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The South Orange County Community College District (the District) dismissed Carol Wassmann from employment as a tenured librarian at Irvine Valley College (IVC) in April 2011. Several years later, Wassmann obtained a right to sue notice from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and brought this lawsuit against the District, Karima Feldhus, Robert Brumucci, Glenn Roquemore, Lewis Long, and Katherine Schmeidler. Wassmann, who is African-American, alleged causes of action for racial discrimination, age discrimination, and harassment in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), intentional infliction of emotional distress, and two other causes of action (not relevant here). The trial court granted two motions for summary judgment: one brought by the District Defendants and the other brought by Long and Schmeidler, on the ground the FEHA claims were barred by res judicata, collateral estoppel, or failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress cause of action was barred by res judicata, collateral estoppel, or the statute of limitations. Wassmann appealed, but finding no reversible error in the grant of summary judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Wassmann v. South Orange County Community College Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Natasha Meeks contended that she suffered sexual harassment on the job. She brought suit against her employer, defendant-appellant AutoZone, Inc. (AutoZone), and the alleged harasser, defendant-appellant Juan Fajardo, raising claims of sexual harassment, failure to prevent sexual harassment, and retaliation in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The trial court granted summary adjudication in favor of AutoZone on Meeks’s retaliation claim. A jury returned defense verdicts on her remaining claims. On appeal, Meeks argued that certain evidentiary rulings at trial were prejudicial errors, requiring reversal. She also claimed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to AutoZone on her retaliation claim was erroneous. After review, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary adjudication on the retaliation claim. However, the Court found several erroneous evidentiary rulings required reversal of the judgment and remand for new trial on the remaining claims. View "Meeks v. AutoZone, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Metropolitan Water District challenged the decision of a hearing officer on a union grievance concerning the District’s use of a “comparative analysis” procedure in job postings. The trial court set aside the hearing officer’s decision on the grounds that it granted relief on an issue that was not ripe and exceeded the scope of the issue before him. The court of appeal affirmed. The issue before the hearing officer was framed as a question of whether the District violated the agreement in a particular job posting but the only union applicant for that posting did not meet the minimum requirements, so there was no actual controversy. Instead, the hearing officer was asked to speculate on the resolution of the hypothetical situation where a union applicant, meeting minimum requirements for the position, is subject to the comparative analysis procedure. In ordering the District to “cease and desist from the use of posting language or a recruitment procedure that provides ... for a comparative analysis” went beyond the hearing officer’s role, which is “limited” to hearing “the written grievance as originally filed.” The issue before the hearing officer was limited to the District’s use of language in job posting 3533719. View "Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. v. Winograd" on Justia Law

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When Goplin began working at WeConnect, he signed the “AEI Alternative Entertainment Inc. Open Door Policy and Arbitration Program,” which referred to AEI throughout; it never mentioned WeConnect. Goplin brought a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act. WeConnect moved to compel arbitration, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3), attaching an affidavit from its Director of Human Resources stating, “I am employed by WeConnect, Inc.—formerly known as Alternative Entertainment, Inc. or AEI.” Goplin claimed that WeConnect was not a party to the agreement and could not enforce it. He cited language on WeConnect’s website: WeConnect formed when two privately held companies, Alternative Entertainment, Inc. (AEI) and WeConnect Enterprise Solutions, combined in September 2016… we officially became one company. WeConnect asserted that WeConnect and AEI were two names for the same legal entity, stating: This was a name change, not a merger. The court held that WeConnect did not establish that it was a party to the agreement or otherwise entitled to enforce it. The court rejected subsequently-submitted corporate-form documents and affidavits, stating that new evidence cannot be introduced in a motion for reconsideration unless the movant shows “not only that [the] evidence was newly discovered or unknown to it until after the hearing, but also that it could not with reasonable diligence have discovered and produced such evidence.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Goplin v. WeConnect, Inc." on Justia Law

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Davis filed a complaint with the Fort Bend County Human Resources Department alleging that a director had sexually harassed and assaulted her. An investigation led to the director’s resignation. According to Davis, her supervisor retaliated because the director was a personal friend of Davis's supervisor. Davis informed her supervisor that she could not work one specific Sunday because she had a "commitment” to attend a special church service. Her supervisor did not approve the absence. Davis attended the service and did not report to work. Fort Bend terminated her employment. Davis filed a charge with the Texas Workforce Commission then filed suit under Title VII. The Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment on her retaliation claim but reversed on her religious discrimination claim, finding genuine disputes of material fact as to whether Davis held a bona fide religious belief that she needed to attend the service and Fort Bend would have suffered an undue hardship in accommodating Davis’s religious observance. The Supreme Court denied Fort Bend’s petition for certiorari. On remand, Fort Bend argued—for the first time— that Davis had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. Holding that administrative exhaustion is a jurisdictional prerequisite in Title VII cases, the district court found Davis’s contention that Fort Bend had waived this argument “irrelevant.” The Fifth Circuit again reversed. Title VII’s administrative exhaustion requirement is not a jurisdictional bar but rather a prudential prerequisite and Fort Bend forfeited the argument. View "Davis v. Fort Bend County" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over constitutional limits on the governor’s power to make recess appointments, the Court of Appeals held that a provision in the state budget bill passed by the general assembly that precluded two gubernatorial appointees from being paid a salary exceeded the authority of the legislature was was invalid and unenforceable. In 2016, the governor appointed the two appointees as secretaries for two departments. The governor withdrew his nomination of the appointees during the 2017 legislation session but later reappointed the two secretaries. Anticipating that prospect, the general assembly passed a provision in the state budget bill forbidding payments to administration appointees who were nominated but not confirmed by the Maryland Senate. The cabinet secretaries filed suit demanding pay for their work. The circuit judge ruled that the governor had the authority to make the two recess appointments and ordered the treasurer to pay the cabinet secretaries. The Court of Appeals vacated the circuit court’s judgment and remanded for entry of a declaratory judgment declaring that the appointees were entitled to be paid the salaries set forth in the fiscal year 2018 budget for the times they served as secretaries of their respective departments and for entry of an order enjoining the state from interfering with the payment of those salaries. View "Kopp v. Schrader" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the appeal brought by the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) appealing the circuit court’s denial of its motion to dismiss a complaint alleging violations of the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act (AMWA) based on sovereign immunity. Appellees, former employees of the ADVA, brought this complaint alleging that ADVA failed to compensate them for working overtime in violation of the AMWA. ADVA filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that AMWA’s abrogation of sovereign immunity violates Ark. Const. art. V, 20. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s denial of ADVA’s motion to dismiss on sovereign immunity, holding that Board of Trustees of University of Arkansas v. Andrews, 535 S.W.3d 616 (Ark. 2018), in which the Court struck the provision of the AMWA that provided this action could be brought against the state, controlled. View "Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs v. Mallett" on Justia Law

