Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The lack of initials next to a jury waiver contained in an arbitration agreement, even though the drafter included lines for the initials, is of no legal consequence in this case. After plaintiff filed an employment-related suit against BaronHR, BaronHR moved to compel arbitration. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in denying the motion to compel arbitration because the language of the agreement between the parties establishes their mutual assent to submit employment-related disputes to arbitration and to waive the right to a jury trial. Furthermore, plaintiff does not dispute that he signed the agreement and thus he is deemed to have assented to its terms. The court stated that the fact that plaintiff did not also initial the subject paragraph does not provide a basis for concluding the parties did not mutually assent to the arbitration agreement. View "Martinez v. BaronHR, Inc." on Justia Law

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Two teachers at Roman Catholic elementary schools were employed under agreements that set out the schools’ mission to develop and promote a Catholic School faith community; imposed commitments regarding religious instruction, worship, and personal modeling of the faith; and explained that teachers’ performance would be reviewed on those bases. Each taught religion and worshipped with her students, prayed with her students. Each teacher sued after her employment was terminated. One claimed violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the other claimed she was discharged because she requested a leave of absence to obtain breast cancer treatment. The Ninth Circuit declined to apply the Supreme Court's 2012 Hosanna-Tabor “ministerial exception” to laws governing the employment relationship between a religious institution and certain key employees. The Supreme Court reversed. The First Amendment’s Religion Clauses foreclose the adjudication of employment disputes involving those holding certain important positions with churches and other religious institutions. Several factors may be important in determining whether a particular position falls within the ministerial exception. What matters is what an employee does. Educating young people in their faith, inculcating its teachings, and training them to live their faith lie are the core of a private religious school’s mission. The plaintiff-teachers qualify for the exception; both performed vital religious duties, educating their students in the Catholic faith, and guiding their students to live their lives in accordance with that faith. Their titles did not include the term “minister” but their schools expressly saw them as playing a vital role in carrying out the church’s mission. A religious institution’s explanation of the role of its employees in the life of the religion is important. The Ninth Circuit mistakenly treated the Hosanna-Tabor decision as a checklist; that court invested undue significance in the facts that these teachers did not have clerical titles and that they had less formal religious schooling than the Hosanna-Tabor teacher. The Court rejected a suggestion that an employee can never come within the Hosanna-Tabor exception unless the employee is a “practicing” member of the religion with which the employer is associated. View "Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the district court's decision that the Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance violated the extraterritoriality doctrine, holding that because the primary purpose and effect of the Ordinance is the regulation of sick and safe time within the City of Minneapolis, the Ordinance does not violate the extraterritoriality doctrine. The Ordinance at issue required employers to provide sick and safe time to employees who worked within the city. The district court enjoyed the City from enforcing the Ordinance against employers resident outside the City because the Ordinance violated the extraterritoriality doctrine. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Ordinance's primary purpose and effect was to regulate activity within the geographic boundaries of Minneapolis, and therefore, the Ordinance did not violate the extraterritoriality doctrine. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the primary purpose and effect of the Ordinance is the regulation of sick and safe time within the City, the Ordinance does not violate the extraterritoriality doctrine. View "Minnesota Chamber of Commerce v. City of Minneapolis" on Justia Law

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Kenney, an Aspen plant manager, resigned but returned seven years later as a production manager. Employee turnover sharply increased. Dozens of employees said they quit because of Kenney; two formal complaints were lodged against her. Beethem, the principal shareholder, fired Kenney three months after her return. Kenney filed suit, alleging retaliation for her complaints about Aspen's alleged discriminatory practices. Kenney asked the HR manager, Jewell, why Aspen was not seeking employees from Detroit and Flint. Jewell allegedly responded that Beethem “did not like that demographic.” Kenney says she made the same complaint to vice president Quinn, who confirmed that Beethem has a problem with black people. Jewell and Quinn deny that she complained about discrimination. Aspen’s job recruitment was done on the internet, not limited by geography. Kenney also claimed that as business slowed, certain Aspen employees worked reduced hours, simultaneously receiving unemployment benefits. When work picked up, some employees continued to collect unemployment. Kenney says Beethem “zeroed in on” three black employees, recommending them for prosecution. According to Kenney, white employees engaged in similar conduct without prosecution. The prosecuted employees continued collecting benefits when told to stop; employees who were not prosecuted stopped collecting benefits when warned. Kenney claims to have spoken with Quinn about these events. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Aspen. Kenney did not offer sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of retaliation under Title VII or Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. View "Kenney v. Aspen Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), after his civilian employer did not promptly rehire him after he completed a tour of duty. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiff's discrimination claim under 38 U.S.C. 4311, holding that plaintiff has not pleaded sufficient factual content to support a "reasonable inference" that his military service was a motivating factor in any of the airline's conduct about which he complains; the district court did not err in ruling that American Airlines failed to discharge its statutory duty promptly; and the district court did not err in rejecting plaintiff's contention that American Airlines' conduct was willful. The court affirmed in part and vacated in part, remanding for the district court to recalculate damages, presumptively imposing backpay damages against American Airlines and denying damages for the period from October 22 to January 25, unless the offered position was not an equivalent under the Act. View "Thomas Harwood, III v. American Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

