Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries
Kenney v. Aspen Technologies, Inc.
Kenney, an Aspen plant manager, resigned but returned seven years later as a production manager. Employee turnover sharply increased. Dozens of employees said they quit because of Kenney; two formal complaints were lodged against her. Beethem, the principal shareholder, fired Kenney three months after her return. Kenney filed suit, alleging retaliation for her complaints about Aspen's alleged discriminatory practices. Kenney asked the HR manager, Jewell, why Aspen was not seeking employees from Detroit and Flint. Jewell allegedly responded that Beethem “did not like that demographic.” Kenney says she made the same complaint to vice president Quinn, who confirmed that Beethem has a problem with black people. Jewell and Quinn deny that she complained about discrimination. Aspen’s job recruitment was done on the internet, not limited by geography. Kenney also claimed that as business slowed, certain Aspen employees worked reduced hours, simultaneously receiving unemployment benefits. When work picked up, some employees continued to collect unemployment. Kenney says Beethem “zeroed in on” three black employees, recommending them for prosecution. According to Kenney, white employees engaged in similar conduct without prosecution. The prosecuted employees continued collecting benefits when told to stop; employees who were not prosecuted stopped collecting benefits when warned. Kenney claims to have spoken with Quinn about these events. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Aspen. Kenney did not offer sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of retaliation under Title VII or Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. View "Kenney v. Aspen Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law
Thomas Harwood, III v. American Airlines, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), after his civilian employer did not promptly rehire him after he completed a tour of duty. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiff's discrimination claim under 38 U.S.C. 4311, holding that plaintiff has not pleaded sufficient factual content to support a "reasonable inference" that his military service was a motivating factor in any of the airline's conduct about which he complains; the district court did not err in ruling that American Airlines failed to discharge its statutory duty promptly; and the district court did not err in rejecting plaintiff's contention that American Airlines' conduct was willful. The court affirmed in part and vacated in part, remanding for the district court to recalculate damages, presumptively imposing backpay damages against American Airlines and denying damages for the period from October 22 to January 25, unless the offered position was not an equivalent under the Act. View "Thomas Harwood, III v. American Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law
D’Onofrio v. Costco Wholesale Corp.
After Costco terminated plaintiff, who has been deaf since birth, she filed suit in Florida state court for violations of the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA). After Costco removed the case to federal court, the case went to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Costco on one count of wrongful termination, but against the company on plaintiff's failure-to-accommodate claim. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment to Costco for judgment as a matter of law on the failure-to-accommodate claim. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that there was insufficient evidence to support plaintiff's failure-to-accommodate claim. In this case, plaintiff failed to point to a specific instance in which she needed an accommodation and was denied one. The court stated that it cannot hold that an employer fails to reasonably accommodate a deaf employee when it provide her with on-demand access to live sign-language interpreters at two, convenient locations within her place of work; when it goes further to provide on-site person interpreters for larger, group meetings; when it arranges a thorough training session on deaf culture, pursuant to the plaintiff's request; and when the plaintiff's general manager—the supervisor who was the sole subject of her sole complaint—resolves to improve his relationship with the plaintiff by attending multiple, one-on-one training sessions. View "D'Onofrio v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law
Horton v. Midwest Geriatric Management
Plaintiff filed suit under Title VII against Midwest after it allegedly withdrew his job offer after learning that he was gay. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal based on Williamson v. A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc., 876 F.2d 69, 70 (8th Cir. 1989), and remanded for further proceedings in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Bostock v. Clayton Cty., 590 U.S. ___, Nos. 17-1618, 17-1623, 18-107, slip op. at 4 (June 15, 2020), which held that it "defies" Title VII for "an employer to discriminate against employees for being homosexual or transgender," because to do so, it "must intentionally discriminate against individual men and women in part because of sex." View "Horton v. Midwest Geriatric Management" on Justia Law
