Modrall Sperling’s Recent Successes for New Mexico Employers

This month, Modrall Sperling shareholder George McFall and associate Jennifer Bradfute, along with Geoff Rieder and Meghan Stanford, of Foster, Rieder & Jackson, successfully tried an employment case to a 12-person jury before Judge Carl Butkus in the Second Judicial District Court.  The plaintiff had sued his former employer and seven individual shareholders of the firm.  The court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on the plaintiff’s claims for retaliatory discharge, intentional infliction of emotional distress, prima facie tort and negligence.  The court previously dismissed plaintiff’s claim for interference with government entitlement program.  The court also granted summary judgment for all defendants on the plaintiff’s claim for “self-compelled” defamation.  The case went to trial on the plaintiff’s remaining claims for intra-corporate defamation which involved communications between his supervisors about his work performance.  After four days of testimony, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants in 45 minutes.

Modrall Sperling shareholder Sam Adams successfully defended a local restaurant chain in a federal Department of Labor investigation into alleged overtime violations. The DOL initiated action against the respondent for overtime underpayments based upon alleged incorrect tip credit applications. The respondent challenged the legal basis for the DOL’s position that an Albuquerque restaurant cannot apply tip credit in accord with local ordinance without  violating the Federal Labor Standards Act. If found to have violated the FLSA, the restaurant chain would have been forced to pay excessive back wages, such to devastate this local business. After many months of consideration by the federal Office of the Solicitor of Labor, the DOL advised this month that it is administratively closing the tip credit investigation without penalty.

In December, Modrall Sperling shareholder Jennifer Noya and associate Jeremy Harrison obtained summary judgment on behalf of a mining company with operations in New Mexico.  The plaintiff, who walked off the job one morning due to a disagreement with his supervisor, had asserted that he was constructively discharged as a result of age-related harassment.  The plaintiff also claimed that he had overheard other employees stating that the company wanted a younger workforce and that he had overheard several age-related jokes over the course of his career.  During discovery, however, the plaintiff admitted that his issues with his supervisor had nothing to do with age.  In December of 2015, the Court granted summary judgment in our client’s favor, concluding that the plaintiff had failed to come forward with any evidence that his decision to quit his job had anything to do with his age and that sporadic age-related comments did not create a hostile work environment.