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8th Cir. Refuses to Vacate Denial of Disability Benefits to Low IQ Woman

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the findings of the a lower district court: a woman with a tested IQ of only 57.

In the opinion of the court, Karen Ash did not qualify for social security benefits because she was still able to live a relatively average life, thus allowing the district court to affirm the ruling "substantially on the record."

White Officer Sues Alleging Racism and Wins

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed all lower court rulings in favor of a white officer who sued on theories of racial discrimination.

The officer successfully showed (or the police academy failed to disprove) that a reasonable theory existed as to why he was passed over for promotion in favor of a non-white candidate.

Caregivers who provide companionship services to disabled patients living in the caregiver's home are not entitled to overtime pay, the Eighth Circuit ruled on Tuesday. The case arose after workers for United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arkansas sued, arguing that keeping patients in the workers' homes "requires additional worktime that should be compensated as overtime."

The Eighth Circuit disagreed, finding that such work constituted providing companionship services in a "private home" and was thus exempt from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

FMLA Plaintiff Fails to Convince 8th Cir. of a Violation

The Eighth Circuit's Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling against Hasenwinkel, a registered nurse who sued her former employer on claimed violations of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

In affirming the lower court's decision, the circuit court found that not only did Hasenwinkel's employer comply with federal law, but that it gave her three times more time than was required under the FMLA.

Home Health Providers Can Form Unions, 8th Circuit Rules

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit declined to overturn a lower district court's ruling that several thousand home care workers who assist the elderly and disabled had the right to form a union.

The decision is most likely going to add to already tense relations between home care workers and fully recognized employees who work for the public, the latter of whom arguing that the change will force some to pay union dues for a union they have no desire to join.

After a Missouri health care worker was subject to several instances of physical and verbal harassment from a patient, she sued her employer. Chavonya Watson argued that Heartland Health Laboratories created a hostile working environment by failing to protect her from the third party harassment.

The Eighth Circuit, however, was unconvinced. the court found that, even if an employer could be held responsible for a third party, the harassment alleged was too fleeting to have created a hostile work environment, having occurred for just moments at a time.

8th Cir. Upholds UMKC Lecturer's Firing for Speaking Out

After Henry Lyons gave a student athlete an "F" in his course at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, a university committee determined that the student should get a second chance. The paper, graded by the committee, got a D+.

Lyons complained to the school's chancellor about the preferential treatment afforded student athletes and asked for an investigation. The university didn't offer him a job for the next semester, which Lyons said was retaliation for speaking out about the treatment of student athletes, a violation of his First Amendment rights.

Marketing Co. 'Brand Advocates' Entitled to Overtime: 8th Cir.

From the Eighth Circuit comes another in the increasingly lengthy list of lessons that courts do not like it when employers creatively classify employees in order to circumvent labor laws.

ActionLink, a marketing company, partners with electronics and appliance companies, like LG, to provide "brand advocates" who go into stores to convince employees to push their clients' products.

Indep. Contractor Gets No ADA, ADEA, FMLA, SDHRA Protection

Dr. Larry Alexander's case was obvious, yet unfortunate. And it's a great reminder of why independent contractor relationships are risky for the not-quite-employee.

From 1991 to 2011, Dr. Alexander was associated with Avera St. Luke's, a non-profit organization running St. Luke's Hospital in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Avera terminated its relationship with Dr. Alexander after he suffered from a series of health issues from 2008 to 2011 -- a heart attack, a heart transplant, and a hospitalization for bipolar disorder.

What is his recourse? Absolutely nothing, since he was providing services under an obvious independent contractor relationship.

8th Cir. Clarifies 401(k) Float Income Ownership, Fiduciary Duties

The Eighth Circuit recently issued a decision in a 401(k) fiduciary lawsuit that is raising questions about "float income" -- interest earned from plan assets.

At issue is the handling of funds that flow into and out of 401(k) plans and the question of who profits from the float income generated while the money is held by a service provider -- in this case, Fidelity Investments -- before its investment or before it is it cashed by participants.

If you're in the retirement plan industry, you might want to take a look at the court's decision in Ronald C. Tussey v. ABB Inc.