Supreme Court Sides With Employee, NCAJ in Schaeffer v. Singlecare
Attorneys for the Case: Joseph Hjelt Michael Kornbluth
N.C. Supreme Court, Docket No. 321PA21
Plaintiff was a North Carolina resident working remotely for a non-resident employer. Plaintiff’s claims arose from this employment relationship. Although the contractual relationship between the parties was formed in California, Plaintiff later worked remotely in North Carolina with the permission and involvement of employer, and performed various business tasks in North Carolina for employer. The trial court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss based on personal jurisdiction, but the Court of Appeals reversed, dismissing most of Plaintiff’s causes of action.
The NCAJ amicus brief discusses the substantial increase in remote work nationwide, and specifically the increase of North Carolinians working remotely for out-of-state employers. These employees should have the protections of North Carolina courts when they are wronged by employers who have engaged in substantial employment and business activities in the State, particularly in light of the policy behind North Carolina’s long-arm statute. Moreover, the brief contends that it was error for the Court of Appeals to conclude that personal jurisdiction would be constitutionally unreasonable despite finding that Defendant purposefully availed itself of the forum. This decision was in contravention of applicable precedent, including the Supreme Court of the United States’ opinion in Ford Motor Co.
On April 6, 2023, the Supreme Court of North Carolina unanimously reversed the Court of Appeals as to the corporate defendants, but affirmed as to the individual defendants. The Court resisted the Defendants’ efforts to restrict the applicable facts only to those culminating in the formation of a contractual relationship between employer and employee (which occurred in California), and instead also considered facts subsequent to the formation of said relationship (many of which occurred in North Carolina). The Court also acknowledged, as contended by NCAJ, that technological advances and the rise of remote work have increased the ease with which out-of-state employers cultivate the contacts necessary to establish jurisdiction where remote workers reside.