Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries
Barber v. Bradford Aquatic
In the case before the Supreme Court of the State of Montana, the plaintiff, Kevin Barber, appealed against his former employer, Bradford Aquatic Group, LLC, alleging wrongful termination. Bradford Aquatic Group, a North Carolina-based company, had employed Barber as a Regional Business Development Manager for its Rocky Mountain region, which includes Montana. The employment contract between Barber and the company included a choice-of-law and forum selection clause, specifying that any disputes arising from the agreement would be governed by North Carolina law and adjudicated in North Carolina courts.Barber, a resident of Montana, argued that Montana law should apply to his claims of wrongful discharge, breach of contract, and bad faith, and that the suit should be heard in Montana. The district court dismissed Barber's claims due to improper venue, based on the choice-of-law and forum selection clauses in the employment agreement.Upon review, the Supreme Court of the State of Montana affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the choice-of-law provision in the employment agreement was valid and that North Carolina law should apply to Barber's claims. The court also upheld the validity of the forum selection clause, concluding that it is enforceable under North Carolina law. Therefore, the court determined that the dispute should be adjudicated in North Carolina, not Montana. View "Barber v. Bradford Aquatic" on Justia Law
Velasquez v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd.
Jose Velasquez, as a condition of probation, had entered a residential rehabilitation program sponsored by The Salvation Army and was injured while working in its warehouse. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (the Board) denied Velasquez's claim for workers’ compensation benefits, determining that Velasquez was not employed by either The Salvation Army or the County of Santa Barbara (the County). The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District held that The Salvation Army is statutorily excluded from being an employer for workers’ compensation purposes under section 3301 of the Labor Code, and affirmed the Board’s decision in that respect. However, the Court found that the record was inadequately developed during the administrative proceedings to determine whether the County was Velasquez’s employer. Therefore, the Court annulled the Board’s decision as to the County and remanded the matter for further consideration. View "Velasquez v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd." on Justia Law
Argueta v. Worldwide Flight Services, Inc.
In the case before the Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Eight, the plaintiff, Eunices Argueta, appealed against the judgment in favor of her former employer, Worldwide Flight Services, Inc. Argueta had sued Worldwide for sexual harassment and retaliation, alleging that she was sexually harassed by a certain Mr. Nguyen, an employee of Worldwide, and that the company had failed to prevent the harassment.The case arose when several employees working under Argueta lodged complaints against her for bullying, harassment, and other misconduct. Subsequently, Argueta filed a complaint against Nguyen, accusing him of sexual harassment. The company investigated the allegations and issued a "Letter of Concern" to Nguyen, imposing certain conditions on his continued employment.Argueta eventually resigned, citing a hostile work environment. At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Worldwide, and Argueta's motions for a new trial and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict were denied by the trial court. Argueta appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of the substance of the complaints made against her by other employees.The appellate court agreed with Argueta, finding that the admission of the substance of the complaints was prejudicial. The court ruled that such evidence had little relevance to Argueta's claims of sexual harassment and was highly prejudicial to her case, potentially causing the jury to view her as a bad person. The court thus reversed the trial court's denial of her motion for a new trial. The court did not find it necessary to consider her motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. View "Argueta v. Worldwide Flight Services, Inc." on Justia Law
C., et al. v. United Healthcare Insurance Company
In a case involving the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), a plan participant, Ian C., sought coverage for his son, A.C., to receive treatment at Catalyst Residential Treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues. UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company (United), the claims fiduciary for the plan, initially covered the treatment but subsequently denied coverage. Ian C. appealed this denial internally, a process in which United upheld its original decision. Ian C. then took his case to federal district court, alleging that United's denial violated his right to a "full and fair review" of his claim under ERISA. The district court ruled in favor of United.On appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the court held that United's denial of benefits was arbitrary and capricious, violating ERISA regulations guaranteeing a "full and fair review" of claims. In particular, the court found that United had failed to consider A.C.'s substance abuse as an independent ground for coverage in their decision to deny benefits, in violation of their fiduciary duties under ERISA. The court therefore reversed the district court's decision. View "C., et al. v. United Healthcare Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Hampton v. Utah Department of Corrections
