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Several years after a tank car spill accident, appellants Larry Lincoln and Brad Mosbrucker told their employer BNSF Railway Company (“BNSF”) that medical conditions attributable to the accident rendered them partially, permanently disabled and prevented them from working outdoors. BNSF removed appellants from service as Maintenance of Way (“MOW”) workers purportedly due to safety concerns and because MOW work entailed outdoor work. With some assistance from BNSF’s Medical and Environmental Health Department (“MEH”), Appellants each applied for more than twenty jobs within BNSF during the four years following their removal from service. After not being selected for several positions, Appellants filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), accommodation request letters with BNSF, and complaints with the Occupational Safety Health Administration (“OSHA”). Following BNSF’s rejection of their applications for additional positions, Appellants filed a complaint raising claims for: (1) discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); (2) failure to accommodate under the ADA; (3) retaliation under the ADA; and (4) retaliation under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (“FRSA”). Relying on nearly forty years of Tenth Circuit precedent, the district court concluded that filing an EEOC charge was a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit and it dismissed several parts of Appellants’ ADA claims for lack of jurisdiction. Appellants also challenged the vast majority of the district court’s summary judgment determinations on the merits of their claims that survived the court’s exhaustion rulings. After polling the full court, the Tenth Circuit overturn its precedent that filing an EEOC charge was a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit, thus reversing the district court’s jurisdictional rulings. Appellants’ ADA discrimination and ADA failure to accommodate claims relative to some of the positions over which the district court determined it lacked jurisdiction were remanded for further proceedings. With respect to the district court’s summary judgment determinations on the merits of appellants’ claims that survived the exhaustion rulings, the Tenth Circuit was unable to reach a firm conclusion on the position-based ADA discrimination and failure to accommodate claims. The Court concluded the district court’s dismissal of the FRSA claims were appropriate. Therefore, the Court reversed in part, affirmed in part and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Lincoln v. BNSF Railway Company" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting summary judgment for Dollar General in an action brought by plaintiff, after returning from military service, alleging that the company denied him reemployment as required under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). The court held that there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to plaintiff's resignation; a reasonable jury could find that plaintiff's application for the store manager position at the Bryant store was sufficient to give a reasonable employer adequate notice that he was a returning service member seeking reemployment; Dollar General was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's USERRA claim because he was not obligated to seek reemployment through the leave coordinator; and judicial estoppel did not bar plaintiff's USERRA claim. View "Scudder v. Dolgencorp, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Project and four individual herders challenged the agencies' 364-day certification period for H-2A visas, which allowed nonimmigrants to enter the country to perform certain agricultural work. The DC Circuit held that the Project's complaint adequately raised a challenge to the Department of Homeland Security's practice of automatically extending "temporary" H-2A petitions for multiple years; the Project adequately preserved its challenge to the Department of Labor's decision in the 2015 Rule to classify herding as "temporary" employment; the 2015 Rule's minimum wage rate for herders was not arbitrary, capricious, or unsupported by the record; and the Project lacked standing to challenge the wage rates set by the already-vacated 2011 Guidance Letter. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hispanic Affairs Project v. Acosta" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Midwest hired Plaintiff. In 2015, Plaintiff informed Midwest that she was pregnant. Plaintiff claims her supervisor made negative comments and was annoyed by Plaintiff’s absences for pre-natal appointments. About three months later, Plaintiff was terminated “[d]espite … no record of discipline.” Plaintiff testified that Midwest’s president presented Plaintiff with an agreement and said that she “needed to sign then if [she] wanted any severance,” that she felt bullied and signed the agreement, which provided that Plaintiff would waive “any and all past, current and future claims” against Midwest. Plaintiff later stated that she assumed that "claims" referred to unpaid wages or benefits. Midwest paid and Plaintiff accepted $4,000. Plaintiff filed a charge with the EEOC, then filed suit, alleging that Midwest terminated her because of her pregnancy, that Midwest has a sex-segregated workforce, and discrimination in compensation, citing Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e; the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e(k); 42 U.S.C. 1981a; Michigan's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act; and the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. 206(d). After filing, Plaintiff returned the $4,00, saying that she was “rescinding the severance agreement.” The Sixth Circuit reversed summary judgment entered in favor of the Defendant. Under the tender-back doctrine, contracts tainted by mistake, duress, or even fraud are voidable at the option of the innocent party if the innocent party first tenders back any benefits received; if she fails to do so within a reasonable time after learning of her rights, she ratifies the contract. The doctrine does not apply to claims under Title VII and the Equal Pay Act. View "McClellan v. Midwest Machining, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a wage-and-hour action brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) based on res judicata grounds. In this case, plaintiff conceded that she was subject to a state class-action settlement that released all claims arising from the allegations on which her FLSA action was predicated. The panel applied California law and held that the FLSA action was not excepted from the ordinary operation of res judicata because the decision in the prior proceeding was final and on the merits, the present proceeding was on the same cause of action as the prior proceeding, and the parties in the present proceeding were parties to the prior proceeding. View "Rangel v. PLS Check Cashiers of California, Inc." on Justia Law

