Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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Facebook employee Bigger sued Facebook alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201, overtime-pay requirements, on behalf of herself and all similarly situated employees. The district court authorized notice of the action to be sent to the entire group of employees. Facebook argued the authorization was improper because many of the proposed recipients had entered arbitration agreements precluding them from joining the action. The Seventh Circuit remanded, stating that, in authorizing notice, the court must avoid even the appearance of endorsing the action’s merits. A court may not authorize notice to individuals whom the court has been shown entered mutual arbitration agreements waiving their right to join the action and must give the defendant an opportunity to make that showing. When a defendant opposing the issuance of notice alleges that proposed recipients entered such arbitration agreements, the court must determine whether a plaintiff contests the defendant’s assertions about the existence of valid arbitration agreements. If no plaintiff contests those assertions, then the court may not authorize notice to the employees whom the defendant alleges entered valid arbitration agreements. If a plaintiff contests the defendant’s assertions, then— before authorizing notice to the alleged “arbitration employees”—the court must permit the parties to submit additional evidence on the agreements’ existence and validity. View "Bigger v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment to the Administrator of the United States General Services Administration (GSA) and dismissing the discrimination and retaliation claim brought by Plaintiff, a former employee of that agency, holding that summary judgment was properly granted on Plaintiff's claims. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to the GSA on Plaintiff's sex discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.; (2) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to the GSA on Plaintiff's age discrimination claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621 et seq.; and (3) Plaintiff's retaliation claims under Title VII and the ADEA also lacked merit. View "Paul v. Murphy" on Justia Law

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Youngman, a Peoria County Juvenile Center counselor, was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor and acromegaly in 1993 and had surgery to remove the tumor and part of his pituitary gland. He had a thyroidectomy in 2011, resulting in hypothyroidism and hypocalcemia. The Center’s superintendent reviewed the rotation of assignments and decided that every counselor needed to be trained in and rotated through all assignments, including the control room. Youngman had only worked in the control room on 10-14 occasions during his 13 years at the Center. Youngman was assigned to work in the control room for a week in 2012 but was not told that this was for training purposes and would only be temporary. Youngman informed his supervisor that he could no longer work in the control room because he experienced headaches, nausea, and dizziness. He was placed on medical leave and instructed that he could return to work when his condition improved. After Youngman’s leave time expired, his position was filled; he found employment elsewhere. He filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, alleging that his employer had refused to accommodate his disability. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, citing the lack of proof of a causal nexus between Youngman’s hypothyroidism and the limitation for which he sought an accommodation. View "Youngman v. Peoria County" on Justia Law

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The Chittenden County, Vermont Sheriff’s Department (CCSD) appealed the Vermont Employment Security Board’s ruling that the CCSD was not entitled to relief from several weeks of unemployment compensation benefits which it paid to a former CCSD employee, Michael Major, due to an alleged erroneous determination by a Board claims adjudicator. The CCSD and the State both appealed a claims adjudicator’s decision to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who, following a hearing, reversed the claims adjudicator’s determination and found that Major had voluntarily quit and was therefore not entitled to unemployment benefits. As part of that determination, the ALJ waived any requirement that Major repay the benefits he had received because the ordered payments were not a result of any nondisclosure or material misrepresentation on his part. The ALJ also refused to allow the CCSD or the State relief from benefits already paid to Major as a result of the claims adjudicator’s determination. Although the ALJ concluded the State was Major’s last employing unit, the ALJ further determined that neither Major nor the sheriff made any distinction between Major’s employment by the State or the CCSD and that, in practice, Major’s position as a State transport deputy and his duties from the CCSD were one and the same. The ALJ refused to allow the CCSD and the State to be relieved of benefits they had paid to Major because both employers had chosen not to pay quarterly unemployment insurance tax, but instead elected to make reimbursement payments to the unemployment compensation fund for benefits they were ordered to pay. As a result of being a reimbursing employer, rather than a contributing one, the CCSD was liable to reimburse the unemployment fund, and could not be relieved of those charges. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed, finding the plain language of 21 V.S.A. 1321(f) made it “abundantly clear to all eligible employers” that, should they select reimbursing status, they would assume responsibility for benefits paid but denied on appeal. “Having availed itself of this advantage, the CCSD cannot now avoid the financial obligations, including the risk of liability for benefits paid in error, it accepted in exchange.” View "Chittenden County Sheriff's Department v. Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from an order disapproving the parties' application for an order approving a lump-sum settlement on the grounds that the application was not in compliance with the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-101 et seq., holding that the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court's order of disapproval was not a final, appealable order. Plaintiff filed a petition seeking benefits for injuries she sustained while working for Employer. The parties eventually agreed to settle the dispute for a lump-sum payment of $150,000, along with the establishment of an interest-bearing account for additional medical payments. The parties filed a joint stipulation, but the stipulation did not include the amount of fees and costs. The compensation court disapproved the lump sum settlement application and joint stipulation, finding that the application and joint stipulation were not in compliance with the Act and not in the best interests of Plaintiff. Plaintiff appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the compensation court's order of disapproval, standing alone, was not a final, appealable order. View "Loyd v. Family Dollar Stores of Nebraska, Inc" on Justia Law

