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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for rehearing and petition for rehearing en banc. The court substituted this opinion in place of its prior opinion. The court affirmed the district court's judgment as to plaintiff's hostile work environment claim and held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged sustained harassment that undermined his ability to work. In this case, he was repeatedly subjected to behavior that was hostile, intimidating, and bullying, and it was done publicly over a period of more than three years. Furthermore, defendant was deliberately indifferent to this racially hostile work environment. The court also affirmed as to the 42 U.S.C. 1981 claim and held that defendant retaliated after plaintiff complained about discrimination by transferring him to the night shift in a different division. Therefore, plaintiff's allegations supporting unlawful retaliation establish a violation of his constitutional rights, one that a reasonable official would know was unlawful. However, the court held that defendant was entitled to qualified immunity on the First Amendment retaliation claim where it was not clearly established that an internal complaint of discrimination made only to supervisors, primarily to vindicate one's own rights, qualified as speech made as a "citizen" rather than as an "employee." View "Johnson v. Halstead" on Justia Law

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Former employees of Dark Horse filed suit alleging wage and hour claims on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated employees. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for class certification. The court held that, in denying the motion for class certification, the trial court used improper criteria or erroneous legal assumptions, which affected its analysis of whether plaintiffs' claims and one of defendant’s defenses presented predominantly common issues, suitable for determination on a class basis. Accordingly, the court remanded to the trial court to reconsider and redetermine the motion for class certification. View "Jimenez-Sanchez v. Dark Horse Express, Inc." on Justia Law

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When McKinney was granted tenure in 1974, his employment was governed by University Policies that provide that tenured faculty can be terminated only “for cause” and provide yearly salary raises for faculty who perform satisfactorily or meritoriously. Any salary increase for “maintenance” or merit becomes part of the base contract salary. No explicit provisions govern salary decreases; the Policy provides procedures to address complaints about salary decisions and requires that a faculty member “judged unsatisfactory” be informed of specific reasons related to teaching ability, achievements in research and scholarship, and service. In McKinney’s 2010 and 2011 reviews, Dean Keeler expressed concern about declining enrollment in McKinney’s classes, poor student evaluations, and a stagnant research agenda, but granted standard 2.0% and 1.5% maintenance increases. In 2012, McKinney ranked last among the Grad School faculty and was rated “less than satisfactory.” McKinney’s salary was increased by 0.5%. He was told that if his performance did not improve, he could receive a salary reduction. McKinney again ranked last in the 2013 review. Dean Keeler reduced his salary by 20%. McKinney sued, alleging that the University unconstitutionally deprived him of his property interest in his base salary. Reversing the district court, the Third Circuit concluded that he had no such property interest. The Policy language is not sufficient to give McKinney a “legitimate expectation” in the continuance of his base salary. The appeal provisions and the three-tiered rating structure indicate that salaries are subject to “possible annual adjustments,” and that McKinney had no more than a “unilateral expectation of receiving [his] full salary,” View "McKinney v. University of Pittsburgh" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission not to award Appellant benefits after he was injured while renovating a historic school building, holding that Appellant did not meet his burden of proving his statutory-employer claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Appellant sought benefits against a church and its historical society, alleging that these entities were his statutory employers. The Commission denied benefits, holding that none of the defendants were Appellant’s direct employer and that the church and the historical society were not Appellant’s statutory employers. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission applied the correct legal standard and acted within its fact-finding discretion in concluding that Appellant had failed to prove that the church or the historical society were his statutory employers. View "Jeffreys v. Uninsured Employer's Fund" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ denial of Appellant’s petition for a writ of mandamus in this workers’ compensation case, holding that the Industrial Commission did not abuse its discretion by concluding that res judicata barred Appellant’s motion to recalculate his average weekly wage (AWW). In challenging the calculation of his AWW, Appellant requested that the Commission forgo the standard statutory formal and to instead calculate his AWW using a method that would do him “substantial justice,” as statutorily permitted in cases of “special circumstances.” The Commission denied the motion, first on the merits and second on grounds of res judicata. The court of appeals denied Appellant’s petition for a writ of mandamus, concluding that Appellant had not established special circumstances. