Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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In the context of a demurrer by defendant Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London Subscribing To Policy Number 11EPL-20208, the trial court interpreted the term “wage and hour or overtime law(s)” to encompass all provisions of the Labor Code. Plaintiff owned and operated over 250 Pizza Hut and Wing Street restaurants. Defendant provided to plaintiff Southern California Pizza Company, LLC, an employment practices liability insurance policy, which covered certain losses arising from specified employment-related claims brought against plaintiff. The trial court sustained defendant’s demurrer, concluding all causes of action in the underlying employment lawsuit against plaintiff fell within the scope of the Policy exclusion. Using well-established insurance policy interpretation principles, the Court of Appeal found the wage and hour law language of the exclusion was more narrow in scope than stated by the trial court: it concerned laws regarding duration worked and/or remuneration received in exchange for work. Applying that interpretation, and taking into account the Policy’s general coverage, the Court concluded many of the disputed underlying lawsuit claims were potentially subject to coverage. Thus, the trial court erred in sustaining defendant’s demurrer. View "Southern Cal. Pizza Co., LLC v. Certain Underwriters, etc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Robert Kenney was a former employee of Defendant Helix TCS, Inc. (“Helix”), which provided security services for businesses in Colorado’s state-sanctioned marijuana industry. Kenney filed this lawsuit against Helix under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), alleging that Helix misclassified him and similarly situated workers as exempt from the FLSA’s overtime obligations. Helix moved to dismiss Kenney’s claim based on the Controlled Substance Act (“CSA”), arguing that Kenney’s employment activities were in violation of the CSA and are thus not entitled to FLSA protections. The Tenth Circuit concluded Helix wanted it to interpret the CSA in a manner implicitly repealing the FLSA’s overtime mandate for employers in the marijuana industry. The Tenth Circuit determined the “case law is clear that employers are not excused from complying with federal laws” because of their other federal violations. “Moreover, the purposes of the FLSA do not conflict with the CSA quite as directly as Helix implies. Helix cherry-picks among the enumerated purposes of the FLSA, citing only those most favorable to its arguments.” The Tenth Circuit did not draw conclusions about the merits of Kenney’s FLSA claims. Rather, the Court held only that Kenney and similarly situated individuals were not categorically excluded from FLSA protections. It therefore affirmed the denial of Helix’s motion to dismiss. View "Kenney v. Helix TCS" on Justia Law

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Buddenberg, formerly the County Health District fiscal coordinator, learned that the District had obtained a state grant for tire removal, and, without competitive bids, District workers took on the work. Buddenberg also reported an apparently sex-based pay disparity between District employees. In reporting these issues to the Board of Health, she also voiced other concerns about unethical conduct by a supervisor, such as accepting gifts from contractors to whom the District issued permits, failing to enforce attendance and break policies, failing to honor the reference-check policy for new hires, and disregarding the health and safety recommendations. Buddenberg wrote multiple emails to Board members and to the Board’s attorney, describing Weisdack’s subsequent retaliation. The Board failed to intervene. After receiving notice of Buddenberg’s EEOC filing, her supervisor issued a “Notice of Proposed Disciplinary Action.” Attorney Budzik offered to settle the disciplinary charges if Buddenberg would accept a demotion and a salary reduction of nearly $1,000 per month, and drop all her claims. Demoted, Buddenberg found the work environment intolerable and resigned. She sued, alleging Title VII, Fair Labor Standards Act, and First Amendment retaliation, 42 U.S.C. 2000, 29 U.S.C. 215(a)(3)), 42 U.S.C. 1983. On interlocutory appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. Accepting Buddenberg’s factual allegations, she has plausibly alleged violations of her clearly established First Amendment rights. Buddenberg’s speech was not within her ordinary job responsibilities and was constitutionally protected. View "Buddenberg v. Weisdack" on Justia Law

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The City of Evergreen, Alabama ("the City") terminated the employment of Helen Wiggins, a warrant clerk and magistrate, after the Evergreen City Council ("the Council") accepted the recommendation of the City's mayor that she be dismissed for dereliction of duty. Specifically, the City alleged she failed to perform the duties of her job as a warrant clerk and magistrate on February 16, 2017, when she declined to consider a citizen's application for arrest warrants, instead telling that citizen to return in several hours when another warrant clerk and magistrate would be there. Wiggins thereafter filed a wrongful-termination action against the City. The trial court ultimately entered a judgment in favor of the City and against Wiggins. She appealed that judgment. Because there was evidence in the record that supported the City's decision, the Alabama Supreme Court held the trial court properly entered a judgment in favor of the City. View "Wiggins v. City of Evergreen" on Justia Law

