Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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Connie Schoeffel worked for Thorne Research, Inc. (“Thorne”) as a kitchen manager. In 2016, Thorne announced that it would be moving its operations from Idaho to South Carolina. For those employees who would not be relocating to South Carolina, Thorne offered an employee retention program to encourage them to continue working at the Idaho facility until the South Carolina facility was ready. As part of this program, Thorne prepared a “Release of Claims Agreement” (“the Agreement”) providing that Thorne would pay participating employees “bargained-for compensation” in exchange for giving up certain rights, including the right to quit before their positions were eliminated. Schoeffel signed this Agreement approximately six weeks before her last day of work. After her separation, Schoeffel filed for unemployment benefits without reporting the retention payments as income. Around the time Schoeffel received her fourth benefit payment, the Department learned of the payments that Thorne owed Schoeffel under the Agreement. The Department determined that those payments constituted reportable “severance pay” under Idaho Code section 72-1367(4). Consequently, the Department determined that Schoeffel was receiving severance pay and was required to repay the unemployment benefits she had received. Schoeffel appealed to the Department’s Appeals Bureau, which initially ruled in her favor but affirmed the Department’s decision on reconsideration. Schoeffel then appealed to the Industrial Commission which affirmed the Appeals Bureau’s decision. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the payments were reportable severance pay, applying Parker v. Underwriters Labs, Inc., 96 P.3d 618 (2004). "[B]ecause the primary purpose of the Agreement was to secure the relinquishment of Schoeffel’s right to quit, rather than to compensate her for her past service to Thorne, they were not made 'as a result of' severance under Idaho Code section 72-1367(4). Therefore, the retention payments do not constitute reportable severance pay." The Commission's decision was reversed. View "Schoeffel v. Idaho Dept. of Labor" on Justia Law

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Labor Code section 432.7 prohibits an employer from asking a job applicant to disclose any conviction that has been judicially dismissed and bars an employer from using any record of a dismissed conviction as a factor in the termination of employment. Molina was hired by Premier in 2010; she did not disclose a dismissed 2010 conviction for misdemeanor grand theft on her job application. She passed Premier’s criminal background check and had been working for four weeks when the DMV mistakenly reported that Molina had an active criminal conviction. Rather than investigate the discrepancy, Premier terminated Molina for “falsification of job application,” although she explained that her conviction had been dismissed. The DMV issued a corrected notice three weeks later. Molina was not rehired and filed a retaliation complaint with the Labor Commissioner, which determined that Molina had been unlawfully discharged and ordered her reinstatement with back pay. Premier’s administrative appeal was denied. When Premier did not comply, the Commissioner filed an enforcement action.The court of appeal reversed the dismissal of the suit. Premier was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The Commissioner presented sufficient evidence that Premier was aware or had reason to believe that Molina’s criminal conviction had been dismissed and to allow a jury to infer that Premier retaliated against Molina for failing to disclose her dismissed conviction and that Premier used the dismissed conviction as an impermissible factor in her termination. View "Garcia-Brower v. Premier Automotive Imports of California, LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendant YourMechanic, Inc. sought to compel plaintiff Jonathan Provost to arbitrate whether he was an “aggrieved employee” within the meaning of the California Labor Code before he could proceed under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) with his single-count representative action alleging various Labor Code violations against company. The Court of Appeal determined that requiring Provost to arbitrate whether he was an “aggrieved employee” with standing to bring a representative PAGA action would have required splitting that single action into two components: an arbitrable “individual” claim and a nonarbitrable representative claim. The Court concluded that a PAGA-only representative action was not an individual action at all, but instead was one that was indivisible and belonged solely to the state. Therefore, YourMechanic could not require Provost to submit by contract any part of his representative PAGA action to arbitration. The trial court therefore properly denied YourMechanic's motion. View "Provost v. YourMechanic, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that he was wrongfully fired from GM under both federal and state law because he reported safety issues with the manufacturing process at the plant in Wentzville, Arkansas. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of GM on the retaliatory discharge claim under section 31307 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and granted costs to GM under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d).The Eighth Circuit held that plaintiff's complaints about the quality control processes in a manufacturing plant are not information related to a motor vehicle defect, and thus he did not engage in protected activity under MAP-21. The court also held that the district court did not err in deciding to grant costs, and did not abuse its discretion by awarding both the costs of stenographic and video deposition services. The court reversed the district court's award of $76.50 for the postage and shipping costs, and otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "Barcomb v. General Motors LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission finding that Claimant suffered a compensable injury to her right shoulder, holding that the court of appeals erred in applying the legal standard for determining whether Claimant suffered a compensable "injury by accident" to her shoulder.Claimant, a math teacher, slipped on a puddle on her classroom floor and fell on her right side. Claimant filed claims for an award of benefits by the Commission, claiming that the fall injured her right shoulder. The Commission ruled that Claimant established a compensable injury by accident to her shoulder. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the court of appeals erred in applying the standard for determining whether Claimant had suffered an injury by accident to her shoulder. View "Alexandria City Public Schools v. Handel" on Justia Law

