Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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Petitioners California Disability Services Association; Horrigan Cole Enterprises, Inc., doing business as Cole Vocational Services; Unlimited Quest, Inc.; Loyd’s Liberty Homes, Inc.; and First Step Independent Living Program, Inc. petitioned for mandamus relief and damages, and sought a declaration against the California Department of Developmental Services (Department) and its director, Nancy Bargmann (collectively respondents). Petitioners challenged the Department’s denial of their requests for a rate adjustment due to the increase of the minimum wage, which, in turn, impacted the salaries of their exempt program directors, who had to be paid twice the minimum wage. The trial court denied petitioners’ petition and complaint for declaratory relief finding providers’ classification of the program directors as exempt employees was not mandated by law, thus “there is no ministerial duty imposed on the Department to grant a wage increase request in order to accommodate continued entitlement to the exemption.” Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California Disability Services Assn. v. Bargmann" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's Minnesota Human Rights Act and common-law negligence claims against a university and a hospital for race- and sex-based discrimination, holding that the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff's employment discrimination claim under the Act and Plaintiff's common-law negligence claims. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from discrimination she allegedly experienced during a practicum program as a graduate student. The district court dismissed Plaintiff's claims under the Act as time barred and dismissed her common-law negligence claims for failure to establish that Defendants owed her a common-law duty separate from the obligations owed under the Act. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiff's employment discrimination claim under the act against Allina Health System was timely, and the district court erred in determining that Plaintiff's lack of compensation from the practicum barred her claim; (2) Plaintiff's remaining statutory discrimination claims against Defendants were time barred; and (3) Plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to maintain her common-law negligence claims. View "Abel v. Abbott Northwestern Hospital" on Justia Law

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In late 2014 Andy James was working in Deadhorse for Northern Construction & Maintenance, LLC, a company owned by John Ellsworth and members of his family. Ellsworth also owned Alaska Frontier Constructors, Inc. Alaska Frontier had some kind of business relationship with Nanuq, Inc. In late December Northern Construction sent James from his usual work assignment to work in some capacity in connection with an ice road being constructed and maintained for Caelus Energy Alaska, LLC. James was instructed to work at the direction of Scott Pleas. Despite dangerous blizzard conditions, Pleas directed James to accompany another worker, Johann Willrich, to check fuel levels on equipment idling outside; James objected due to the weather, but was threatened with the loss of his job if he did not follow the direction. James complied; he climbed a large grader to fuel it, but a wind gust blew him off, resulting in shoulder and spinal injuries. James filed personal injury lawsuits, which were consolidated, against the companies. The companies sought and obtained summary judgment rulings that they had statutory employer immunity from the injury claims under the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Act’s exclusive liability provision. James appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court found that because numerous issues of material fact made it impossible to determine whether the companies were entitled to judgment as a matter of law that they were immune from liability under the Act, summary judgment was reversed, the judgment against James vacated, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "James v. Alaska Frontier Constructors, Inc." on Justia Law

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The union filed suit challenging the Authority's decision overturning an arbitrator's award in a dispute arising from a termination provision of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The DC Circuit granted the petition for review as to the Authority's disposition of the breach claim and denied the petition as to the Authority's disposition of the unfair labor practice claim. The court explained that, in vacating the arbitrator's breach determination, the Authority's thorough, substantive review failed to conform to the proper standard of review. The court explained that the Authority's sole inquiry under the proper standard of review should have been whether the arbitrator was even arguably construing or applying the CBA. However, the Authority engaged in a much more searching review of the arbitrator's decision than permitted by law. The court also held that the Authority's explanation of the unfair labor practice issue, although terse, was not arbitrary and capricious. In this case, the Authority reasonably applied its precedent to determine that the employer did not repudiate the CBA even if it breached it. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "National Weather Service Employees Organization v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the District of Columbia, seeking compensation for the Executive Director of the Lottery Board's violation of plaintiff's Fifth Amendment rights. In this case, the Executive Director took a series of adverse personnel actions designed to push plaintiff out of his job without due process. The DC Circuit held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for the District and in denying summary judgment for plaintiff on the question of Monell liability. The court held, as a matter of law, that the Executive Director acted as a final policymaker on behalf of the District when he took the series of personnel actions that led to plaintiff's constructive termination without due process. Therefore, the court held that the District is liable for the Executive Director's wrongdoing. The court remanded for the district court to enter summary judgment against the District on the liability issue and to determine the appropriate amount of damages. View "Thompson v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of BNSF in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging a claim of retaliation for engaging in protected activity under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). The court held that, in order to make a prima facie case of unlawful retaliation under the FRSA, an employee must show, by a preponderance of the evidence: (i) he engaged in a protected activity; (ii) the rail carrier knew or suspected, actually or constructively, that he engaged in the protected activity; (iii) he suffered an adverse action; and (iv) the circumstances raise an inference that the protected activity was a contributing factor in the adverse action. Furthermore, the contributing factor that an employee must prove is intentional retaliation prompted by the employee engaging in protected activity. In this case, the court held that the record as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find that plaintiff's injury report prompted BNSF to intentionally retaliate against him. View "Neylon v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff's claims for defamation and retaliation, holding that the district court did not err in instructing the jury and in applying Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-840.01 and directing a verdict in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff's defamation claim. After Plaintiff's employment with Defendant was terminated Plaintiff filed a claim of retaliation under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-1101 to -1126, and defamation. The district court granted a directed verdict for Defendant on the defamation claim, and a jury found Plaintiff failed to prove his retaliation claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not commit prejudicial error in (1) giving a jury instruction for retaliation that required Plaintiff to have opposed or refused to carry out a practice of Defendant that was unlawful; (2) giving a jury instruction on the business judgment rule; and (3) granting Defendant a directed verdict on the defamation claim. View "Haffke v. Signal 88, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this appeal regarding the scope of the law-enforcement exception to the "going and coming rule" in workers' compensation matters the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court reversing the decision of the appeals officer, holding that the appeals officer's decision was arbitrary and capricious in light of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the officer's accident. Plaintiff, a police officer, was struck by another vehicle during his drive home from work. Plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim for the injuries he sustained in the accident. His claim was denied. On appeal, the appeals officer also denied the claim, concluding that Plaintiff's injury did not arise out of and in the course and scope of his employment. The district court granted Plaintiff's petition for judicial review and concluded that Plaintiff's accident indeed arose out of and in the course of his employment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a court must look to the totality of the circumstances on a case-by-case basis in determining whether the law-enforcement exception to the going and coming rule applies; and (2) Plaintiff qualified for the law-enforcement exception under the totality of the circumstances test. View "Cannon Cochran Management Services, Inc. v. Figueroa" on Justia Law

