by
Smith worked at the General Services Administration for nearly 30 years before GSA removed him. For most of his career, he received positive evaluations and faced no discipline. When Smith began to complain about GSA’s ineffective collection and management practices, his supervisor warned him to communicate his concerns only to his supervisor. He was eventually suspended for failure to follow that instruction and his relationship with his supervisor deteriorated. Smith was also disciplined for disrespect toward his supervisor and failing to remove his computer access card from his laptop, although Smith, a quadriplegic, was physically unable to remove the card. The Merit Systems Protection Board agreed that GSA retaliated against him for his repeated disclosure of gross mismanagement; Smith was a whistleblower, 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(8), and his protected disclosures contributed to the decision to remove him. The Board nevertheless upheld the removal. Without addressing evidence relevant to GSA’s motive to retaliate or its treatment of other similarly situated non-whistleblowers, the Board ruled that because GSA had strong evidence of misconduct, removal was justified. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board conflated two distinct inquiries: whether the penalty was reasonable and whether the agency would have imposed that same penalty absent Smith’s protected whistleblowing. Given Smith’s disability and his supervisors’ knowledge that he could not remove his computer access card, the GSA policy did not apply to him. View "Smith v. General Services Administration" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit denied a petition for review of the Board's findings, including the finding that Ingredion violated the National Labor Relations Act by dealing directly with employees and denigrating a union in the eyes of employees. The court held that substantial evidence supported the Board's factual finding that Ingredion engaged in direct dealing with employees; Ingredion misrepresented the union's position in a way that tended to cause employees to lose faith in the union; although the format of the new contract was a major issue, it did not create an overall impasse; Ingredion's delay in providing requested information was unreasonable; and Ingredion violated the Act when one of its managers made threats of job loss to employees. The court also held that Ingredion's contentions that the Board violated its due process rights and improperly imposed a notice-reading remedy lacked merit. In regard to the Board's remedial order, the court held that Ingredion was on notice and was therefore not denied due process. Furthermore, the Board had broad discretion in fashioning remedies for violations of the Act. View "NLRB v. Ingredion Inc." on Justia Law

by
After plaintiff's position was eliminated, he filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the county, alleging a First Amendment retaliation claim. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the county's motions for summary judgment, judgment as a matter of law, and new trial. The court held that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine was inapplicable; plaintiff's claim was not judicially estopped based on his response in his unemployment application; and plaintiff's failure to appeal the Board's decision in state court did not preclude his First Amendment claim under section 1983. The court also held that plaintiff's position was not a policymaking position, and the jury's verdict in favor of plaintiff was supported by sufficient evidence. In this case, there was evidence that at least three of the five board members had retaliatory motive, and the evidence was legally sufficient to support the jury's verdict. View "Griggs v. Chickasaw County" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court allowing Alarm Protection Technology (APT) to substitute itself as the plaintiff in this case and extinguishing Ryan Bradburn's claims against it, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in permitting APT's substitution as plaintiff. After Bradburn's employment with APT as a sales representative ended he sued APT for alleged unpaid commissions. Executing on a confession of judgment it had previously obtained from Bradburn, APT initiated a constable sale and purchased Bradburn's legal right to sue APT. APT then substituted itself into this case for Bradburn and dismissed all claims against itself. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing complete substitution because Utah law permits the tactic used by APT in this case. View "Bradburn v. Alarm Protection Technology, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit denied Southern Hens' petition for review of the ALJ's determination that the poultry processing plant committed two violations of occupational safety standards after an employee suffered a serious injury when her hand got caught in a machine's moving parts. The court upheld the ALJ's decision with regard to the lockout violation because Southern Hens lacked the sort of established work rule required for the "unpreventable employee misconduct" defense; upheld that machine-guarding standard and adopted the reasonably predictable standard, holding that there was substantial evidence that employee injury from the hazard was reasonably predictable; and upheld the penalties for the lockout violation and the machine-guarding violation. View "Southern Hens, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