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the writ solely on the basis of res judicata, holding that the Commission did not abuse its discretion when it concluded that the issue of special circumstances was previously decided and therefore res judicata. View "State ex rel. Tantarelli v. Decapua Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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Cerwonka, a full-time clinical psychologist for the VA in Alexandria, Louisiana, also maintained a private practice and evaluated social security disability applicants. An administrative complaint was filed against Cerwonka with the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, which revoked Cerwonka’s license to practice psychology in Louisiana for cause. The VA Chief of Staff proposed to remove Cerwonka for failure to maintain a current license, citing 38 U.S.C. 7402(f). Cerwonka did not respond to the notice of proposed removal. The deciding official sustained the charge and informed Cerwonka that he would be removed from employment. Cerwonka appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). He also filed suit challenging the license revocation, asserting due process violations. One month after his removal the Louisiana district court judge reinstated Cerwonka’s license, pending further proceedings. A Louisiana Court of Appeal reversed the district court’s decision and remanded. The MSPB and Federal Circuit upheld his removal from employment. It is undisputed that, at the time of his removal, Cerwonka’s Louisiana license was revoked for cause, which compelled the agency to remove Cerwonka from his position as a psychologist under 38 U.S.C. 7402(f). View "Cerwonka v. Department of Veterans Affairs." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court affirming the Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s Human Rights Bureau’s (HRB) decision concluding that Ronis Bollinger was properly terminated from her employment with the Billings Clinic, holding that the district court did not err in upholding Bollinger’s termination from employment because she failed to demonstrate that the Clinic retaliated against her for engaging in protected activity. Bollinger filed this complaint asserting that her history of discipline and investigative interactions with the Clinic demonstrated a retaliatory motive that caused or contributed to the Clinic’s decision to terminate her employment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in upholding the hearing officer’s conclusion that Bollinger was properly terminated by the Clinic for her dishonesty; (2) did not err in upholding the HRB's denial of Bollinger’s motion to compel Clinic production of certain emails; and (3) did not abuse its discretion in awarding costs to the Clinic. View "Bollinger v. Billings Clinic" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Anupama Bekkem filed suit against her employer, the Department of Veterans Affairs, based on numerous instances of discrimination and retaliation she allegedly experienced while working as a primary care physician for the VA in the Oklahoma City area. The district court dismissed some of her claims under Rule 12(b)(6) and granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant on the remaining claims. Plaintiff appealed. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's grant of summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims of discrimination based on unequal pay and retaliation based on her non-selection for the position as North May clinic medical director, and dismissal of her claim of discrimination based on a reprimand she received, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. However, the Court reversed summary judgment as to Plaintiff's claim of retaliation relating to the reprimand, and remanded that claim for further proceedings at the district court. View "Bekkem v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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ODPS offers private security and traffic control services. Most ODPS workers are sworn officers for some law-enforcement entity. Non-sworn workers may have no background in law enforcement. ODPS offers assignments to workers who meet the qualifications specified by the customer. Workers can choose to reject a job but might not receive future assignments if they decline. ODPS sometimes provides workers with equipment. Workers pay for other equipment. All workers must own police-style vehicles. The cost of the non-sworn workers’ investments is roughly $3,000-$5,000. On the job, workers follow the customer’s instructions, comply with ODPS’s standard policies, and occasionally submit to the supervision of other ODPS workers. Sworn police officers wear their official police uniforms; non-sworn workers wear uniforms with ODPS-branded patches. Workers send ODPS an invoice to be paid an hourly wage. All workers sign “independent contractor agreements,” including non-compete clauses. ODPS has never paid overtime wages. The Department of Labor sued under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 207(a)(1). The district court held that ODPS’s non-sworn workers were employees entitled to overtime wages but that sworn officers were independent contractors because they “simply were not economically dependent on ODPS” and some of ODPS’s records “faulty.” The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. All of the workers were employees. The court noted the length and consistency of the relationship between ODPS and its workers, that ODPS’s workers earned set wages to perform low-skilled jobs for fixed periods, and that the officers were an integral part of ODPS’s business. View "Acosta v. Off Duty Police Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the district court entering judgment for Plaintiff on Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B and defamation claims against the City of Fitchburg and its mayor and the award of punitive damages, holding that the award of punitive damages was improper and that the district court erred in entering judgment for Plaintiff on the defamation claim. Plaintiff brought this action against the City and its mayor after the mayor decided not to nominate Plaintiff for the position of the City police chief. Plaintiff alleged that the City violated his rights under Chapter 151B by deciding not to hire him because of his failure to disclose a criminal case against him of which he was later acquitted and that the mayor defamed him through statements she made to the media. A jury found for Plaintiff on both claims and awarded punitive damages. The First Circuit held (1) the district court erred in denying Plaintiff’s motion for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial on Plaintiff’s defamation claim because the statement at issue was not false; (2) the evidence was sufficient with respect to the Chapter 151B claim; and (3) there was insufficient evidence to support the punitive damages award. View "Heagney v. Wong" on Justia Law