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The South Dakota Supreme Court has ordered the state to grant a man whose lower leg was amputated as a result of a work injury permanent and total disability benefits.

Steven Billman was working at Clarke Machine when he cut his foot on a metal shaving in February 2015. His foot became infected and surgeons at Avera Hospital in Sioux Falls had to amputate his right leg just below the knee.

Billman is 64 and has multiple medical conditions, including diabetes. The state Department of Labor and Regulation granted Billman partial disability payments for 2 1/2 years. In 2018, Billman argued that he deserved permanent, total disability benefits, the Rapid City Journal reported.

The department said that while Billman did have some disabilities, he could still do some physical work, has the ability to adapt and learn new technology, and that his age doesn’t prevent him from finding work.

Billman appealed to the Hughes County Court where Judge Christina Klinger upheld that he was not unemployable and inappropriately limited the geographical size of his work search.

The justices this week concluded the department’s determination that Billman is not unemployable” is clearly erroneous.”



Labor union members plan to hand out personal protective equipment outside the sports complex where members of the New Hampshire House will be meeting this week.

The 400-member House is meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Bedford, where they will sit 10 to 12 feet apart to prevent spread of COVID-19. Democrats with serious medical conditions went to court seeking remote access to the sessions, but a federal judge declined Monday to order  Republican Speaker Sherm Packard to accommodate them.

While the House will provide members with masks and hand sanitizer, members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the AFL-CIO of New Hampshire also will be at the facility’s entrances with similar supplies, including mask and gloves.

One New Hampshire school is planning to hold remote learning for two weeks following the winter vacation, despite Gov. Chris Sununu’s executive order requiring schools to offer in-person instruction to all students for at least two days, starting March 8.

The decision regarding Profile School in Bethlehem, which would be in effect as of March 1, is not expected to conflict with the order, Kim Koprowski, chairperson of the school board, said Monday, the Caledonian-Record reported. The school serves students in grades 7 through 12.

“My understanding of it is there were a handful of schools in the state that are totally remote and he is trying to push those to go to two days a week,” she said. “Since we have been doing that all year, we’ve been face to face, with the exception of a remote period. You could call us hybrid. We should be good.”

A message seeking comment was left Tuesday with the state Education Department. The executive order allows schools to return to remote learning for 48 hours if necessary due to COVID-19 infections. After that, state approval would be required.

Koprowski said that although COVID-19 numbers are trending down, “they are still not at the level they were last fall before Thanksgiving and Christmas.”



More than 150 Minneapolis police officers are filing work-related disability claims after the death of George Floyd and ensuing unrest, with about three-quarters citing post-traumatic stress disorder as the reason for their planned departures, according to an attorney representing the officers.

Their duty disability claims, which will take months to process, come as the city is seeing an increase in violent crime and while city leaders push a proposal to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new agency that they say would have a more holistic approach.

While Floyd’s death in May and the unrest that followed are not the direct cause of many of the disability requests, attorney Ron Meuser said, those events and what Meuser called a lack of support from city leadership were a breaking point for many who had been struggling with PTSD from years on the job. Duty disability means the officer was disabled while engaged in inherently dangerous acts specific to the job.

“Following the George Floyd incident, unfortunately it became too much and as a result they were unable to, and are unable to, continue on and move forward,” Meuser said. “They feel totally and utterly abandoned.”

He said many officers he represents were at a precinct that police abandoned  as people were breaking in during the unrest. Some officers feared they wouldn’t make it home, he said, and wrote final notes to loved ones. People in the crowd ultimately set fire to the building.

Mayor Jacob Frey issued a statement saying that COVID-19 and unrest following Floyd’s death tested the community and officers in profound ways. He said cities need resources to reflect the realities on the ground.

“In the meantime, I am committed to supporting those officers committed to carrying out their oath to serve and protect the people of Minneapolis during a challenging time for our city,” he said.

Meuser said in recent weeks, 150 officers have retained his office for help in filing for duty disability benefits through the state’s Public Employment Retirement Association, or PERA. So far, 75 of them have already left the job, he said.