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Dylan Devore appealed summary judgments dismissing his negligence and gross negligence claims against defendants American Eagle Energy Corporation, Integrated Petroleum Technologies, Inc. (“IPT”), and Brian Barony. Devore was a crew supervisor for Fort Berthold Services (“FBS”), which provided water transfer services for hydraulic fracturing operations at oil wells. In February 2014, American Eagle Energy Corporation began hydraulic fracturing operations on an oil well in Divide County, North Dakota and contracted with FBS to provide water. American Eagle also contracted with IPT, a consulting company. Though IPT coordinated American Eagle’s independent contractors, American Eagle authorized any contractor to stop work at any time if a work condition was unsafe. IPT had no contractual relationship with FBS. FBS took direction from IPT, but FBS controlled its own day-to-day activities, including how it performed its work. On the morning of March 2, 2014, ice had formed in a hose between a pond near the well site and a tank. While the hose was still pressurized from the compressed air, at least one FBS crew member struck it with a sledgehammer in an attempt to dislodge the ice obstruction. The sledgehammer blows caused the hose to break apart and uncontrollably jump and whip around. The flailing hose struck and injured Devore. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the facts, viewed in a light most favorable to Devore, did not support a conclusion that American Eagle, IPT, or Barony owed Devore a duty of care or proximately caused his injuries. Therefore the Court affirmed the summary judgments. View "Devore v. American Eagle Energy Corporation, et al." on Justia Law

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Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI) appealed a district court judgment reversing an Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) confirmation of a prior order of WSI. In 2014, Ellis began receiving partial disability benefits. In 2016, Ellis underwent a functional capacity assessment and further review by WSI. WSI determined Ellis continued to be eligible to receive partial disability benefits, but at a reduced amount. WSI ordered his partial disability benefits be reduced by the greater of his actual wages or his retained earning capacity as had been determined by WSI. Ellis appealed the WSI order, triggering review by the ALJ. WSI contended the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Ellis’ appeal of the ALJ’s decision because his appeal to the district court was untimely. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Ellis failed to timely file his appeal of the ALJ's decision. The Court therefore ordered the district court judgment vacated, and reinstated the decision of the ALJ. View "Ellis v. WSI" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court entering summary judgment in favor of the Town of Johnston and dismissing Plaintiff's suit alleging claims of governmental promissory estoppel and deprivation of property rights after the Town denied Plaintiff's requests for health benefits set forth in Ordinance 767, holding that Plaintiff was not eligible to receive benefits under the ordinance. Plaintiff served on the Johnston Town Council from 1981 until 1994. In 1989, the Town passed and adopted Ordinance 767, which established various benefits for certain town officials. In 1993, Ordinance 767 was repealed by Ordinance 913. In the early 2000s Plaintiff made several demands on the Town for the health benefits set forth in Ordinance 767, arguing that his entitlement to those benefits had vested as of 1991. After the Town denied those requests Plaintiff filed suit. The superior court granted summary judgment for the Town. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the clear and unambiguous language of Ordinance 767 indicates that Plaintiff was not eligible to receive benefits under the ordinance; and (2) Ordinance 767 sought to create a right to health benefits that did not previously exist, and therefore, the enactment could not be deemed a remedial ordinance. View "Zanni v. Town of Johnston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's conclusion that the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (the MFLSA) does not preempt the ordinance enacted by the City of Minneapolis that requires employers to pay minimum-wage rates that are higher than the rates set forth in the MFLSA, holding that district court correctly ruled that the MFLSA does not preempt the ordinance. The MFLSA establishes the minimum wage Minnesota employers must pay their employees. At issue was whether the City's ordinance requiring employers to pay minimum-wage rates higher than the rates set forth in the MFLSA was preempted by the MFLSA. The district court determined that state law does not preempt the ordinance because the MFLSA sets a floor, not a ceiling, for minimum-wage rates. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the MFLSA sets a floor, which does not prohibit, but instead permits, employers to pay the higher wage the ordinance requires; and (2) the Legislature did not intend to occupy the field of minimum-wage rates through the MFLSA. View "Graco, Inc. v. City of Minneapolis" on Justia Law

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Appellant Fraternal Order of Police ("FOP") sought the benefit of a grievance arbitration award that was overturned by an appeals court. The City of Pittsburgh hosts an annual marathon which, in 2016, was organized and administered by several large, private companies. About 100 police officers were needed to provide crowd control, road closures, and traffic management for the event. Initially, the Bureau of Police solicited volunteers from among those officers who would otherwise be off duty to work under a secondary employment arrangement. Numerous positions remained unfilled, and the Bureau asked approximately 70 officers to work on their "pass days." These officers were paid a minimum of four hours overtime at a time-and-a-half rate, plus additional overtime for any more hours worked. Pursuant to the terms of the CBA, the FOP filed a grievance asserting the City violated the bargaining agreement by “mandating officers work secondary employment when the CBA states it is strictly voluntary.” The City stressed that the CBA specifically established a rate of pay for scenarios in which officers are required to work outside of their regularly scheduled shifts, and that officers had been compensated by the City in strict conformity with this provision. An arbitrator ultimately ruled in favor of the FOP, but an appeals court reversed, finding "no authority within the four corners of the collective bargaining agreement to justify the award." Disagreeing with the Commonwealth Court's affirmance of the appeals court, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for reinstatement of the arbitration award. View "City of Pgh v. Frat. Order of Police" on Justia Law