Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

by
Dean Dabbasi was terminated by his employer, Motiva Enterprises, in 2019. Dabbasi filed a lawsuit alleging age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA), as well as disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the TCHRA. He claimed that his termination was due to his age and a cardiac incident he experienced during a performance improvement plan (PIP) meeting. Motiva argued that Dabbasi was terminated for poor performance and attitude.The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted summary judgment in favor of Motiva. The court found that Dabbasi's claims related to his transition to a different role and the failure to place him in a promised position were time-barred or not actionable. The court also held that Dabbasi failed to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination because he was not replaced by someone younger in his final position. Additionally, the court concluded that Dabbasi was not disabled at the time of his termination, as he returned to work without restrictions after his medical leave.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reviewed the case. The court found that the district court erred in evaluating Dabbasi's age-discrimination claim in isolation rather than considering the totality of the evidence. The appellate court determined that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether Dabbasi was terminated because of his age. However, the court agreed with the district court that Dabbasi failed to establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination, as he was not disabled at the time of his termination.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Dabbasi's disability-discrimination claim but reversed the summary judgment on his age-discrimination claim, remanding it for further proceedings. View "Dabbasi v. Motiva Enterprises" on Justia Law

by
Jebari Craig, a black employee, worked for Wrought Washer Manufacturing, Inc. from 2010 until his termination in April 2019. Craig, who became the union president in 2018, filed a racial discrimination grievance against Wrought. He alleged that his termination was in retaliation for this grievance. The incident leading to his termination involved a disagreement with a supervisor and subsequent use of his cell phone on the shop floor, which violated company policy. Craig was suspended and later offered a "Last Chance Agreement" to return to work, which he refused to sign, leading to his termination.The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin granted summary judgment to Wrought on Craig's claim that his termination was retaliatory. The court found that Craig had not established a prima facie case of retaliation for his written warning and allowed his claim regarding his suspension to proceed. However, it granted summary judgment on the termination claim, crediting Wrought's explanation that the "Last Chance Agreement" did not require Craig to relinquish his discrimination claims, contrary to Craig's later assertions.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reviewed the case de novo. The court affirmed the district court's judgment, agreeing that Schaefer, Wrought's plant manager, was confused during his deposition about the terms of the "Last Chance Agreement" and the severance agreement. The court found that Craig's declaration, which contradicted his earlier statements, did not create a genuine issue of material fact. The court concluded that no reasonable litigant would have withheld the information Craig later provided, supporting the district court's decision to grant summary judgment to Wrought. View "Craig v. Wrought Washer Manufacturing, Inc." on Justia Law

by
A labor dispute arose between the City of Cleveland and the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (the union representing dispatch supervisors) over overtime scheduling. The dispute was submitted to arbitration, where the arbitrator denied the union's grievance. The union then sought to vacate the arbitration award by filing an application in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, serving the city but not the attorneys who represented the city in the arbitration.The Common Pleas Court initially denied the city's motion to dismiss the union's application, but later reversed its decision after the Eighth District Court of Appeals ruled in a different case that failure to serve the adverse party's counsel deprived the court of jurisdiction. Consequently, the Common Pleas Court dismissed the union's application and confirmed the arbitration award in favor of the city. The Eighth District affirmed this decision, citing two defects: the union's application was in the form of a pleading rather than a motion, and it failed to serve the city's arbitration counsel.The Supreme Court of Ohio reviewed the case and held that under R.C. 2711.13, a party seeking to vacate an arbitration award must serve either the adverse party or its counsel, not necessarily both. However, the court also held that the union's application did not meet the statutory requirements because it was filed as a pleading (a complaint) rather than a motion. The court emphasized that a motion must state with particularity the grounds for the requested order, which the union's filing failed to do. Thus, the Supreme Court of Ohio reversed the Eighth District's decision regarding the service requirement but affirmed the decision that the union's application did not meet the statutory form requirements, leaving the arbitration award in favor of the city intact. View "Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Assn. v. Cleveland" on Justia Law

