Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of a putative class, filed suit against his employers, SSP, alleging violations of various provisions of California’s wage and hour laws. SSP moved to compel arbitration under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between it and the labor union representing plaintiff.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of SSP's motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that the CBA between SSP and the union provides for arbitration of claims arising under the agreement, but it does not waive the right to a judicial forum for claims based on statutes. In this case, the trial court correctly concluded that arbitrability was a question for the court, not the arbitrator, and that plaintiff's claims are not subject to arbitration. View "Wilson-Davis v. SSP America, Inc." on Justia Law

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After the DEA terminated Darek and Lisa Kitlinski's employment based on their refusal to participate in an internal investigation into their own allegations of misconduct by the DEA, the Kitlinskis alleged that the DEA terminated Darek in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), and that the DEA terminated Lisa in retaliation for her support of Darek’s USERRA claims against the DEA. The Kitlinskis also claim that the DEA retaliated against them for their prior protected activity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the DEA, concluding that the Kitlinskis offer no evidence that Darek's military service or his prior USERRA-protected activity was a motivating factor in his termination. Furthermore, even assuming that Armstrong v. Index Journal Co., 647 F.2d 441, 448 (4th Cir. 1981), applies here, the court has little difficulty concluding that the DEA's interest in ensuring its employees' full participation in internal investigations outweighs any interest Lisa had in promoting USERRA's nondiscriminatory purpose. The court also concluded that no reasonable factfinder could conclude that the DEA terminated the Kitlinskis' employment in retaliation for engaging in protected activity. The court explained that the Kitlinskis offer no evidence showing that the DEA terminated their employment for any reason other than their conduct during the OPR investigation. The court rejected the Kitlinskis' remaining claims. View "Kitlinski v. Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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Gamble, an African-American, began working for FCA in 2015 and received a copy of FCA’s policy concerning sexual harassment, which could result in termination. Months later, two female employees complained that Gamble had sexually harassed them. After interviewing witnesses, Pollard, a human resources manager, concluded that Gamble had violated FCA’s policy and issued a warning. He acknowledged the warning and attended remedial training but disputed the harassing nature of his comments. In 2017, Gamble’s supervisor reported that he had witnessed Gamble acting inappropriately toward a female. Pollard initiated another investigation. Another woman complained that Gamble had also acted inappropriately toward her. Gamble was terminated.He filed suit, alleging discriminations based on his race, age (63), and disability (having battled cancer), and citing Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e; 42 U.S.C. 1981; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C, 12112; and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C.A. 621–34.1 The district court granted FCO summary judgment. Gamble had abandoned his ADEA and ADA claims; his section 1981 claim for race discrimination was time-barred by a provision in his employment contract. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. No reasonable jury could infer that Gamble was treated less favorably than a similarly situated employee outside of his protected class. There was no evidence FCA gave a pretextual reason for firing him. View "Gamble v. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US LLC" on Justia Law

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In this appeal arising from a contract action, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellants' post-trial request for a declaratory judgment, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.Appellants, Covidien LP and Covidien Holding Inc. (collectively Covidien), brought this action against Brady Esche, a former employee, who assigned medical device patent rights to a company he subsequently founded, seeking declaratory judgment to the effect that Esch assign his rights, title, and interest in the patent applications to Covidien. Covidien also alleged that Esch breached his obligations under employment and/or separation agreements he signed. The jury found that Esch breached confidential information and awarded Covidien damages. Covidien subsequently moved for a declaratory judgment asking that Esch be required to assign to Covidien the inventions he subsequently made. The district court denied the request. