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Employment Law Attorneys in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota

At the Klass Law Firm, L.L.P., our lawyers handle all types of employment law cases for employees and employers. For more information on your specific work situation, contact our firm online today or by calling 800-613-7989 ext. 213. Also, please see the example case summaries below for additional information.


Contract Employee's evidence that he was fired for a superficial reason so his successor could move up within the company faster was sufficient to support the jury's verdict for wrongful termination. An owner of a company agreed to merge with another company in exchange for a 5 year employment contract. During the following year the employee began to train a manager to succeed him. As the manager gained more power within the company he was eventually voted into the management position by the board of directors. The employee under contract was fired a short time later. The fired employee sued and the jury found in favor of the fired employee. The court held that the evidence of the successors financial and career interests were sufficient to support the jury's verdict.


Cumulative Injury that occurred before drug policy was instituted does not warrant drug test for follow up treatment of injury. An employee reported a carpal tunnel type injury in 2006. An employer instituted a "Drug and Alcohol-Free Workplace Policy," as permitted by IA Code section 730.5 in 2007. The policy provided for testing when members were involved in an accident involving an injury that required medical treatment. The employer had a zero tolerance policy, so any positive test would result in immediate termination of the employee. An employee went to the doctor for treatment of carpal tunnel type symptoms. At the appointment the employee was informed she needed to have a drug test under the new policy. The test came back positive for cocaine and the employee was fired. She said during her termination that a confirmatory test would probably come back positive. However, she was not given any notice of the cost of a confirmatory test in violation of the relevant IA code. The court concluded that the cumulative injury is not an accident as required by the policy because it is not a sudden event or change that results in injury. Therefore, the policy did not require a drug test for her cumulative injury. Even if the injury did require a medical treatment, the injury occurred before the drug policy was in effect and a drug test was not warranted. The employee was awarded back pay.


Qualified Immunity exists for county government supervisor when employee voluntarily passed on promotions to preserve her reputation and could not show her employment conditions were altered. The employee alleged that she was subjected to a hostile work environment because her supervisor had sexual relations with subordinates and created an "openly sexually charged environment." The employee alleged that employees who tolerated the sexual innuendos and inappropriate emails were given favorable treatment. Further, she alleged that employees were not promoted based on merit. The employee declined to pursue promotions because she wanted to preserve her reputation and did not want her co-workers to believe that she had done something inappropriate to be promoted. The Court found that there was no evidence that the complained-of conduct altered any condition of the employee's employment or a finding that the conduct was "extreme in nature and not merely rude or unpleasant." Her voluntary decision not to pursue promotion to preserve her reputation is not actionable. As a matter of law the Court found the employee, "did not show a sexually harassing hostile environment sufficiently severe or pervasive so as to alter the conditions of her employment, a failure that dooms Duncan's hostile work environment claim."


Qualified Immunity does not exist when a supervisor is engaged in a consensual relationship that becomes unwelcomed and a sexual harassment claim arises from the conduct. The employee entered into a voluntary sexual relationship with her supervisor. The employee wanted to discontinue the relationship, however, in doing so she was afraid that she would lose her job. She alleged that at least three other employees had been fired after discontinuing sexual encounters with the supervisor. She informed her supervisor that she was uncomfortable continuing the relationship and was fearful that she would lose her job. The supervisor made sad faces at her while she worked and made efforts to be in the area where she clocked out after work. She eventually went to another shift to avoid any contact with the supervisor. The Court held that allegations were enough to survive summary judgment and the supervisor's conduct violated a clearly established right to be free from a hostile work environment.


Employee unable to prove gross negligence without evidence of prior injuries. Employee worked for a manufacturer of pre-engineered building systems. He received two weeks of general training, and then began to work a "roll coater machine." The procedures to clean the machine had been used and followed by other employees for years without incident, and the employee adopted the same procedures. These procedures differed from the cleaning procedure recommended in the machine's manual. The employee was severely injured while cleaning the machine, and subsequently sued several supervisory and management co-employees for gross negligence. The employee claimed that he was taught to clean the machine in a manner inconsistent with the procedure recommended by the manual. Defendants filed for summary judgment, which was granted by the District Court. On appeal, the Court's analysis turned on whether the employee could prove as a matter of law that the Defendants knew his injury was "a probable, as opposed to a possible, result." The court held that the employee was unable to prove this element because there had been no history of prior injuries as a result of utilizing the long-standing procedures, and the Court affirmed the decision of the District Court.


