Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries
Conners v. Wilkie
In 2006 Conners began work as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at a VA-operated facility near Chicago. Her duties included treating and observing patients, giving immunizations, managing the front desk, teaching classes, and completing paperwork. In 2011 she was hit by a car and suffered severe injuries. Her supervisor initially permitted her to retain her LPN position but radically reduced her responsibilities to only teaching and paperwork. After more than two years in that status, the VA concluded that Conners could not perform the essential duties of an LPN even with reasonable accommodations and unsuccessfully attempted to work with her on an acceptable reassignment. The VA terminated her employment.Conners sued the VA under the Rehabilitation Act for failing to accommodate her disability, retaliating against her, and subjecting her to a hostile work environment based on her disability. The district court rejected the claims on summary judgment. Only the accommodation claim was appealed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Conners had to prove that when she was fired she was a “qualified individual with a disability,” capable of performing the essential functions of an LPN with or without reasonable accommodation. Conners’s abilities to stand and walk were severely limited, making it impossible for her to treat and observe patients, respond to medical emergencies, give immunizations, or manage the front desk View "Conners v. Wilkie" on Justia Law
White v. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.
The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment against Matthew White and for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HP), White's former employer, on White's claims based on Maine employment law, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.The district court held that controlling Maine Law Court decisions meant White's claims for accrued vacation pay and bonus pay were without merit and that White's remaining claims for equitable relief were unavailing. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) under Maine, law, White had no right to be paid for unused vacation time except as provided for in his employment agreement; (2) White's bonus compensation claims were meritless; (3) the district court was within its discretion to permit HP to produce an additional document before summary judgment; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion in commenting about the parties' statements of material facts. View "White v. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co." on Justia Law
Chaverri et al. v. Dole Food Company, et al.
Plaintiffs-Appellants worked on banana plantations in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama. They sued the plantations in Delaware in 2012, claiming that while working on the plantations they suffered personal injuries from a pesticide known as 1, 2, Dibromo 3, Chloropropane (“DBCP”). Defendants-Appellees were numerous companies alleged to have caused the Plaintiffs’ exposure to DBCP and their resulting injuries. In 2013 the Superior Court dismissed the Plaintiffs’ complaint under what was sometimes referred to as Delaware’s McWane doctrine (the “Dismissal Order”). On December 31, 2018 Plaintiffs moved to vacate the Dismissal Order under Superior Court Civil Rule 60(b)(6). The Superior Court denied the Plaintiffs’ motion, finding that the motion was untimely and Plaintiffs failed to show extraordinary circumstances for vacating the judgment. Plaintiffs have appealed that order to the Delaware Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error, however, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Chaverri et al. v. Dole Food Company, et al." on Justia Law
Potts v. City of Devils Lake, et al.
Brandon Potts appealed after a district court granted summary judgment to the City of Devils Lake and the Devils Lake Police Department (collectively, “Devils Lake”), which dismissed his claim for wrongful termination. Potts argued the court erred in holding under North Dakota law that no exception to the employment-at-will doctrine existed for law enforcement officers who act in self-defense. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in holding under North Dakota law no public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine exists for law enforcement officers who act in self-defense. Therefore, the court did not err in granting summary judgment to Devils Lake. View "Potts v. City of Devils Lake, et al." on Justia Law
Brendel Construction v. WSI
Brendel Construction appealed a district court judgment affirming an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) decision to hold Brendel Construction liable for unpaid workers compensation premiums and penalties attributed to a subcontractor’s account, and determining Randy Brendel was personally liable for unpaid workers compensation premiums. North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI) cross-appealed the district court’s order dismissing WSI’s cross-appeal from the decision of the ALJ as untimely filed. WSI identified Brendel Construction as the general contractor for a roofing project in Bismarck where crew members were reported to be working without fall protection. WSI’s investigation of the report regarding the lack of fall protection expanded into an investigation of workers compensation coverage. WSI ultimately concluded that two of Brendel Construction’s subcontractors, Alfredo Frias and Daniel Alvidrez, were uninsured and not providing North Dakota workers compensation coverage for their employees. WSI requested, but did not receive, information from Brendel Construction regarding the subcontractors’ income. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the imposition of liability against Brendel Construction for unpaid workers compensation premiums and penalties, and affirmed the imposition of liability against Randy Brendel. The Court reversed and remanded the dismissal of WSI’s cross-appeal as untimely filed. View "Brendel Construction v. WSI" on Justia Law
Swales v. KLLM Transport Services, LLC
Plaintiffs filed a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) against KLLM over a minimum wage labor dispute. The district court granted plaintiffs' certification request, applying the widely used Lusardi test, a two-step method for certifying a collective.The Fifth Circuit declined to delineate the district court's notice-sending discretion under the Lusardi test, rejecting Lusardi's two-step certification rubric. The court explained that Lusardi has no anchor in the FLSA's text or in Supreme Court precedent interpreting it. The court noted that the word "certification," much less "conditional certification," appears nowhere in the FLSA. Instead, the court embraced interpretive first principles: (1) the FLSA's text, specifically section 216(b), which declares (but does not define) that only those "similarly situated" may proceed as a collective; and (2) the Supreme Court's admonition that while a district court may "facilitat[e] notice to potential plaintiffs" for case-management purposes, it cannot signal approval of the merits or otherwise stir up litigation. The court concluded that these are the only binding commands on district courts. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's grant of conditional certification and remanded for further proceedings. View "Swales v. KLLM Transport Services, LLC" on Justia Law
Pelcha v. MW Bancorp, Inc.