by
Jared Karstetter worked for labor organizations representing King County, Washington corrections officers for over 20 years. In 1987, Karstetter began working directly for the King County Corrections Officers Guild (Guild). Throughout his employment with the Guild, Karstetter operated under successive 5-year contracts that provided for just cause termination. Eventually, Karstetter formed his own law firm and worked primarily for the Guild. He offered services to at least one other client. His employment contracts remained substantially the same. Karstetter's wife, Julie, also worked for the Guild as Karstetter's office assistant. In 2016, the King County ombudsman's office contacted Karstetter regarding a whistleblower complaint concerning parking reimbursements to Guild members. The Guild's vice-president directed Karstetter to cooperate with the investigation. The Guild sought advice from an outside law firm, which advised the Guild to immediately terminate Karstetter. In April 2016, the Guild took this advice and, without providing the remedial options listed in his contract, fired Karstetter. In response, Karstetter and his wife filed suit against the Guild, alleging, among other things, breach of contract and wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. The Guild moved to dismiss the suit for failure to state a claim. The trial court partially granted the motion but allowed Karstetter's claims for breach of contract and wrongful termination to proceed. On interlocutory review, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case, directing the trial court to dismiss Karstetter's remaining breach of contract and wrongful termination claims. The Washington Supreme Court found that “the evolution in legal practice has uniquely affected the in-house attorney employee and generated unique legal and ethical questions unlike anything contemplated by our Rules of Professional Conduct (RPCs).” In this case, the Court found in-house employee attorneys should be treated differently from traditional private practice lawyers under the RPCs. “Solely in the narrow context of in-house employee attorneys, contract and wrongful discharge suits are available, provided these suits can be brought without violence to the integrity of the attorney-client relationship.”Karstetter alleged legally cognizable claims and pleaded sufficient facts to overcome a CR 12(b)(6) motion of dismissal. The Court of Appeals' ruling was reversed. View "Karstetter v. King County Corr. Guild" on Justia Law

by
Claimant Mark Pilling filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits which insurer Travelers Insurance denied. An administrative law judge (ALJ) reversed insurer’s denial, but the Workers’ Compensation Board reversed the ALJ’s order and reinstated insurer’s denial on the ground that claimant was a nonsubject worker because he was a partner in the business for which he worked and he had not applied for coverage as a nonsubject worker. The Court of Appeals affirmed the board’s order. On claimant’s petition, the Oregon Supreme Court granted certiorari review and concluded that, even assuming claimant was a nonsubject worker, he was entitled to coverage because the business for which he worked made a specific written application for workers’ compensation coverage for him, which insurer accepted. Therefore, the Court reversed the decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Workers’ Compensation Board and remanded to the board for further proceedings. View "Pilling v. Travelers Ins. Co." on Justia Law

by
After being terminated by defendant Nike, Inc., plaintiff Douglas Ossanna sued his former employer. Plaintiff alleged, among other things, that Nike had unlawfully fired him in retaliation for his safety complaints and for whistleblowing. Based on his theory that his supervisors held a retaliatory bias against him, plaintiff requested a “cat’s paw” jury instruction informing the jury that, in considering his claims, it could impute a subordinate supervisor’s biased retaliatory motive to Nike’s formal decision-maker, an upper manager with firing authority, if the biased subordinate supervisor influenced, affected, or was involved in the decision to fire plaintiff. The trial court declined to give the instruction, and the jury returned a verdict for Nike. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court’s refusal to give the requested “cat’s paw” instruction was an instructional error that prejudiced plaintiff. The Oregon Supreme Court held the “cat’s paw” doctrine was a viable theory in Oregon. For an employer to be liable, however, a plaintiff relying on the imputed-bias theory also must establish a causal connection between the supervisor’s bias and the adverse employment action; the causation requirement for the claim at issue controls the degree of causation required to impose liability. The Court also concluded the trial court erred in declining to give plaintiff’s “cat’s paw” jury instruction, because the instruction was a correct and applicable statement of the law, and that the instructional error prejudiced plaintiff. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, reversed the trial court as to plaintiff’s retaliation claims, and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Ossanna v. Nike, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals ordering the Industrial Commission of Ohio to vacate its order denying the request of Joshua Pilarczyk for permanent total disability (PTD) compensation, holding that the court of appeals erred in relying on the report of Dr. Kenneth Gruenfeld in making its decision. Dr. Gruenfeld undertook an independent psychological evaluation of Pilarczyk at the request of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and then issued a report stating that Pilarczyk was likely able to perform sustained remunerative employment despite his psychological disability. The Commission denied Pilarczyk's request for PTD compensation based in part on Dr. Gruenfeld's report. The court of appeals concluded that the Commission abused its discretion by denying PTD compensation based on Dr. Gruenfeld's report and issued a writ of mandamus ordering the Commission to vacate its order denying PTD compensation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Dr. Gruenfeld's report was equivocal and ambiguous, and therefore, it did not constitute "some evidence" in support of the Commission's determination that Pilarczyk could engage in sustained remunerative employment. View "State ex rel. Pilarczyk v. Geauga County" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the determination of the Workers' Compensation Commission that Carnell Carrington was not entitled to temporary benefits for a total disability caused by kidney failure unrelated to his employment, holding that the court of appeals did not err. At the time he began working for his employer in 1992, Carrington had a preexisting kidney job. In 2006, Carrignton received a kidney transplant but returned to work without restrictions. In 2014, Carrington's kidney condition deteriorated severely, rendering him totally disabled from performing any work. The Commission concluded that Carrington was not entitled to continuing temporary total-disability benefits because neither his preexisting kidney disease nor his kidney failure had any connection to his employment. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the two-causes rule articulated in Bergmann v. L & W Drywall, 222 Va. 30 (1981), did not apply to the facts of this case. View "Carrington v. Aquatic Co." on Justia Law