Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries
Brown v. Austin, et al.
This appeal stemmed from Alfred Brown’s lawsuit under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. secs. 701–796l, against his former employer, the Defense Health Agency. In April 2010, the Agency hired Brown as a healthcare fraud specialist (HCFS) assigned to the Program Integrity Office (PIO) in Aurora, Colorado. Shortly after joining the Agency, Brown told his supervisors that he had been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder and other panic and anxiety disorders related to his military service. When Brown’s symptoms worsened in September 2011, he was hospitalized and received in-patient treatment for one week. The Agency approved Brown’s request for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The district court granted summary judgment for the Agency, determining that there were no triable issues on Brown’s claims that the Agency failed to accommodate his mental-health disabilities and discriminated against him based on those disabilities. Brown appealed, challenging the district court’s rulings that: (1) his requests for telework, weekend work, and a supervisor reassignment were not reasonable accommodations; and (2) he failed to establish material elements of his various discrimination claims. The Tenth Circuit found no reversible error: (1) granting Brown’s telework and weekend-work requests would have eliminated essential functions of his job, making those requests unreasonable as a matter of law; (2) Brown did not allege the limited circumstances in which the Agency would need to consider reassigning him despite the fact that he performed the essential functions of his position with other accommodations; (3) the Court declined Brown’s invitation to expand those limited circumstances to include reassignments that allow an employee to live a “normal life;” and (4) Brown did not allege a prima facie case of retaliation, disparate treatment, or constructive discharge. Summary judgment for the Agency was affirmed. View "Brown v. Austin, et al." on Justia Law
Rafferty v. Denny’s, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against Denny's, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and seeking to bring claims on behalf of herself and all similarly situated tipped employees who were subject to Denny's alleged policy or practice of paying these employees sub-minimum hourly wages in violation of the tip-credit provisions of the FLSA.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that material issues of fact exist concerning plaintiff's dual-jobs-regulation claims (Counts Two and Three), and thus summary judgment was not appropriate. The court also concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's tip-credit notification claim (Count One). Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's entry of summary judgment as to Count One, but reversed its entry of summary judgment as to Counts Two and Three. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Rafferty v. Denny's, Inc." on Justia Law
Barthel v. Barretts
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim, holding that the district court did not err in granting Defendants' motion to dismiss.Plaintiff was employed with Defendant for seven years until he was terminated for testing positive for THC in a random drug and alcohol urine analysis test. Plaintiff had been prescribed medical marijuana as treatment for his diagnosed PTSD and challenged his termination, alleging wrongful discharge from employment and employment discrimination and seeking a declaratory judgment that Mont. Code Ann. 50-46-320(4)(b) and (5)(b) were unconstitutional as applied to his case. The district court dismissed the claims, concluding that Plaintiff had failed to notify his supervisor that he had been using medical marijuana, as required the company's policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the failure to follow Defendants' policy constituted good cause for termination. View "Barthel v. Barretts" on Justia Law
Curcio v. Fontana Teachers Assn. CTA/NEA
Plaintiff-appellant Sharon Curcio, formerly a teacher with the Fontana Unified School District (the district), learned her personnel file included derogatory statements about her. When the district refused to allow Curcio to obtain or review those statements, she sought assistance from her union, the Fontana Teachers Association (FTA), and from the California Teachers Association (CTA). When the union didn't help, Curcio initiated proceedings before the Public Employees Relations Board (the board), claiming FTA and CTA breached their duties of fair representation and engaged in unfair practices in violation of the Educational Employment Relations Act (the Act). When the board decided not to issue a complaint, Curcio filed this lawsuit and appealed when the superior court sustained FTA and CTA’s demurrer, without leave to amend, to Curcio’s second amended petition for writ of mandate. The demurrer was grounded on FTA and CTA’s claims that the board had the exclusive jurisdiction to decide whether Curcio had or had not stated an unfair practice and, therefore, the superior court lacked jurisdiction. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Curcio v. Fontana Teachers Assn. CTA/NEA" on Justia Law
New Haven v. AFSCME, Council 4, Local 3144
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting the application of Defendant, AFSCME, Council 4, Local 344 (Union), to confirm an arbitration award reinstating Nichole Jefferson to her employment as executive director of the City of New Haven's Commission on Equal Opportunities, holding that the trial court did not err in determining that the award did not violate public policy.The Union filed a grievance, claiming that the City did not have just cause to terminate Jefferson. The arbitration panel reinstated Jefferson to her employment. Thereafter, the trial court issued an order granting the Union's application to confirm the award and denying the City's corresponding application to vacate, concluding that Jefferson's reinstatement did not violate public policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the City failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that Jefferson's reinstatement violated public policy. View "New Haven v. AFSCME, Council 4, Local 3144" on Justia Law
Tudor, et al. v. Southeastern OK St. University, et al.
