Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court denying arbitration requested by two unions - the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union and the United Steelworkers Local 12203 (collectively, Union) - on behalf of former two employees of the Boston Gas Company (Company) as to their claims for pension benefits, holding that this matter called for arbitration.The Union represented the two members in filing grievances regarding their underpaid pensions. The Union submitted the grievances to the Joint Pension Committee, which was unable to resolve the dispute. The Union subsequently sought arbitration over the grievances, but the Company refused to arbitrate. The First Circuit reversed, holding that it was up to an arbitrator, not a court, to determine the matters at issue in this case. View "United Steelworkers v. National Grid" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment dismissing Plaintiffs' lawsuit asserting race-based discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the suit for failure to state a claim.Plaintiffs represented a putative class of employees employed by Whole Foods and Amazon who were disciplined for wearing face masks with the message "Black Lives Matter." In their lawsuit, Plaintiffs alleged that the manner in which their employers enforced a previously unenforced dress code policy constituted race-based discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court dismissed all claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs did not adequately plead claims for racial discrimination and retaliation under Title VII. View "Frith v. Whole Foods Market, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was transferred from a class where she instructed emotionally disturbed (“ED”) children to a class where Plaintiff worked with children with moderate intellectual disabilities. Plaintiff alleged that one of her students sexually harassed her between fall 2018 through mid-March 2019. This student, S.M., was an eight-year-old boy diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”). Although the teacher in the classroom recorded the incidents in her notes, or “point sheets,” where she detailed each student’s daily behavior, Plaintiff claims the teacher was generally dismissive of her concerns. After exhausting her remedies with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Plaintiff filed suit against the Chesterfield County School Board (“the School Board”) alleging that she was subjected to a sexually hostile work environment in violation of Title VII.   The district court granted the School Board’s motion for summary judgment. At issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim on summary judgment. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, finding that the record does not support a prima facie case for hostile work environment sexual harassment. The court explained that Plaintiff cannot primarily rely upon her own statements to argue that S.M.’s conduct surpassed what could be expected of an eight-year-old child with his disabilities after two special education experts testified that it did not—instead, she is required by law to demonstrate it. Further, even if Plaintiff established that S.M. targeted her because of sex, she would still be unable to meet the third required element—that is, show that S.M.’s conduct rose to the level of severe or pervasive. View "Regina Webster v. Chesterfield County School Board" on Justia Law

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BPI owned property in unincorporated Humboldt County, with eight rental units, a post office, and its own water system. LaPaille served as CEO and CFO of BPI. From 2009-2016, Laurance and Elsie (plaintiffs) performed work for BPI, managing the water system and serving rent notices. BPI terminated their work when it suspected Laurance was not performing his maintenance jobs, was stealing supplies, and was using BPI’s water rights for a private venture. Plaintiffs were not paid for any work they performed for BPI apart from receiving free rent.Plaintiffs filed complaints, seeking regular and overtime wages, liquidated damages, and waiting time penalties. The Labor Commissioner agreed and found LaPaille personally liable. The superior court concluded plaintiffs were BPI employees, entitled to minimum wages a certain number of hours per week, with interest on those amounts. It awarded statutory damages for BPI’s failure to provide a wage statement, waiting time damages, and travel expense reimbursements. The court concluded BPI acted in good faith, with reasonable grounds to believe it was not violating the Labor Code, and declined to award liquidated damages and penalties. It concluded LaPaille was not personally liable.The court of appeal reversed in part. The trial court miscalculated the statute of limitations, erred in declining to impose personal liability on LaPaille, and improperly calculated waiting time penalties. View "Seviour-Iloff v. LaPaille" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was working as a human resources manager for Georgia Pacific when she gave deposition testimony in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against her former employer. A week after finding out that she had testified against her former employer, Georgia Pacific fired her. Plaintiff then sued Georgia Pacific for unlawfully retaliating against her in violation of Title VII.   The district court granted summary judgment to Georgia Pacific because it interpreted Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision as inapplicable. Georgia Pacific defends the summary judgment in its favor on the two grounds the district court gave and also puts forward three grounds that the court did not reach, contending that: Plaintiff's complaint goes beyond the scope of her EEOC charge; she has not established a genuine issue of material fact on causation; she has not established a genuine issue of material fact on pretext.