Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries
Sargent v. Board of Trustees of the California State University
Sargent began working for the University in 1991 as an environmental health-and-safety technician. Sargent was the campus’s licensed asbestos consultant. Sargent sued, presenting abundant evidence about retaliation after he raised concerns about environmental hazards. A jury found in his favor on claims alleging unlawful retaliation and on a claim under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (Labor Code 2698, PAGA), which was premised almost entirely on violations of the California Occupational Safety and Health Act (Labor Code 6300, CalOSHA). He was awarded more than $2.9 million in PAGA penalties and more than $7.8 million in attorney fees.The court of appeal affirmed the award of attorney fees but reversed the award of PAGA penalties. Education Code 66606.2 does not bar PAGA claims against the California State University (CSU) system; CSU is not categorically immune from PAGA penalties because it is a public entity. Viable PAGA claims can be asserted against CSU only when the statutes upon which the claims are premised themselves provide for penalties. Here, Sargent brought some viable PAGA claims but ultimately failed to establish CSU’s liability for them because the jury found that he was not personally affected by the underlying statutory violations. View "Sargent v. Board of Trustees of the California State University" on Justia Law
Ndambi v. CoreCivic, Inc.
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by former ICE civil detainees, seeking wages owed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for work performed while detained. The district court dismissed based on the grounds that this circuit and others have declined to extend the FLSA to custodial settings.The court concluded that appellants' claims are foreclosed by this circuit's precedent and the well-established principles governing the interpretation of the FLSA. The court explained that the FLSA was enacted to protect workers who operate within "the traditional employment paradigm," and persons in custodial detention—such as appellants—are not in an employer-employee relationship but in a detainer-detainee relationship that falls outside that paradigm. The court noted that the FLSA was a congressional creation, and its expansion is a matter for Congress as well. The court explained that what appellants propose is a fundamental alteration of what it means to be an "employee," and if Congress wishes to apply the FLSA to custodial detentions, it is certainly free to do so. View "Ndambi v. CoreCivic, Inc." on Justia Law
United Food and Commercial Workers Union v. National Labor Relations Board
The DC Circuit dismissed the union's petition for review of the Board's decision dismissing an unfair labor practice complaint against Kroger Limited Partnership I. The union charged Kroger with violating section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act by "selectively and disparately" enforcing the no-solicitation policy set forth in the lease and in the landlord's letter.The court concluded that 29 U.S.C. 160(e) bars the court from reviewing the union's objection. In this case, the court's jurisdiction is limited in the following respect: "No objection that has not been urged before the Board, its member, agent, or agency, shall be considered by the court, unless the failure or neglect to urge such objection shall be excused because of extraordinary circumstances." The court explained that the critical inquiry is whether the objections made before the Board were adequate to put the Board on notice that the issue might be pursued on appeal. The court concluded that a dissenting member's discussion of an issue is not enough. In this case, even after the Board's decision and the member's discussion of a different theory, the union did not seek reconsideration. Rather, it raised the Board's dissenter theory for the first time in this court. The court concluded that this was not enough. Finally, the court concluded that the union forfeited its claim of extraordinary circumstances. View "United Food and Commercial Workers Union v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
Woods v. Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission
The issue in this case was whether the Washington legislature extended a privilege or immunity to religious and other nonprofit, secular employers and whether, in providing the privilege or immunity, the legislature affected a fundamental right without a reasonable basis for doing so. Lawmakers enacted Washington’s Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) to protect citizens from discrimination in employment, and exempted religious nonprofits from the definition of “employer.” In enacting WLAD, the legislature created a statutory right for employees to be free from discrimination in the workplace while allowing employers to retain their constitutional right, as constrained by state and federal case law, to choose workers who reflect the employers’ beliefs when hiring ministers. Matthew Woods brought an employment discrimination action against Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission (SUGM). At trial, SUGM successfully moved for summary judgment pursuant to RCW 49.60.040(11)’s religious employer exemption. Woods appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, contesting the constitutionality of the statute. SUGM argued RCW 49.60.040(11)’s exemption applied to its hiring decisions because its employees were expected to minister to their clients. Under Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, 140 S. Ct. 2049 (2020), plaintiff’s employment discrimination claim must yield in a few limited circumstances, including where the employee in question was a minister. Whether ministerial responsibilities and functions discussed in Our Lady of Guadalupe were present in Woods’ case was not decided below. The Supreme Court determined RCW 49.60.040(11) was constitutional but could be constitutionally invalid as applied to Woods. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and the case remanded to the trial court to determine whether SUGM met the ministerial exception. View "Woods v. Seattle's Union Gospel Mission" on Justia Law
Lopez v. Whirlpool Corp.
