Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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Stern was crushed between multi-ton pieces of mining equipment. The mine section supervisor, McDonald, got to the scene minutes later and called for an ambulance. Smith, a “fire boss mine examiner” and EMT, placed Stern in a neck brace. Stern never lost consciousness or the ability to respond to questions, nor did he have any problem with his pulse or breathing but he had signs of internal bleeding. McDonald and Smith requested a helicopter medevac service. The mine safety supervisor, Tennant, was called at home and went to the scene. He called the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) about two hours later. Mine operators must notify MSHA within 15 minutes after the occurrence of an injury having “a reasonable potential to cause death,” 30 U.S.C. 813(j). The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission and the Third Circuit upheld a citation based on the delay. Reasonable doubts must be resolved in favor of notifying MSHA; liability assessed based on whether a reasonable person in the circumstances would view the injuries as having a reasonable potential to cause death. The totality of the circumstances must be considered with the focus on the information available around the time of the injury; posthoc medical evidence is less probative. Given the knowledge and training possessed by Tennant, McDonald, and Smith, a reasonable person possessing the available information would have concluded there was a reasonable potential for death. View "Consol Pennsylvania Coal Co., LLC v. Mine Safety & Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this workers compensation case with instructions to determine whether excusable neglect extended Petitioner's time to file a petition for review of the determination of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) that Petitioner's bacterial infection was not compensable, holding that the district court's decision letter did not address whether excusable neglect extended the time Petitioner had to file his petition for review. Thirty-five days after the OAH concluded that Petitioner's infection was not compensable Petitioner filed a petition for review in the district court. The district court reversed the OAH order. On appeal, Petitioner's employer argued that the district court lacked jurisdiction because the petition was filed one day past the deadline. The Supreme Court remanded the case because the record did not reveal whether the district court considered the question of whether excusable neglect extended the time for filing a petition for review. View "Tata Chemicals Soda Ash Partners, Ltd. v. Vinson" on Justia Law

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In March 2011, Appellees Elaine Gold, Amy Shaye, Heather Hunter, and Roderick Benson sued Appellants, the DeKalb County School District (“the District”) and the DeKalb County Board of Education (“the Board”) for, inter alia, breaching an agreement to provide two-years advance notice prior to suspending contributions to their DeKalb County Tax-Sheltered Annuity Plan (“TSA Plan”) accounts. Finding that Appellees failed to establish the existence of an enforceable contract, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellants, and Appellees appealed to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment on the issue of liability, vacated the remainder of the court’s order and remanded the case with direction. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed with the outcome of the appellate court’s decision: summary judgment was granted in error, and denying Appellee’s summary judgment on the issue of liability for breach of contract was made in error too. The Court determined that based upon the language of the Board’s own bylaws, the TSA Plan’s provision providing for the termination or suspension of the plan “at any time” could not amend the two-year notice provision embodied in the bylaws by way of a 1982 Amendment. View "Dekalb County School District v. Gold" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court finding, among other things, that Employee was not permanently and totally disabled after suffering an injury to her left shoulder and awarding temporary total disability benefits from the date of her left shoulder surgery through the date of her voluntary resignation, holding that the evidence supported the trial court's decisions. Employee, who worked for Employer as a shuttle truck driver, sustained a compensable injury to her right shoulder and wrist in August 2010. For this injury Employee entered into a settlement agreement with Employer. After returning to work, in January 2013, Employee suffered an injury to her left shoulder. In March 2015, Employee voluntarily resigned. The trial court ruled (1) Employee was not permanently and totally disabled; (2) because of Employee's voluntary resignation, the 1.5 times cap applied for purposes of reconsideration of the 2010 injury and assessment of the 2013 injury; (3) Employee had a six percent medical impairment rating for the 2013 injury; (4) Employer was not responsible for expenses related to treatment Employee sought on her own; and (5) Employee was entitled to temporary total disability. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence did not preponderate against the trial court's findings. View "Bain v. UTI Integrated Logistics LLC" on Justia Law

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School Superintendent Reichhart granted an adult student permission to possess cigarettes on school grounds. Ulrey, the assistant principal, disagreed with that decision. Without approaching Reichhart first, Ulrey called the president of the school board, who emailed Reichhart to express concern about his decision. Reichhart rebuked Ulrey for going over his head, threatening to reprimand her formally. She apologized. Three months later, she resigned during a meeting with Reichhart. Ulrey filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Reichhart and the school board, claiming that Reichhart violated her First Amendment rights by retaliating for her speech about a student discipline issue and that the defendants coerced her to resign, depriving her of her property interest in her job without due process of law. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Ulrey spoke about the discipline issue in her capacity as an employee, so the First Amendment did not protect her speech. Ulrey failed to present sufficient evidence sufficient that her resignation was involuntary. The test is not whether the employee was happy about resigning or even whether the employer asked for the resignation. Ulrey offered to resign because Reichhart’s “vibes” and “physical demeanor” communicated his desire to fire her. That is not enough to treat the defendants as if they had denied her the extensive procedural protections available if she had wanted to contest a possible termination. View "Ulrey v. Reichhart" on Justia Law