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This appeal involves a years-long intra-union dispute over the right to perform certain maintenance and repair (M&R) work for Kinder Morgan Terminals (Kinder Morgan) at its Bulk Terminal facility in Vancouver, Washington.The Ninth Circuit granted the petitions for review, denied the cross-petition for enforcement, vacated the Board's order, and remanded for further proceedings. First, the panel reaffirmed the well-settled rule that Section 10(k) of the National Labor Relations Act decisions are not res judicata in subsequent unfair labor practices (ULP) proceedings. Therefore, the panel held that the Board erred in deeming its 10(k) decision "dispositive" of the Longshoremen's work preservation defense. Second, the panel rejected the Board's construction of the work preservation defense, noting that the Supreme Court has twice disallowed such a narrow focus on past performance of the precise work in dispute as ill-suited to the holistic, circumstantial inquiry that is indispensable where, as here, parties strike agreements aimed at preserving union jobs in the face of technological threats to traditional union work. The panel held that the Board erred by disregarding this binding precedent and instead making past performance of the specific work at issue the beginning and end of its analysis. Third, the panel held that the 2008 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) encompasses the disputed work which both unions claim. In this case, the Board erred by using extrinsic evidence to inject ambiguity into the CBA's unambiguous terms and, by extension, assessing the Longshoremen's work preservation defense based on that erroneous construction. View "International Longshore and Warehouse Union v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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Fuerst fell at a military base, which left her disabled. She returned to work part-time. The Air Force removed Fuerst from service after determining that her ability to work only part-time was affecting the office’s mission. The Department of Labor subsequently determined that Fuerst was no longer disabled. Fuerst applied to participate in a fast-track reemployment program for civil-service employees who were removed from service because of a disability but have recovered, 5 U.S.C. 8151(b). The Air Force did not place her on the priority reemployment list. Fuerst appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which found that her removal was not improper or motivated by discrimination, but ordered the Air Force to rehire her. The Air Force offered Fuerst two jobs at her pay grade. Fuerst did not accept the offers. The Board ruled that the Air Force had complied. Fuerst appealed to a federal district court.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Employees must generally appeal Board decisions to the Federal Circuit. Fuerst’s case could not qualify as a “mixed case” within the district court’s jurisdiction; it was not an appeal of an agency's action, but a petition for enforcement, although Fuerst sought to enforce an order issued in a mixed case. In a mixed case, the Board decides "both the issue of discrimination and the appealable action[s].” When Fuerst petitioned for enforcement, the Board had decided those issues already. Fuerst had a chance to ask a district court to review those decisions but did not do so. View "Fuerst v. Secretary of the Air Force" on Justia Law

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The union represents teachers and other professional employees at schools on U.S. military bases in Puerto Rico. In 2015, the federal agency and the union began negotiating a successor to an expired collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The union sought to continue workday provisions from the 2011 agreement. The agency sought to eliminate the dedicated hour for preparatory and professional tasks and to require teachers to be at school for that hour. The agency argued that these terms implicated its right to assign work (5 U.S.C. 7106(a)(2)(B) and were nonnegotiable. The Federal Service Impasses Panel factfinder concluded that the workday provisions were negotiable and recommended that the successor agreement maintain them; recommended terms to resolve other disputes, including new compensation terms; and recommended that the successor agreement incorporate all provisions on which the parties had already tentatively agreed. The Panel ordered the parties to adopt an entire CBA according to those recommendations.The Federal Labor Relations Authority held that the Panel lacked authority to impose the workday and agreed-to provisions. The Panel is authorized to resolve bargaining impasses but not to resolve antecedent legal questions about whether disputed provisions are negotiable. Those questions turn on the scope of the duty to bargain in good faith, which the Authority must determine. The D.C. Circuit affirmed those rulings but set aside a ruling that the workday provision imposed by the Panel infringed the agency’s statutory right to assign work. View "Antilles Consolidated Education Association v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court affirming the decision of the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board (CRAB) that Appellant was not entitled to retirement benefits calculated based on her salary for the years that she worked as a contract employee, holding that the superior court did not abuse its discretion.After Appellant retired she requested that her benefit amount be based on her compensation during the purchased years of creditable contract employment with the State rather than her lower-paid years as a regular State employee. CRAB ruled against Appellant's request, and the superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant did not meet the statutory definition of "employee" for purposes of the retirement system in the years that she worked as a contract employee; and (2) therefore, CRAB properly determined that compensation received during years for which credit in the State retirement system is purchased is not regular compensation and may not be used to calculate a member's pension benefit. View "Young v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on Plaintiff's racial discrimination and retaliation claims against the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), holding that both challenges were meritless.Plaintiff brought claims of racial discrimination, unlawful retaliation, and negligent infliction of emotional distress against the MBTA. The district court granted summary judgment to the MBTA on all claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff did not produce sufficient evidence to get to a jury on his claim that he was denied a promotion based on his race; and (2) Plaintiff did not establish a prima facie case of retaliation. View "Henderson v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority" on Justia Law