Alaska SC revives wrongful termination case

Jessica M. Karmasek May 11, 2011, 2:21pm


JUNEAU, Alaska (Legal Newsline) - The Alaska Supreme Court has reversed the decision of a lower court in a wrongful termination case.

Advanced Physical Therapy, or APT, terminated the employment of its practice administrator, Patricia Hoendermis, for her alleged inability to communicate with co-workers and a supervisor.

Hoendermis, in turn, sued APT for wrongful termination and failure to provide overtime compensation.

The Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, granted APT summary judgment on both claims. Hoendermis then appealed to the state's high court.

The Court, in its April 29 opinion, reversed the grants of summary judgment, saying there are genuine issues of material fact regarding both claims. Justice Craig Stowers authored the Court's 21-page opinion.

Stowers said Hoendermis first raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether her job responsibilities were primarily managerial.

Her employer argued that she was paid a salary and regularly directed some of the staff, making her an administrative or executive employee. Hoendermis contended she did not make financial decisions, that she did not have the authority to change leases, and could not discipline, hire or fire employees.

The Alaska Wage and Hour Act, which governs the payment of overtime, does not apply to bona fide executive or administrative employees.

"Deciding whether Hoendermis is entitled to overtime compensation will depend on weighing the credibility and persuasive strength of the parties' witnesses and evidence: this is the responsibility of the fact finder," the Court wrote.

In addition the overtime compensation claim, the Court said it was an error to grant APT summary judgment on the wrongful termination claim.

It said Hoendermis raised a genuine issue of material fact that she was similarly situated to other APT employees and that she was unfairly treated in a different manner than those employees.

The Court remanded the case for further proceedings.

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