Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court issuing a permanent writ of mandamus in favor of Jim Swoboda, holding that the circuit court's decision was erroneous because Swoboda failed to establish that he was entitled to mandamus relief.Swoboda filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights against his employer and Armstrong Teasdale, LLP (the Law Firm), alleging retaliation, disability, and aiding and abetting as types of discrimination he faced in retaliation for participating in a discrimination case brought by another officer. The Commission determined that it lacked jurisdiction over the matter because there was no employer-employee relationship between Swoboda and the Law Firm. The circuit court issued a writ of mandamus finding that the Commission erred in dismissing the charge without first taking certain steps. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the issuance of mandamus relief was foreclosed where, rather than seeking to enforce a previously delineated right, Swoboda attempted to adjudicate whether his claim was permissible under applicable statutes. View "State ex rel. Swoboda v. Missouri Commission on Human Rights" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of the judgment of the Department of Labor's Administrative Review Board (ARB) affirming an administrative law judge's (ALJ) determination that BNSF Railway Company had a valid same-action affirmative defense to Plaintiff's retaliation claim, holding that substantial evidence supported the decision.Plaintiff, a train engineer, brought an administrative complaint with the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) alleging that BNSF, his employer, violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act by retaliating against him for raising safety concerns and refusing to engage in unsafe practices. OSHA dismissed the complaint. A Department of Labor ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim based on the statutory same-action affirmative defense. The ARB affirmed. The Seventh Circuit denied review, holding that substantial evidence supported the ARB's decision that the same-action defense applied to BNSF's discipline of Plaintiff. View "Brousil v. U.S. Dep't of Labor, Administrative Review Board" on Justia Law

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The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) decided that Constellium Rolled Products had violated Sections 8(a)(1) and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), 29 U.S.C. Section 158(a)(1), (3), by suspending and terminating an employee for offensive conduct done in the course of protected Section 7 activity, 29 U.S.C. Section 157. On review, this DC Circuit court held that the Board had based its decision “upon substantial evidence” without “impermissibly depart[ing] from precedent without explanation,” but had failed to address the potential conflict between its interpretation of the NLRA and Constellium’s obligations under state and federal equal employment opportunity laws. On remand, the Board affirmed its earlier decision but used a different analytical framework to do so. Constellium argued that the Board has failed to reconcile the conflict upon which we remanded the case and challenges the Board’s most recent analysis.   The DC Circuit concluded that the Board sufficiently addressed the conflict between the NLRA and Constellium’s antidiscrimination obligations and reasonably found that Constellium terminated the employee in violation of Sections 8(a)(1) and (3) of the NLRA. 29 U.S.C. Section158(a)(1), (3). Accordingly, the court denied Constellium’s petition and granted the Board’s cross-application for enforcement of its order. The court explained that an employer may defend against allegations that its act of discipline against an employee engaged in protected activity violated the NLRA by demonstrating that its motive was adherence to anti-discrimination laws. This approach addresses the potential conflict between the Board’s interpretation of the NLRA and Constellium’s obligations under state and federal equal employment opportunity laws. View "Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood, LLC v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff worked at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) as the women’s softball head coach and part-time Director of Operations for the women’s hockey team. After UMD relieved Plaintiff of her hockey duties, she sued, claiming that she was fired for being gay. The district court granted summary judgment to UMD, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed.   The court explained that Title VII plaintiff can survive summary judgment either by (1) presenting direct evidence of discrimination, or (2) “creating the requisite inference of unlawful discrimination through the McDonnell Douglas analysis, including sufficient evidence of pretext.” Towery v. Miss. Cnty. Ark. Econ. Opportunity Comm’n, Inc., 1 F.4th 570 (8th Cir. 2021)   Here, Plaintiff did not present any direct evidence of discrimination, so the court analyzed her claims under the familiar McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. The court explained that. even assuming that Plaintiff could establish a prima facie case of discrimination, she has not met her burden of showing that UMD’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory justification for nonrenewal is pretextual. Plaintiff argued that UMD’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory justification isn’t credible because the accepted Division I practice of “cleaning house” when a head coach leaves is limited to firing coaching staff—not operations staff. The court reasoned that it finds it credible that UMD would want to allow its new head coach to choose her Director of Operations. Further, the court found that Plaintiff has not carried her ultimate burden of persuading the court that she was the victim of intentional discrimination. Out of four part-time hockey staff members, three were openly gay. View "Jen Banford v. Board of Regents of U of MN" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that the interim relief statute does not preclude a second removal action while a first removal action is still pending when the second action cures a procedural deficiency in the first action.The Department of the Treasury initiated a removal action against Petitioner charging him with misuse of government property. Treasury sustained the charge and removed Petitioner. A Board administrative judge (AJ) reversed based on a due process defect in the action. Treasury and Petitioner both petitioned for review. While that petition was pending, Treasury initiated a second removal action based on the same charge and specifications that cured the procedural deficiency in the first removal action. Treasury then removed Petitioner. An AJ upheld the second removal action, and that decision became the Board's decision. