Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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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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In 2014, Cooperative, a Wisconsin-based governmental entity that services 35 public-school districts, hired Simon as an Alternative Program Lead Teacher at REACH Academy. Simon taught, managed paraprofessionals, developed integrated education plans, and communicated with parents, school districts, social workers, and law enforcement officials. In 2016, a student kicked a door into Simon’s head, which caused a concussion. Simon took Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave and was cleared to return to full-time work with no restrictions weeks later. Cooperative did not allow Simon to return to her previous position, having determined that doing so would present an “unreasonable risk.” Cooperative placed her in a support position with duties resembling those of a paraprofessional and requiring her to split her time between schools. Although Simon received the same salary and benefits in her new role, it involved significantly less responsibility, independence, and discretion.The district court found that Cooperative had violated the FMLA by not returning Simon to an equivalent position following her leave and that only declaratory—rather than injunctive—relief was appropriate based on Cooperative’s hiring trends, the unavailability of Simon’s previous role, and Simon’s new job elsewhere, and awarded Simon attorney’s fees of $59,773.62. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The FMLA’s use of the term “equitable relief” encompasses declaratory relief. Simon suffered prejudice from Cooperative’s failure to return her to an equivalent position. The district court did not err in finding that attorney’s fees were available under the circumstances. View "Simon v. Cooperative Educational Service Agency #5" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Delaware Supreme Court's review centered on whether the First Amendment barred claims for defamation and tortious interference with contract against a defendant who, in an email to a law firm, described as “shockingly racist” a lawsuit filed by one of the firm’s partners in his personal capacity. The suit aimed to preserve a nearby high school’s “Indian” mascot. The partner, who claimed to have lost his position with the law firm because of the email, sued his detractor, contending that the characterization of his lawsuit was demonstrably false and pled four causes of action, including defamation and tortious interference with contract. The partner’s detractor, in response, contended her statements about the partner were opinions protected by the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. The Superior Court agreed with the detractor and dismissed the partner’s tort action. The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court: the statements at issue did not on their face contain demonstrably false statements of fact, nor did they imply defamatory and provably false facts. "As statements concerning an issue of public concern, moreover, they are entitled to heightened First Amendment protection and cannot form the predicate of the plaintiff’s tort claims." View "Cousins v. Goodier" on Justia Law

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Some jobs at Walmart Distribution Center #6025, required workers to handle boxes weighing 30 pounds or more. Walmart's “Temporary Alternate Duty” Policy (TAD) offered light duty to those workers injured on the job who wanted to keep working and earning their full wages while complying with any relevant medical restrictions. Walmart says it designed the TAD Policy to reduce overall costs, including for Workers' Compensation, while improving employee morale. During the relevant time period, Walmart did not offer light duty, under the TAD Policy or otherwise, to pregnant workers or to workers who were injured off the job. Pregnant workers with lifting or other physical restrictions related to pregnancy had to go on leave. After hotly-contested discovery and related sanctions, the court granted Walmart summary judgment in the EEOC's suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e(k), 2000e-2(a)(1).The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Walmart offers evidence that the purpose of the TAD Policy is to implement a worker’s compensation program that benefits Walmart’s employees while limiting the company’s “legal exposure” and costs of hiring people to replace injured workers; compliance with a state workers’ compensation scheme is a neutral reason for providing benefits to employees injured on the job but not pregnant employees.The court upheld the imposition of discovery sanctions. View "Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P." on Justia Law

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Pennsylvania’s Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act (“Act 140”) mandated the forfeiture of the pension of a public official or public employee when he or she was convicted of certain Pennsylvania crimes related to public office or public employment, or was convicted of federal offenses that were “substantially the same” as the forfeit-triggering state crimes. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review to consider whether a federal conviction for false statements to a federal agent, 18 U.S.C. § 1001 was “substantially the same” as the Pennsylvania crime of false reports to law enforcement authorities, 18 Pa.C.S. § 4906, for purposes of Act 140. The Supreme Court concluded that the two offenses were not “substantially the same,” and, thus, the Commonwealth Court erred in affirming the forfeiture of the pension of Appellant, former Municipal Court of Philadelphia County Judge Joseph O’Neill. View "O'Neill v. SERS" on Justia Law

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Petitioner The Lawson Group, the third-party administrator for the self-insured petitioner, Summit Packaging Systems (the employer), appealed a decision of the New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) that upheld a decision by respondent, the State Special Fund for Second Injuries (Second Injury Fund), to decline to reimburse The Lawson Group for benefits paid to the claimant. The employer hired the claimant in 2005 as a laborer and machine operator. The claimant was injured at work in January 2016, when she tried to catch a 65-pound spool of tubing as it fell. The claimant was out of work following the surgery, but returned in December 2016 in a modified duty capacity. In 2017, the CAB found that the claimant’s “surgery and subsequent treatment were and are related to the work injury” she suffered in January 2016. In August 2018, The Lawson Group applied to the Second Injury Fund for reimbursement. In a February 2019 letter, the Second Injury Fund denied The Lawson Group’s application because The Lawson Group had failed to: (1) establish that the claimant’s surgery constituted a subsequent disability by injury; and (2) demonstrate that the employer knew that the claimant had any permanent impairment before her surgery. Following a March 2020 hearing, the CAB upheld the Second Injury Fund’s denial of reimbursement. After a review of the CAB hearing record, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the denial of reimbursement. View "Appeal of The Lawson Group, et al." on Justia Law

