Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

by
EF appealed from the trial court's judgment awarding vacation wages to three of EF's former exempt employees. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that Labor Code section 227.3 applies to EF's purported "unlimited" paid time off policy based on the particular facts of this case. In this case, EF never told its employees that they had unlimited paid vacation; EF had no written policy or agreement to that effect, nor did its employee handbook cover these plaintiffs; and plaintiffs took less vacation than many of EF's other managers and exempt employees covered by the handbook, whose accrued vacation vested as they worked for EF month after month. View "McPherson v. EF Intercultural Foundation, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Steven Kientz spent many years as a "dual status" technician with the Kansas Army National Guard, where he worked as a mechanic on electronic measurement equipment. Plaintiff’s position required him to simultaneously serve as a member of the National Guard, a second job with separate pay and separate responsibilities. In retirement, Plaintiff receives a monthly pension payment under the Civil Service Retirement System based on his service as a dual status technician. Plaintiff also receives Social Security retirement benefits based on contributions he made to the Social Security system from his separate pay as a National Guard member. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on whether a dual status service technician’s civil service pension was “based wholly on service as a member of a uniformed service” under 42 U.S.C. 415(a)(7)(A). After review, the Court concluded Plaintiff's civil service pension is not “wholly” based on service as a member of a uniformed service, and his pension payments were therefore subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision ("WEP"). Plaintiff’s dual status technician work was at least partially distinct from the performance of his military duties. And Plaintiff received separate compensation and separate pensions for his performance of those distinct roles. The Court concurred with the district court and Social Security Administration that Plaintiff's Social Security retirement benefits were subject to the WEP. View "Kientz v. Commissioner, SSA" on Justia Law

by
Class plaintiffs are seven named plaintiffs representing six putative classes under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). Plaintiffs also filed suit on behalf of themselves and 516 individuals who opted in to a conditionally certified collective action (the "collective plaintiffs") under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Class plaintiffs alleged that Chipotle misclassified them as exempt employees in violation of the labor laws in six states, and collective plaintiffs alleged that Chipotle misclassified them as exempt employees in violation of the FLSA. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying class certification on the basis of a lack of predominance and superiority. While reasonable minds could disagree, on the record before the court, it could not say that the district court's factual findings were clearly erroneous or that its conclusion was outside the range of permissible decisions. However, the court vacated the district court's order decertifying the collective action, holding that the district court committed legal error by improperly analogizing the standard for maintaining a collective action under the FLSA to Rule 23 procedure, and relying on that improper analogy in concluding that named plaintiffs and opt-in plaintiffs are not "similarly situated." In this case, the district court committed legal error in employing the "sliding scale" analogy to Rule 23 as it improperly conflated section 216(b) with Rule 23 and that rule's more stringent requirements. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Scott v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court to the extent it enjoined the State from prohibiting unobtrusive picketing about matters of public concern in negotiations for a new labor agreement with the CWA Local 6360, holding that Mo. Rev. Stat. 105.585(2)'s prohibition against "picketing of any kind" is unconstitutional, but severance of the phrase renders the provision constitutional. The circuit court enjoined the State from enforcing or implementing section 105.585(2)'s mandated prohibition against "picketing of any kind" in negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with certain public employees. In so holding, the circuit court declared section 105.585(2) unconstitutional under both the state and federal constitutions as it relates to picketing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 105.585(2) violates Mo. Const. art. I, 8; (2) severance of the portion of the statute prohibiting "picketing of any kind" is applicable and appropriate; and (3) permanent injunction was the appropriate remedy in this case. View "Karney v. Department of Labor & Industrial Relations" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Defendant and dismissing Plaintiff's wrongful termination claim, holding that the record did not support summary judgment in this case. Plaintiff, a former at-will employee working as a police officer, was allegedly terminated for stealing food from the cafeteria. In this action, Plaintiff alleged that the true reason for his termination was adverse testimony he gave in an unemployment compensation appeal hearing on behalf of a former coworker. In granting summary judgment for Defendant, the trial court concluded that because Plaintiff was not subpoenaed to testify, his testimony did not fall within the public policy exception to at-will employment, which would have barred his firing. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) even though Plaintiff was not provided a paper subpoena before testifying, he was constructively compelled to testify once he was at the hearing; and (2) therefore, Plaintiff's testimony was protected under the public policy exception to at-will employment. View "Perkins v. Memorial Hospital of South Bend" on Justia Law