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After the University terminated plaintiff, she filed suit under the False Claims Act's (FCA) anti-retaliation provision. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the action and held that the district court's decision reflected too narrow a view of the Act's protection for whistleblowers. The court held that the complaint sufficiently alleged that plaintiff's actions were undertaken to try to prevent what she reasonably believed would be the presentation of false claims by the University regarding the conditions of laboratory animals. The court held that the district court erred by defining protected activity as requiring plaintiff to have investigated matters that reasonably could lead to a viable FCA case, which only applied to the first prong of Section 3730(h)(1), but not the second prong. Furthermore, the district court wrongly required plaintiff to allege that her efforts were outside the scope of her responsibilities as Attending Veterinarian. The court also held that plaintiff adequately alleged termination of her position, the University's awareness of her protected activity, and facts connecting her termination to that protected activity. View "Singletary v. Howard University" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Citigroup, alleging gender discrimination and whistleblower retaliation claims under several local, state, and federal statutes, including the Dodd‐Frank and Sarbanes‐Oxley Acts. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that the district court appropriately compelled arbitration of all but plaintiffʹs Sarbanes‐Oxley claim, including her Dodd‐Frank whistleblower retaliation claim, because her claims fall within the scope of her employment arbitration agreement and because she failed to establish that they are precluded by law from arbitration. The court also held that plaintiff's Sarbanes‐Oxley claim was properly dismissed because the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over it inasmuch as plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under the statute. View "Daly v. Citigroup Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' decision reversing the order of the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry for Baywood Home Care to pay unpaid overtime wages and liquidated damages, holding that the court erred in determining that the Commissioner's conclusion that split-day plans are not permitted under the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act, Minn. Stat. 177.21-.35, was based on an unpromulgated rule. Baywood paid its employees using a split-day plan even after an employee had worked forty-eight hours in a workweek. The Commissioner issued compliance order ordering Baywood to cease and desist from failing to pay overtime. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Act requires employers to pay employees at least time-and-a-half wages for all hours worked in the first forty-eight hours of a given workweek, regardless of whether the employee received time-and-a-half compensation during the first forty-eight hours of employment in that workweek; (2) time-and-a-half payments for regularly scheduled work occurring before an employee has worked forty-eight hours in a workweek may not be excluded from an employee's remuneration to calculate the employee's regular rate; and (3) the Commissioner's failure to promulgate interpretive rules meant that the Department's interpretation did not receive deference, but the Court nevertheless adopted that interpretation. View "In re Minnesota Living Assistance, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services (DHS) determining that Appellant was permanently disqualified from working in a capacity where he may have contact with people who access services from a DHS-licensed program, holding that Appellant's claims on appeal failed. After DHS discovered a 2002 child-protection report that Appellant had sexually abused his son sometime around 1998, Appellant was disqualified from employment as a residence manager at a DHS-licensed substance abuse treatment program. The court of appeals affirmed DHS's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's right to due process was not violated; (2) the Department of Human Services Background Studies Act, Minn. Stat. ch. 245C, does not create a permanent, irrebuttable presumption that DHS's decision was correct; and (3) Appellant was provided constitutionally sufficient notice of his rights under the Act. View "Jackson v. Commissioner of Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court affirming in part and reversing in part a decision of the Department of Labor and Industry's Office of Administrative Hearings on Elizabeth Mays' wage claim against Sam's Inc., holding the district court's judgment was without error. Mays filed a wage claim against Sam's with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, alleging that she was misclassified as an independent contract and was owed to employment wages for the hours she worked. After the Independent Contractor Central Unit determined that Mays was an employee the Wage and Hour Unit determined that Mays was owed $33.43 in wages. The district court reversed the agency's determinations that Sam's was entitled to an offset for Mays' tips and that Sam's was not required to pay a penalty. Mays appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court's order constituted a final order in a contested case for which judicial review was available; (2) the district court did not err by affirming the agency's determination of the terms of Mays' employment; and (3) the district court did not err by affirming the agency's finding that Sam's was not obligated to reimburse Mays for fees. View "Wage Claim of Mays v. Sam's Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals granting Thomas Beyer's request for a writ of mandamus and ordering the Industrial Commission of Ohio to vacate its decision denying Beyer's request for an award under Ohio Rev. Code 4123.57 for the permanent partial loss of sight in his right eye, holding that a physician, not the commission, must determine the degree of a claimant's impairment. In denying Beyer's request, the Commission found that the record did not contain sufficient medical evidence to substantiate it because Beyer did not present medical evidence of the percentage of vision lost. The court of appeals ordered the commission to vacate its decision and grant Beyer the requested award, finding that Beyer had provided the commission with sufficient evidence for the commission to determine the percentage of vision lost. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) claims involving medical determinations may be established only by submitting appropriate medical evidence; and (2) Beyer's evidence fell short because he did not present evidence of a physician's determination of the degree of his impairment. View "State ex rel. Beyer v. Autoneum North America" on Justia Law