Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

By
Bellagio challenged the Board's decision and order determining that Bellagio violated section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1), when it interfered with employee Gabor Garner's right to have a union representative present during an investigatory meeting; retaliated against him for invoking that right by placing him on "Suspension Pending Investigation" (SPI); unlawfully surveilled Garner after placing him on SPI; and then coercively prevented him from discussing his suspension with other employees. The court concluded that Bellagio did not violate Garner's Weingarten right to Union representation when a supervisor asked Garner to fill out a written statement after the employee had requested a Union representative; Bellagio did not unlawfully retaliate against Garner; Bellagio did not engage in unlawful surveillance; and the finding of unlawful coercion cannot stand. Accordingly, the court granted Bellagio's petition for review and denied the Board's cross-application for enforcement. View "Bellagio, LLC v. NLRB" on Justia Law

By
Following a series of disciplinary reprimands and suspensions for misconduct, Plaintiff was removed from her positions as an assistant clerk-magistrate of the Salem Division of the District Court Department. Plaintiff brought this action challenging her removal, arguing that the decision to remove her exceeded the clerk-magistrate’s statutory authority, was arbitrary or capricious, and violated her due process rights. The superior court upheld the removal decision. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that it was appropriate for the clerk-magistrate to factor in the whole of Plaintiff’s disciplinary record in terminating her, and therefore, the clerk-magistrate’s decision was not arbitrary or capricious, due process was satisfied, and Plaintiff demonstrated no deviation from the governing statute or rules. View "Perullo v. Advisory Committee on Personnel Standards" on Justia Law

By
Hirschbach, a trucking company, offered Turner, an African-American, a job as a driver contingent on his completion of orientation and a drug test. Turner claims that throughout orientation, the evaluator stared at him and once whispered insults. An independent facility collected a urine sample. MedTox split the sample, tested one part, and stored the other. As required by Department of Transportation regulations, MedTox reported Turner's positive result to Hirschbach’s independent medical review officer. Hirschbach’s safety officer, Winegarden, told Turner he could request that the second half of his sample be tested by a different laboratory. Turner told Winegarden he wanted the split test. That test never took place; the reason is disputed. Turner left the orientation program. Hirschbach, as permitted by DOT regulations, reported Turner’s results to an industry consortium which can be seen by future employers, with Turner’s permission. Turner sued under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000– e(2)(a)(1), 42 U.S.C. 1981, and Illinois civil conspiracy law. The district court granted Hirschbach summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Turner did not respond to most of Hirschbach’s statements of undisputed facts. Giving Turner the benefit of conflicts in the evidence, the court found evidence that Winegarden cancelled the split test and acted based on racial animus but no evidence that Winegarden’s racial animus caused him not to be hired. There was no evidence that the MedTox test was unreliable or that the split test would have been negative. View "Turner v. Hirschbach Motor Lines" on Justia Law

By
John Hasircoglu was an employee of a subcontractor to FOPCO, Inc., the general contractor on a tunnel construction project on Molokai. In response to a request by the State, FOPCO identified Donald Clark and Michael Estes, neither of whom were FOPCO employees, as “project superintendent and key personnel.” The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of FOPCO on all claims. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed on the grounds that Estes and Clark were not agents of FOPCO, and therefore, FOPCO could not be held vicariously liable for their alleged negligence. The Supreme Court vacated in part and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) there existed a genuine issue of material fact as to whether there was an agency relationship between FOPCO and Estes and/or Clark based on actual express or implied authority; and (2) summary judgment was proper as to Plaintiffs’ remaining claims. View "Hasircoglu v. FOPCO, Inc." on Justia Law

By
Pan Am Railways, Inc. brought charges of dishonesty and insubordination and threats of dismissal against Jason Raye, an injured employee who had filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). Raye then filed an amended complaint to OSHA accusing Pan Am of violating the FRSA for filing his original OSHA complaint. OSHA concluded that Pan Am had unlawfully retaliated against Raye for bringing charges after Raye had filed his original OSHA complaint. An administrative law judge (ALJ) rejected Pan Am’s affirmative defense and awarded $250,000 in punitive damages, the maximum amount that the FRSA allows. The Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board affirmed. The First Circuit denied Pan Am’s petition for review, holding (1) the ALJ did not err in rejecting Pan Am’s affirmative defense that it would have charged Raye with dishonesty even absent his protected activity; and (2) there was no abuse of discretion in the ALJ’s punitive damages award. View "Pan Am Railways, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Labor" on Justia Law

By
State employee Shirley Shea suffered from chronic pain and has been unable to work. She applied for occupational disability benefits, claiming that prolonged sitting at work aggravated a preexisting medical condition. The Division of Retirement and Benefits denied the claim. An administrative law judge affirmed that decision, determining that employment was not a substantial factor in causing Shea's disability. On appeal, the superior court reversed the administrative law judge’s decision. Because the administrative law judge’s decision was supported by substantial evidence, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s decision and affirmed the administrative law judge. View "Alaska Dept. of Administration, Division of Retirement & Benefits v. Shea" on Justia Law

