Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Microsoft on plaintiff's claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for failure to accommodate, discrimination, and creation of a hostile work environment. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from his efforts to obtain accommodations for his Autism Spectrum Disorder while employed as an account technology strategist and an Enterprise Architect (EA) at Microsoft.In regard to plaintiff's claim for failure to accommodate, the court concluded that plaintiff's requests for individuals to assist him with translating verbal information into written materials, recording meeting notes, and performing administrative tasks were unreasonable because they would exempt him from performing essential functions. Consequently, plaintiff is not a qualified person under the ADA. Furthermore, there is no genuine dispute of material fact that plaintiff's performance as an EA at this point was deficient and thus there was no genuine dispute of material fact that he could have performed EA essential functions without all of his requested accommodations. The court also concluded that, even if plaintiff were a qualified person under the ADA, he also fails to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Microsoft failed to negotiate in a good-faith manner. The court explained that, because Microsoft had the "ultimate discretion to choose between effective accommodations," it was justified in placing plaintiff on job reassignment over his objections. In this case, the record demonstrates that plaintiff, not Microsoft, was responsible for the breakdown of the interactive process seeking reasonable accommodation in refusing to indicate interest in any vacant position.In regard to plaintiff's discrimination claim, the court concluded that plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie discrimination claim for the same reason his failure-to-accommodate claim fails—he is not a qualified individual under the ADA. Even if he were qualified, plaintiff was not subject to an adverse employment decision. Finally, in regard to plaintiff's hostile-work-environment claim, the court concluded that none of the evidence plaintiff relies on indicates that he was subject to harassment pervasive or severe enough to alter the conditions of his employment. Furthermore, plaintiff's placement on job reassignment is not evidence of a hostile work environment. View "Thompson v. Microsoft Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, employees of a security company that contracted with the federal government to monitor detainees during air travel, filed suit challenging the company's meal-period policy. The company's policy automatically deducted an hour of pay on return flights that exceeded 90 minutes and had no deportees.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the company in this Fair Labor Standards Act case. The court did not find in the regulations or caselaw analyzing general rules on travel time any bar to providing for a noncompensable meal period on airplane flights. Applying the predominant-benefit test, the court concluded that plaintiffs were the ones who predominantly benefited from the one-hour meal periods. The court explained that the effect of any limitations on plaintiffs' activities imposed during an ostensible meal period must be analyzed in the context of the relevant workplace. These restrictions on plaintiff's activities do not undercut the validity of the meal break. In this case, plaintiffs fail to identify any work-related duties they claim interfered with the bona fide meal periods, and thus each employee can use the time effectively for his or her own purposes. View "Dean v. Akal Security, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS), 5 U.S.C. 7101, requires federal agencies to bargain with unions over conditions of employment, with exceptions, including management’s rights to assign work and to direct employees. During negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) declared that the number of days that an employee was permitted to telework was non-negotiable. The National Treasury Employees Union disagreed and filed a negotiability petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), which found the Union’s proposed telework provision was outside the duty to bargain because it affected management’s rights to assign work and to direct employees.The D.C. Circuit remanded, finding that FLRA failed to adequately address the relevant provisions in the proposed CBA. FLRA did not reasonably explain its interpretation of the proposal, that it “dictates to management how often the [FNS] can require an employee to perform work at the duty station.” FLRA failed to address proposed CBA provisions limiting telework eligibility and maintaining management discretion to deny a telework request. To receive approval for “[a]ll telework arrangements,” an employee must get “prior supervisory approval.” based on whether the telework request “interfere[s] with the [FNS]’s ability to accomplish its work.” Supervisors could deny a telework request if they determine the request negatively affects the FNS’s work. View "National Treasury Employees Union v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer, Alfa, alleging disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plaintiff contends that, although Alfa claims she was terminated because of automation of some of her job responsibilities, she was actually terminated because of the high costs to Alfa in treating her multiple sclerosis (MS).The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Alfa, concluding that plaintiff was denied full discovery. In this case, Alfa did not demonstrate a burden or abuse of process sufficient to justify such limitations on discovery, and especially in light of the relevant nature of the information sought by plaintiff. Therefore, the district court committed a clear error of judgment by denying plaintiff the opportunity to depose the then-Executive Vice President of Human Resources. View "Akridge v. Alfa Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In this administrative appeal brought by the Kentucky Retirement Systems from the decision of the circuit court in two consolidated cases concerning application of Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.598 the Supreme Court held that the Retirement Systems improperly applied the statute to pay spikes to a certain extent.Section 61-598, commonly known as the pension spiking statute, identifies artificial increases in creditable compensation to public pension-member employees occurring in the last five years preceding retirement, effectively increasing the employee's retirement benefits. In both cases, the alleged spikes were partly due to a change in the Jefferson County Sheriff's office (JCSO) accounting method and partly due to the employees' accrual of overtime hours. The Retirement Systems assessed JCSO for payment increased actuarial costs attributable to the alleged pension spikes. The circuit court reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) an isolated transition in JCSO's new accounting method did not amount to an increase in compensation; (2) the Retirement Systems properly assessed the increased actuarial costs to the extent it was caused by regular overtime work and was not the result of a bona fide promotion or career advancement; and (3) the circuit court erred in reversing the Retirement System's original assignment of the burden of proving a bona fide promotion. View "Kentucky Retirement Systems v. Jefferson County Sheriff's Office" on Justia Law