Picard v. P & C Group 1, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming the Nebraska Worker's Compensation Court's awards for injuries suffered by Halina Picard in two separate accidents, holding that the court of appeals correctly found that the doctrine of apportionment did not apply but erred in affirming the award of benefits for Picard's 2015 accident and injury. In 2016, Picard filed claims against P & C Group 1, Inc. relating to industrial injuries she received in 2012 and 2015. The compensation court determined that Picard was entitled to an award for a whole body injury based on both injuries, that apportionment was not appropriate, and that Picard was entitled to attorney fees. The court of appeals affirmed the awards for Picard's 2012 and 2015 injuries and reversed the attorney fees award. The Supreme Court reversed Picard's award of benefits for the 2015 injury, holding that the court of appeals (1) did not err in vacating Picard's attorney fees award; (2) did not err in finding that apportionment was inapplicable and determining that Picard's second injury award should not be apportioned with the first; and (3) erred in disregarding Picard's disability from the 2012 accident when assessing her lost earnings from the 2015 injury. View "Picard v. P & C Group 1, Inc." on Justia Law
Wigginton v. Jones
After plaintiff was denied tenure as an assistant professor of Legal Studies at the University of Mississippi, he filed suit against several university officials in their individual capacities, alleging that they violated his substantive due process rights when they evaluated his eligibility for tenure in an arbitrary and capricious manner. A jury subsequently awarded plaintiff over $200,000 in damages for lost wages and past and future pain and suffering. The Fifth Circuit reversed and rendered judgment in favor of defendants, holding that the district court erred when it denied defendants' motions for qualified immunity and concluded that plaintiff had a clearly established property interest. In this case, plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the language in his contract that allegedly guaranteed him a "fair process of tenure review" gave rise to a clearly-established property right. View "Wigginton v. Jones" on Justia Law
Tyburski v. City of Chicago
In 2014, Tyburski, then age 74, applied for a promotion with his employer, the Chicago Department of Water Management. His application was rejected. Tyburski sued, claiming that he was denied the promotion because of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621–634. He also brought a hostile work environment claim under the ADEA regarding harassment he allegedly experienced at two Department facilities. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the city. Tyburski has not supplied evidence showing that his age, rather than his failing score on the requisite verbal exam, was the reason he missed out on the desired promotion. Assuming a hostile work environment claim is cognizable under the ADEA, Tyburski failed to present sufficient evidence for a factfinder to conclude that the purported harassment he experienced was severe or pervasive. Tyburski also failed to exhaust this claim regarding conduct that allegedly occurred at one facility, as he did not file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reporting that conduct. View "Tyburski v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law
Quattrucci v. Lombardi
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiffs' petition alleging that the City of Providence violated the terms of two superior court consent judgments entered in 2004 and seeking to enforce those judgments and to hold the City in contempt, holding that the City violated separation-of-powers principles. Plaintiffs, a retired firefighter and two retired police officers, filed a petition to enforce the 2004 consent judgments and hold the City in contempt of those judgments. The trial justice granted summary judgment for the City, finding that a pension ordinance passed in 2012 modified Plaintiffs' rights under the consent judgments. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that a consent judgment cannot be overruled or otherwise modified by city ordinance. The City countered that the court would have violated separation of powers principles by finding it in contempt because courts cannot restrain municipal bodies from exercising their legislative powers. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) by enacting the pension ordinance, the City attempted to alter a superior court decision entered in the form of the consent judgment and thereby infringed on the exercise of judicial power; and (2) therefore, to the extent that the pension ordinance purported to nullify the consent judgment, it violated separation-of-powers principles embodied in the state constitution. View "Quattrucci v. Lombardi" on Justia Law
Fry v. Rand Construction Corp.
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment entered in favor of Rand in an action brought by plaintiff, a former employee, alleging that Rand unlawfully fired her for taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The court affirmed and agreed with the district court that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that Rand's justification for the termination was false and merely a pretext for retaliation. In this case, Rand presented a lawful explanation for firing plaintiff: performance problems. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding a former employee's testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 403. View "Fry v. Rand Construction Corp." on Justia Law
Yearns v. Koss Construction Co.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Koss in an action brought by plaintiff, a former employee, alleging that Koss terminated her employment in retaliation for her complaints about pay discrimination based on sex in violation of the Equal Pay Act (EPA). The court held that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to pretext. In this case, plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence as to the question of whether there was no basis in fact for Koss's proffered reason for her termination: there was lack of work at the project. The court also held that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact on the question of whether a retaliatory reason more likely motivated the manager's decision to terminate her. View "Yearns v. Koss Construction Co." on Justia Law