This past year, exculpatory waivers had their moment in the sun as businesses and educational institutions raced to put waivers in place to protect against claims stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. A Minnesota Court of Appeals decision published this week, Carter Justice v. Marvel, LLC d/b/a Pump It Up Parties, provides clarity and confidence for the Minnesota businesses and educational institutions that utilize waivers for persons under 18. In an issue of first impression, the appellate court held that an exculpatory waiver signed by a parent on behalf of his or her minor child is binding on the child after the child becomes an adult. The court also reinforced the standard for determining whether a waiver is enforceable under Minnesota law and the effect of an overly broad waiver.
On June 23, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Cedar Point Nursery et al. v. Hassid et al., holding that a California regulation that granted labor organizations a right to take access to an agricultural employer’s property to solicit support for unionization constitutes a per se physical taking.
Colorado’s Supreme Court found that Colorado employees receiving vacation time must be paid out accrued but unused time when their employment is terminated. In Carmen Nieto v. Clark’s Market, Inc., the state Supreme Court held that if an employer chooses to provide vacation pay, all accrued but unused vacation pay must be paid to employees upon termination and that no agreement to the contrary will be enforced.
While public health leaders continue to wrestle with vaccine hesitancy, businesses are wrestling with employee challenges to COVID-19 vaccination mandates. This Saturday marked a win for private employers after a Texas District Court tossed a lawsuit brought by over 100 hospital employees claiming they were subjected unlawfully to a COVID-19 vaccination policy as a condition of continued employment. Although the plaintiffs’ counsel has said they plan to appeal the decision, the order provides helpful precedent for other organizations mulling such vaccination mandates.
In a decision handed down yesterday, the Supreme Court held that civil liability under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) does not attach for employees who abuse or misuse their access credentials in accessing their current or former employers’ computer networks. Rather, to be liable under the CFAA, the employees must access databases or other electronic materials that are outside of their access rights and otherwise off-limits to them.
The case, Van Buren v. United States, arose out of the actions of a former police sergeant. The former officer, Van Buren, used his valid login credentials to search his police department database for a particular license plate number in exchange for a bribe, but was caught by an FBI sting operation. Van Buren was charged with a felony violation of the CFAA—18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2). An individual is liable under this section (which can carry both civil and criminal penalties) if he “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access.” The statute defines “exceeds authorized access” to mean “to access a computer with authorization and to use such access to obtain or alter information in the computer that the accesser is not entitled so to obtain or alter.” 18 U.S.C. § 1030(e)(6).
Retaliation and whistleblower claims are on the rise nationally, and Minnesota is no exception to this trend. In part, this is because plaintiffs’ counsel perceive such claims — particularly claims arising under the broad Minnesota Whistleblower Act (MWA) — as relatively easy to get past a motion for summary judgment and to trial. However, four recent decisions issued by Minnesota courts suggest that this perception may not be well founded.
In each decision (two opinions by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, one opinion by the Minnesota Court of Appeals and one opinion by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota), the court granted or affirmed the granting of summary judgment in favor of the employer. These decisions provide useful guidance in assessing potential arguments to defeat a retaliation claim on a motion for summary judgment.