Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance (“WSI”) appealed a district court judgment affirming an ALJ’s revised order on remand, entered after the North Dakota Supreme Court's decision in State by & through Workforce Safety & Ins. v. Sandberg, 2019 ND 198, 931 N.W.2d 488 (“Sandberg I”). The ALJ’s revised order made additional findings of fact and conclusions of law, and again found John Sandberg had sustained a compensable injury and was entitled to benefits. Under its deferential standard of review, the Supreme Court affirmed in part; however, in light of the ALJ’s revised order, the Court remanded the case to WSI for further proceedings on whether benefits should have been awarded on an aggravation basis and the proper calculation of those benefits under N.D.C.C. 65-05-15. View "WSI v. Sandberg, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court set aside the decision of administrative law judge (ALJ) for the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA) denying the claim for benefits filed by deputy John France, who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after he shot and killed a man, holding that the administrative law judge erred by failing to apply the standard required by Ariz. Rev. Stat. 23-1043.01(B).Under section 23-1043.01(B), employees may receive compensation for mental injuries if an unexpected, unusual or extraordinary employment-related stress was a substantial contributing cause of the mental injury. An ALJ denied France's claim for benefits, concluding that the shooting incident was not "unusual, unexpected, or extraordinary." The Supreme Court set aside the ICA's decision, holding (1) under section 23-1043.01(b), a work-related mental injury is compensable if the specific event causing the injury was objectively "unexpected, unusual or extraordinary"; (2) under this objective standard, an injury-causing event must be examined from the standpoint of a reasonable employee with the same or similar job duties and training as the claimant; and (3) the ALJ erred by limiting her analysis to whether France's job duties encompassed the possibility of using lethal force in the line of duty and failing to consider whether the shooting incident was unexpected or extraordinary. View "France v. Industrial Commission of Arizona" on Justia Law

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A Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) plaintiff may not be compelled to arbitrate whether he or she is an aggrieved employee. Petitioners filed suit against Zum under PAGA, alleging that Zum misclassified them and others as independent contractors and thus violated multiple provisions of the California Labor Code. The trial court granted Zum's motion to compel arbitration and ordered into arbitration the issue of arbitrability of petitioners' suit.The Court of Appeal reversed the order compelling arbitration, concluding that the delegation of the question of arbitrability to an arbitrator frustrates the purpose of PAGA and is therefore prohibited under California law. The court explained that the California Supreme Court in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348, and several Courts of Appeal are uniform in holding that PAGA claims are not waivable and are not arbitrable. Furthermore, under that case law and in light of the very nature of a PAGA claim, a court – not an arbitrator – must decide all aspects of the claim. The court further explained that the only exception is when the state, as real party in interest, has consented to arbitration. However, the state did not consent here. The court concluded that the "preliminary" question of whether petitioners are "aggrieved employees" under PAGA may not be decided in private party arbitration. View "Contreras v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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Ronald Throupe, a Professor of Real Estate at the University of Denver ("DU"), brought an employment discrimination claim under Title IX against DU as well as several faculty and staff members. In 2013, Throupe was a candidate to serve as director of the Real Estate and Construction Management department. DU ultimately hired outside of the school, bringing in Barbara Jackson to lead the department. According to Throupe, upon Jackon’s arrival, she made clear in conversations with professors, she would force some of the tenured real estate faculty members to leave. In 2014, the University Title IX office was contacted multiple times about Throupe's relationship with a foreign graduate student. In an email to University officials, Jackson concluded "Ron believes he has done nothing but help this girl, but his behaviors have been totally unprofessional and inappropriate, his father/daughter views perverted, and his obsession out of control." The Title IX investigator and DU’s Manager of Equal Employment had a follow-up meeting with Throupe. Afterward, he sent an email to the Manager of Equal Employment formally reporting a hostile work environment. When Throupe later asked whether any actions had been taken in response to his report, the investigator told Throupe his claim “did not result in any formal investigation by the Office of Equal Employment.” However, the school issued him a written warning, admonishing him from further contact with the student. Throupe maintained that Jackson continued to harass him even after the written warning. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. Although Throupe had dedicated little space in his briefing to arguing any theory of sex discrimination, the district court identified two theories of sex discrimination in Throupe’s argument: that defendants created a hostile work environment and engaged in disparate treatment against him. But the court determined that Throupe had failed to establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination under either of these theories. Having dismissed Throupe’s sole federal claim, the district court declined to consider the remaining state law claims due to lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment, specifically concluding the district court did not err in concluding that Throupe failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether he was discriminated against on the basis of his sex. View "Throupe v. University of Denver" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting summary judgment against Plaintiffs, who argued that they were employees of Defendant within the context of the Minimum Wage Amendment (MWA), Nev. Const. art. XV, section 16, holding that summary judgment was improper.Plaintiff, dancers, demanded minimum wages from Defendant, a men's club. Defendant refused to pay because it considered Plaintiffs independent contractors. Plaintiffs brought this class action seeking a ruling that they were employees rather independent contractors and were therefore entitled to minimum wages. The district court concluded that Nev. Rev. Stat. 608.0155 applied to Plaintiffs, rendering them independent contractors ineligible for minimum wages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiffs were employees within the MWA's meaning; and (2) Nev. Rev. Stat. 608.0155 does not abrogate the constitutional protections to which Plaintiffs were entitled. View "Doe Dancer I v. La Fuente, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint claiming failure to accommodate, gender discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation, holding that the circuit court did not err.In dismissing the complaint, the circuit court found that Plaintiff's claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata because they could have been raised in an earlier lawsuit between the same parties. Plaintiff appealed, arguing (1) she was foreclosed from raising her claims during the earlier proceeding because the deadline for amendments to the pleadings had passed, and (2) the claims were different from those raised in the earlier lawsuit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly found that res judicata was a bar to the litigation of Plaintiff's claims. View "Baker v. Chemours Co. FC, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court decided two questions of law related to meal periods for employees and, in light of its holdings, reversed the judgment of the court of appeals.Plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit against Defendant alleging various wage and hour violations, including that meal period claim at issue on this appeal. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, holding (1) an employer cannot engage in the practice of adjusting the hours that an employee has actually worked to the nearest present time increment in the meal period context; and (2) time records showing noncompliant meal periods raise a rebuttable presumption of meal period violations, including at the stage of summary judgment. View "Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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After BNSF terminated plaintiff based on violation of company attendance guidelines, plaintiff filed suit alleging that BNSF failed to provide reasonable accommodations for his disability. Plaintiff, who is an epileptic, worked as a train dispatcher for BNSF.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for BNSF, holding plaintiff failed to show that he was a "qualified individual" for either of his failure-to-accommodate claims. In this case, plaintiff failed to show that he could perform the essential functions of his job in spite of his disability or that a reasonable accommodation of his disability would have enabled him to perform the essential functions of the job. View "Weber v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, the City of Framingham and Brian Simoneau, in this lawsuit raising Massachusetts Whistleblower Act claims and speech retaliation claims under Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), holding that the district court did not err.Vincent Stuart, a former Framingham police officer, brought this action alleging that the termination of his employment was in retaliation for his speech. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants on both the First Amendment speech-retaliation and the Massachusetts Whistleblower Act claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that there was not a triable question that Stuart's complaint was a substantial or motivating factor in his suspension and termination. View "Stuart v. City of Framingham, Massachusetts" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a petition for a writ of mandate as well as a complaint for due process violations against LAUSD and Defendant Sohn, seeking reinstatement and damages. Plaintiff contends that under Education Code section 44466, which governs tenure for university interns, he had acquired permanent status at the commencement of the 2018–2019 school year. Plaintiff argued that he had satisfied the requirements of section 44466 by completing his university coursework in advance of the 2017–2018 school year, serving that school year in a credentialed teaching position (first under his intern credential, and then his regular credential), then beginning the 2018–2019 school year under his regular credential.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment concluding that section 44466 contemplates that former university interns serve a complete year under a regular credential before acquiring tenure. The court explained that plaintiff did not acquire tenure under section 44466 because the post-internship year under section 44466 does not begin until the former intern is reemployed under a regular credential by the school district that employed him as an intern. Therefore, the trial court correctly ruled that plaintiff did not acquire tenure at the commencement of the 2018–2019 school year. View "McGroarty v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law