Subcontractor had a general duty of care when working with other contractors. Plaintiff was working for Sioux, which is an ethanol plant that was involved in an expansion project. Sioux hired Schoon to work on electrical cables, and Schoon hired Nikkel to hook up electrical cables to terminal on switchgears. The plaintiff was part of a team that was tasked with modifying the switchgears. Unknown to the plaintiff, electricity was flowing through the switchgears. When he tried to work on one, he was electrocuted and injured. The plaintiff sued Nikkel alleging that Nikkel "failed to inform [the plaintiff] the switchgear had power." Nikkel filed a motion for summary judgment alleging he had no duty to the plaintiff, which was granted. In granting summary judgment, the district court held that Nikkel did not maintain control over the work, and therefore owed no duty to the plaintiff. On appeal, the Court reversed and noted that Nikkel had a general duty of care in charging the electrical line to the switchgear box. This standard is consistent with the general standard contained in the Third Restatement, and is not an "exceptional case," where the Court is permitted to modify the general duty of care.


Termination two weeks after incident was not a "past act of misconduct" and unemployment benefits denied. At the company in question, the phone system was used instead of a traditional time card. A co-employee asked the employee to log into her phone system to make it appear she had checked in when she was not yet in the office. The employee attempted to do this, and did not report the request to the employer. On December 31, 2009, employee's supervisor found out about this incident. The employee was interviewed on January 4, 2010, and she was re-interviewed about the incident on January 8, 2010. Human Resources instructed employee's supervisor to terminate her on January 15, 2010, and she was ultimately terminated on January 19, 2010. In a claim for unemployment benefits, benefits were initially awarded, but this decision was overturned by the ALJ who concluded that the employee was terminated for a current act of misconduct. The decision of the ALJ was confirmed, as the court noted that the period between learning of the misconduct and termination was not unreasonable.


Termination of employee and denial of unemployment benefits upheld after employee stole "wasted soup." An employee for a convenience store removed two-day old "wasted" soup from the store and placed it in the garbage. She then immediately transferred it to her car to take home to feed to her dog. When her employer found out, she was terminated due to a policy in the handbook which stated that the employees were not to remove any company property, including "damaged and outdated items." Unemployment benefits were contested due to misconduct. At hearing, it was undisputed that she had signed the handbook and was present at training that discussed the topic, the prior year. The Administrative Law Judge found that she had engaged in misconduct, which was appealed and affirmed by the Employment Appeals Board and later by the District Court. On Appeal yet again, the employee argued that the soup was "garbage, abandoned property" and showed no intent to harm her employer. The prior decisions were upheld, and the Court held that the employee was properly fired for misconduct.


South Dakota statute of limitations for negligence of municipalities does not apply to a police officer's actions that arose in the scope of his employment. A South Dakota case where a police officer ran a red light and struck the plaintiff's vehicle while responding to an emergency call. The plaintiff filed suit three years later. South Dakota statute requires a negligence action against a municipality to be brought within two years. The claim was against the defendant in his personal capacity, so the defendant argued that the statute still applied because he was in the scope of his employment as a police officer when the accident occurred, and that the claim is time-barred. The circuit court granted summary judgment to defendant, stating that the claim is subject to the statute of limitations as applied to municipalities. The Court ultimately reversed the decision of the circuit court, holding that the omission of "municipal employees" in the statute was persuasive, and "the mere fact that [defendant's] allegedly negligent acts occurred during the scope of his employment does not include him within the term "municipality." Salzer v. Barff, 792 N.W.2d 177 (S.D. 2010)



Employee who made "internal whistleblowing" complaint about forged training records can file a claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. The state mandates training for facilities that care for patients with dementia. An employee made an internal complaint related to forged training documents. The employee was later terminated and brought this claim. Public policy is generally found in statutes and the state constitution but it can also be found in regulations meant to protect patients with dementia. The employee was protected by the internal complaint because otherwise employees would be reluctant to report activity if it put their jobs at risk. This was the first case that allowed an "internal whistleblowing" complaint and therefore punitive damages were not available.


Contract Employee's evidence that he was fired for a superficial reason so his successor could move up within the company faster was sufficient to support the jury's verdict for wrongful termination. An owner of a company agreed to merge with another company in exchange for a 5 year employment contract. During the following year the employee began to train a manager to succeed him. As the manager gained more power within the company he was eventually voted into the management position by the board of directors. The employee under contract was fired a short time later. The fired employee sued and the jury found in favor of the fired employee. The court held that the evidence of the successors financial and career interests were sufficient to support the jury's verdict.


Contact an employment law lawyer at the Klass Law Firm, L.L.P., today to discuss your case and needs. Call 800-613-7989 ext. 213.

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Klass Law Firm, L.L.P.
4280 Sergeant Rd., Suite 290
Sioux City, IA 51106

Toll Free: 800-613-7989 ext. 213

Phone: 712-252-1866 ext. 213
Fax: 712-252-5822

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