by
Eight New Hampshire employers sought a writ of mandamus to compel the New Hampshire Department of Labor (DOL) to hold department-level hearings. These employers had their applications for reimbursement from the Special Fund for Second Injuries denied. The employers argued that they were entitled to a hearing under RSA 281-A:43, I(a). The DOL had denied their requests for such hearings, stating that the disputes were more appropriately heard by the Compensation Appeals Board (CAB).The employers initially appealed to the CAB and requested department-level hearings from the DOL. The DOL denied these requests, leading the employers to file a petition for original jurisdiction with the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The proceedings before the CAB were stayed pending the Supreme Court's decision.The New Hampshire Supreme Court reviewed whether the DOL is statutorily required to grant a request for a department-level hearing when an employer’s request for reimbursement from the Fund is denied. The court held that RSA 281-A:43, I(a) grants employers the right to a department-level hearing before an authorized representative of the commissioner when they have been denied reimbursement from the Fund. The court found that the statute's language supports the employers' right to such a hearing and that this interpretation aligns with the statutory scheme's purpose of encouraging employers to hire or retain employees with permanent impairments. Consequently, the court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus, compelling the DOL to hold the requested hearings. View "Petition of City of Manchester" on Justia Law

by
Nancy Vargas, a bus driver for the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District, injured her foot at work in March 2018. She settled her claim against the district in December 2020, with a stipulated permanent disability of 26 percent. Vargas applied for subsequent injury benefits from the Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund (Fund), listing pre-existing disabilities and disclosing that she was receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments. The Fund acknowledged her eligibility but sought to reduce her benefits by the amount of her SSDI payments, claiming these were for her pre-existing disabilities.The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (Board) determined that the Fund was not entitled to this reduction, as the Fund had not proven that Vargas’s SSDI payments were awarded for her pre-existing disabilities. The Board found that the evidence provided, including an award letter from the Social Security Administration, did not specify the basis of the SSDI benefits. The Fund’s petition for reconsideration was denied by the Board, which maintained that the Fund needed to show the SSDI payments were for pre-existing disabilities to claim a reduction.The California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, reviewed the case. The court affirmed the Board’s decision, holding that the Fund bears the burden of proving its entitlement to a reduction in benefits under section 4753 of the Labor Code. The court found that the Fund did not provide sufficient evidence to establish that Vargas’s SSDI payments were for her pre-existing disabilities. The court emphasized that the Fund must meet its burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence and that the stipulated disability rating in Vargas’s settlement with her employer did not automatically entitle the Fund to a reduction in benefits. The Board’s order denying the Fund’s petition for reconsideration was affirmed. View "Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund v. Workers Comp. App. Bd." on Justia Law

by
A former employee sued her employer, Charter Communications, Inc., alleging discrimination, harassment, and retaliation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), as well as wrongful discharge. Charter moved to compel arbitration based on an agreement the employee had signed during the onboarding process. The employee opposed, arguing the arbitration agreement was procedurally and substantively unconscionable.The Los Angeles County Superior Court found the agreement to be a contract of adhesion and substantively unconscionable due to provisions that shortened the time for filing claims, allowed Charter to recover attorney fees contrary to FEHA, and imposed an interim fee award for compelling arbitration. The court refused to enforce the agreement, finding it permeated with unconscionability. The Second Appellate District, Division Four, affirmed, identifying additional unconscionable provisions and disagreeing with another appellate decision regarding interim fee awards.The Supreme Court of California reviewed the case and agreed that certain provisions of the arbitration agreement were substantively unconscionable, including the lack of mutuality in covered and excluded claims, the shortened limitations period for filing claims, and the potential for an unlawful award of attorney fees. The court clarified that the discovery limitations were not unconscionable, as the arbitrator had the authority to order additional discovery if necessary.The Supreme Court held that the agreement's unconscionable provisions could potentially be severed, and the matter was remanded for further consideration of whether the unconscionable provisions could be severed to enforce the remainder of the agreement. The court also concluded that the Court of Appeal’s decision did not violate the Federal Arbitration Act. View "Ramirez v. Charter Communications, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Nycoca Hairston, an employee at the United States Army’s Pine Bluff Arsenal, alleged that her immediate supervisor sexually harassed her and that she was unlawfully terminated in retaliation for her complaints. Hairston sued the Secretary of the Army under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After a jury trial on her retaliation claim, the Army prevailed. Hairston appealed the district court’s denial of her post-trial motions and its decision to limit the testimony of one of her witnesses.The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas initially granted summary judgment in favor of the Army on both Hairston’s hostile work environment and retaliation claims. Hairston appealed, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment on the hostile work environment claim but reversed it on the retaliation claim, remanding it for trial. After the jury ruled in favor of the Army, Hairston filed a Motion for New Trial and a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment, which the district court denied. Hairston then filed an appeal.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reviewed the case. The court determined that it lacked jurisdiction over Hairston’s post-trial motions because she failed to file an amended notice of appeal after the district court ruled on those motions. However, the court did have jurisdiction to address Hairston’s challenge to the district court’s decision to limit the testimony of one of her witnesses. The Eighth Circuit found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the testimony, as it was deemed irrelevant and more prejudicial than probative. Consequently, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Hairston v. Wormuth" on Justia Law

