Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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Kevin D. Jones, an attorney, held a term position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) before transferring to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). At the USDA, Jones primarily provided advice and counsel regarding discrimination complaints filed against the agency and litigated ensuing discrimination claims before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). At the ATF, Jones served as an advisor to the Professional Review Board (PRB) as part of a team of attorneys in the Management Division of the ATF Office of General Counsel (OGC). After three months at the ATF, Jones was asked to resign due to his lack of contract law experience. Jones filed a complaint alleging discrimination and lack of due process in his termination.The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) dismissed Jones's administrative appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Administrative Judge (AJ) of the MSPB found that Jones was not an "employee" as defined by 5 U.S.C. § 7511(a)(1)(B) because his positions at the USDA and ATF were not the same or similar. The AJ noted several distinctions between the tasks Jones performed at each agency. Jones did not appeal the Initial Decision to the full Board, so the AJ’s Initial Decision became the Final Decision of the Board.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board's decision. The court found that the AJ did not err in her determination that Jones's positions at the USDA and ATF were not similar. The court also found that the AJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence. Therefore, the court affirmed the Board's determination that it lacked jurisdiction to hear Jones's appeal. View "Jones v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a social worker, Janine Tea, who claimed to have developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to her exposure to the details of a murder committed by one of her clients. The county initially provided workers’ compensation benefits to Tea but discontinued those benefits after a licensed psychiatrist concluded she did not have PTSD. Tea objected to the discontinuance of her benefits and underwent an independent psychological evaluation in which she was diagnosed with PTSD. The compensation judge determined that Tea has compensable PTSD.The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) affirmed the compensation judge's decision. The county appealed, arguing that Tea did not meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).The Supreme Court of Minnesota affirmed the WCCA's decision. The court held that the WCCA’s affirmance of the compensation judge’s finding that Tea has compensable PTSD is not manifestly contrary to the evidence. The court also held that the WCCA did not err in refusing to use the DSM to re-evaluate the compensation judge’s factual finding that Tea has PTSD. The court clarified that compensation judges may review the DSM criteria when considering the persuasiveness of expert reports, but judges may not use those criteria to make their own diagnosis of a claimant’s condition. View "Tea vs. Ramsey County" on Justia Law

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The case involves Lizbeth Balderas, a former employee of Fresh Start Harvesting, Inc., who filed a complaint for civil penalties under the California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) on behalf of herself and 500 other current and former employees. Balderas alleged that Fresh Start violated labor laws by not providing required meal and rest breaks, providing inaccurate wage statements, making untimely wage payments, and failing to pay wages at termination. Balderas did not file an individual claim but proceeded solely under PAGA, representing all aggrieved employees.The trial court struck Balderas's complaint, ruling that she lacked standing to bring a representative PAGA action on behalf of other employees because she did not allege an individual claim in the action. The court relied on language from a United States Supreme Court decision that had incorrectly recited California law on PAGA standing.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Six reviewed the case. The court concluded that Balderas, as an alleged aggrieved employee who was subject to alleged Labor Code violations by Fresh Start, may bring a representative PAGA action on behalf of herself and other Fresh Start employees, even though she did not file an individual cause of action seeking individual relief for herself in this action. The court held that the trial court erred by relying on the United States Supreme Court decision, which was incorrect on PAGA standing requirements. The court reversed the order striking the pleading. View "Balderas v. Fresh Start Harvesting, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2015, Joseph Semprini filed a lawsuit against his employer, Wedbush Securities, Inc., alleging 11 personal causes of action and seven class claims for alleged wage and hour violations. Semprini and Wedbush agreed that Semprini’s personal claims would be arbitrated, while the remaining claims would proceed in court. The class was certified in 2017, and the parties litigated Semprini’s class and Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claims in court over the next several years. In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana that an employer may enforce an employee’s agreement to arbitrate individual PAGA claims. Following this decision, Wedbush asked its workforce to sign arbitration agreements, and 24 class members, including the second named plaintiff, Bradley Swain, agreed to do so.The Superior Court of Orange County denied Wedbush’s motion to compel arbitration of the named plaintiffs’ individual PAGA claims and the claims of the 24 class members who signed arbitration agreements. The court found that Wedbush had waived its right to compel arbitration by entering into the 2015 stipulation.