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Koty, a DuPage County Sheriff’s Department deputy, requested a different squad car model. Koty’s physician indicated Koty should be given a car with more legroom to accommodate a hip condition. The Department denied Koty’s requests. Koty submitted EEOC complaints alleging discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Shortly thereafter, the Department reassigned Koty to courthouse duty, for which he would not need to drive a squad car. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of Koty’s claims that the Department violated the ADA when it denied his request for an SUV and then wrongfully retaliated against him for making the EEOC complaint. Koty did not qualify as “disabled” under the ADA and the Department took no adverse employment actions against Koty. All Koty alleged was that he is unable to drive one model of vehicle, which does not affect a major life activity. The transfer did not result in a pay decrease, other than Koty’s diminished opportunity for overtime pay. Koty did offer some evidence that courthouse duty is considered less prestigious but Koty conceded he knew the transfer was a way for the Department to accommodate his hip pain, an accommodation he requested. “It is the employer’s prerogative to choose a reasonable accommodation.” View "Koty v. County of Dupage" on Justia Law

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Moreland worked as a FEMA Disaster Assistance Employee. Such employees to respond to events declared disasters by the president. Their work is intermittent. They are paid only for hours worked when they are “deployed.” When they are not deployed, they are “reservists” and are not paid. Moreland, who lives in Texas, filed a discrimination charge and requested a hearing. The ALJ scheduled her hearing in Wisconsin. Moreland, who was on reserve status, asked to be deployed to Wisconsin so that she would receive pay for her time and reimbursement for her travel expenses. After consulting with its Office of Equal Rights, the agency declined to deploy her to the hearing. While on reserve status, Moreland attended and testified. The agency required that two supervisors testify at the hearing, so it deployed them and paid for their time and expenses. At least one of the witnesses was on reserve status; the agency deployed her solely to testify. Moreland claims that the agency’s decision not to deploy her for the hearing was retaliation for her previous discrimination grievance. On remand, the district court granted the government summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Moreland failed to provide evidence that she suffered an adverse action and did not rebut the government’s legitimate reason for not reimbursing her--a reasonable interpretation of its own regulation. View "Moreland v. Nielsen" on Justia Law

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Gaffers is a former employee of Kelly, which provides outsourcing and consulting services to firms around the world, including “virtual” call center support, where employees like Gaffers work from home. Gaffers alleged that Kelly underpaid virtual employees, based on time spent logging in to Kelly’s network, logging out, and fixing technical problems. Gaffers sued on behalf of himself and his co-workers (over 1,600 have joined) seeking back pay and liquidated damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 216(b). About half of the employees that Gaffers sought to represent signed an arbitration agreement with Kelly (Gaffers did not sign one) stating that individual arbitration is the “only forum” for employment claims, including unpaid-wage claims. Kelly moved to compel individual arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 4. Gaffers contended that the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act rendered the arbitration agreements unenforceable. The district court agreed with Gaffers. The Sixth Circuit reversed. In 2018, the Supreme Court held, in Epic Systems, that the National Labor Relations Act does not invalidate individual arbitration agreements. The court rejected arguments that FLSA displaced the Arbitration Act by providing a right to “concerted activities” or “collective action” or rendered the employees’ arbitration agreements illegal and unenforceable. View "Gaffers v. Kelly Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in an action alleging that defendants took adverse employment action against plaintiff in violation of the First Amendment in retaliation for her giving advice to a co-worker who was being arrested by campus police. The court declined to apply the law of the case doctrine where the district court initially entered an order denying defendants' motion for summary judgment before changing its mind, because plaintiff did not point to any prejudice she suffered by reason of the change of ruling and the court saw no impropriety in the district court's exercise of its discretion to revisit its earlier denial of summary judgment. On the merits, the court held that defendants were protected from both liability and the obligation to defend the case because of qualified immunity. In this case, there was no clearly established law to the effect that plaintiff's speech was on a matter of public concern. View "Colvin v. Keen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the jury verdict in favor of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company (BN) on Plaintiff’s claims that BN violated the standard of care under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) and the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA), holding that Plaintiff’s allegations of error on appeal were unavailing. Plaintiff alleged injury for exposure to asbestos during his work at a treatment plant operated by BN’s predecessor. A jury found in favor of BN. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding certain evidence at trial; (2) Plaintiff was not denied a fair trial due to any alleged trial misconduct on the part of BN; and (3) Plaintiff was not denied a fair trial due to any alleged discovery misconduct on the part of BN. View "Daley v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co" on Justia Law