Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendants' motion to compel arbitration of plaintiff's statutory employment discrimination and civil rights claims. Plaintiff, a former corporate attorney who became an investment banker with defendants, entered into an agreement that set her compensation and benefits, as well as provided that all disputes arising from her employment would be resolved through binding arbitration. Plaintiff also signed a second document that specified the arbitration procedures.The panel concluded that employment disputes are encompassed by the arbitration provisions, and plaintiff knowingly waived her right to a judicial forum. The panel applied Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20 (1991), where the Supreme Court has held that, while not all statutory claims may be appropriate for arbitration, if a party agreed to arbitration, the party will be held to that agreement unless the party could prove a congressional intent to preclude a waiver of judicial remedies for the statutory rights at issue. In this case, plaintiff carries the burden to show such an intention. The panel extended Gilmer to Title VII claims and held that there must be at least a knowing agreement to arbitrate employment disputes before an employee may be deemed to have waived judicial remedies.The panel assumed, without deciding, that the knowing waiver requirement remains good law and is applicable to these statutes despite the district court's failure to utilize the proper analysis to establish that the standard applies to these statutory claims. Instead, the panel held that this appeal is resolved on the arbitration agreement's clear language encompassing employment disputes and evidence that plaintiff knowingly waived her right to a judicial forum to resolve her statutory claims. The panel remanded to the district court with the direction that all claims be sent to arbitration and the case be dismissed without prejudice. View "Zoller v. GCA Advisors, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for review of the Commission's decision concluding that petitioner failed to prove a prima facie case of discrimination under Section 105(c) of the Mine Safety and Health Act. Petitioner, a dredge operator, claimed that his former employer, CalPortland, discriminated against him for engaging in protected activities related to safety issues.The panel concluded that Section 105(c)'s unambiguous text requires a miner asserting a discrimination claim under Section 105(c) to prove but-for causation. Therefore, the panel rejected the Pasula-Robinette framework and concluded that the Commission applied this wrong causation standard. The panel explained that the Supreme Court has instructed multiple times that the word "because" in a statutory cause of action requires a but-for causation analysis unless the text or context indicates otherwise. Section 105(c) contains no such indication. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Thomas v. CalPortland Co." on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied the Company's petition for review of the Board's decision affirming the Regional Director's determination that the Company had failed to demonstrate that elimination of the position was both definite and imminent. In this case, after the Company planned to eliminate one of the jobs at its plant, the Company first planned to make the transition in the Spring of 2018. However, that did not work out. Then the Company told its employees that it planned to eliminate the classification around Super Bowl weekend in 2019, but it did not. Then the Company told them that it would definitely eliminate the classification on April 1, 2019, but it did not.The court concluded that, given the Company's track record, the Board reasonably concluded that termination of the position on July 21st was anything but certain. The court explained that the Board's decision to order an election in a unit containing representatives was supported by substantial evidence as the Company failed to show that contraction of the proposed bargaining unit was definite and imminent. The court also concluded that the Board correctly denied the Company's objections to the election process itself. View "The American Bottling Co. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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In December 2015, Joseph Gill was injured in an on-the-job car accident when he was struck by a truck owned by Swift Transportation Company, LLC (“Swift”), driven by Christopher Waltz. As a result of the injuries he suffered in the accident, Gill obtained workers’ compensation benefits through Pinnacol Assurance (“Pinnacol”) to cover his medical expenses. Gill’s medical providers produced bills totaling $627,809.76 for the services he received. However, because Colorado’s workers’ compensation scheme caps the amount that medical providers can charge, Pinnacol satisfied all of Gill’s past medical expenses for significantly less. Pinnacol then pursued, and ultimately settled, its subrogation claim with Swift. Gill and his wife subsequently sued Swift and Waltz for damages resulting from the accident, and the case was removed from state court to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. Swift sought partial summary judgment , relying on case law which, in applying Colorado’s workers’ compensation law, concluded that an injured employee lacked standing to pursue damages for services that were covered by workers’ compensation after the insurer had settled its subrogated claims with the third-party tortfeasor. While the federal district court was considering Swift’s motion, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Scholle v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 2019 COA 81M, in which a divided court disagreed with the case law. Instead, it determined that a plaintiff-employee could seek damages for medical services covered by workers’ compensation insurance if the billed amounts were higher than the paid amounts, even after the insurer had settled its subrogation claim. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed, finding that a settlement between a workers’ compensation insurer and a third-party tortfeasor for all past medical expenses paid as a result of an on-the-job injury extinguished the plaintiff-employee’s claim to recover damages for those past medical expenses from the third-party tortfeasor. "As a result, while Joseph Gill may still pursue his claims for noneconomic damages and any economic damages not covered by his workers’ compensation insurer, he no longer has any claim to recover economic damages based on services paid for by workers’ compensation. There is consequently no reason to present evidence of either the amounts billed or the amounts paid for those services, and the collateral source rule is not implicated in this case." View "Gill v. Waltz" on Justia Law