Police spokesman John Elder questioned Meuser’s figure of 150, though he does expect an increase in departures. The department currently has about 850 officers and will adjust staffing to ensure it can do its job, he said.

The city said it has received 17 PTSD workers compensation claims in the last month, but when it comes to PERA duty disability, officers are not obligated to notify the Police Department that an application was submitted. Meuser said the city isn’t being transparent about departures, and the numbers it sees will lag as PERA benefits take months to process.


The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday against workers on oil drilling platforms off California who argued they should be paid for the off-work time they spend on the platform, including sleeping.

The high court said that federal law applies to the workers and doesn’t require them to be paid for nonworking time spent at their work location on the Outer Continental Shelf. The workers had argued that California law, which would require them to be compensated for that time, should apply.

Justice Clarence Thomas said in an opinion that “federal law is the only law” that applies on the Outer Continental Shelf and “there has never been any overlapping state and federal jurisdiction there.” The question, he said, was whether federal law addressed the question of off-work time spent on the oil rig. He said it did and didn’t require the workers to be paid.

The case before the Supreme Court involved Brian Newton, who worked on drilling platforms off California’s coast near Santa Barbara from 2013 to 2015. Like others living and working on the platform, he worked 14-day shifts, spending 12 hours working and 12 hours off work but on standby, where he could not leave the platform.

In 2015, Newton filed a class action lawsuit arguing that his former employer, Parker Drilling, was violating California law by, among other things, failing to pay workers for the time they spent on standby, including the time they spent sleeping.

In making their ruling, the justices had to grapple with a 1953 law called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. It says federal law applies on the Outer Continental Shelf. But the law also says the laws of the adjacent state are federal law to the extent they are “applicable and not inconsistent” with other federal law. If “federal law applies to a particular issue, state law is inapplicable,” Thomas wrote.


Inmates participating in work-release programs do not quality for workers' compensation benefits, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled has ruled.

The court on Thursday unanimously affirmed a Workers' Compensation Board of Review's 2015 decision to not grant workers' compensation to a work release inmate named William F. Crawford, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. Crawford's hand was severely injured in a wood chipper in 2013 while he was working on a road crew for the state Division of Highways.

He was employed by the Charleston Work Release Center, now called the Charleston Correctional Center. Inmates live and work there as they prepare to re-enter society after leaving prison.

Crawford's injury required hospitalization and surgery, and his ring and pinky fingers were partially amputated. The state Department of Corrections covered his medical expenses, which exceeded $90,000. He was released on parole shortly after his hospitalization.

Court documents say Crawford sought workers' compensation benefits because "lack of treatment has put him at a significant disadvantage in re-entering society." He had appealed the board of review's decision, saying state law didn't clarify coverage exclusion for work-release inmates. He also said his equal protection rights had been violated, arguing that inmates working for private businesses would receive the benefits, while inmates working for a state agency would not.


A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit claiming that a North Carolina city discriminated against an African-American-owned television network.

A divided three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday reversed a lower court decision that dismissed the lawsuit against the City of Greensboro.


Black Network Television claims the city rescinded a $300,000 economic development loan because of race. The city says race had nothing to do with it.

Senior Judge Andre Davis wrote that the network provided enough evidence to make its discrimination claim plausible.

Judge Harvie Wilkinson III said in his dissent that the network presented "nothing more than bare speculation" that race impacted the city's decision.

Greensboro could ask the full court to hear the case. City attorneys didn't immediately return messages Friday.



Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is trying to persuade legislators to increase salaries for judges and pay for judicial branch employees.

Nuss devoted much of his annual State of the Judiciary address Wednesday to what he described as the serious need to increase pay within the court system. He spoke to a joint session of the Legislature.

The Supreme Court is seeking to increase the court system's annual budget by about $22 million, or about 16 percent.

Nuss told lawmakers that all judicial branch jobs pay below market rates, and some fall short by as much as 22 percent. He said nearly one-third of the court system's employees work outside jobs to make ends meet.

But some legislators see the spending increase as a tough sell.


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