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Steven Levi appealed a superior court decision affirming a Department of Labor and Workforce Development order requiring him to repay several months of unemployment insurance benefits plus interest and penalties because he under-reported his weekly income while receiving benefits. Based on a Department handbook, Levi argued he was not required to report his wages unless he earned more than $50 per day. The Alaska Supreme Court determined Levi’s reading of the handbook was unreasonable. Nonetheless, the governing statute required a reduction in benefits whenever a claimant’s wages were more than $50 per week. Levi made other arguments, but the Court found no merit to any of them. The Court affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Levi v. State, Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were class representatives of current and former employees of defendant Pacific Bell Telephone Company who installed and repaired video and internet services in customers’ homes. They appealed a judgment in favor of defendant following cross-motions for summary judgment or summary judgment. Plaintiffs sought compensation for the time they spent traveling in an employer-provided vehicle--loaded with equipment and tools--between their homes and a customer’s residence (the worksite) under an optional and voluntary Home Dispatch Program. The trial court, like federal courts that have considered the question under California law, concluded the travel time was not compensable. The Court of Appeal agree and affirmed, finding: (1) the Home Dispatch Program was not compulsory; and (2) simply transporting tools and equipment during commute time was not compensable work where no effort or extra time is required to effectuate the transport. View "Hernandez v. Pacific Bell Telephone Co." on Justia Law

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When Tammy Webster completed her National Guard training, she requested the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) renew her contract as a part-time dispatcher. When MDWFP refused to rehire her, Webster filed a Uniformed Services Employment and Remployment Rights Act (USERRA) claim in state court, successfully proving MDWFP violated her federal statutory right to reemployment. Though the prevailing party, Webster appealed, challenging both her compensation award of one year’s worth of lost part-time wages, and her attorney-fee award. The Mississippi Supreme Court held the trial court did not err in limiting Webster’s compensation to one year of lost wages: Webster had been employed under yearly contracts that were not automatically renewable, and MDWFP was under no statutory obligation to employ her indefinitely. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the remainder of the judgment because: (1) the trial court failed to rule on Webster’s liquidated-damages claim, even though Webster presented evidence MDWFP’s USERRA violation was “willful,” as that term is used in the statute; (2) the trial court arbitrarily assigned $2,800 as a reasonable attorney fee, without considering the time spent by or hourly rate of Webster’s counsel or any other relevant factor; and (3) the trial court taxed Webster her respective court costs, even though USERRA prohibits claimants from being taxed with costs. View "Webster v. Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the employer in an action alleging that the unauthorized review and disclosure of plaintiff's confidential personnel files to support her racial and religious discrimination claims constituted protected activity under Title VII. The court held that, under the opposition clause, unauthorized disclosures of confidential information to third parties are generally unreasonable. In this case, plaintiff's unauthorized review and duplication of confidential personnel files did not constitute protected opposition or participation activity. The court also held that section 704(a) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not protect a violation of valid state law that poses no conflict with Title VII. The court explained that, like in plaintiff's opposition claim, she failed to meet her burden of proving that the sheriff terminated her employment because she engaged in protected activity. View "Netter v. Barnes" on Justia Law