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U.S. Continental Marketing Inc. (USCM), a manufacturing company that made shoe care products, relied on temporary employees for much of its workforce and contracts for employees' services with Ameritemps, Inc. Elvia Velasco Jimenez worked for USCM as either a direct or temporary employee for five years before her employment was terminated. At that point, she was performing a supervisory role as a line lead in USCM's production department, overseeing as many as thirty colleagues, including both temporary and direct employees of USCM. Jimenez's supervisor was a direct USCM employee. Jimenez asserted claims under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) against USCM. Jimenez's claims required a threshold showing that USCM was her employer. Disputing that assertion at trial, USCM framed the inquiry as a contest of relative influence between the direct and contracting employers, asking the jury during closing arguments, "Did [USCM] have control over plaintiff more than the temp agency?" The jury agreed with USCM and returned a special verdict finding that USCM was not Jimenez's employer. Jimenez moved for a new trial, unsuccessfully, and judgment was entered in favor of USCM. On appeal, Jimenez argued there was insufficient evidence to support the special verdict finding and asked the Court of Appeal to reverse the judgment. The Court determined the undisputed evidence demonstrated USCM exercised considerable direction and control over Jimenez under the terms, conditions, and privileges of her employment. And although the parties contested the characterization of Jimenez's termination, the appropriate inquiry in the temporary-staffing context was whether the contracting employer terminated the employee's services for the contracting employer (which USCM did), not whether the contracting employer terminated her employment with her direct employer (which USCM did not do). Accordingly, without expressing any opinion as to the ultimate merit of Jimenez's claims, the Court reversed judgment as to three claims and. The matter was remanded for a new trial at which the jury should be instructed that USCM was Jimenez's employer. View "Jimenez v. U.S. Continental Marketing, Inc." on Justia Law

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Michael Weaver, a former City of Everett firefighter, contracted melanoma. He filed a temporary disability claim, which the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (Department) denied, finding the melanoma was not work related. The melanoma spread to Weaver's brain, for which he filed a permanent disability claim. The Department denied it as precluded by the denial of the temporary disability claim. The issue his case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether the doctrines of collateral estoppel and res judicata properly precluded Weaver's permanent disability claim. The Court found collateral estoppel did not apply because the doctrine would work an injustice in this situation, given that Weaver did not have sufficient incentive to fully and vigorously litigate the temporary disability claim in light of the disparity of relief between the two claims. Likewise, the Court held that res judicata did not apply because the two claims did not share identical subject matter, given that the permanent disability claim did not exist at the time of the temporary disability claim. View "Weaver v. City of Everett" on Justia Law

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The Railroad sent Abernathy and Probus to repair a railroad crossing, which required them to transport ties several miles. The Railroad had a “tie crane,” which runs on the railroad tracks but it had been inoperable for years. The employees had two options: a backhoe or a pickup truck, traveling on public roads. Abernathy drove the backhoe. Probus drove the pickup, with the tools. Two ties fell out of the backhoe’s bucket. Abernathy stopped to lift the ties back into the bucket, injuring his back and smashing a finger. Despite the accident, the men finished the job. The following morning, Abernathy reported the injury. Abernathy worked through the pain on lighter duty for a year but was unable to return to his regular work. The Railroad terminated his employment. He had physical therapy, epidural injections, and surgery but continued to experience pain. At the time of trial, his surgeon had not cleared him for any type of work. Abernathy sued under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, 45 U.S.C 51. A jury found that Abernathy was 30 percent at fault and awarded a net amount, $525,000. The court awarded Abernathy prevailing party costs but declined to award witness fees above the statutory amount. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The jury could reasonably find that the Railroad did not provide Abernathy with appropriate equipment and that his working environment was not reasonably safe; a reasonable person in the Railroad’s position could have foreseen that transporting ties in a backhoe or pickup could lead to injury. There was sufficient evidence that the Railroad’s negligence played a part in causing Abernathy’s injury. View "Abernathy v. Eastern Illinois Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit extended the holding in Embury v. King, 361 F.3d 562 (9th Cir. 2004), and held that a State that removes a case to federal court waives its immunity from suit on all federal-law claims in the case, including those federal-law claims that Congress failed to apply to the states through unequivocal and valid abrogation of their Eleventh Amendment immunity. Plaintiffs, a group of correctional officers, filed suit alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by Nevada. Nevada then removed the case to federal court, moving for judgment on the pleadings based on state sovereign immunity from suit. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's holding that Nevada waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity as to plaintiffs' FLSA claims when it removed this case to federal court. View "Walden v. Nevada" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, a law firm and its partners, alleging claims for unpaid overtime and retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), breach of contract, and slander. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants. The court vacated the district court's determination that the overtime and breach of contract claims were barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel, holding that the district court did not have the benefit of Slater v. U.S. Steel Corp., 871 F.3d 1174 (11th Cir. 2017) (en banc) (Slater II), at the time of its ruling. On remand, the district court must apply Slater II's "all the facts and circumstances" test to determine plaintiff's intent when she made omissions in her bankruptcy and district court filings. Furthermore, the court held that it was error for the district court to ground judicial estoppel in the inconsistencies between plaintiff's initial and amended complaints. In regard to the retaliation claim, the court held that the district court correctly granted summary judgment to defendants, rejecting plaintiff's claim that defendants conspired with others in taking retaliatory actions against plaintiff's attorney. View "Smith v. Haynes & Haynes P.C." on Justia Law