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Claimant John West appealed a Vermont Department of Labor decision concluding that the 2014 amendment to 21 V.S.A. 644(a)(6) did not apply retroactively. In March 2013, West fell fifteen to twenty feet while working in the course of his employment for North Branch Fire District. He was transported to the hospital and treated for extensive injuries. In September 2014, West relocated to Florida, and at some point thereafter, began working at the Freedom Boat Club. Between 2014 and 2016, several different physicians provided conflicting opinions on the level of West’s permanent impairment. In February 2016, Dr. Joseph Kandel conducted an independent medical examination (IME) at North Branch’s request. At a deposition in September 2018, Dr. Kandel testified that it would be accurate to say that “West suffered an injury to the skull resulting in [a] severe traumatic brain injury causing permanent and severe cognitive, physical, or psychiatric disabilities.” West filed a request for a formal hearing, asserting that he was permanently and totally disabled under section 644(a)(6). Between the date of West’s injury and his request for a formal hearing, the Vermont Legislature amended section 644(a)(6). In January 2019, North Branch filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the pre-amendment version of 644(a)(6), which defined total and permanent disability as “an injury to the skull resulting in incurable imbecility or insanity,” applied to West’s claim because that was the law on the date of his injury in March 2013. Further, North Branch argued that the 2014 amendment did not apply retroactively because despite the Legislature’s stated purpose, the amendment created a substantive change in the law. In any event, because West was employed, North Branch maintained that he was not totally and permanently disabled under either version of 644(a)(6). West argued that, contrary to the Commissioner’s conclusion, the 2014 amendment to 644(a)(6) applied retroactively because it did not create any new substantive rights. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the 2014 amendment applied retroactively and therefore reversed and remanded. View "West v. North Branch Fire District #1" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court finding that a 2019 Waterloo "ban the box" ordinance was not preempted, holding that the ordinance was preempted to the extent that it purported to regulate a term and condition of employment.In 2017, the legislature adopted a statute, codified at Iowa Code 364.3(12)(a), that prohibits cities from adopting or administering an ordinance providing for any terms or conditions of employment exceeding or conflicting with state or federal law requirements relating to certain employment issues. In 2019, the City of Waterloo enacted the ordinance at issue, which regulated the time when an employer can inquire into a prospective employee's criminal history. The district court concluded that no part of the ordinance was preempted. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the ordinance was preempted to the extent it purported to regulate whether an employer can consider an employee's criminal history at all; and (2) the ordinance was not preempted where it only regulated timing because that was not a term or condition of employment. View "Iowa Ass’n of Business & Industry v. City of Waterloo" on Justia Law

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Tecnocap petitioned for review of the Board's decision affirming an ALJ's finding that the company engaged in several unfair labor practices in violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The Board cross-petitioned for enforcement of the order.The Fourth Circuit denied the petition for review and granted the cross-petition for enforcement as to the partial implementation of the last, best and final offer without reaching a good faith impasse and locking out union members in support of a demand that was a permissive subject of bargaining; granted the petition for review and denied the cross-petition for enforcement as to direct dealing; denied the petition for review and granted the cross-petition for enforcement as to Tecnocap's discouragement of union membership in how it undertook the lockout; and remanded for the Board to determine the effect the court's limited grounds for enforcing its order has on the remedies it ordered and for entry of a remedial order that is consistent with the court's decision. View "Tecnocap, LLC v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the holding of the Workers' Compensation Board that the Administrative Law Judge properly found that Plaintiff's claim for workers' compensation benefits was barred by the applicable statute of limitations, holding that there was no error.Plaintiff received a workplace injury and filed a claim for benefits. Plaintiff never sought or received any temporary total disability benefits prior to the applicable statute of limitations expiring. The insurance adjuster for the employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier offered to settle Plaintiff's claim, but the parties never reached a settlement agreement. Plaintiff later filed an application for resolution of his claim, but the employer denied the claim on the grounds that it was time barred. The ALJ found that the claim was not timely under Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.185. The Board affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ALJ properly determined that equitable principles did not warrant the tolling of the statute of limitations. View "Davis v. Blendex Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court upholding that decision of the Retirement Systems's Administrative Review Board affirming the decision of the Kentucky Retirement Systems applying the Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.598, the pension-spiking statute, to assess actuarial costs to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO), holding that the Retirement Systems did not properly apply the spiking statute in this case.The Kentucky Retirement Systems assessed the costs because it found a JCSO employee took unpaid leave for two months, causing a temporary decrease in gross compensation in that year, but then returned to his earlier pay. The circuit court agreement with the Retirement Systems, finding that section 61.598 as applied was not arbitrary, and therefore, the circuit court was bound by the Board's decision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the plain language of section 61.598 does not direct the retirement System to determine changes in compensation over a five-year period; and (2) the burden of proving a bona fide promotion was properly placed on the employer. View "Jefferson County Sheriff's Office v. Kentucky Retirement Systems" on Justia Law