Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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After a Tessier's employee was modifying a hole cover on the roof of an unfinished building when the cover collapsed and he fell 22 feet to the floor below, OSHA issued a citation against Tessier's under 29 C.F.R. 1926.501(b)(4)(i), for failing to protect its employees from falling through holes.The Eighth Circuit denied the petition for review filed by Tessier's, concluding that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's conclusion that the employees had removed a one-foot-by-three-foot section of the cover before it collapsed and, in doing so, exposed a hole. Because this hole was not covered and was more than six feet above the second floor, Tessier's was required to protect its employees from falling by means of an alternative form of fall protection, which it had not done. Therefore, the ALJ did not err in concluding that Tessier's had committed the violation. View "Tessier's, Inc. v. Secretary of Labor" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a tenured professor, filed suit against MSCU, the University, and five University employees, under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and 1983, claiming various discrimination and retaliation counts. Plaintiff's complaint stemmed from a series of decisions made between 2013 and 2016 about faculty class schedules, resource allocation, and participation in certain programs. Plaintiff, a Black man born in Nigeria, claimed the individual defendants made these adverse decisions against him because of his race and national origin. Plaintiff also claimed the individual defendants retaliated against him for an earlier lawsuit against the University, and for reporting a University employee's alleged discriminatory conduct.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's freestanding section 1981 claims, concluding that he was barred from asserting section 1981 retaliation claims against state actors. The court also affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's section 1983 claims, concluding that plaintiff failed to provide direct evidence of retaliation and thus failed to establish causation. View "Onyiah v. St. Cloud State University" on Justia Law

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Two former employees of Michael Morse and his firm, Michael J. Morse, PC, sued Morse for workplace sexual harassment, including sexual assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligence, gross negligence, and wanton and willful misconduct; and civil conspiracy. In both cases, the firm moved to dismiss and compel arbitration on the basis that both women signed the firm’s Mandatory Dispute Resolution Procedure agreement (MDRPA) prior to accepting employment with the firm. The trial court granted defendants' motion in each case, concluding that the arbitration agreement was valid and enforceable and that the claims were related to the employees' employment and therefore subject to arbitration. A majority of the Court of Appeals concluded that plaintiffs’ claims of sexual assault were not subject to arbitration because sexual assault was not “related to” plaintiffs’ employment. Further, the Court of Appeals stated that the fact that the alleged assaults would not have occurred but for plaintiffs’ employment with the firm did not provide a sufficient nexus between the terms of the arbitration agreement and the alleged sexual assaults. "Defendants noted certain facts that supported connections between plaintiffs’ claims and their employment, including that the alleged assaults occurred at work or work-related functions. But those facts did not necessarily make plaintiffs’ claims relative to employment; rather, the facts had to be evaluated under a standard that distinguished claims relative to employment from claims not relative to employment. This analysis prevents the absurdity of an arbitration clause that bars the parties from litigating any matter, regardless of how unrelated to the substance of the agreement, and it ensures that the mere existence of a contract does not mean that every dispute between the parties is arbitrable. Neither the circuit courts nor the Court of Appeals considered this standard when evaluating defendants’ motions to compel arbitration." Rather than apply this newly adopted approach in the first instance, the Michigan Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the Court of Appeals and remanded the cases to the circuit courts so that those courts could analyze defendants’ motions to compel arbitration by determining which of plaintiffs’ claims could be maintained without reference to the contract or employment relationship. View "Lichon v. Morse" on Justia Law

