Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the Commission's determination that Sanderson violated various regulations of the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The court held that the ALJ's determination that the compressor cutouts and the emergency stops are subject to the mechanical integrity program was not an abuse of discretion or otherwise contrary to law; the ALJ's determination that Sanderson failed to rebut the presumption of exposure to a hazard was not an abuse of discretion or otherwise contrary to law; and the Secretary bore his burden with respect to all elements of a violation regarding Items 5a and 5b. View "Sanderson Farms, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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The parties’ arbitration agreement purported to waive class actions and any “other representative action” (the representative waiver). There was no dispute that this representative waiver was broad enough to cover a Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) claim, and was thus invalid. The arbitration agreement went on to provide that the provision containing the class action and representative waiver was not modifiable nor severable. The arbitration agreement also contained a provision that if the representative waiver was found to be invalid, “the Agreement becomes null and void as to the employee(s) who are parties to that particular dispute,” the so-called "blow-up provision." Plaintiff Nichole Kec brought individual, class, and PAGA claims against defendants R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Reynolds American Inc., and three individual employees at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, alleging in essence, that she and others were misclassified as exempt employees, resulting in various violations of the Labor Code. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Reynolds American Inc., moved to compel arbitration of plaintiff’s individual claims except the PAGA claim. The court granted the motion. The court reasoned: (1) because defendants had not asked the court to rule on the enforceability of the representative waiver, it had not found the representative waiver invalid, and thus the blow-up provision had not been triggered; and (2) the blow-up provision could apply only to the attempted waiver of the PAGA claim, not to the arbitrability of plaintiff’s claims under the Labor Code. The Court of Appeal concluded defendants could not selectively enforce the arbitration agreement in a manner that defeated its goals. "Had the parties intended to permit defendants to proceed with arbitration notwithstanding an invalid waiver of representative claims, they would have simply made that provision severable, like every other term in the agreement. But that is not what they did. Instead, by specifically making section 5 not severable, the agreement evinces an intent not to allow defendants to selectively enforce the arbitration agreement." The Court issued a writ of mandate ordering the trial court to vacate its order granting arbitration, and to enter a new order denying the motion in its entirety. View "Kec v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that service of a petition for judicial review of an agency's decision does not require personal service under Nev. R. Civ. P. 4.2(a) because a petition for judicial review is best construed as a post-complaint filing so an alternative method of service under Nev. R. Civ. P. 5(b) will suffice. After Patricia DeRosa was fired by the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC), DeRosa requested a hearing. The hearing officer reversed the NDOC's decision. NDOC filed a petition for judicial review and served the petition on DeRosa by mailing it to her counsel under Rule 5(b). DeRosa moved to dismiss the petition for lack of personal service. The district court granted the motion, concluding that personal service was necessary under Nev. Rev. Stat. 233B.130(5). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a petition for judicial review is best construed as a post-complaint pleading and that personal service is unnecessary and an alternative method of service under Rule 5(b) will instead suffice. View "State, Department of Corrections v. DeRosa" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Plaintiffs, eight members of the Kentucky Retirement System's (KRS) defined-benefit retirement plan, did not have standing to bring claims for alleged funding losses sustained by the KRS plan against former KRS trustees and officers and private-investment advisors and hedge funds and their principals. Plaintiffs alleged that KRS trustees and officers attempted to gamble their way out of an actuarial shortfall by investing $1.5 billion of KRS plan assets in high-risk products offered by the defendant hedge-fund sellers, resulting in a multimillion dollar loss that contributed to what was a $25 billion funding shortfall in the KRS general pool of assets. Defendants moved to dismiss the claims for lack of constitutional standing. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs did not have an injury in fact that was concrete or particularized and therefore did not have standing to bring their claims. View "Overstreet v. Mayberry" on Justia Law

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The lack of initials next to a jury waiver contained in an arbitration agreement, even though the drafter included lines for the initials, is of no legal consequence in this case. After plaintiff filed an employment-related suit against BaronHR, BaronHR moved to compel arbitration. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in denying the motion to compel arbitration because the language of the agreement between the parties establishes their mutual assent to submit employment-related disputes to arbitration and to waive the right to a jury trial. Furthermore, plaintiff does not dispute that he signed the agreement and thus he is deemed to have assented to its terms. The court stated that the fact that plaintiff did not also initial the subject paragraph does not provide a basis for concluding the parties did not mutually assent to the arbitration agreement. View "Martinez v. BaronHR, Inc." on Justia Law