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Kerr was employed by the federal agency since 1980. Following adverse personnel actions, Kerr alleged sex and religious discrimination and retaliation before the agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity office. Kerr subsequently challenged her 2006 removal and the earlier adverse personnel actions before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), citing Title VII and retaliation under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), 5 U.S.C. 1201. The MSPB indicated that it lacked jurisdiction over the less-serious personnel decisions and gave Kerr the opportunity to present her removal-related claims to the agency’s EEO office or have the MSPB decide them. Kerr chose the EEO office. The MSPB dismissed Kerr’s appeal without prejudice. The EEO office rejected Kerr’s discrimination claims and concluded that the WPA claim was not within its jurisdiction, telling Kerr that she could not appeal the constructive discharge claim to the EEOC, but could either appeal to the MSPB or file suit. Kerr filed suit. On remand from the Ninth Circuit, the government first argued that the court lacked jurisdiction over Kerr’s WPA claim because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies by MSPB review. The district court dismissed the WPA claim. A jury returned a defense verdict on the discrimination claim. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court denied certiorari. The MSPB rejected Kerr’s request to reopen, concluding that there was neither good cause nor equitable tolling for the untimely filing. The Federal Circuit reversed. Kerr did have a reasonable basis for thinking that the district court was an appropriate forum for all of her claims. The court noted the language of 5 U.S.C. 7702, Tenth Circuit precedent, and that the government did not warn Kerr she would waive her claim by failing to file at the MSPB. Kerr has demonstrated reasonable diligence and there is no prejudice to the agency. View "Kerr v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing constitutional challenges to the validity of the Kentucky Right to Work Act, 2017 Ky. Acts ch. 1, 15, holding that the trial court did not err. In 2017, the Kentucky legislature passed, and the Governor signed, the Act. The Act amended Ky. Rev. Stat. 336.130(3) to provide that no employee is required to become, or remain, a member of a labor organization, or to pay dues, fees, or assessments to a labor organization. Plaintiff-unions filed an action challenging the Act on several Kentucky constitutional grounds. Specifically, Plaintiffs claimed that the Act violated the Kentucky Constitution’s provisions requiring equal protection of the laws, prohibiting special legislation, and prohibiting takings without compensation and that the Act was improperly designated as emergency legislation. The trial court granted the Commonwealth’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Unions’ constitutional challenges to the Act were without merit. View "Zuckerman v. Bevin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who was injured on the job, filed suit against his employer for retaliation and age discrimination. After the case proceeded to trial, the district court granted the employer's renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law at the close of the evidence on the retaliation claim, but sent the age discrimination issue to the jury. The jury returned a verdict for the employer. The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded the adverse ruling on the retaliation claim, holding that, under Texas law, sufficient evidence of retaliation was presented to support submission to the jury under Cont'l Coffee Prods. Co. v. Cazarez, 937 S.W.2d 444, 451. The court reasoned that this outcome would be the same whether it considered the Continental Coffee list as "elements" or merely "factors." In this case, there was stark temporal proximity between plaintiff's injury and his termination, there was evidence to support the expression of a negative attitude and the treatment compared to similarly situated employees, and there was considerable evidence that would support a jury verdict in plaintiff's favor. View "Cristain v. Hunter Buildings and Manufacturing, LP" on Justia Law

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In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal noted that effective January 1, 2019, Code of Civil Procedure section 998 will have no application to costs and attorney and expert witness fees in a Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) action unless the lawsuit is found to be "frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless when brought, or the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so." In regard to the litigation that predated the application of the amended version of Government Code section 12965(b), the court held that section 998 does not apply to nonfrivolous FEHA actions and reversed the order awarding defendant costs and expert witness fees pursuant to that statute. View "Huerta v. Kava Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a class action brought by over 52,000 experienced and student over-the-road truck drivers, alleging claims under federal and state wage and hour laws. The court held that judicial estoppel was not applicable in this case and that Werner was not bound to previous statements in such a way that affected the outcome of the case. The court also held that, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the mileage-based payments were remuneration for employment and should be included in Werner's minimum wage calculation. Finally, the state law claims were foreclosed as well. View "Baouch v. Werner Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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Siler was an EPA Special Agent, conducting criminal investigations, 1997-2016. Siler also operated a personal business, selling military collectibles. Siler failed to report that business, as required, used his government computer for personal business, and tried to intimidate a contractor with whom he dealt in conducting that business. That contractor filed a complaint. EPA placed Siler on leave. The Office of the Inspector General cleared Siler of criminal charges. After Siler’s supervisor told Siler things “looked good” for an eventual return to full duty, Siler became involved in an investigation into another supervisor, Ashe. Siler expressed fear of retaliation but stated that Ashe had been sleeping at his desk and had smelled of alcohol. Others testified similarly. Ashe retired before serving his suspension. Siler was investigated for conduct unbecoming an investigator, improperly using his government computer, and failing to report his outside business. Siler, 11 months shy of retirement eligibility, was terminated. He argued that removal was not reasonable and that his statements regarding Ashe constituted protected whistleblowing that caused retaliation. In discovery, EPA produced draft notices of proposed sanctions against Siler, which identified a different decision-maker than previously identified. Siler sought the emails to which these drafts had been attached. EPA sought to claw back the drafts, claiming attorney-client privilege. EPA produced no privilege log. The Merit Systems Protection Board found the drafts privileged and found that Siler would have been removed even without his protected disclosures. The Federal Circuit vacated. EPA did not prove that the allegedly protected communication was made in confidence to its attorney. The Board “may not simply guess what might happen absent whistleblowing.” View "Siler v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law