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Federal regulations require commercial truck drivers to undergo annual physicals to be “medically certified as physically qualified." A driver is not physically qualified if he has a clinical diagnosis of a respiratory dysfunction likely to interfere with his ability to drive a commercial motor vehicle safely. Respiratory dysfunction includes sleep apnea. Allman was diagnosed with apnea after a sleep study and was instructed to wear a CPAP machine when sleeping in his truck. Allman complained about the device, which was remotely monitored. Allman was suspended twice for noncompliance. Allman independently completed a second sleep study, which showed that Allman did not have sleep apnea. Allman stopped wearing the CPAP and obtained a new DOT certification card without another examination. Walmart instructed Allman to participate in another sleep study because the doctor who performed Allman’s independent study was not board certified. A third study resulted in a second diagnosis of sleep apnea. Allman refused to wear the CPAP machine. Rather than taking the conflicting sleep studies to a DOT medical examiner, Allman resigned and filed suit, asserting discrimination based on perceived disability and retaliation under Ohio law. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the rejection of both claims. Walmart offered a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its CPAP requirement; Allman failed to rebut that reason as pretextual. Walmart’s CPAP requirement was not an unsafe working condition but was a disability accommodation meant to promote public safety and to ensure compliance with federal law. View "Allman v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law

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Robyn Krile appealed from a district court order granting defendant Julie Lawyer’s motion to dismiss under N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In February 2017, Assistant State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer received an anonymous letter concerning a Bismarck police officer's destruction of evidence. Lawyer averred her decision to review the officer files was to ensure the state’s attorney’s office was fulfilling its disclosure obligations under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972). As part of her investigation, Lawyer reviewed the file of Sergeant Robyn Krile. In Krile’s file, Lawyer discovered two letters of reprimand and several performance evaluations, which Lawyer believed raised Giglio issues. Lawyer further investigated the incidents for which the letters of reprimand were issued, and concluded Krile had made false statements as a Bismarck police officer. Lawyer shared her belief that the letters of reprimand and performance evaluations raised Giglio concerns with Bismarck Police Chief Dan Donlin. Chief Donlin disagreed and advised Lawyer that he did not see the incidents for which the letters of reprimand were issued as amounting to Giglio issues. Despite Chief Donlin’s pleas, Lawyer continued to believe Krile’s conduct amounted to a Giglio issue. Lawyer informed Chief Donlin that the results of her investigation would have to be disclosed to defense in cases in which Krile was involved pursuant to Giglio and, as a result, the Burleigh County State’s Attorney’s Office would no longer use Krile as a witness in its cases. Because the Burleigh County State’s Attorney’s Office was no longer willing to use Krile as a witness in its cases, the Bismarck Police Department terminated Krile’s employment. Krile filed a complaint with the Department of Labor and Human Rights claiming the Bismarck Police Department discriminated against her. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed dismissal of Krile's defamation claims for Lawyer's disclosure of the results of her investigation (the Giglio letter) to Chief Donlin. The Court affirmed dismissal of Krile’s defamation claims for Lawyer’s disclosure of the Giglio letter and affidavits to the Department of Labor and Human Rights because the communications were absolutely privileged. On remand, the district court may decide whether Lawyer’s communications to Chief Donlin and the POST Board are entitled to a qualified privilege. View "Krile v. Lawyer" on Justia Law