Lopez worked for Whirlpool under the supervision of Gralund. Various people, including Gralund and Penning, assigned Lopez to fill in areas of the line. Penning was not a supervisor. Lopez alleges that Penning began touching her in inappropriate ways. She asked him to “back off.” There were more incidents of touching but Lopez did not report them to HR, any supervisor, or her union. Lopez later testified that she “[made] it clear to [Gralund].” Lopez and Penning subsequently had two disputes about how Lopez was to perform her job. Lopez then made her first written complaint, which noted incidents involving her working conditions but did not mention Penning’s harassment. Lopez later reported “that [she] felt like [Penning] was retaliating” by hovering and staring at her. Lopez resigned four days later, apparently without mentioning “Penning” or “harassment” in her voicemail.Lopez sued for sex discrimination and retaliation under Title VII and the Iowa Civil Rights Act. During discovery, Whirlpool spent time and money on multiple depositions that never occurred. Whirlpool invoked 28 U.S.C. 1927; the magistrate imposed a $2,000 sanction against Lopez’s counsel. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the sanction order and the subsequent entry of summary judgment in favor of Whirlpool. Lopez failed to raise a triable fact on what Whirlpool knew or should have known about Penning’s conduct; she never gave Whirlpool an opportunity to take corrective action. View "Lopez v. Whirlpool Corp." on Justia Law
Soo Line Railroad Co. v. Administrative Review Board United States Department of Labor
Henin began working Canadian Pacific (CP) in 2003. CP terminated Henin’s employment in 2015, citing rule violations. Henin filed a complaint with the Department of Labor, alleging violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. After investigating, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration dismissed Henin’s complaint in a Decision, dated January 11, 2019. Henin received the Decision on January 22. On January 28, Henin filed with the Administrative Review Board a petition for review. On February 5, the Clerk issued a notice indicating acceptance of Henin’s petition. On February 26, the Board dismissed Henin’s petition as untimely. In his motion for reconsideration, Henin explained that he did not receive the Decision until 11 days after its issuance; that before the Decision, there had been no case activity since 2017; and that between December 22, 2018, and January 25, 2019, the federal government experienced a “shutdown.”The Board reinstated Henin’s claim as timely but immediately dismissed it, citing a complaint that Henin filed in federal court under 49 U.S.C. 20109(d)(3), which grants federal district courts jurisdiction to review employee claims de novo if, like here, the Secretary of Labor does not issue a “final” decision within 210 days of the complaint’s filing date. The Eighth Circuit denied CP’s petition for review. The Board properly granted reconsideration and appropriately utilized its equitable powers to control its own docket and to recognize the record’s incongruities and the 11-day delay in service. View "Soo Line Railroad Co. v. Administrative Review Board United States Department of Labor" on Justia Law
Gonzalez-Bermudez v. Abbott Laboratories P.R. Inc.
The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court granting judgment in favor of Plaintiff in this discrimination and retaliation action, holding that Defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law in part.Plaintiff filed suit against Abbott Laboratories alleging age discrimination and retaliation under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621-34, Puerto Rico Law 100 and Puerto Rico Law 155. A jury found for Plaintiff and awarded $4 million for emotional distress and $250,000 for back pay. The district court entered judgment against Abbott on all counts but reduced the damages to just over $500,000. The First Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) Abbott was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff's ADEA claims and her corresponding claims under Law 100 and Law 115; but (2) Abbott failed to preserve its challenge to a separate finding that Abbott retaliated against Plaintiff for reporting to the State Insurance Fund. View "Gonzalez-Bermudez v. Abbott Laboratories P.R. Inc." on Justia Law
WSI v. Sandberg, et al.
North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance (“WSI”) appealed a district court judgment affirming an ALJ’s revised order on remand, entered after the North Dakota Supreme Court's decision in State by & through Workforce Safety & Ins. v. Sandberg, 2019 ND 198, 931 N.W.2d 488 (“Sandberg I”). The ALJ’s revised order made additional findings of fact and conclusions of law, and again found John Sandberg had sustained a compensable injury and was entitled to benefits. Under its deferential standard of review, the Supreme Court affirmed in part; however, in light of the ALJ’s revised order, the Court remanded the case to WSI for further proceedings on whether benefits should have been awarded on an aggravation basis and the proper calculation of those benefits under N.D.C.C. 65-05-15. View "WSI v. Sandberg, et al." on Justia Law
Casco, Inc. v. John Deere Construction & Forestry Co.
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Casco, Inc.'s claim for dolus under Article 1902 of the Puerto Rico Civil Code, P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 31, 3408, awarding relief to Casco on its claims for unjust impairment and unjust termination under Puerto Rico's Dealer Protection Act, P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 10, 278 (Law 75) and granting judgment on John Deere Construction & Forestry Company's counterclaim to recover amounts owed to it by Casco, holding that Casco was not entitled to relief on its allegations of error.Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) the jury's findings of liability against Deere under Law 75 were not unreasonable, and the district court correctly denied Deere's post-judgment motions regarding the Law 75 claims; (2) the district court properly dismissed Casco's dolus claim as not legally viable; (3) the district court correctly granted relief on Deere's counterclaim; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to upset the jury award or order a new trial on damages. View "Casco, Inc. v. John Deere Construction & Forestry Co." on Justia Law
Joseph v. Lincare, Inc.
The First Circuit vacated the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Lincare, Inc. and rejecting Jeffrey Joseph's racial discrimination challenge to the termination of his employment, holding that the district court erred in excluding several documents from the summary judgment record and that Joseph had enough evidence to warrant a trial.On appeal, Joseph argued, among other things, that the district court erred in excluding several documents as unauthenticated hearsay evidence and in granting summary judgment. The First Circuit agreed and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) the district court erred in excluding the documents as "unauthenticated and hearsay evidence," and the error was not harmless; and (2) the record, supplemented with the stricken documents, provides a reasonable basis for a jury finding in Joseph's favor. View "Joseph v. Lincare, Inc." on Justia Law