By
Laura Miller appeals from a summary judgment entered by the Jefferson Circuit Court ("the circuit court") in favor of the City of Birmingham ("the City"), Sandy Roberts, and Alice Crutchfield (collectively, "the City defendants"). Robert Miller, Laura's husband, was employed by the City as a firefighter. Unum Life Insurance Company of America ("Unum") issued a group life and accidental death and dismemberment policy. According to the summary of benefits, the policy included different life-insurance benefits for active employees and for retired employees. Under the policy, as an active employee, the City paid Robert's insurance premiums, thereby entitling him to a life-insurance benefit of $151,000. However, if Robert were to retire, he would be required to pay his life-insurance premiums and would be entitled to only a $50,000 life-insurance benefit. The summary of benefits specified that, in order to be eligible for a waiver of the life-insurance premiums, the insured had to "be disabled through your elimination period," which was nine months. In 2012, Robert was diagnosed with brain cancer and soon became unable to perform the duties of his job. Laura contended once the Millers learned of Robert's condition, they "sought to obtain information about [Mr. Miller's] life insurance benefit and all other benefits that might be available." The Millers did not have a copy of the policy or the summary of benefits at that time. The Millers and Ed Bluemly, Mrs. Miller's brother-in-law, met with Sandy Roberts, the assistant benefit administrator and the pension coordinator for the Jefferson County Personnel Board, and Alice Crutchfield, a personnel technician for the Jefferson County Personnel Board, to learn about the available benefits. The Millers asked for a copy of the policy, and there was a dispute over whether the Crutchfield gave the Millers a copy. The Millers ultimately sued the City for negligence with respect to the policy and collection of the benefits to which Robert was entitled. After review of this matter, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's summary judgment in favor of the City insofar as the circuit court based its summary judgment in favor of the City on the City defendants' argument that the City was entitled to immunity from Laura's claim alleging wanton and reckless misrepresentation. However, the Court reversed the circuit court's summary judgment in favor of the City defendants in all other respects. The Case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Miller v. City of Birmingham et al." on Justia Law

By
This matter arose from Plaintiff’s termination against Nebraska Machinery Company (NMC) after thirty-eight years of employment. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint against NMC seeking damages for wrongful discharge in violation of Nebraska’s Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (FEPA), and public policy. After a hearing, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of NMC. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s assignments of error were without merit and that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of NMC. View "Oldfield v. Nebraska Machinery Co." on Justia Law

By
Pier Sixty challenged the determination that it violated Sections 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1) and (3), by discharging an employee in retaliation for protected activity. The court held that Pier Sixty has not shown the existence of an "extraordinary circumstance" that requires the court to waive the ordinary rule against considering arguments not presented to the Board as required by 29 U.S.C. 160(e). Therefore, the court did not reach the merits of the challenge to Acting General Counsel Solomon's appointment. The court also affirmed the Board's determination that Pier Sixty violated Sections 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3) by discharging Hernan Perez since Perez's conduct was not so "opprobrious" as to lose the protection of the NLRA. The court's decision rests heavily on the deference afforded to the Boards factual findings, made following a six‐day bench trial informed by the specific social and cultural context in this case. However, the court noted that Perez's conduct sits at the outer‐bounds of protected, union‐related comments. Accordingly, the court granted the Board's application for enforcement and denied Pier Sixty's cross-petition for review. View "NLRB v. Pier Sixty, LLC" on Justia Law

By
Plaintiffs, CNH employees who retired between 1994 and 2004, filed suit in 2004, seeking a declaration that they were entitled to lifetime healthcare benefits without paying premiums, based on collective-bargaining agreements (CBAs), negotiated by UAW beginning in 1971. The case was remanded to the district court twice. While the second remand was pending, the Supreme Court (Tackett, 2015) abrogated Sixth Circuit precedent creating an inference in favor of employees in collective-bargaining cases. Initially, the district court ruled in favor of CNH, noting that it was “[c]onstrained by the Supreme Court’s decision” in Tackett. On reconsideration, the district court found not only that plaintiffs’ rights were vested even after Tackett, but also that CNH’s proposed changes were unreasonable. The Sixth Circuit affirmed as to vesting, noting that the CBA is ambiguous and extrinsic evidence indicated that parties intended for the healthcare benefits to vest for life. The court remanded because the court failed to properly weigh the costs and the benefits of the proposed plan, as previously instructed. “To find ambiguity in this case, partially from the silence as to the parties’ intentions, does not offend the Supreme Court’s mandate from Tackett that we not infer vesting from silence.” View "Reese v. CNH Industrial, N.V." on Justia Law