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After Costco terminated plaintiff, who has been deaf since birth, she filed suit in Florida state court for violations of the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA). After Costco removed the case to federal court, the case went to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Costco on one count of wrongful termination, but against the company on plaintiff's failure-to-accommodate claim. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment to Costco for judgment as a matter of law on the failure-to-accommodate claim. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that there was insufficient evidence to support plaintiff's failure-to-accommodate claim. In this case, plaintiff failed to point to a specific instance in which she needed an accommodation and was denied one. The court stated that it cannot hold that an employer fails to reasonably accommodate a deaf employee when it provide her with on-demand access to live sign-language interpreters at two, convenient locations within her place of work; when it goes further to provide on-site person interpreters for larger, group meetings; when it arranges a thorough training session on deaf culture, pursuant to the plaintiff's request; and when the plaintiff's general manager—the supervisor who was the sole subject of her sole complaint—resolves to improve his relationship with the plaintiff by attending multiple, one-on-one training sessions. View "D'Onofrio v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under Title VII against Midwest after it allegedly withdrew his job offer after learning that he was gay. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal based on Williamson v. A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc., 876 F.2d 69, 70 (8th Cir. 1989), and remanded for further proceedings in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Bostock v. Clayton Cty., 590 U.S. ___, Nos. 17-1618, 17-1623, 18-107, slip op. at 4 (June 15, 2020), which held that it "defies" Title VII for "an employer to discriminate against employees for being homosexual or transgender," because to do so, it "must intentionally discriminate against individual men and women in part because of sex." View "Horton v. Midwest Geriatric Management" 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 Nebraska Worker's Compensation Court's awards for injuries suffered by Halina Picard in two separate accidents, holding that the court of appeals correctly found that the doctrine of apportionment did not apply but erred in affirming the award of benefits for Picard's 2015 accident and injury. In 2016, Picard filed claims against P & C Group 1, Inc. relating to industrial injuries she received in 2012 and 2015. The compensation court determined that Picard was entitled to an award for a whole body injury based on both injuries, that apportionment was not appropriate, and that Picard was entitled to attorney fees. The court of appeals affirmed the awards for Picard's 2012 and 2015 injuries and reversed the attorney fees award. The Supreme Court reversed Picard's award of benefits for the 2015 injury, holding that the court of appeals (1) did not err in vacating Picard's attorney fees award; (2) did not err in finding that apportionment was inapplicable and determining that Picard's second injury award should not be apportioned with the first; and (3) erred in disregarding Picard's disability from the 2012 accident when assessing her lost earnings from the 2015 injury. View "Picard v. P & C Group 1, Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was denied tenure as an assistant professor of Legal Studies at the University of Mississippi, he filed suit against several university officials in their individual capacities, alleging that they violated his substantive due process rights when they evaluated his eligibility for tenure in an arbitrary and capricious manner. A jury subsequently awarded plaintiff over $200,000 in damages for lost wages and past and future pain and suffering. The Fifth Circuit reversed and rendered judgment in favor of defendants, holding that the district court erred when it denied defendants' motions for qualified immunity and concluded that plaintiff had a clearly established property interest. In this case, plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the language in his contract that allegedly guaranteed him a "fair process of tenure review" gave rise to a clearly-established property right. View "Wigginton v. Jones" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Tyburski, then age 74, applied for a promotion with his employer, the Chicago Department of Water Management. His application was rejected. Tyburski sued, claiming that he was denied the promotion because of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621–634. He also brought a hostile work environment claim under the ADEA regarding harassment he allegedly experienced at two Department facilities. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the city. Tyburski has not supplied evidence showing that his age, rather than his failing score on the requisite verbal exam, was the reason he missed out on the desired promotion. Assuming a hostile work environment claim is cognizable under the ADEA, Tyburski failed to present sufficient evidence for a factfinder to conclude that the purported harassment he experienced was severe or pervasive. Tyburski also failed to exhaust this claim regarding conduct that allegedly occurred at one facility, as he did not file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reporting that conduct. View "Tyburski v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law