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Fourth Appellate District Division Three affirmed the lower court's decision. The court held that even if the Viking River decision or the 2022 arbitration agreements gave Wedbush a new right to move to compel certain claims to arbitration, Wedbush waited too long to make its motion, particularly in light of the looming trial date. The court found that Wedbush had waived its right to compel arbitration by waiting nine months after the Viking River decision and five to six months after select class members signed the new arbitration agreements to file its motion to compel arbitration. View "Semprini v. Wedbush Securities Inc." on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Tammie Terrell, an African-American nurse, applied for a Chief Nurse position at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital but was not selected. She sued the Secretary of Veterans Affairs under Title VII, alleging race and national-origin discrimination, retaliation, and a discriminatory and retaliatory hostile work environment. The district court granted summary judgment for the Secretary on all counts.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that Terrell failed to provide evidence that her race or national origin was a but-for cause of her non-selection or that it tainted the hiring process. The court also found that Terrell did not engage in any protected Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) activity that could form the basis for a retaliation claim. Furthermore, the court found that Terrell did not provide evidence that she experienced a hostile work environment due to her race, national origin, or EEO activity.Finally, the court affirmed the district court's denial of Terrell's Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment, finding that Terrell was attempting to relitigate her case and present evidence that she could have raised at the summary-judgment stage. View "Terrell v. Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over an employer's vicarious liability under the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA) for an employee's discriminatory behavior towards a customer. The plaintiffs, Tiffany Vargas and Erika Acevedo, alleged that they were subjected to racial discrimination by an employee of Riverbend Management, LLC, at a McDonald's restaurant owned and operated by Riverbend. The employee, Andrew Mosley, used a racial slur against Vargas and Acevedo.The case was initially filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission, which issued a right-to-sue letter, allowing the plaintiffs to commence an action in the Superior Court. Riverbend filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it was not vicariously liable for the race discrimination committed by its employee. The court partially granted the motion, entering judgment in favor of Riverbend on the gender discrimination claim but denied summary judgment on the race-discrimination claim.After a bench trial, the court found that while Mosley violated the MHRA when he used a racial slur against Vargas and Acevedo, Riverbend was not vicariously liable for Mosley’s actions. The court relied on both the Restatement (Second) of Agency and the Restatement (Third) of Agency in reaching its conclusion. Vargas and Acevedo appealed this decision.The Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the lower court's judgment. The court applied the Third Restatement's standard for determining an employer’s vicarious liability under the MHRA for an employee’s act of discrimination against a customer. The court found that Mosley's discriminatory act reflected an independent course of conduct "not actuated by a purpose to serve" Riverbend, and therefore, Riverbend was not vicariously liable for Mosley’s conduct. View "Vargas v. Riverben Management LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves Songie Adebiyi, a former Vice President of Student Services at South Suburban College in Illinois, who was terminated in 2019 due to alleged performance issues. Adebiyi claimed that her termination was in retaliation for filing a charge with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Illinois Department of Human Rights. She sued the college and its president, alleging racial discrimination and retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as breach of contract.The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment to the college and its president, ruling that Adebiyi failed to show a causal link between her charge of discrimination and her termination. The court found that the evidence did not support Adebiyi’s retaliation claim. Adebiyi appealed the decision, arguing that the district court erred in dismissing her Title VII retaliation claim and abused its discretion when it denied her motion to amend the complaint and seek more discovery.