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that Treasury was not precluded from initiating the second action while the first action was still pending. View "Coy v. Dep't of Treasury" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court vacating an arbitration award to the extent that it applied to Greenhouse Holdings, LLC (Greenhouse), holding that it was disputed whether Greenhouse consented to arbitrate, and therefore, the evidence should be weighed by the district court in the first instance.At issue was whether an arbitrator has the authority to bind someone who hasn't signed the underlying arbitration agreement to an arbitration award. A Union filed a grievance against "Clearview Glass," alleging that it violated the parties' collective bargaining agreement. An arbitrator concluded that Greenhouse was bound by an in violation of the CBA. The district court vacated the award to the extent it applied to Greenhouse because it was unclear whether Greenhouse ever assented to the CBA. The Sixth Circuit vacated the judgment, holding that remand was required for the district court to first decide whether Greenhouse consented to arbitrate the threshold arbitrability question. View "Greenhouse Holdings, LLC v. International Union of Painters" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing this ERISA action for lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that no contract bound the parties, holding that the presence of a live contract goes to the merits of this action, not the district court's jurisdiction to hear it.A group of employee benefits funds sued Defendant in a federal district court alleging breach of contract for late contributions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Defendant responded that no contract existed and that the presence of a live contract was a jurisdictional prerequisite to Plaintiffs' ERISA suit, meaning that the claim should have been brought under the National Labor Relations Act and that the National Labor Relations Board had exclusive jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs' grievances. The district court dismissed the suit without prejudice, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs' claim. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the presence of a live contract is not an essential jurisdictional fact in an action brought under section 515 of ERISA. Rather, the presence of a live contract goes to the merits of Plaintiffs' ERISA claim. View "Operating Engineers' Local 324 Fringe Benefits Funds v. Rieth-Riley Construction Co." on Justia Law

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Cisco Systems, Inc. hired “John Doe” in September 2015 to work as an engineer. Doe was required to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of his employment. Under the agreement, Cisco and Doe had to arbitrate “all disputes or claims arising from or relating to” Doe’s employment, including claims of discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. Several years after signing the agreement, Doe filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging Cisco discriminated against him because of ancestry or race. He reported that two supervisors denied him opportunities and disparaged him because, under the traditional caste system of India, he was from the lowest caste and they are from the highest. Doe also accused Cisco of retaliating when he complained about being treated unfavorably because of his caste. The Department notified Cisco of Doe’s complaint, investigated it, and decided it had merit. Attempts at informal resolution were unsuccessful. The Department then filed a lawsuit against Cisco and the two supervisors. The Department alleged five causes of action alleging multiple violations of FEHA, and sought a permanent injunction preventing Cisco from committing further violations, and mandatory injunctive relief requiring Cisco to institute policies to prevent employment discrimination. The complaint also requested an order that Cisco compensate Doe for past and future economic losses. Cisco moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the agreement Doe signed. The trial court denied the motion. On appeal, Cisco argued the Department was bound by the terms of Doe’s arbitration agreement. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding the Department acts independently when it exercises the power to sue for FEHA violations. “As an independent party, the Department cannot be compelled to arbitrate under an agreement it has not entered.” View "Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing v. Cisco Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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The National Labor Relations Board petitioned the Fourth Circuit to enforce its order imposing obligations on an employer. The charged employer, Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood, LLC, consented in a stipulated settlement agreement to the enforcement of the order, skipping a process of agency prosecution and adjudication. Constellium agreed to a factual statement, waived any defenses, and now dutifully agrees that the Fourth Circuit should enter a judgment against it.The Fourth Circuit dismissed the petition. The court held that it lacks jurisdiction to exercise judicial power when it would have no real consequences for the parties and would only rubberstamp an agreement the parties memorialized in writing and consummated before ever arriving on a federal court’s doorstep. The court further explained that the parties agree on every relevant question potentially before the court. That agreement led the parties to resolve this dispute among themselves before ever coming to federal court, leaving nothing for the court to do that would have real consequences in the world. And the Board agrees that Constellium has complied with the order and continues to do so. View "NLRB v. Constellium Rolled Products" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Kan. Stat. Ann. 74-2113 defines the rank of major within the classified service under the Kansas Civil Service Act (KCSA), Kan. Stat. Ann. 75-2925 et seq., and that K.A.R. 1-7-4 does not require a former Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) superintendent or assistant superintendent to serve another probationary period when returning to their former rank as contemplated in section 74-2113(a).The Supreme Court answered two questions of law certified to the court by a federal district court in a lawsuit Plaintiff filed against Governor Laura Kelly, Chief of Staff Will Lawrence, and Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent Herman Jones (collectively, Defendants). Plaintiff, who previously served as superintendent of the KHP, alleged that Defendants forced him to resign his employment rather than returning him to the rank he held before his appointment to superintendent. Given the parties' conflicting interpretations of the statutes and regulations and the lack of controlling Kansas precedent on certain issues, the district court certified two questions. The Supreme Court answered the questions as set forth above. View "Bruce v. Kelly" on Justia Law