Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The Department of Labor brought a petition seeking review of a final order issued on December 31, 2020 by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The Commission found the phrase “stored in tiers” in the second sentence of 29 C.F.R. Section 1910.176(b) did not apply to pallets of merchandise located in a Walmart Distribution Center in Johnstown, New York.   The Secretary argued that the Commission erred in finding Section 11 1910.176(b) inapplicable to Walmart’s tiered storage system because it unambiguously includes material placed or arranged one above another in tiered storage racks, such as the system used at the Distribution Center. Alternatively, the Secretary also argued that if the Court found the regulation ambiguous, the Court should defer to the Secretary’s reasonable interpretation.   The Second Circuit vacated and remanded finding that the Secretary of Labor’s interpretation was reasonable. The court explained that the Commission’s cramped definition ignores other types of tiers, including seating arrangements at sporting events and music venues with layers of seats that are independently supported and placed one over the other with gaps between them. There is nothing inconsistent in the remaining language of the standard that militates against an interpretation that shelves can be tiers. Here, the pallets stored on the selective racking became unstable and merchandise on the pallets fell. Accordingly, the court concluded that the Secretary’s competing interpretation of the language of the standard is reasonable. View "Martin J. Walsh v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law

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A Delaware superior court affirmed an Industrial Accident Board (the “IAB” or “Board”) decision denying Appellant Joseph Wilson’s (“Wilson”) petition seeking payment for a cervical spine surgery. The parties agreed the treatment Wilson received was reasonable and necessary. Wilson was injured in a work-related accident on August 1, 2002 while working for Appellee Gingerich Concrete and Masonry (“Employer”). Sometime after the accident, Wilson started treatment with Dr. Bikash Bose (“Dr. Bose”), a certified Delaware workers’ compensation healthcare provider. Wilson’s injury necessitated two related cervical surgeries. The first surgery was performed while Dr. Bose was certified under the Delaware workers’ compensation system (the “Delaware Certification”) according to the requirements set forth in the Act. Employer’s carrier paid the bills related to Wilson’s first surgery. But Wilson’s first surgery proved unsuccessful, and Dr. Bose recommended a second surgery. During the time between Wilson’s first surgery and his second surgery, Dr. Bose’s Delaware Certification lapsed, and he did not seek re-certification for nineteen months. The issue presented was whether the second surgery was compensable given that the treating physician’s certification under the Delaware Workers’ Compensation Act (the “Act”) had lapsed by the time of treatment. If the treatment was not compensable, as the IAB and superior court held, then Wilson asked the Delaware Supreme Court to anticipatorily resolve the question of whether he could be liable for the bill even though no one asserted such a claim. The Supreme Court concluded Dr. Bose’s lapse rendered him uncertified, and, thus, the disputed bills were not compensable under 19 Del. C. § 2322D. View "Wilson v. Gingerich Concrete & Masonry" on Justia Law

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After its collective bargaining agreement with Macy’s expired, the parties were unable to agree on a new agreement. Local 39 called a strike and began picketing at Macy’s store. Macy’s filed suit, alleging that Local 39 had engaged in continuing and escalating unlawful misconduct at the store and sought injunctions preventing Local 39 from picketing at the store’s entrances, blocking ingress or egress, disturbing the public, threatening public safety, or damaging property. Macy’s also asked for damages.Local 39 filed an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, motion, arguing that the complaint alleged acts in furtherance of its right to free speech on a public issue and that Macy’s could not establish a probability of prevailing on the merits because the complaint did not satisfy Labor Code section 1138’s heightened standard of proof for claims arising out of labor disputes. The trial court granted Local 39’s motion in part. The court of appeal held that the trial court should have granted its first anti-SLAPP motion in full and ordered the entire complaint stricken. A labor organization cannot be held responsible or liable for the unlawful acts of individual officers, members, or agents, "except upon clear proof of actual participation in, or actual authorization of those acts.” Macy’s did not provide such proof. View "International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 39 v. Macy's, Inc." on Justia Law