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that the district court erred on both grounds it gave for entering summary judgment against Plaintiff. The court explained that neither the manager exception nor the requirement that an employee’s conduct relates to her current employer has any basis in the statutory text. They are not a part of Title VII’s opposition clause or participation clause. Additionally, Georgia Pacific’s proposed alternative grounds for summary judgment each fail. Plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies, and she has created a genuine issue of material fact on both causation and pretext. View "Marie Patterson v. Georgia Pacific, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the summary judgment entered by the superior court in favor of the University of Maine System on Plaintiff's claim of negligence based on an injury he sustained from an industrial kitchen mixer, holding that the University was immune from suit.The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the University, concluding that the University was immune under the Maine Tort Claims Act (MTCA), 14 Me. Rev. Stat. 8104-A(1)(G), because the alleged negligent act did not fall within the MTCA's exception for negligence set forth in Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 8104-A(1)(G). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the mixer did not fall within the "[o]ther machinery or equipment" exception to immunity under the MTCA. View "Badler v. University of Maine System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court concluding that the Home Improvement Act (Act), Conn. Gen. Stat. 20-418 et seq., did not apply to work performed by Defendant on Plaintiff's property, holding that Plaintiff's claim under the Act was unavailing.The trial court found in favor of Plaintiff on his claims alleging breach of contract, violations of the Act, and violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a et seq. The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiff. The appellate court affirmed with respect to the breach of contract count but reversed with respect to the remaining claims, ruling that the work performed by Defendant fell within the new home exception of the Act, and therefore, Plaintiff failed to state a claim under both the Act and CUTPA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the work performed by Defendant fell within the new home exception. View "Winakor v. Savalle" on Justia Law

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The University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP) is a defined benefit plan. In 1999, the University’s President addressed the recruitment and retention impacts of federal tax law: for employees hired after a certain date, a “maximum compensation amount that can be used for retirement calculations”—then, $160,000—such that employees earning more than the maximum “cannot receive benefits based on the full compensation that UCRP would otherwise use for benefit calculations.” The President recommended that the University take advantage of recent amendments to the Internal Revenue Code making it possible for public institutions to “mitigate” the limitations. The Regents adopted the 1999 Resolution, establishing restoration plans. The President’s Office drafted a Plan amendment, Appendix E, to implement the Resolution. Appendix E provided for Regents’ unlimited right to amend or terminate Appendix E,. In 2007, following a moratorium, the IRS approved Appendix E. The University did not implement Appendix E.Retired employees sued on behalf of themselves and similarly situated Plan members who retired between January 1, 2000, and March 29, 2012, alleging impairment of contract, promissory estoppel, equitable estoppel, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and breach of the covenant of good faith. The court of appeal affirmed the rejection of those claims. The 1999 Resolution expressly contemplated further review and action before any employee benefit was provided, and did not clearly evince an intent to create contractual rights. View "Broome v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was an engineer for the City of Pharr, Texas. When his supervisors asked him to sign a document he did not believe was true, Plaintiff refused. Ultimately, he was terminated and filed this case against the city and two of Plaintiff's supervisors.Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming he was entitled to qualified immunity. The district court held a hearing and denied Defendant's motion. Two days later, the court entered a minute order; however, no written order was attached. Exactly 412 days later, Defendant appealed the denial of his motion for summary judgment, claiming that the court's oral ruling was not appealable and that he is technically appealing the court's refusal to rile on his motion.The Fifth Circuit rejected Defendant's reasoning. A bench ruling can be effective without a written order and triggers appeal deadlines if it is final. Here, the court's order was final. While the district court's ruling did not comply with Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 58, an alternate interpretation would give Defendant infinite time to appeal. View "Ueckert v. Guerra" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs worked as property damage investigators for OSP Prevention Group. After their employment with OSP ended, Plaintiffs brought Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) claims against the company and its owner (collectively, “OSP”) for unpaid overtime wages. The district court granted summary judgment in OSP’s favor after concluding that Plaintiff fit within an FLSA exemption covering “administrative” employees. They both contend that they weren’t administrative employees but instead were “production” employees who performed the core service that OSP sold to its clients: investigating damage to property.   The Eleventh Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court finding that OSP has failed to show that the FLSA’s administrative exemption applies to Plaintiffs. The court explained that Plaintiffs engaged in OSP’s core function of damage investigations. Given the nature of their employer’s business, their investigative factfinding duties amounted to production work. Those duties did not involve “work directly related to [OSP’s] management or general business operations.” 29 C.F.R. Section 541.200(a)(2). The court wrote it need not address whether their work met the additional administrative exemption requirement of “includ[ing] the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.” Section  541.200(a)(3). Both requirements must be met for the exemption to apply. View "Philip Fowler, et al v. OSP Prevention Group, Inc." on Justia Law