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The NPWU previously represented the plaintiffs, Parsec employees, participating in the NPWU’s retirement multiemployer defined-contribution plans. A lawsuit brought by the Department of Labor settled, requiring the Severance Plan to pay back loans and approving the Plan’s administrators and its third-party accounting firm, Krol. Parsec employees later voted to decertify the NPWU and elect the Teamsters as their new bargaining representative. The Teamsters told Parsec employees that their retirement accounts would roll over to the Teamsters’ plan. NPWU stated that the retirement accounts would become inactive but remain under NPWU control. After the election, Parsec stopped contributing to the NPWU plan and began contributing to the Teamsters’ plan. Parsec employees’ accounts became inactive but remained under NPWU control. Plaintiffs alleged excessive expenses, undisclosed payments to NPWU officers and their relatives, and high salaries. Plaintiffs requested copies of documents, to which they were entitled under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Plans responded but did not provide certain documents, including a “summary plan description” for the 401(k) Plan, which did not exist. Plaintiffs sent several letters requesting that the Plans roll over their accounts to the Teamsters’ plan. The Plans refused.Plaintiffs filed a putative class action. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The Plans terms did not require rollover and the allegations failed to show that the trustees breached their fiduciary duties. View "Dean v. National Production Workers Union, Local 707" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to his former employer, Gestamp West Virginia, LLC, on his Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and common law retaliatory-discharge claims. Gestamp fired Plaintiff after he missed work due to a recurring infection from an emergency appendectomy. The district court granted Gestamp’s summary judgment motion because Plaintiff, it said, didn’t comply with the company’s “usual and customary” absentee notice procedures, as the FMLA requires. 29 C.F.R. Section 825.303(c).On appeal, Plaintiff contends the district court erred because, through his dealings with Gestamp, the company’s “usual and customary” notice procedures for leaves of absence expanded beyond those in its written policy. And Plaintiff argues that he complied with his FMLA obligations by notifying Gestamp of his absences over Facebook Messenger, which the company had previously accepted.The Fourth Circuit agreed with Plaintiff’s reading of the FMLA regulations and find that he’s raised a jury question on whether using Facebook Messenger satisfied the Act’s requirements. But Gestamp counters that even if Plaintiff’s initial notice were adequate, he neglected his FMLA obligation to update the company on the duration of his absence, defeating his FMLA-interference claim. On this too, Plaintiff has raised a material factual dispute to survive summary judgment. Thus, the court vacated the district court’s judgment on his interference claim and remand.Finally the court agreed with Gestamp that the district court properly granted judgment against Plaintiff’s FMLA retaliation and common law retaliatory-discharge claims. Plaintiff hasn’t offered enough evidence that Gestamp fired him in retaliation for exercising his FMLA rights. View "Kasey Roberts v. Gestamp West Virginia, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Montgomery County in this workers' compensation case, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.In 2007, Petitioner, a firefighter in Montgomery County, experienced a service-related back injury, which led to his retirement three years later. Petitioner subsequently developed a compensable degree of occupational hearing loss related to his employment and sought workers' compensation benefits. Although the Workers' Compensation Commission awarded Petitioner compensation for his hearing loss the Commission determined that the entirety fo the award be offset under Md. Code, Lab. & Empl. (LE) 9-610. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Petitioner's service-connected total disability retirement benefits arising from his back injury were "similar" to his permanent partial disability benefits, and the benefits related to his occupational hearing were offset under LE 9-610. View "Spevak v. Montgomery County" on Justia Law

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A physician group fired Post, a nurse-anesthesist, months after she suffered an accident. The group’s subsequent bankruptcy impeded Post’s efforts to hold it liable for employment discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She instead sued the hospital at which she worked. Although the hospital did not employ her, Post argued that two statutes allow her to enforce the ADA’s employment protections against non-employers.The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the hospital. The ADA “interference” provision makes it “unlawful to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any individual in the exercise or enjoyment of” an ADA-protected right. 42 U.S.C. 12203(b) does not allow plaintiffs with disabilities to sue entities that are not their employers. A nearby subsection clarifies that the provision incorporates remedies that permit suits only against employers. The civil-conspiracy provision in the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. 1985(3) authorizes a damages suit when two or more parties “conspire” to “depriv[e]” “any person or class of persons” of “the equal protection of the laws” or the “equal privileges and immunities under the laws” but does permit a plaintiff to assert a conspiracy claim against an entity that is not the plaintiff’s employer for the deprivation of an ADAprotected employment right. View "Post v. Trinity Health-Michigan" on Justia Law