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Two teachers at Roman Catholic elementary schools were employed under agreements that set out the schools’ mission to develop and promote a Catholic School faith community; imposed commitments regarding religious instruction, worship, and personal modeling of the faith; and explained that teachers’ performance would be reviewed on those bases. Each taught religion and worshipped with her students, prayed with her students. Each teacher sued after her employment was terminated. One claimed violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the other claimed she was discharged because she requested a leave of absence to obtain breast cancer treatment. The Ninth Circuit declined to apply the Supreme Court's 2012 Hosanna-Tabor “ministerial exception” to laws governing the employment relationship between a religious institution and certain key employees. The Supreme Court reversed. The First Amendment’s Religion Clauses foreclose the adjudication of employment disputes involving those holding certain important positions with churches and other religious institutions. Several factors may be important in determining whether a particular position falls within the ministerial exception. What matters is what an employee does. Educating young people in their faith, inculcating its teachings, and training them to live their faith lie are the core of a private religious school’s mission. The plaintiff-teachers qualify for the exception; both performed vital religious duties, educating their students in the Catholic faith, and guiding their students to live their lives in accordance with that faith. Their titles did not include the term “minister” but their schools expressly saw them as playing a vital role in carrying out the church’s mission. A religious institution’s explanation of the role of its employees in the life of the religion is important. The Ninth Circuit mistakenly treated the Hosanna-Tabor decision as a checklist; that court invested undue significance in the facts that these teachers did not have clerical titles and that they had less formal religious schooling than the Hosanna-Tabor teacher. The Court rejected a suggestion that an employee can never come within the Hosanna-Tabor exception unless the employee is a “practicing” member of the religion with which the employer is associated. View "Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the district court's decision that the Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance violated the extraterritoriality doctrine, holding that because the primary purpose and effect of the Ordinance is the regulation of sick and safe time within the City of Minneapolis, the Ordinance does not violate the extraterritoriality doctrine. The Ordinance at issue required employers to provide sick and safe time to employees who worked within the city. The district court enjoyed the City from enforcing the Ordinance against employers resident outside the City because the Ordinance violated the extraterritoriality doctrine. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Ordinance's primary purpose and effect was to regulate activity within the geographic boundaries of Minneapolis, and therefore, the Ordinance did not violate the extraterritoriality doctrine. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the primary purpose and effect of the Ordinance is the regulation of sick and safe time within the City, the Ordinance does not violate the extraterritoriality doctrine. View "Minnesota Chamber of Commerce v. City of Minneapolis" on Justia Law

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Kenney, an Aspen plant manager, resigned but returned seven years later as a production manager. Employee turnover sharply increased. Dozens of employees said they quit because of Kenney; two formal complaints were lodged against her. Beethem, the principal shareholder, fired Kenney three months after her return. Kenney filed suit, alleging retaliation for her complaints about Aspen's alleged discriminatory practices. Kenney asked the HR manager, Jewell, why Aspen was not seeking employees from Detroit and Flint. Jewell allegedly responded that Beethem “did not like that demographic.” Kenney says she made the same complaint to vice president Quinn, who confirmed that Beethem has a problem with black people. Jewell and Quinn deny that she complained about discrimination. Aspen’s job recruitment was done on the internet, not limited by geography. Kenney also claimed that as business slowed, certain Aspen employees worked reduced hours, simultaneously receiving unemployment benefits. When work picked up, some employees continued to collect unemployment. Kenney says Beethem “zeroed in on” three black employees, recommending them for prosecution. According to Kenney, white employees engaged in similar conduct without prosecution. The prosecuted employees continued collecting benefits when told to stop; employees who were not prosecuted stopped collecting benefits when warned. Kenney claims to have spoken with Quinn about these events. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Aspen. Kenney did not offer sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of retaliation under Title VII or Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. View "Kenney v. Aspen Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), after his civilian employer did not promptly rehire him after he completed a tour of duty. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiff's discrimination claim under 38 U.S.C. 4311, holding that plaintiff has not pleaded sufficient factual content to support a "reasonable inference" that his military service was a motivating factor in any of the airline's conduct about which he complains; the district court did not err in ruling that American Airlines failed to discharge its statutory duty promptly; and the district court did not err in rejecting plaintiff's contention that American Airlines' conduct was willful. The court affirmed in part and vacated in part, remanding for the district court to recalculate damages, presumptively imposing backpay damages against American Airlines and denying damages for the period from October 22 to January 25, unless the offered position was not an equivalent under the Act. View "Thomas Harwood, III v. American Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

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After Costco terminated plaintiff, who has been deaf since birth, she filed suit in Florida state court for violations of the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA). After Costco removed the case to federal court, the case went to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Costco on one count of wrongful termination, but against the company on plaintiff's failure-to-accommodate claim. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment to Costco for judgment as a matter of law on the failure-to-accommodate claim. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that there was insufficient evidence to support plaintiff's failure-to-accommodate claim. In this case, plaintiff failed to point to a specific instance in which she needed an accommodation and was denied one. The court stated that it cannot hold that an employer fails to reasonably accommodate a deaf employee when it provide her with on-demand access to live sign-language interpreters at two, convenient locations within her place of work; when it goes further to provide on-site person interpreters for larger, group meetings; when it arranges a thorough training session on deaf culture, pursuant to the plaintiff's request; and when the plaintiff's general manager—the supervisor who was the sole subject of her sole complaint—resolves to improve his relationship with the plaintiff by attending multiple, one-on-one training sessions. View "D'Onofrio v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law