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The Oregon Supreme Court previously denied employer Shearer's Foods' petition for review in this workers’ compensation case, but addressed claimant William Hoffnagle's petition for an award of attorney fees for time that his counsel spent in response to employer’s unsuccessful petition for review. Employer objected that the Supreme Court lacked authority to award fees and also objects to the amount of requested fee. Although the Supreme Court often resolved attorney fee petitions by order rather than written opinion, employer’s objection to the Supreme Court's authority to award fees presented a legal issue that was appropriately resolved by opinion. Employer insisted the Oregon legislature had not authorized an award of fees for work that a claimant’s attorney performs in response to an unsuccessful petition for review; employer did not dispute that, after a series of amendments, ORS 656.386 specified a claimant who prevails against a denial was entitled to an award of attorney fees for work performed at every other stage of the case, including in the Supreme Court, if the Supreme Court addressed the merits of the case. "Employer offers no reason why the legislature would have intentionally created that one carve-out to what is otherwise a comprehensive authorization of fees when a claimant relies on counsel to finally prevail against the denial of a claim. Indeed, such a carve- out would be incompatible with what we have described as 'a broad statement of a legislative policy' reflected in ORS 656.386, 'that prevailing claimants’ attorneys shall receive reasonable compensation for their representation.'" The petition for attorney fees was allowed. Claimant was awarded $2,200 as attorney fees on review. View "Shearer's Foods v. Hoffnagle" on Justia Law

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Congress adopted the Railroad Retirement Tax Act of 1937 in response to the Great Depression, federalizing private railroad pension plans. Private railroads and their employees pay a tax based on employees’ incomes; the federal government provides employees a pension often more generous than the social security system supplies employees in other industries. At the time of the Act’s adoption, railroads compensated employees not just with money but also with food, lodging, and railroad tickets. Railroads typically did not count these in-kind benefits when calculating an employee’s pension; neither did Congress in its new statutory pension scheme. Nor did Congress seek to tax these in-kind benefits, defining “compensation” as “any form of money remuneration.” Some railroads subsequently adopted employee stock option plans. The Supreme Court held that employee stock options are not taxable “compensation” under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act because they are not “money remuneration.” When Congress adopted the Act, “money” was understood as currency “issued by [a] recognized authority as a medium of exchange.” While stock can be bought or sold for money, it is not usually considered a medium of exchange. Congress wanted to tax monetary compensation in any of the many forms an employer might choose but did not want to tax things, like stock, that are not money. Congress knew the difference between “money” and “all” forms of remuneration and chose to use the narrower term in the context of railroad pensions. View "Wisconsin Central Ltd. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Simpkins began working for DuPage Housing Authority (DHA) in 2009 under an “Independent Contractor Agreement” for “general labor” to rehabilitate vacant properties to make them suitable for occupants. In 2011, the rehab work slowed and Simpkins began working primarily at Ogden townhome community, for which DHA served as on‐site management. Ogden’s property manager and maintenance supervisor, DHA employees, gave Simpkins instructions and prioritized the order in which he needed to complete tasks. In May 2012, Simpkins and DHA entered into another “Independent Contractor Agreement,” covering “general labor” at Ogden. Simpkins worked full‐time and exclusively for DHA; reported his hours by invoice; and was paid bi‐weekly via check. DHA issued Simpkins 1099‐MISC tax forms, while others received W‐2 forms. Simpkins knew that DHA considered him an independent contractor and repeatedly requested to become an employee. DHA did not provide him with pension, insurance, or other benefits. In 2015, Simpkins was injured in a car accident; his relationship with DHA ended. He filed suit, claiming that DHA had repeatedly failed to pay him overtime and was required to provide him with disability benefits. The district court ruled that Simpkins was not an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act and rejected all of his federal claims. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding genuine issues of fact as to the control exercised by DHA, questions concerning the origin of tools and material, and ambiguity as to the termination date of the second contract. View "Simpkins v. DuPage Housing Authority" on Justia Law