by
Torres was a long-time employee at Vitale’s Italian Restaurants located throughout Western Michigan. Although Torres and other Vitale’s employees often worked more than 40 hours per week, they allege that they were not paid overtime rates for those hours. Vitale’s required the workers to keep two separate timecards, one reflecting the first 40 hours of work, and the other, reflecting overtime hours. The employees were paid via check for the first card and via cash for the second. The pay was at a straight time rate on the second card. Torres alleged that employees were deprived of overtime pay and that Vitale’s did not pay taxes on the cash payments. Torres sought damages under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961. The district court dismissed, holding that the remedial scheme of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201, precluded the RICO claim. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. The claims based on lost wages from the alleged “wage theft scheme” cannot proceed. However, the FLSA does not preclude RICO claims when a defendant commits a RICO-predicate offense giving rise to damages distinct from the lost wages available under the FLSA. The court remanded Torres’s claim that Vitale’s is liable under RICO for failure to withhold taxes. View "Torres v. Vitale" on Justia Law

by
The VA promoted Dr. Sayers to Chief of Pharmacy Services for the Greater Los Angeles (GLA) Health Care System in 2003. In 2016, a VA site-visit team discovered violations of policy in the pharmacies under Sayers’s supervision. When Sayers failed to follow orders to immediately correct the violations, the VA detailed him from his position pending review. Months later, the VA sent another team to the GLA pharmacies, discovering numerous, serious policy violations. Because compliance fell within Sayers’s purview, the GLA Chief of Staff proposed Sayers’s removal. The GLA Health Care Director acted as the deciding official and sustained the charges. The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and the Administrative Judge affirmed his removal, finding that substantial evidence supported factual specifications that Sayers failed to perform assigned duties and failed to follow instructions. The AJ declined to consider Sayers’s argument that his removal constituted an unreasonable penalty, inconsistent with the VA’s table of penalties and violating the VA’s policy of progressive discipline. The Federal Circuit vacated his removal. The basis for Sayers’s removal, the 2017 Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, 38 U.S.C. 714, which gives the VA a new, streamlined authority for disciplining employees for misconduct or poor performance, and places limitations on MSPB review of those actions, cannot be retroactively applied to conduct that occurred before its enactment. View "Sayers v. Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Shell in an action brought by plaintiff under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In this case, the day after Shell formally disciplined plaintiff for violating its attendance policy, she missed her scheduled shift because she got arrested for drunk driving and wrecked her truck. The court held that employees cannot immunize themselves from legitimate termination by taking FMLA leave. In regard to plaintiff's FMLA retaliation claim, the court held that Shell produced evidence that plaintiff would have been lawfully terminated had she not taken leave, and thus she had no right to return to work. The court held that plaintiff failed to make a prima facie case under the ADA because she did not present admissible evidence establishing that she was disabled or that Shell regarded her as disabled. Even if plaintiff had made a prima facie case, her argument failed for the same reasons her FMLA retaliation claim failed. View "Amedee v. Shell Chemical, L.P." on Justia Law

by
After a union representing employees of Southwestern Bell Telephone Company filed a grievance against the company, the arbitrator initially sided with the union and found that the company had violated the parties' collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The arbitrator later vacated his earlier decision and issued a modified decision. The district court upheld the arbitrator's actions. The Fifth Circuit affirmed under the "extraordinarily narrow" standard of review that applies in its consideration of arbitration awards. The court held that the arbitrator grounded his modification within the rules that governed the parties' agreement. In this case, because the February award stemmed from a colorable interpretation of the parties' CBA, the arbitrator drew the "essence" of his decision from the parties' agreement and did not exceed his authority. View "Communications Workers of America v. Southwestern Bell Telephone Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Education upholding the decision of the North East Independent School District board to end Respondent's continuing teaching contract, holding that the record supported the board's and Commissioner's decisions. At issue was whether state and federal laws requiring school districts to record grades and evaluate student progress provide standards of conduct for the teaching provision such that the teacher's failure to comply with district policies implementing those laws supports termination for "good cause." The Commissioner agreed that Respondent's conduct was "good cause per se" for termination. The trial court reversed. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that "good cause per se" has no basis in Tex. Educ. Code 21.156(a)'s good cause definition. The Supreme Court revered, holding (1) Respondent preserved her complaint for judicial review; (2) the Commissioner erred in employing the "good cause per se" test, which has no basis in the Education Code's plain text; and (3) evidence of a failure to meet a district policy that implements state law supports a good cause determination. View "North East Independent School District v. Riou" on Justia Law