Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the County in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging claims of discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plaintiff, an employee of the County who suffers from multiple sclerosis, filed suit alleging that she faced unlawful discrimination based on her disability when the County laterally transferred her to another department, and that the transfer came in retaliation for filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).The court held that a transfer is not an adverse action when it is voluntarily requested and agreed upon. In this case, plaintiff requested a lateral transfer, and the County agreed to place her in a position with the same pay and similar responsibilities. Therefore, plaintiff failed to show an adverse action and the district court correctly determined that she failed to make out a prima facie case of discrimination and retaliation. View "Laird v. Fairfax County" on Justia Law

by
MTA's failure to count the days an employee is on California Family Rights Act (CFRA) leave when calculating the 60-day clearance period does not violate the CFRA. Plaintiff, a bus operator for MTA, was terminated from his employment after he had eight non-excluded absences. This appeal concerns the discipline provision in a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between MTA and the union representing all operations employees of MTA. Under a section of that provision (the absenteeism rule), an employee is subject to progressive discipline, up to and including termination, if he or she has a certain number of absences. To avoid discipline, the employee may remove (or clear) an absence from his or her count by not having any absences for 60 consecutive calendar days. However, certain kinds of absences are expressly excluded from the absenteeism rule, such as an absence covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the CFRA.The Court of Appeal held that where, as here, an employer's no-fault absenteeism policy provides that an employee may clear absences that otherwise would count for purposes of disciplinary action by working (or being available to work) during a certain clearance period, the employer does not violate the CFRA by extending the absence clearance period by the number of days the employee was on CFRA leave during that period. The court also held that plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact that MTA treats other kinds of unpaid leave differently than CFRA leave. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for MTA on plaintiff's claims for retaliation based on his use of CFRA leave, failure to prevent retaliation, and interference with CFRA leave. View "Lares v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Kathleen Carroll sued her former employer, defendant California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Commission), for terminating her employment in retaliation for her reporting Commission mismanagement to the state auditor. Prior to bringing this action, plaintiff appealed her termination to the State Personnel Board (Board), claiming the Commission fired her in retaliation for her whistleblower activities. She also filed a separate whistleblower retaliation complaint with the Board. The Board denied her claims. After the Commission removed the matter to federal court, the district court dismissed the section 1983 claim and remanded the matter to state court. A jury found for plaintiff and awarded her substantial damages. The Commission appealed, contending: (1) the district court’s judgment was res judicata as to this action; (2) the Board’s decisions collaterally estopped this action; (3) the trial court abused its discretion in evidentiary matters by (a) permitting plaintiff’s counsel to question witnesses on and asking the jury to draw negative inferences from the Commission’s exercise of the attorney-client privilege, (b) denying the admission of the Board’s findings and decisions, (c) denying the admission of after-acquired evidence, and (d) denying the admission of evidence mitigating plaintiff’s emotional distress; and (4) the damages award was unlawful in numerous respects. Although the district court’s judgment was not res judicata and the Board’s decisions did not collaterally estop this action, the Court of Appeal reversed, finding the trial court committed prejudicial error when it allowed plaintiff’s counsel to question witnesses on and ask the jury to draw negative inferences from the defendants’ exercise of the attorney-client privilege and did not timely instruct the jury with the mandatory curative instruction provided in Evidence Code section 913. Because judgment was reversed on this ground, the Court did not address the Commission’s other claims of error. View "Carroll v. Commission on Teacher Credentialing" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of U.S. Bank's motion for summary judgment in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging that the Bank fired her because of her age and in retaliation for reporting discrimination in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.The court held that the Bank articulated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason to terminate plaintiff with adequate support in the record: performance issues. The court also held that plaintiff failed to show that the Bank's explanation for her firing is mere pretext for intentional discrimination. In this case, none of the employees that she compares herself to are similarly situated in all relevant respects, and the evidence does not present a change in basis for firing her. Furthermore, plaintiff offered no evidence to support causation for her retaliation claim under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Finally, the Bank's decision not to hire plaintiff in another position was not based on a discriminatory and retaliatory motive, and plaintiff failed to establish pretext. View "McKey v. U.S. Bank National Association" on Justia Law

