Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that, as to counts I-IV, Plaintiffs ran afoul of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and that count V failed due to a lack of standing.Appellants, approximately fifty members of a class of retired Rhode Island public employees, brought this action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging constitutional violations in the changes to Rhode Island's retirement benefits scheme (counts I-IV) and in a class action settlement agreement (count V) reached following litigation in state court, in which each appellant was a party. The district court dismissed the action, holding that Appellants' claims were barred by res judicata, a lack of Article III standing, and the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Appellants' due process, takings, and Contracts Clause claims were barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; and (2) Appellants' First Amendment claims were nonjusticiable. View "Efreom v. McKee" on Justia Law

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The federal district court for the Western District of Washington certified a question of law to the Washington Supreme Court. The federal court asked the Supreme Court to clarify the standards for equitable tolling in civil cases under Washington law. The underlying federal case involved a long-running dispute between a certified class of more than 25,000 Washington teachers (Teachers) and the Department of Retirement Systems (DRS). The federal district court determined that while the Teachers established a Fifth Amendment takings claim, the applicable statute of limitations on that claim lapsed several years before the Teachers filed this suit. The Teachers asked the federal district court to apply the doctrine of equitable tolling to allow the suit to proceed despite the statute of limitations. The Supreme Court answered the certified question by reiterating the four conditions it previously identified as necessary to justify equitable tolling of a statute of limitations in the civil context. Washington law allows equitable tolling of a statute of limitations in a civil suit when: (1) the plaintiff has exercised diligence; (2) the defendant’s bad faith, false assurances, or deception has interfered with the plaintiff’s diligent efforts; (3) tolling is consistent with (a) the purpose of the underlying statute and (b) the purpose of the statute of limitations; and (4) justice requires tolling the statute of limitations. View "Fowler v. Guerin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff a former bus driver for Defendant Maine-Endwell Central School District (the “School District”), appealed the dismissal of his complaint by the district court. Plaintiff contends that the School District violated his First Amendment rights by retaliating against him for speech he purports to have made in his capacity as a union leader. In his complaint, however, Plaintiff merely alleged that he had argued with a School District mechanic – and later, a few School District officials – over the frequency with which bus safety issues should be reported. He did not allege that the School District’s existing policy permitted unsafe buses to remain on the roads, nor did he allege that daily reporting would improve public safety.   The Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his complaint, holding that Plaintiff failed to allege that he engaged in speech protected under the First Amendment. The court explained that the specific details of Plaintiff’s complaint suggest that Plaintiff’s arguments with fellow School District personnel were had in his capacity as a School District employee, not as a private citizen. Plaintiff’s primary argument to the contrary boils down to a series of assertions that he was speaking in his capacity as a union official. But even assuming these assertions are entitled to be assumed true, the court has expressly rejected any categorical rule that when a person speaks in his capacity as a union member, he speaks as a private citizen Accordingly, the court concluded that Plaintiff’s Complaint does not support a plausible inference that he spoke as a citizen, or that he spoke on a matter of public concern. View "Shara v. Maine-Endwell Cent. Sch. Dist.," on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court upholding the trial court's determination affirming the decision of the Board of Review of The Employment Security Appeals Division that tattoo services are part of the usual course of business of a body art and piercing business for purposes of the statutory ABC test used to determined whether an individual is an employee for purposes of the Unemployment Compensation Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-222 et seq., holding that there was no error.Plaintiff, a business that provides body piercing and body art services, argued on appeal that the Board acted unreasonably and arbitrarily in holding it liable for unpaid unemployment compensation contributions after concluding that the offering of tattoo services was within Plaintiff's usual course of business. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence existed to support the Board's determination that tattoo services were within Plaintiff's "usual course of business" for purposes of part B of the ABC test. See Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-222(a)(1)(B)(ii)(II). View "Vogue v. Administrator, Unemployment Compensation Act" on Justia Law

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This ERISA case presented the Fifth Circuit with three questions:1.) Whether the Department of Labor’s self-labeled “advisory opinion” is reviewable “final agency action” under the Administrative Procedure Act;2.) Whether the Department’s action is arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise contrary to law; and3.) Whether the district court issued the appropriate relief.Answering the first two questions in the affirmative, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s vacatur of the agency action but vacated and remanded the district court’s injunction for further consideration in light of this opinion. View "Data Marketing Partnership v. LABR" on Justia Law

