by
The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's award of summary judgment for Virtus, plaintiff's former employer, in an action seeking to collect on a state court judgment entered against defendants. The court held that plaintiff's claims were not precluded under Virginia's doctrine of res judicata, because he could not have brought those claims at the time of his earlier litigation. In this case, plaintiff could not have brought his fraudulent transfer claims in the arbitration proceedings, because it was only after the state court judgment was entered that plaintiff would have actual notice of any potential fraudulent transfer claims. Similarly, because plaintiff was required to obtain a judgment against Virtus before bringing his alter-ego claim, the claim had not accrued at the time of the arbitration proceedings. View "Bennett v. Garner" on Justia Law

by
Petitions for review of compensation orders arising under the Defense Base Act should be filed in the circuit where the relevant district director is located. The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review challenging the Benefits Review Board's decision concluding that a linguist who supported the military in Iraq was entitled to workers' compensation under the Defense Base Act. The panel held that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's determination that claimant met both the medical and the economic aspect of disability as defined by the statute; the ALJ applied the correct legal standard when considering the evidence in this case; and the ALJ correctly concluded that claimant met his burden to show that he was disabled. View "Global Linguist Solutions, LLC v. Abdelmeged" on Justia Law

by
Linda Grina appealed a district court judgment affirming the denial of her unemployment benefits. Grina started coaching at Bismarck Gymnastics Academy in 1992. In 2015 or 2016 she was appointed interim executive director/program director with retained coaching duties. When a new executive director was hired, Grina was instructed to assist the executive director in acclimating to the gym and working environment. In July 2017 the employer informed Grina she was placed on probation for failure to assist the new executive director as instructed. A week later Grina sent a letter to the gym's board of directors relinquishing the interim program director title and job duties and expressing her desire to stay employed as a coach. In August 2017 Grina met with the gym board of directors. The board informed Grina her duties as interim program director were not separable from her coaching duties, and if she chose to resign as interim program director she also would be resigning from coaching. Grina indicated she would not continue performing the duties of interim program director. The board then issued a termination letter. Grina filed for unemployment benefits through Job Service. Job Service granted Grina benefits in October 2017 after finding the employer did not show her termination was due to misconduct. The employer appealed and a Job Service appeals referee conducted a hearing in December 2017. The referee reversed the initial decision and found Grina voluntarily left her employment without good cause attributable to the employer. Grina appealed the referee's decision to the Job Service North Dakota Bureau and sought to introduce new evidence, including emails and a text message referencing Grina being "let go" or "terminated." The Bureau added the documents to the claim file but did not consider the information in its decision affirming the referee's determination. Grina appealed to the district court. The district court affirmed the Bureau's decision denying Grina unemployment benefits. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding under its standard of review, a reasoning mind could have determined Grina left her employment voluntarily and without good cause attributable to the employer. View "Grina v. Job Service" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated and remanded in part the district court’s dismissal of Appellant’s complaint claiming that he was fired from his job in retaliation for accusing his employer of violating the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and making false representations in customer contracts, holding that Appellant plausibly pleaded that he engaged in protected conduct within the meaning of a False Claims Act (FCA) retaliation claim. The district court dismissed the complaint after finding that Appellant did not allege sufficient facts to show he was engaged in protected conduct within the meaning of the retaliation provision of the FCA. The First Circuit affirmed as to the contractual language claim but vacated and remanded as to the AKS claim, holding that Appellant plausibly pleaded that the concerns he raised about certain payments could have led to an FCA action. View "Guilfoile v. Shields" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court finding the board of regents of Harris-Stowe State University liable on Dr. Shereen Kader’s claims of national origin discrimination and retaliation under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), holding that the circuit court’s jury instructions were erroneous and prejudicial. The jury returned a verdict in Dr. Kader’s favor on her claims of national original discrimination and retaliation, awarding $750,000 in actual damages and $1.75 million in punitive damages. The circuit court entered judgment on the jury’s verdict. On appeal, Harris-Stowe argued that the circuit court’s disjunctive jury instructions Nos. 8 and 9 misled and confused the jury, thereby resulting in prejudice. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the circuit court’s jury instructions were erroneous and prejudicial because they included at least one alternative that did not constitute actionable conduct under the MHRA. View "Kader v. Board of Regents of Harris-Stowe State University" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the California Supreme Court: Is operating engineers' offsite "mobilization work"—including the transportation to and from a public works site of roadwork grinding equipment—performed "in the execution of [a] contract for public work," Cal. Lab. Code 1772, such that it entitles workers to "not less than the general prevailing rate of per diem wages for work of a similar character in the locality in which the public work is performed" pursuant to section 1771 of the California Labor Code? View "Pena Mendoza v. Fonseca McElroy Grinding Co." on Justia Law