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William Scholle worked for United Airlines, Inc., driving luggage tugs from the terminal to waiting planes, loading or unloading the bags, and returning to the terminal. In June 2012, Scholle was stopped at a stop sign on a return trip to the terminal when he was rear-ended by Daniel Moody, an employee of Delta Air Lines, Inc. Scholle applied for and received workers’ compensation insurance benefits from United, a self-insured employer. United covered all medical expenses resulting from Scholle’s on-the-job injuries, as well as a portion of his lost wages. Scholle’s medical providers produced bills for the services he received that reflected costs in excess of what is permitted by the workers’ compensation fee schedule, though they never tried to collect amounts beyond those permitted by statute. United exercised its subrogation right and sued Delta and Moody to recover the payments it made to and on behalf of Scholle. Scholle separately sued Delta and Moody for negligence, seeking to recover compensation for damages as a result of the collision. Eventually, Delta settled United’s subrogation claim; Scholle’s claims against Moody were later dismissed, leaving only Scholle and Delta as parties. Delta admitted liability for the accident, and the case went to trial on damages. In pretrial motions in limine, Scholle argued that the collateral source rule should preclude Delta from admitting evidence of the amount paid by Scholle’s workers’ compensation insurance to cover the medical expenses arising from his injuries. Instead, Scholle contended, the higher amounts billed by his medical providers reflected the true reasonable value of the medical services provided to him and should have been admissible at trial. The trial court disagreed, reasoning that when Delta settled with United, it effectively paid Scholle’s medical expenses, such that amounts paid for those expenses were no longer payments by a collateral source. The court further noted that, under the workers’ compensation statute, any amount billed for medical treatment in excess of the statutory fee schedule was “unlawful,” “void,” and “unenforceable.” The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that when, as here, a workers’ compensation insurer settles its subrogation claim for reimbursement of medical expenses with a third-party tortfeasor, the injured employee’s claim for past medical expenses is extinguished completely. "Because the injured employee need not present evidence of either billed or paid medical expenses in the absence of a viable claim for such expenses, the collateral source rule is not implicated under these circumstances. The court of appeals therefore erred in remanding for a new trial on medical expenses based on a perceived misapplication of that rule." View "Delta Air Lines, Inc. v. Scholle" on Justia Law

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The Regional Director of the NLRB sought a temporary injunction under 29 U.S.C. 160(j), pending the Board’s resolution of unfair labor practices charges against Sunbelt. The ALJ in the Board proceeding subsequently issued its recommendation, concluding that Sunbelt had violated sections 8(a)(1), (3), and (5) of the Act. Before the district court, the Director submitted that Sunbelt had violated, and continued to violate those sections by interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights under the Act; discriminatorily eliminating the bargaining unit and failing and refusing to bargain collectively and in good faith. The district court granted an injunction, ordering Sunbelt to cease certain unfair labor practices.While Sunbelt’s appeal was pending, the Board issued its decision and order. The Director then moved to dismiss this appeal of the injunction as moot. Sunbelt submitted that the appeal was not moot because the Board had severed and retained one issue for further consideration. The Seventh Circuit dismissed the appeal and directed the district court to vacate its judgment. The Board’s resolution of the unfair labor practices charges moots the appeal, regardless of the fact that the Board severed one issue and retained it for further consideration. The severed issue was not one presented to the district court in the Director’s petition for an injunction. The temporary relief authorized by the statute is no longer available. View "Hadsall v. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the ARB's decision upholding petitioner's discharge. Petitioner argues that he was improperly terminated for reporting a job-related injury, an act protected by the Federal Railroad Safety Act. The court held that the ARB did not err in finding that the railroad terminated petitioner's employment for failing to comply with his obligation to report promptly all known injuries and that his eventual acknowledgement of the injury was not a "contributing factor" for purposes of the Act. In this case, there is unchallenged evidence in the record that it was not the fact of reporting an injury but the failure to report promptly an earlier injury that caused petitioner to be discharged. View "Yowell v. Administrative Review Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the portion of the trial court's judgment denying Plaintiff's claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 11 and affirmed the remainder of the judgment, holding that the judge erred in instructing the jury under section 11.The attorney defendants in this case misappropriated propriety materials from their employer during their employment and subsequently used those materials to compete with their former employer. A jury found Defendants liable on claims for conversion, conspiracy, and breach of the duty of loyalty. The jury denied relief on the plaintiff employer's claims for unfair or deceptive trade practices, in violation of section 11. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment in part, holding that Defendants may be liable for unfair or deceptive trade practices, and the judge erred in instructing the jury that Defendants' conduct before leaving their employer was not relevant to Plaintiff's claim under section 11. View "Governo Law Firm LLC v. Bergeron" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of a putative class, filed suit against his employers, SSP, alleging violations of various provisions of California’s wage and hour laws. SSP moved to compel arbitration under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between it and the labor union representing plaintiff.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of SSP's motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that the CBA between SSP and the union provides for arbitration of claims arising under the agreement, but it does not waive the right to a judicial forum for claims based on statutes. In this case, the trial court correctly concluded that arbitrability was a question for the court, not the arbitrator, and that plaintiff's claims are not subject to arbitration. View "Wilson-Davis v. SSP America, Inc." on Justia Law

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After the DEA terminated Darek and Lisa Kitlinski's employment based on their refusal to participate in an internal investigation into their own allegations of misconduct by the DEA, the Kitlinskis alleged that the DEA terminated Darek in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), and that the DEA terminated Lisa in retaliation for her support of Darek’s USERRA claims against the DEA. The Kitlinskis also claim that the DEA retaliated against them for their prior protected activity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the DEA, concluding that the Kitlinskis offer no evidence that Darek's military service or his prior USERRA-protected activity was a motivating factor in his termination. Furthermore, even assuming that Armstrong v. Index Journal Co., 647 F.2d 441, 448 (4th Cir. 1981), applies here, the court has little difficulty concluding that the DEA's interest in ensuring its employees' full participation in internal investigations outweighs any interest Lisa had in promoting USERRA's nondiscriminatory purpose. The court also concluded that no reasonable factfinder could conclude that the DEA terminated the Kitlinskis' employment in retaliation for engaging in protected activity. The court explained that the Kitlinskis offer no evidence showing that the DEA terminated their employment for any reason other than their conduct during the OPR investigation. The court rejected the Kitlinskis' remaining claims. View "Kitlinski v. Department of Justice" on Justia Law