Pelcha began working as a bank teller in 2005. A new supervisor, Sonderman, began overseeing Pelcha in 2016 and required her direct reports to submit written requests for any time out of the office by the middle of the month before the month of the requested time off. In July 2016, Pelcha planned to take time off from work but did not use the written request form. She told Sonderman that she was “not filling [the request out] because [she didn’t] have to.” Pelcha nonetheless completed the form, placing it in Sonderman’s office on the day before her time off. The next day, Sonderman spoke with CEO Niesen, at a regularly scheduled management meeting, about Pelcha’s failure to submit the form, Pelcha's negative attitude, and failure to timely complete tasks. Niesen stated that he had no tolerance for insubordination and told everyone he intended to fire Pelcha. He asked Sonderman to memorialize the chain of events in a memo. Days later, Niesen terminated Pelcha’s employment and informed her that it was because of her insubordination.Pelcha, then 47 years old, sued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 623(a)(1). The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her claims. Nielsen’s comments about another employee were irrelevant to Pelcha’s termination. Pelcha’s insubordination was a legitimate reason for the termination and was not pretextual. Pelcha failed to establish disparate treatment. View "Pelcha v. MW Bancorp, Inc." on Justia Law
Cordua Restaurants, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board
The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's order finding that the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by firing an employee for engaging in activities protected under the Act.The court held that the Board is entitled to summary enforcement of its order remedying the employer's Section 8(a)(1) violation with respect to the no-solicitation rule. The court also held that the employer waived issues related to the employee's engagement in protected activities and the Board's finding that management had knowledge of the employee's protected conduct. The court concluded that substantial evidence supports the Board's finding of animus, and substantial evidence supports the Board's finding that the employer's purported reasons for firing the employee were pretextual. Therefore, the employer has failed to establish that it would have fired the employee absent his engagement in protected conduct. Finally, the court upheld the Board's order directing the employer to offer the employee full reinstatement and backpay. View "Cordua Restaurants, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
Watanabe v. Employees’ Retirement System
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court's order affirming the final decision of the Employees' Retirement System (ERS) Board and dismissing Appellant's appeal, holding that Appellant was entitled to present argument on his exceptions to the ERS Board and to have the Board consider the merits of his exceptions.The ERS denied Appellant's application for service-connected disability retirement benefits after suffering a back injury. ERS subsequently received a document filed by Appellant entitled "Petitioner's Proposed Decision." The ERS Board later issued a final decision concluding that Appellant's filing did not constitute exceptions and confirmed its denial of his application. On appeal, Appellant argued that the ERS Board's proposed decision did not automatically become a final decision because he had timely filed exceptions. The circuit court and ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court remanded this case to the ERS Board for further proceedings, holding that Appellant's "Petitioner's Proposed Decision" filing satisfied the standard for exceptions and that Appellant was entitled to present argument on his exceptions. View "Watanabe v. Employees’ Retirement System" on Justia Law
Rogers v. Jack’s Supper Club
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court on remand appointing an employee's "Form 50" physician and clarifying that it was not ordering a review of the employee's treatment regimen, holding that the order complied with this Court's mandate.Employee injured her back in the course and scope of her employment. As part of a settlement between Employee and her employer and its insurer (collectively, Employer), Employee completed a Form 50 anticipating that Employer would pay for treatment of Employee's injuries by her Form 50 physician. Employee chose a Nebraska doctor to serve as her Form 50 physician, but when she moved to Florida, she informed Employer that she had chosen a Florida doctor as her new Form 50 physician. Employer subsequently stopped paying for Employee's treatment. The compensation court ordered Employer to pay Employee's medical bills. The Supreme Court reversed, ruling that Employer was not required to pay for Employee's Florida medical treatment because Employee had not followed the statutory procedures to change her Form 50 physician. On remand, the compensation court appointed the Florida doctor as Employee's Form 50 physician. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the compensation court did not err in its order on remand. View "Rogers v. Jack's Supper Club" on Justia Law