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Attorney David Graham represented Sandra Rusch and Brenda Dockter in separate proceedings against the same employer before the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board. Rusch injured her back working for the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) in Klawock. Dockter sustained a knee injury at work for SEARHC in Sitka. After litigation, the parties successfully settled most issues with the assistance of a Board mediator. The parties were unable to resolve the amount of attorney’s fees SEARHC would pay for Graham’s work, so that issue proceeded to hearings, which the Board heard jointly. The Board awarded far less in attorney’s fees than the claimants sought. The Alaska Supreme Court reversed the Commission’s decisions, resolving most but not all issues in favor of the claimants, and remanded the case to the Commission with instructions to remand the case to the Board for further proceedings. The Supreme Court instructed the Board to consider the factors from the Alaska Rules of Professional Conduct to determine reasonable fees. After the Supreme Court awarded attorney’s fees to the claimants for their appeal to the Court, the claimants sought fees for their work in the first appeal to the Commission, asking the Commission to adopt the modified lodestar approach to awarding fees. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court was whether the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Act authorized the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission to award enhanced attorney’s fees to successful claimants for their attorneys’ work in a Commission appeal. The Commission decided the Act did not. But because the Commission’s decision rested on an incorrect interpretation of the Act and because the Commission failed to consider the claimants’ evidence and arguments in favor of enhancement, the Supreme Court reversed the decision and remanded the case to the Commission for further proceedings. View "Rusch v. Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Javier Vasquez and his employer, Matosantos International Corporation (MIC), appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) determination that it could not order respondent, The Hartford Insurance Company, to pay workers’ compensation benefits to Vasquez. The CAB concluded that the Department of Labor (DOL), and therefore the CAB, lacked jurisdiction under the New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Law to interpret the workers’ compensation insurance policy that MIC had purchased from The Hartford. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the CAB did have jurisdiction to consider and resolve the coverage dispute between MIC and The Hartford, it vacated the CAB’s decision and remanded for its consideration, in the first instance, of whether the policy purchased by MIC covered Vasquez when he was injured while working in New Hampshire. View "Appeal of Vasquez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Appellant's motion to compel arbitration, holding that where an arbitration agreement delegates the threshold question of arbitrability to the arbitrator, the district court must refer to the case to arbitration, even if the court concludes that the dispute is not subject to the arbitration agreement.Respondents filed a personal injury lawsuit against Uber after their Uber driver rear-ended another Uber driver. Uber moved to compel arbitration on the grounds that Respondents had agreed to arbitrate their claims. The district court denied the motion, concluding that the arbitration agreement did not plainly provide that the parties agreed to submit this particular dispute to arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that where the arbitration agreement's delegation clause expressly requires the arbitrator to determine threshold issues of arbitrability, the district court erred by denying Uber's motion to compel on the ground that the claims were not subject to the arbitration agreement. View "Uber Technologies, Inc. v. Royz" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was employed by Employer, an operator of a casino resort, from January 7, 2015, until she gave two weeks’ notice on June 28, 2019. Upon the termination of her employment, Plaintiff claimed she was subject to pregnancy and sex discrimination, harassment, and constructive discharge in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act based on the adequacy of her lactation breaks and harassment she experienced from co-workers.The district court granted summary judgment to Employer, holding that Plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case of disparate treatment, harassment, or constructive discharge. The court further noted that, even if Plaintiff could support a prima facie case of disparate treatment related to the provided lactation breaks, her claim would still fail because Employer articulated legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for not giving her breaks at the exact times requested.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding, 1.) Plaintiff's allegations did not support a finding that her co-workers' conduct was objectively severe, 2.) Plaintiff's subjective disparagement of Employer's policies was insufficient to support her constructive discharge claim, and, 3.) Plaintiff's FLSA claims were untimely because they were first raised in response to Employer's motion for summary judgment. View "Bye v. MGM Resorts" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff a female employee of Wakulla County (“the County”), worked for the County’s building department. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in federal district court for, among other claims, the County’s violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the present case, Plaintiff filed a five-count complaint against the defense attorneys for the County. The defense attorneys and their law firms filed several motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The district court dismissed the complaint, explaining that Plaintiff’s alleged facts did not demonstrate that the defense attorneys for the County had engaged in a conspiracy that met the elements of 42 U.S.C. Section 1985(2).   Plaintiff’s complaint suggested that the defense attorneys filed the complaint for the “sole benefit of their client rather than for their own personal benefit.” Alternatively, Plaintiff points to the fact that the County defense attorneys had been aware of Plaintiff’s recordings for many months and only reported her recordings to law enforcement when they learned that Plaintiff “insist[ed] on her right to testify in federal court about the recordings and present them as evidence” in the sexual harassment case.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that per Farese, it is Plaintiff’s burden to allege facts that establish that the County defense attorneys were acting outside the scope of their representation when they told law enforcement about Plaintiff’s recordings. Here, Plaintiff but in no way suggests that the defense attorneys were acting outside the scope of their representation, thus her Section 1985(2) claims were properly dismissed. View "Tracey M. Chance v. Ariel Cook, et al" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court rejecting Plaintiff's appeal of the Montana Human Rights Commission's rejection of his claims grounded in political discrimination, holding that while the district court erred in ruling that Appellant had to pursue his 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim under the exclusive remedy of the Montana Human Rights Act (MHRA), claim preclusion now barred him from relitigating that claim.Plaintiff, the undersheriff of Missoula County, was reassigned to the position of senior deputy when his opponent in an election race won the office of Missoula County Sheriff. Plaintiff brought a human rights complaint alleging, inter alia, retaliation, discrimination, and constructive discharge based on his demotion. The Commission denied the complaint. Thereafter, Plaintiff brought this complaint alleging wrongful discharge, intentional infliction of emotion distress, unlawful political discrimination, and unlawful retaliation. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that the MHRA was Plaintiff's exclusive remedy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court improperly dismissed Plaintiff's section 1983 claim; and (2) because the underlying facts in Plaintiff's amended complaint were the same as his human rights complaint, the claims were precluded by the final judgment of the administrative proceedings. View "Clark v. McDermott" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed claims for discrimination and retaliation against her former employer, defendant and real party in interest Centinela Skilled Nursing & Wellness Centre West, LLC. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion to stay litigation and compel the parties to proceed in arbitration. When Defendant failed to pay its arbitration fees by a statutory deadline, Plaintiff moved the trial court to lift the stay of litigation and allow her to proceed in court. The trial court denied the motion, and Plaintiff filed the instant petition for a writ of mandate directing the trial court to reverse that denial.   The Second Appellate District granted the petition for writ of mandate. The court directed g the trial court to (1) vacate its order denying Plaintiff’s motion under Code of Civil Procedure sections 1281.97 and 1281.99; (2) enter an order lifting the stay of litigation and allowing Plaintiff to bring her claims in court; and (3) conduct further proceedings on Plaintiff’s motion for sanctions under section 1281.99.   The court agreed with Plaintiff that, based on the plain language as well as the legislative history of section 1281.97, the Legislature intended courts to apply the statute’s payment deadline strictly. Thus, under section 1281.97, subdivision (a)(1), Defendant was in material breach of the arbitration agreement even though, as the trial court found, the delay in payment was inadvertent, brief, and did not prejudice Plaintiff. Further, the court rejected Defendant’s argument that the FAA preempts section 1281.97. View "Espinoza v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law