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court. The appellate court agreed with the lower court's finding that Adebiyi failed to demonstrate a causal link between her protected activity and the adverse employment action. The court found no evidence of pretext in the college's reasons for termination or suspicious timing between Adebiyi's filing of her EEOC and IDHR charge and her termination. The court also found no abuse of discretion in the district court's denial of Adebiyi's motion to file an amended complaint and take additional discovery. View "Adebiyi v. South Suburban College" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Arno Kuigoua, a registered nurse who was employed by the California Department of Veterans Affairs (the Department) at the Knight Veterans Home. Kuigoua was terminated in October 2018 after the Department found him guilty of sexually harassing women and providing substandard care that harmed patients. Kuigoua appealed his termination to the State Personnel Board, but his appeal was rejected. He then filed an administrative charge of employment discrimination with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging discrimination based on sex and retaliation.The Superior Court of Los Angeles County reviewed Kuigoua's case after he sued the Department in state court on state statutory claims. His complaint included allegations of unlawful gender, sex, and/or sexual orientation discrimination and harassment, unlawful race, color, and/or national origin discrimination and/or harassment, failure to prevent unlawful discrimination and/or harassment based on gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, color, and/or national origin, and retaliation based on gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, color, and/or national origin.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Eight reviewed the case after Kuigoua appealed the judgment of the Superior Court. The court found that Kuigoua's claims in court were not like, and were not reasonably related to, those in his administrative complaint. The court also found that an administrative investigation would not have uncovered the conduct that was the focus of Kuigoua's operative complaint. As a result, the court affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court, ruling that Kuigoua failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. View "Kuigoua v. Dept. of Veteran Affairs" on Justia Law

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The case involves Dr. Euna McGruder, who was terminated from her position as the Executive Officer of Priority Schools for the Nashville public school system, operated by Metro Nashville, after she investigated allegations of racial discrimination at a Nashville middle school. McGruder sued Metro Nashville in 2017, alleging that her termination constituted illegal retaliation in violation of Title VII. In 2021, a jury awarded McGruder $260,000 for her claim, and the district court ordered Metro Nashville to reinstate her to her previous position.After the trial, Metro Nashville discovered that McGruder had failed to disclose the existence of her Title VII claim to the bankruptcy court when she filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2018. Metro Nashville argued that McGruder's claims should be barred by judicial estoppel due to her failure to disclose her cause of action against Metro Nashville in her bankruptcy filing. The district court concluded that it could not exercise jurisdiction over Metro Nashville’s judicial estoppel claim, given that Metro Nashville’s earlier notice of appeal had divested the court of jurisdiction over the case.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's reinstatement order and dismissed Metro Nashville's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court held that judicial estoppel does not bar McGruder's reinstatement. The court also found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering McGruder's reinstatement. The court did not have jurisdiction to apply judicial estoppel to the non-final and therefore non-appealable jury award, forthcoming back pay trial, or award of attorneys’ fees. View "McGruder v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville" on Justia Law

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Sergeant Jatonya Clayborn Muldrow, a police officer in the St. Louis Police Department, alleged that she was transferred from her position in the Intelligence Division to a uniformed job in another department because of her gender. Despite maintaining her rank and pay, Muldrow's responsibilities, perks, and schedule were significantly altered. She filed a Title VII suit against the City of St. Louis, claiming that the transfer constituted sex discrimination with respect to her employment terms and conditions.The District Court granted the City summary judgment, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that Muldrow had to show that the transfer caused her a "materially significant disadvantage." The courts ruled that since the transfer did not result in a reduction to her title, salary, or benefits and only caused minor changes in working conditions, Muldrow's lawsuit could not proceed.The Supreme Court of the United States disagreed with the lower courts' interpretation of Title VII. The Court held that an employee challenging a job transfer under Title VII must show that the transfer brought about some harm with respect to an identifiable term or condition of employment, but that harm need not be significant. The Court rejected the City's arguments based on statutory text, precedent, and policy, and vacated the judgment of the Eighth Circuit, remanding the case for further proceedings under the correct Title VII standard. The Court clarified that Muldrow only needed to show some injury respecting her employment terms or conditions, not that the harm was significant. View "Muldrow v. City of St. Louis" on Justia Law