Dr. Rachel Tudor sued her former employer, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, under Title VII, claiming discrimination on the basis of sex, retaliation, and a hostile work environment after Southeastern denied her tenure, denied her the opportunity to reapply for tenure, and ultimately terminated her from the university. A jury found in favor of Dr. Tudor on her discrimination and retaliation claims and awarded her damages. The district court then applied the Title VII statutory cap to reduce the jury’s award, denied Dr. Tudor reinstatement, and awarded front pay. Both Dr. Tudor and the University appealed: Southeastern challenged certain evidentiary rulings and the jury verdict; Dr. Tudor challenged several of the court’s post-verdict rulings, the district court’s denial of reinstatement, the calculation of front pay, and the application of the statutory damages cap. After review, the Tenth Circuit rejected Southeastern’s challenges. Regarding Dr. Tudor’s appeal however, the Court held that there was error both in denying reinstatement and in calculating front pay, although there was no error in applying the Title VII damages cap. Affirming in part and reversing in part, the Court remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings. View "Tudor, et al. v. Southeastern OK St. University, et al." on Justia Law
Medina v. Equilon Enterprises, LLC
Plaintiff Santiago Medina appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of his putative joint employer, defendant Equilon Enterprises, LLC (Shell), which was a Shell Oil Company subsidiary doing business as Shell Oil Products US. Shell owned gas stations and operated them through contracts with separate companies called MSO operators, one of which employed plaintiff as a gas station cashier and manager. Plaintiff sued the MSO operator and Shell, alleging violations of the California Labor Code, arguing that Shell was his joint employer, based upon Shell’s strict control over the operations of its gas stations. Relying on two prior published decisions of sister courts of appeal involving similar claims, Shell moved for summary judgment, arguing Shell was not plaintiff’s employer as a matter of law. The trial court concluded it was bound by these prior decisions and granted the motion. The Court of Appeal reversed, however, finding that the facts presented by plaintiff in this case, particularly with respect to the degree of Shell’s control over the MSO operators and gas station employees like plaintiff, differed meaningfully from the facts set forth in the two prior opinions. "In addition to these factual distinctions, we also disagree with the analysis of our sister courts on the application of the relevant tests for joint employer status to Shell’s operation. We conclude the undisputed facts presented in Shell’s motion show Shell both indirectly controlled plaintiff’s wages and working conditions and suffered or permitted plaintiff to work at Shell’s stations, either of which is enough to make Shell plaintiff’s joint employer." View "Medina v. Equilon Enterprises, LLC" on Justia Law
Jorgensen v. Loyola Marymount University
Plaintiff filed suit against the University, alleging a claim for retaliation, as well as age and gender discrimination. The trial court granted the University's motion for summary judgment but erroneously excluded evidence that a University employee rejected a job candidate because she "wanted someone younger."The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the University and concluded that the trial court erroneously excluded evidence. The court stated that Reid v. Google, Inc., (2010) 50 Cal.4th 512, 535–545, explained that such remarks can be relevant in age discrimination suits. The court examined the record as a whole to see if the previous comment changes the propriety of summary judgment under governing law. Applying the three-part burden-shifting Bechtel test, the court concluded that summary judgment was inappropriate in this case where three factors show that the remark changed the pretext analysis: first, the remark evidence is relatively strong; second, the dean created a pay differential between male and female Associate Deans hired concurrently; and sources unrelated to plaintiff criticized the Dean's management. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Jorgensen v. Loyola Marymount University" on Justia Law
Hewitt v. Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc.
Under 29 C.F.R. 541.601, a highly compensated employee must be paid on a "salary basis" in order to avoid overtime. Under section 541.604(b), an employee whose pay is "computed on a daily basis" must meet certain conditions in order to satisfy the salary-basis test. A daily-rate worker can be exempt from overtime—but only "if" two conditions are met: the minimum weekly guarantee condition and the reasonable relationship condition.In this case, Helix claims that plaintiff is exempt from overtime as a highly compensated executive employee under section 541.601. The parties agree that Hewitt meets both the duties requirements and income thresholds of both exemptions. However, Hewitt admits that plaintiff's pay is computed on a daily basis, rather than on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis.The court concluded that Helix does not comply with either prong of section 541.604(b) where it pays plaintiff a daily rate without offering a minimum weekly required amount paid and Helix does not comply with the reasonable-relationship test. The court also concluded that there is no principled basis for applying or ignoring section 541.604(b) based on how much the employee is paid; the salary-basis test does not conflict with precedent; and the court rejected Helix's contention that extending overtime to highly-paid employees like plaintiff defies the purpose of the Fair Labor Standards Act. View "Hewitt v. Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc." on Justia Law
Hayes v. Skywest Airlines
Plaintiff John Hayes prosecuted his employment discrimination case to a favorable verdict and judgment. During trial, two instances of misconduct prompted Defendant SkyWest Airlines, Inc. to request a mistrial. But it was Defendant’s own misconduct. Thus, the district court tried to remedy the misconduct and preserve the integrity of the proceedings, but did not grant Defendant’s request. After the trial, exercising its equitable powers, the district court granted Plaintiff’s request for a front pay award. Following final judgment, Defendant moved for a new trial based, in part, on the district court’s handling of the misconduct incidents and on newly discovered evidence. The district court denied that motion. Defendant appealed, asking the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse and remand for a new trial or, at the very least, to vacate (or reduce) the front pay award. Finding the district court did not abuse its discretion or authority in this case, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the front pay award. View "Hayes v. Skywest Airlines" on Justia Law