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Innovel hired Diakon to take furniture from warehouses to customers’ homes. Plaintiffs, two of Diakon's drivers, were citizens of Illinois who drove out of Innovel’s Illinois warehouses and made deliveries to customers in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri. They signed “Service Agreements” that classify the drivers as independent contractors yet include detailed expectations for the drivers, covering uniforms, business cards, truck decals, and how to perform deliveries and installations. The Agreements select Virginia law to govern the parties’ relations and authorize Diakon to deduct fees and penalties from the drivers’ pay for truck rental fees, insurance, workers’ compensation coverage, damaged merchandise, and customers’ refused deliveries.Plaintiffs sued, alleging that Diakon misclassified them as independent contractors when they were employees under Illinois law. Illinois courts apply a three-part test to determine employee status, which is more likely to classify workers as employees than is Virginia law, which would treat the plaintiffs as contractors. The Illinois Wage Payment and Collections Act allows deductions from pay only if the employee consents in writing at the time of the deduction.The district judge certified a class but ruled in favor of Diakon. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The plaintiffs’ claims arise from their work in Illinois, not from their contracts. The Illinois Act governs payment for work in Illinois regardless of what state’s law governs other aspects of the parties' relations. View "Timothy Johnson v. Diakon Logistics, Inc." on Justia Law

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Technology Credit Union (TCU) sought a workplace violence restraining order (WVRO) (Code Civ. Proc., 527.81) restraining Rafat and protecting TCU’s employee, M.L., claiming that Rafat had made a credible threat of violence against M.L. M.L.’s declaration, described a single encounter between her and Rafat at TCU, during which Rafat “became visibly angry and became aggressive towards” her, made a video recording of her “without her consent,” “made several rude and inappropriate statements questioning [her] mental competency,” repeatedly refused her request to stop recording, and “forced a pen and paper back towards [her] and demanded that [she] write down his number.” M.L. believed that Rafat “will come back and seek [her] out” because Rafat “frequently visits” TCU. Rafat admitted that he made a video recording of the interaction, which he posted on his YouTube channel, but denied M.L.’s other claims and denied that he made a credible threat of violence.The court of appeal reversed the entry of a WVRO. The evidence is insufficient to show that Rafat made a credible threat of violence. Rafat’s conduct was rude, impatient, aggressive, and derogatory; he had a history of using aggressive language, including making offensive remarks. However, the only threats he made were litigation and complaints to a federal agency. His actions toward M.L. consisted of berating her, complaining to her supervisor, and posting an accurate video of their interaction on YouTube. View "Technology Credit Union v. Rafat" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff resigned from his employment as a surgeon with Mayo Clinic (“Mayo”) after an internal committee recommended his termination following an investigation into allegations of his misconduct. Plaintiff sued Mayo and his supervisor, alleging discrimination and reprisal. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Mayo and the supervisor.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court explained that Plaintiff argues Mayo’s recommendation to terminate his employment was based on his race, religion, and national origin. Because Said does not offer direct evidence of discrimination, Plaintiff must create a sufficient inference of discrimination under the McDonnell Douglas framework to survive summary judgment.   Here, Plaintiff claims another similarly situated former employee, who also received complaints, from Mayo received preferential treatment. The court concluded that even if Plaintiff was similarly situated to the other employee, the court concluded that Plaintiff does not present sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude he received disparate treatment from the other employee. The court further explained that the record overwhelmingly demonstrates that Mayo believed Plaintiff was guilty of making unwelcomed advances toward female coworkers and of other misconduct. Said fails to “create a real issue as to the genuineness of” Mayo’s perceptions. Finally, regarding Mayo’s reporting of Plaintiff’s resignation to the State Board, as already discussed, the record demonstrates Mayo believed it was required to report Plaintiff’s termination to the State Board because Plaintiff resigned during an open investigation into his misconduct. Thus, Plaintiff fails to present sufficient evidence showing this was a pretext for retaliatory intent. View "Sameh Said v. Mayo Clinic" on Justia Law

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Cable technicians working for HD and Associates (HDA) alleged that they did not receive overtime pay, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Granting summary judgment to HDA, the district court ruled that the technicians and HDA were not covered by the FLSA and that even if they were covered, the technicians qualified for the bona fide commission exemption and thus were exempt from the overtime provisions. The technicians appealed.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court held that HDA technicians are paid a bona fide commission and are exempt from FLSA overtime compensation requirements. The court explained that at issue is only whether HDA pays technicians a commission. Whether a payment is a commission for the purposes of this exception is a question of law that relies on how a payment works in practice, rather than what it is called.   Here, the commission paid is a percentage of the ultimate price passed onto Cox customers and the amount earned is tied to customer demand. Given the nature of cable repairs, the work does not lend itself to a standard workday and this payment system does not offend the purposes of the FLSA. The determining factor is thus whether the amount of income earned is decoupled from the time worked. Here, because compensation goes up or down by the number of work orders completed, not the number of hours worked, HDA technicians are paid a bona fide commission and are exempt from FLSA overtime requirements. View "Taylor v. HD and Associates" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Family Medicine Associates (FMA) and one of its members (together, Defendants) and dismissing this lawsuit alleging breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and nonpayment of wages, holding that Plaintiff's claims on appeal were unavailing.Plaintiff, a licensed physician, brought this lawsuit against his former employer nearly three years after his employment relationship was terminated. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants' breached their oral promise of a partnership that was never committed to writing. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all counts. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to put forth sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment. View "Guldseth v. Family Medicine Associates LLC" on Justia Law