In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the plaintiff, Robert Hampton, sued his former employer, the Utah Department of Corrections (UDC), alleging violations of the Rehabilitation Act. Hampton, who was born without the second and fifth digits on both hands, claimed that UDC refused to accommodate his disability, treated him disparately based on that disability, and retaliated against him for requesting accommodation.Hampton, who had previously worked as a corrections officer in Arizona, was hired by UDC in 2016. He was required to qualify on UDC-approved firearms, including a Glock 17 handgun. Hampton requested an accommodation to use a different handgun, a Springfield 1911, due to difficulties he encountered in handling the Glock due to his disability. This request was denied, and Hampton was later terminated from his position.The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on Hampton's failure-to-accommodate claim and remanded for further proceedings. The court found that Hampton’s request for a different handgun could be considered a reasonable accommodation under the Rehabilitation Act, and that the district court erred in determining that using a Glock handgun was an essential function of Hampton’s job based solely on the UDC’s firearms policy.However, the court affirmed the district court’s grants of summary judgment on Hampton’s claims of disparate treatment and retaliation. It found that Hampton had not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that his disability was a determining factor in his termination or that his reassignment to a different position constituted an adverse employment action. View "Hampton v. Utah Department of Corrections" on Justia Law
ANTHONY SANDERS, ET AL V. COUNTY OF VENTURA
Plaintiff employees who opted out of their union and employer-sponsored health plans received a monetary credit, part of which was deducted as a fee that was then used to fund the plans from which plaintiffs had opted out. Plaintiffs argue that this opt-out fee should be treated as part of their “regular rate” of pay for calculating overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The panel held that the opt-out fees were not part of the employees’ “regular rate” of pay, but rather were exempted as “contributions irrevocably made by an employer to a trustee or third person pursuant to a bona fide plan for providing” health insurance under 29 U.S.C. Section 207(e)(4). View "ANTHONY SANDERS, ET AL V. COUNTY OF VENTURA" on Justia Law
Jordan v. Walmart Associates, Inc.
Appellants Walmart and New Hampshire Insurance Company appealed the Idaho Industrial Commission’s determination that the employee’s widow, Sue Jordan, was entitled to medical and death benefits. More specifically, they challenged the Commission’s application of the presumption set forth in Idaho Code section 72-228 where there was unrebutted prima facie evidence indicating that the employee’s death arose in the course of his employment. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Idaho Industrial Commission. View "Jordan v. Walmart Associates, Inc." on Justia Law
Jones v. Regents of the University of California
Plaintiff-appellant Rose Jones, an employee of the Regents of the University of California (the University), was injured while riding her bike on University grounds on her way home from work. She and her husband filed suit against the University. The University moved for summary judgment, arguing inter alia, that Jones was limited to workers’ compensation under that system’s “exclusivity” rule. Although an employee’s commute was generally outside the workers’ compensation scheme, the University argued Jones’s injuries were subject to the “premises line” rule, which extended the course of employment until the employee left the employer’s premises. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment for the University. Appellants challenged the trial court’s ruling, claiming that a triable issue remained as to whether the premises line rule applied to Jones’s accident based on a variety of factors. After review, the Court of appeal determined the factors appellants cited raised no question about the rule’s application. Therefore, judgment was affirmed. View "Jones v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law
Earheart v. Central Transport
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (appeals board) affirming the judgment of the Court of Workers' Compensation Claims (trial court) ordering Employer to pay Employee's attorney's fees and costs under Tenn. Code Ann. 50-6-226(d)(1)(B), holding that there was no error.Employee filed a petition for benefit determination seeking additional medical treatment after injuring his hip while working for Employer. The trial court ordered Employer to provide separate panels of specialists to treat Employee's hip and back. Employee subsequently filed another petition for benefit determination seeking temporary disability benefits. Employer agreed pay the requested temporary disability benefits. Thereafter, the trial court ordered Employer to pay attorneys' fees and costs to Employee's attorney. The appeals board affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in ordering Employer to pay Employee's attorneys' fees and costs under section 50-6-226(d)(1)(B). View "Earheart v. Central Transport" on Justia Law
Baltrusaitis v. United Auto Workers
In 2011, the automaker FCA transferred the work that plaintiffs (engineers) had previously performed at FCA’s company headquarters to a new location. The plaintiffs filed a grievance with their union, UAW, in 2016. UAW failed to pursue it. In 2017, plaintiffs filed essentially the same grievance, but UAW again did not pursue it. By this time, plaintiffs had learned of a massive bribery scheme involving FCA and UAW; they believed that those bribes had affected the 2011 job-relocation process and UAW’s treatment of their grievances. In 2018, plaintiffs filed the same grievance again. Nearly two years later, UAW found the grievance meritorious.Plaintiffs sued FCA, UAW, and individual defendants in 2020, raising claims under the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. 185(a), and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims as untimely under the LMRA’s six-month limitations period. Plaintiffs pursuing a hybrid LMRA claim must sue once they “reasonably should know that the union has abandoned” their claim. Plaintiffs learned of their RICO injuries as early as 2011 and learned of the bribery allegations in 2017 but waited until 2020 to file their complaint, with no explanation for the delay. View "Baltrusaitis v. United Auto Workers" on Justia Law