by
Troutbrook Company LLC, which operates a hotel in Brooklyn, New York, was found to have violated the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to bargain in good faith with the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO. After the hotel’s employees voted for union representation in 2018, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certified the Union as their representative. Troutbrook challenged this certification and initially refused to bargain, which the NLRB found unlawful in 2019. The company then engaged in negotiations with the Union but refused to discuss economic subjects such as wages and benefits until all non-economic subjects were resolved.The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that Troutbrook violated Sections 8(a)(5) and 8(a)(1) of the Act by refusing to bargain over economic subjects and restricting the non-economic subjects it would discuss. The NLRB upheld this decision, noting that Troutbrook’s refusal to discuss economic subjects unreasonably fragmented the negotiations and reduced the parties’ bargaining flexibility. The Board also granted the Union’s request for a twelve-month extension of its certification due to Troutbrook’s conduct.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reviewed the case and found substantial evidence supporting the NLRB’s determination. The court noted that Troutbrook consistently refused to bargain over economic subjects throughout the negotiations, which obstructed the parties’ ability to make progress. The court rejected Troutbrook’s arguments that its bargaining strategy was justified by the COVID-19 pandemic and that the Union’s conduct excused its refusal to bargain. The court denied Troutbrook’s petition for review and granted the NLRB’s cross-application for enforcement of its order. View "Troutbrook Company LLC v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

by
In 2019, several college athletes from NCAA Division I schools filed a complaint alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and various state wage laws. They argued that they were entitled to federal minimum wage compensation for the time spent representing their schools in sports. The NCAA and member schools moved to dismiss the complaint, asserting that the athletes, as "amateurs," were not considered employees. The District Court denied the motion to dismiss, finding that the athletes had sufficiently pleaded facts that might allow them to be classified as employees under the FLSA.The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania applied the multifactor test from Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., to determine whether the athletes could be considered employees. The court concluded that the athletes had plausibly pleaded that they might be employees and denied the motion to dismiss. The NCAA and member schools appealed, and the District Court certified an interlocutory appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reviewed the case and affirmed in part the District Court’s decision denying the motion to dismiss. However, the Third Circuit vacated the District Court’s application of the Glatt test, directing it to apply an economic realities analysis grounded in common-law agency principles. The Third Circuit held that college athletes might be employees under the FLSA if they perform services for another party, primarily for that party’s benefit, under that party’s control, and in return for compensation or in-kind benefits. The court also rejected the argument that the tradition of amateurism alone could bar athletes from asserting FLSA claims. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "Johnson v. The National Collegiate Athletic Association" on Justia Law

by
Allied Painting & Decorating, Inc. withdrew from the International Painters and Allied Trades Industry Pension Fund in 2005. Twelve years later, the Fund demanded $427,195 from Allied, claiming it was owed for the withdrawal. The key issue was whether the Fund's delay in sending the demand violated the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 (MPPAA), which requires that such demands be made "as soon as practicable" after withdrawal.The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey reviewed the case after Allied contested the demand, arguing that the delay caused significant prejudice. The Arbitrator initially found that the Fund did not act "as soon as practicable" but concluded that Allied failed to prove severe prejudice, thus rejecting Allied's laches defense. The District Court, however, found that Allied was prejudiced by the delay and vacated the Arbitrator's Award.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reviewed the case and affirmed the District Court's order vacating the Arbitrator's Award. The Third Circuit held that the Fund's failure to send the demand "as soon as practicable" after Allied's withdrawal violated the MPPAA. The court clarified that the "as soon as practicable" requirement is a statutory mandate independent of any laches defense, meaning that the Fund's delay alone was sufficient to invalidate the demand, regardless of whether Allied could prove prejudice. Consequently, the Fund could not recover the claimed withdrawal liability from Allied. View "Allied Painting & Decorating Inc v. International Painters and Allied Trades Industry Pension" on Justia Law