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The defendant-employer, Steel Technologies, Inc., asked the Michigan Supreme Court to consider whether a medical professional’s conclusory declaration of a claimant’s total disability, without more, could provide competent, material, and substantial evidence of “disability,” as defined by the Worker’s Disability Compensation Act (WDCA), MCL 418.101 et seq. The Supreme Court declined to do so because under the facts of this case, it was unnecessary to reach that issue. The Court instead vacated Part IV of the Court of Appeals’ opinion discussing the issue, but affirmed its result: the magistrate relied on competent, material, and substantial evidence to find that the plaintiff-claimant, Ahmed Omer, had established a disability and was entitled to wage-loss benefits. View "Omer v. Steel Technologies Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's judgment finding that a Buell Classifier was ordinary building material and, as such, was subject to Virginia's statute of repose, holding that the Buell Classifier at issue was equipment within the meaning of Va. Code 8.01-250.Luck Stone Corporation owned and operated a stone quarry. A part of its operation was system for the production of manufactured sand. In 2007, Luck Stone replaced earlier equipment with two Buell Classifiers and other components of the sand manufacturing system with products manufactured by BFK, Inc. Daniel Potter, who was employed by Luck Stone as a driver, was killed during the course and scope of his employment. Plaintiff, Daniel's father, brought an action under the Virginia Wrongful death Act, Va. Code 8.01-50, against BFK. BFK filed a plea in bar, arguing that Plaintiff's action was barred under the statute of repose because the Buell Classifier did not qualify as equipment or machinery. The circuit court sustained the plea in bar and dismissed the action against BFK. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Buell Classifier was equipment within the meaning of section 8.01-250, and therefore, the circuit court erred in sustaining BFK's plea in bar based on its conclusion that the Buell Classifier qualified as ordinary building materials. View "Potter v. BFK, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Gina Johnson filed a lawsuit against her employer, Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc. (Maxim), under the Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (PAGA). Maxim is a national healthcare staffing company and provided temporary staffing and healthcare services to its clients. Maxim hired Johnson as an hourly, nonexempt employee in 2016. On September 7, 2016, Johnson signed a document entitled “Non-Solicitation, Non-Disclosure and Non-Competition Agreement” (Agreement). On June 19, 2019, Johnson sent notice to the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (Agency) that the Agreement included a noncompetition clause, which is prohibited under California law.3 Johnson informed the Agency that she intended to pursue a representative action under PAGA on behalf of all allegedly aggrieved employees who signed a document similar to the Agreement, containing the same noncompete language. After 65 days lapsed without a response from the Agency, Johnson filed a complaint in San Diego Superior Court on September 9, 2019. Maxim's demurrer to the complaint was granted on grounds that Johnson signed the Agreement three years before she filed suit. After considering the papers and entertaining oral argument, the superior court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend. The court determined that Johnson’s individual claim was time-barred, and, as such, she could not pursue a PAGA claim in a representative capacity. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding that Johnson had standing to bring the subject PAGA claim. Further, she alleged in the operative complaint that Maxim had violated Labor Code section 432.5 during the applicable statute of limitations, subjecting the company to penalties under PAGA. As such, the superior court erred in sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend. Johnson stated a valid cause of action under PAGA against Maxim. View "Johnson v. Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals certified two questions to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court: (1) whether time spent on an employer’s premises waiting to undergo, and undergoing, mandatory security screening is compensable as “hours worked” within the meaning of the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act1 (“PMWA”); and (2) whether the doctrine of de minimis non curat lex, as described in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680 (1946), applied to bar claims brought under the PMWA. This case arose out of a class action suit for unpaid wages brought by Appellants Neil Heimbach and Karen Salasky (“Employees”) who worked for Appellees (collectively “Amazon”) at Amazon’s warehouse facility in Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court replied: (1) time spent on an employer’s premises waiting to undergo, and undergoing, mandatory security screening constituted “hours worked” under the PMWA; and (2) there exists no de minimis exception to the PMWA. View "Heimbach, et al. v. Amazon.com, et al." on Justia Law

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Appellant, the City of Johnstown ("Johnstown"), contended that a party asserting a firefighter cancer claim had to satisfy the requirements of both Section 301(c)(2) and Section 301(f) of the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act to establish a viable claim. Michael Sevanick was a firefighter for Johnstown for twenty-nine years. After retirement, he worked a a car dealership. Nine years after he retired, Sevanick was diagnosed with kidney cancer. In 2016, he filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits, alleging that his cancer was caused by exposure to a carcinogen recognized as a Group 1 carcinogen by IARC during his time as a firefighter. The Workers' Compensation Judge found in Sevanick's favor, and Johnstown appealed. The Workers' Compensation Appeals Board found that Section 301(c)(2) did not apply, but rather that the limitations of Sevanick's claim were governed by Section 301(f). The Board reasoned that Section 301(f) created a new timeframe for cancer-related occupational disease claims made by firefighters. Because Sevanick raised his claim well within 600 weeks from his last date of employment as a firefighter, the Board concluded the claim was timely. The Commonwealth Court agreed with that determination. Johnstown petitioned for Allowance of Appeal for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to determine whether a firefighter making a claim under Section 108(r) of the Act had to comply with the timing requirements of Section 301(c)(2). The Supreme Court concluded that the time for filing a Section 108(r) firefighter cancer claim was governed by Section 301(f) alone. Therefore, the Commonwealth Court's ruling was affirmed. View "City of Johnstown v. WCAB (Sevanick)" on Justia Law

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A union filed charges of unfair labor practices against Mondelez, a manufacturer of baked goods. An administrative law judge found that the company had unlawfully discharged union officials, 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1), (3); made unilateral changes to various conditions of employment, related to short-term disability leave, union access to new hires, and employee shift schedules, section 158(a)(1), (5); and failed to timely and completely provide relevant information the union requested, section 158(a)(1), (5). The Board agreed. The Seventh Circuit granted the Board’s application for enforcement. The Board reasonably concluded that Mondelez’s justification for discharging the officials was pretextual. Substantial evidence supported the findings concerning unilateral changes to conditions of employment. It was reasonable for the Board to conclude that Mondelez failed to provide a complete record of the new hires as requested. View "Mondelez Global LLC v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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Chatman, an African-American, worked as an instructor assistant, 1988-1996. From 1997-2009, she worked as a school library assistant. In 2009, the Board of Education informed her that it was eliminating her position. Chatman learned that the Board had replaced Chatman (age 62) with a younger, non-African American employee in the same role. Chatman filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the EEOC and then sued in Illinois state court. The Board settled. In addition to a monetary payment, the district was to arrange for interviews for open positions for which Chatman was qualified. Chatman began identifying available positions but did not receive any job offer. She filed a new charge with the EEOC and later filed suit, alleging violations of Title VII’s anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation provisions, and violation of the anti-discrimination provision of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Board, finding certain claims barred by the statute of limitations, and, regarding other positions, that Chatman could not establish that she was qualified for the positions, nor could she establish that the Board’s nondiscriminatory reasons for not offering her the positions were pretextual for discrimination. Chatman could not establish that she was denied a job because of her prior protected activity. View "Chatman v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law