by
Oliveira is a driver for a trucking company, under an agreement that calls him an independent contractor and contains a mandatory arbitration provision. Oliveira filed a class action alleging that the company denies its drivers lawful wages. The company invoked the Federal Arbitration Act, arguing that questions regarding arbitrability should be resolved by the arbitrator. The First Circuit and Supreme Court agreed that a court should determine whether the Act's section 1 exclusion applies before ordering arbitration. A court’s authority to compel arbitration under the Act does not extend to all private contracts. Section 2 provides that the Act applies only when the agreement is “a written provision in any maritime transaction or a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce.” Section 1 provides that “nothing” in the Act “shall apply” to “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” The sequencing is significant. A “delegation clause,” giving the arbitrator authority to decide threshold questions of arbitrability is merely a specialized type of arbitration agreement and is enforceable under sections 3 and 4 only if it appears in a contract consistent with section 2 that does not trigger section 1’s exception. Because “contract of employment” refers to any agreement to perform work, Oliveira’s contract falls within that exception. At the time of the Act’s 1925 adoption, the phrase “contract of employment” was not a term of art; dictionaries treated “employment” as generally synonymous with “work," not requiring a formal employer-employee relationship. Congress used the term “contracts of employment” broadly. View "New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Chief Justice Valdez in his individual and official capacities, arguing that Valdez intervened in plaintiff's hiring as retaliation for plaintiff filing a complaint against Valdez. The Fifth Circuit held that Valdez is entitled to qualified immunity because it was not clearly established as of May 2014 that where a briefing attorney swore as part of his employment to comply with a code of conduct requiring him to report judicial misconduct to a specific state authority, he nonetheless spoke as a citizen in reporting a judge to that authority. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's order denying Valdez's motion for summary judgment in both his official and individual capacity. View "Anderson v. Valdez" on Justia Law

by
Southwestern Community College District (District) and its governing board (Board) (together Southwestern) demoted Arlie Ricasa from an academic administrator position to a faculty position on the grounds of moral turpitude, immoral conduct, and unfitness to serve in her then-current role. While employed by Southwestern as the director of Student Development and Health Services (DSD), Ricasa also served as an elected board member of a separate entity, the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD). The largest number of incoming District students were from SUHSD, and the community viewed the school districts as having significant ties. As a SUHSD board member, Ricasa voted on million-dollar vendor contracts to construction companies, such as Seville Group, Inc. (SGI) and Gilbane Construction Company, who ultimately co-managed a bond project for the SUHSD. Before and after SGI received this contract, Ricasa went to dinners with SGI members that she did not disclose on her Form 700. Ricasa's daughter also received a scholarship from SGI to attend a student leadership conference that Ricasa did not report on her "Form 700." In December 2013, Ricasa pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Political Reform Act, which prohibited board members of local agencies from receiving gifts from a single source in excess of $420. Ricasa filed two petitions for writs of administrative mandamus in the trial court seeking, among other things, to set aside the demotion and reinstate her as an academic administrator. Ricasa appealed the denial of her petitions, arguing the demotion occurred in violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act (the Brown Act) because Southwestern failed to provide her with 24 hours' notice of the hearing at which it heard charges against her, as required by Government Code section 54957. Alternatively, she argued the demotion was unconstitutional because no nexus existed between her alleged misconduct and her fitness to serve as academic administrator. Southwestern also appealed, arguing that the trial court made two legal errors when it: (1) held that Southwestern was required to give 24-hour notice under the Brown Act prior to conducting a closed session at which it voted to initiate disciplinary proceedings, and (2) enjoined Southwestern from committing future Brown Act violations. The Court of Appeal concluded Southwestern did not violate the Brown Act, and that substantial evidence supported Ricasa's demotion. However, the Court reversed that part of the judgment enjoining Southwestern from future Brown Act violations. View "Ricasa v. Office of Admin. Hearings" on Justia Law

by
Dennis Woolman, former president of The Clemens Coal Company, challenged a district court’s determination that Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company didn’t breach a duty to him by failing to procure for Clemens Coal an insurance policy with a black-lung disease endorsement. Clemens Coal operated a surface coal mine until it filed for bankruptcy in 1997. Woolman served as Clemens Coal’s last president before it went bankrupt. Federal law required Clemens Coal to maintain worker’s compensation insurance with a special endorsement covering miners’ black-lung disease benefits. Woolman didn’t personally procure insurance for Clemens Coal but instead delegated that responsibility to an outside consultant. The policy the consultant ultimately purchased for the company did not contain a black-lung-claim endorsement, and it expressly excluded coverage for federal occupational disease claims, such as those arising under the Black Lung Benefits Act (the Act). In 2012, a former Clemens Coal employee, Clayton Spencer, filed a claim with the United States Department of Labor (DOL) against Clemens Coal for benefits under the Act. After some investigation, the DOL advised Woolman that Clemens Coal was uninsured for black-lung-benefits claims as of July 25, 1997 (the last date of Spencer’s employment) and that, without such coverage, Woolman, as Clemens Coal’s president, could be held personally liable. Woolman promptly tendered the claim to Liberty Mutual for a legal defense. Liberty Mutual responded with a reservation-of-rights letter, stating that it hadn’t yet determined coverage for Spencer’s claim but that it would provide a defense during its investigation. Then in a follow-up letter, Liberty Mutual clarified that it would defend Clemens Coal as a company (not Woolman personally) and advised Woolman to retain his own counsel. Liberty Mutual eventually concluded that the insurance policy didn’t cover the black-lung claim, and sued Clemens Coal and Woolman for a declaration to that effect. In his suit, Woolman also challenged the district court’s rejection of his argument that Liberty Mutual should have been estopped from denying black-lung-disease coverage, insisting that he relied on Liberty Mutual to provide such coverage. Having considered the totality of the circumstances, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the district court didn’t err in declining Woolman’s extraordinary request to expand the coverages in the Liberty Mutual policy. “Liberty Mutual never represented it would procure the coverage that Woolman now seeks, and the policy itself clearly excludes such coverage. No other compelling consideration justifies rewriting the agreement— twenty years later—to Woolman’s liking.” View "Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance v. Woolman" on Justia Law