by
The Jefferson County, Alabama Board of Education ("the Board") and several of its employees sought to avoid the application of an occupational tax imposed by the City of Irondale ("City"). The Board and its employees argued that public-school employees were exempt from the occupational tax because, they contended they provided an essential government service. "But the importance of a state employee's role, even a role as important as a public-school employee, does not remove that employee's obligation to pay a duly owed occupational tax." The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of the City. View "Blankenship et al. v. City of Irondale" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Gerriann Fagan appealed a circuit court order granting defendant Warren Averett Companies, LLC's motion to compel arbitration. Fagan was the owner of The Prism Group, LLC, a human-resources consulting firm. In February 2015, Warren Averett approached her and asked her to join Warren Averett and to build a human-resources consulting practice for it. In February 2015, she agreed to join Warren Averett, entering into a "Transaction Agreement" which provided that: Fagan would wind down the operations of The Prism Group; Fagan would become a member of Warren Averett; Warren Averett would purchase The Prism Group's equipment and furniture; Warren Averett would assume responsibility for The Prism Group's leases; and that Warren Averett would assume The Prism Group's membership in Career Partners International, LLC. The Transaction Agreement further provided that Fagan would enter into a "Standard Personal Service Agreement" ("the PSA") with Warren Averett; that Fagan's title would be president of Warren Averett Workplace; and that Fagan would be paid in accordance with the compensation schedule outlined in the PSA. Fagan alleged that she subsequently resigned from Warren Averett when she was unable to resolve a claim that Warren Averett had failed to properly compensate her in accordance with the PSA. On or about February 28, 2019, Fagan filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association ("AAA"). The employment-filing team of the AAA sent a letter dated March 4, 2019, to the parties informing them of the conduct of the arbitration proceedings. On April 18, 2019, the employment-filing team notified the parties that Warren Averett had failed to submit the requested filing fee and that it was administratively closing the file in the matter. On April 30, 2019, Fagan sued Warren Averett in circuit court. The Alabama Supreme Court determined Warren Averett's failure to pay the filing fee constituted a default under the arbitration provision of the PSA. Accordingly, the trial court erred when it granted Warren Averett's motion to compel arbitration. View "Fagan v. Warren Averett Companies, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit granted Davidson's petition for review of the Board's decision determining that Davidson committed unfair labor practices by refusing to bargain with a union in two Board-certified units. The court concluded that neither the Regional Director nor the Board distinguished contrary Board precedents or the Regional Director’s first decision in this case.The court explained that the previous unit decision by the same Regional Director was sufficiently analogous that it should have been distinguished or otherwise addressed – at least when the Regional Director and Board were presented with the argument that the first decision required rejection of the union's later petitions. However, the Regional Director never mentioned the prior decision beyond incorporating the record and stating that "the petitioned-for unit in the instant case is different[.]" Furthermore, the Board must explain why the balance of factors differed from the factors considered in the Regional Director's first decision, and the Board failed to cite – let alone distinguish – a single contrary precedent even though Davidson cited several Board precedents that rejected separate units of hotel employees under similar circumstances. View "Davidson Hotel Co., LLC v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

by
The state brought a civil enforcement action against Uber and Lyft, alleging that the companies improperly misclassify drivers using their ride-hailing platforms as independent contractors rather than employees, depriving them of benefits to which employees are entitled. This misclassification, the state alleged, also gives the defendants an unfair advantage against competitors, while costing the public significant sums in lost tax revenues and increased social-safety-net expenditures.The court of appeal affirmed the entry of a preliminary injunction that restrains the companies from classifying their drivers as independent contractors. Based on the breadth of the term “hiring entity” and the absence of an exemption for ride-sharing companies in Labor Code section 2775, there is little doubt the Legislature contemplated that rideshare drivers would be treated as employees. While the defendants’ business models are different from traditional employment, particularly with regard to drivers’ freedom to work as many hours as they wish, when and where they choose, and their ability to work on multiple apps at the same time, the mode in which the drivers are used met the elements of employment. The companies solicit riders, screen drivers, set standards for drivers' vehicles, track information on drivers using the apps, and may use negative ratings to deactivate drivers. Riders request rides and pay for them through defendants’ apps. The remuneration may be seen as flowing from riders to the defendants, then from defendants to drivers, less any fee associated with the ride. View "People v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Washington ballot initiative 1501 prohibits public access to certain government-controlled information, including the personal information of in-home care providers, but permits that information to be disclosed to the providers’ certified exclusive bargaining representatives. The law was challenged under 42 U.S.C. 1983 by in-home providers, required by Washington law to participate in statewide collective bargaining, who are not members of their respective unions and do not pay agency fees. They wanted to inform other individual in-home providers of their right to not pay union agency fees and were unable to obtain the necessary contact information.The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The First Amendment does not guarantee a general right of access to government-controlled information. Whether to disclose government-controlled information is generally left to the political processes but the First Amendment forbids a state from discriminating invidiously among viewpoints. A state does not engage in viewpoint discrimination by disclosing the personal information of public or quasi-public employees to the employees’ certified bargaining representative while denying equal access to the public. Initiative 1501 does not implicate the plaintiffs’ associational freedom; the plaintiffs lack standing to assert the rights of other in-home care providers. Initiative 1501 does not violate the Equal Protection Clause; the challenged provisions satisfy rational-basis review. The state has a legitimate interest in protecting seniors and other vulnerable individuals from identity theft and other financial crimes. There was no evidence that those who voted in favor of Initiative 1501 were motivated by an irrational prejudice or desire to harm the plaintiffs or their message. View "Boardman v. Inslee" on Justia Law

by
Cook County Sheriff Dart instituted disciplinary proceedings against several Sheriff’s officers (plaintiffs) by filing charges with the Cook County Sheriff’s Merit Board under Counties Code, 55 ILCS 5/3-7011. The plaintiffs filed motions with the Board to dismiss the charges. While the administrative proceedings were pending, the plaintiffs filed suit, seeking declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief against the Sheriff, Cook County, the Board, and the Cook County Board of Commissioners, asserting that the Board was not legally constituted because several of its members were appointed to or served terms that did not comply with the Code section 3-7002 requirements.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of the suit for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Because the plaintiffs challenged the authority of the Board to address the charges, the “authority” exception to the exhaustion requirement applied. The circuit court can adjudicate the requests for back pay and other claims, which do not fall within the particular expertise of the Board. The plaintiffs raised the issue before the Board, which refused to hear them until after the disciplinary proceedings were complete. Given that the Board had not taken any substantive action regarding the disciplinary charges before the filing of the lawsuit, the “de facto officer doctrine” does not apply. View "Goral v. Dart" on Justia Law