In an opinion authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court held that Solomon’s position as Acting General Counsel violated The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 (“FVRA”) once he was nominated by then President Obama for the permanent position.  Generally, Article II of the U.S. Constitution requires the President to obtain Senate approval to appoint “Officers of the United States,” but the FVRA allows the President to appoint a limited class of individuals to serve as acting officers on a temporary basis until a replacement can be confirmed by the Senate.  Pursuant to the FVRA, certain individuals who are nominated for a permanent position may not serve as an acting officer.

In June 2010, a vacancy arose in the general counsel position for the NLRB.  Then President Obama appointed Solomon to serve as Acting General Counsel on a temporary basis, and several months later, nominated him to serve as the General Counsel.  Solomon’s temporary position did not require Senate confirmation, but the permanent position did.  However, the Senate refused to act on Solomon’s nomination, and Obama was forced to Continue reading


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Sixth Circuit denies request to reconsider Hardin County’s “right to work” ordinance

By Courtney Samford

Last week, the Sixth Circuit denied a request by several collective bargaining organizations to rehear a challenge to Hardin County, Kentucky’s “right to work” ordinance.  The union challengers, including the ALF-CIO, argued that the county ordinance was preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).  More specifically, they claimed that Hardin County’s ordinance was preempted by the NLRA, which only permits “State or Territorial” laws prohibiting security agreements between employers and unions.  The County, on the other hand, took the position that its ordinance was valid because it was a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  The lower court found in favor of the union plaintiffs and struck down the ordinance.

Hardin County appealed to the Sixth Circuit, and a three-judge panel reversed the lower court’s ruling, finding that “State or Territorial” laws include ordinances passed by Continue reading


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U.S. Supreme Court remands transgender bathroom case back to Fourth Circuit

By Courtney Samford

On March 6, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court remanded a case involving a transgender high school student back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The case, Gloucester County School Board, Petitioner v.  G. G., By His Next Friend and Mother, Deirdre Grimm, focuses on the right of a transgender boy, Gavin Grimm, to use the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity at his public high school.  Grimm, who was born a girl, used the boys’ restrooms with the approval of school administration until the Gloucester County School Board enacted a policy that required all students to use the bathroom that corresponded with their gender assigned at birth.

Grimm filed suit, alleging that the school board’s policy discriminated against him in violation of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause.  The lower court dismissed Grimm’s Title IX claim.   Following an appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed, finding that the lower court did not Continue reading


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Senate Bill 18: Will the General Assembly Finally Clarify the Reach of the Peer Review Privilege?

By Rachel K. Mulloy

A bill passed in the Kentucky Senate (by a vote of 22-12) and currently awaiting House action in the Judiciary Committee proposes to amend the portion of KRS 311.377 pertaining to the confidentiality of certain medical records.  If passed, Senate Bill 18, sponsored by Senator Ralph Alvarado of Senate District 28, will prevent records of an entity, group, or individual performing a professional review function from being admissible in any civil action or administrative proceeding, including, specifically, medical malpractice actions.

Under the proposed amendment, KRS 311.377(2) reads as follows:

At all times in performing a designated professional review function, the proceedings, records, opinions, conclusions, and recommendations of any committee, board, commission, medical staff, professional standards review organization, or other entity, as referred to in subsection (1) of this section shall be Continue reading


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Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements

By Rachel K. Mulloy

Small employers now have the ability to assist employees with the cost of health care through a qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangement (QSEHRA).  Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), small employers were able to offer stand-alone health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) to help employees pay for medical care expenses, including health insurance premiums, on a tax-free basis.  This changed with the passage of the ACA, under which stand-alone HRAs were generally considered group health plans that violated the ACA’s annual dollar limit prohibition (some stand-alone HRAs, such as retiree-only HRAs, remained valid).  Consequently, employers who continued to offer such arrangements could face fines of up to $36,500 per employee per year (with a $500,000 total limit).  With the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which incorporates key components of the Small Business Healthcare Relief Act, small employers  may again offer this benefit to employees.

Eligible Employers   To be eligible to offer a QSEHRA, an employer (1) cannot be an “applicable large employer” under the ACA, i.e., had fewer than 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, on average during the prior year, and (2) cannot offer a group health plan to any of its employees.  Qualified employers must offer the Continue reading