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellants' post-trial declaratory judgment request. View "Covidien LP v. Esch" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Joan Unrein became legally blind and could no longer drive herself to work, a 120 mile round trip. She asked her employer, Colorado Plains Medical Center, to allow her to work a flexible schedule dependent on her ability to secure rides. The Medical Center permitted this arrangement for a while, but it became a problem because Unrein’s physical presence at the hospital was unpredictable. The flexible schedule arrangement ended in 2016, and was never reinstated. After Unrein was terminated, she sued the Medical Center for failure to accommodate her disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. After a bench trial, the district court entered judgment in favor of the Medical Center because it concluded Unrein’s accommodation request was unreasonable since a physical presence at the hospital on a set and predictable schedule was an essential job function of her position. Unrein appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, agreeing that Unrein’s physical presence at the hospital on a set and predictable schedule was essential to her job, and the ADA did not require an employer to accommodate employees’ non-work related barriers created by personal lifestyle choices. View "Unrein v. PHC-Fort Morgan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Kyle Walker persuaded a jury that her public employer had wrongfully discharged her from her at-will position for blowing the whistle on what she reasonably believed to be her employer’s violations of law. The trial court had denied her employer’s motions for a directed verdict, and the court entered a judgment that awarded her damages on that claim. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, notwithstanding the jury verdict in her favor, plaintiff’s action had not served an important public policy. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed, finding the appellate court incorrectly concluded that the threshold issue, whether plaintiff had identified an important public policy that permitted her to assert the tort of wrongful discharge, depended on whether she had reasonably believed that her employer had violated the law; instead, the Court found that threshold issue properly turned on sources of law that support the asserted public policy and whether those sources of law were tied to the acts by plaintiff that led her employer to discharge her. The Supreme Court further concluded that whether plaintiff had a reasonable belief that her employer had violated the law - the disputed element of whistleblowing on appeal - was a question of fact for the factfinder and that the record contained evidence that supported the jury’s finding. View "Walker v. Oregon Travel Information Council" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court made permanent a preliminary writ of prohibition directing the circuit court to enter summary judgment in favor of Brian Henderson and Beutler, Inc., d/b/a George J. Shaw Construction Co. (Shaw), for injuries Joshua McArthur sustained while operating a dump truck on a construction site, holding that both Henderson and Shaw were immune from suit.In their motion for summary judgment, Henderson and Shaw asserted immunity from suit under the workers' compensation exclusivity doctrine. The circuit court overruled the motion, finding that the exception from workers' compensation exclusivity found in Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.040.4 applied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court's findings regarding the application of section 287.040.4 were erroneous. View "State ex rel. Beutler, Inc. v. Honorable Sandra C. Midkiff" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment to AMR in a Title VII action brought by plaintiff, alleging failure to accommodate his religious requirement, discrimination on the basis of religion, and retaliation for filing a discrimination claim. Plaintiff's action stemmed from AMR's refusal to allow him to work emergency transports with his goatee, which he grew as part of his practice of Rastafarianism.In regard to plaintiff's disparate-treatment claims based on religion, the court concluded that plaintiff forfeited any "convincing mosaic" argument in support of his traditional religious disparate-treatment discrimination claim. Furthermore, plaintiff made no other argument to support that version of his disparate-treatment discrimination claim. In regard to plaintiff's religious-discrimination claim based on AMR's alleged failure to provide plaintiff with a reasonable accommodation of his religious practice of wearing a beard, the court concluded that AMR offered plaintiff a reasonable accommodation by providing him with an opportunity to maintain his beard and to work on the non-emergency-transport side of its operations, for which DeKalb County's facial-hair policy did not apply. The panel explained that his terms and conditions of employment would not have been affected by the accommodation AMR offered. In regard to the retaliation claim, the record indicates that the but-for cause of plaintiff's termination was AMR's belief that he had given an untrue answer on his employment application. Therefore, his retaliation claim necessarily fails. View "Bailey v. Metro Ambulance Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff seriously injured her knee while at work, Hospital Housekeeping told her nothing about her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), instead handling the injury solely as a workers' compensation claim. Hospital Housekeeping subsequently discharged plaintiff after she could not perform the essential-functions test before returning to work. Plaintiff filed suit for interference under the FMLA and the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Hospital Housekeeping.The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff was entitled to FMLA rights; plaintiff demonstrated that Hospital Housekeeping denied her a leave benefit under the FMLA where it did not give her any FMLA notice whatsoever and thus failed to satisfy its notice obligations; and a material issue of fact exists over whether an uninterrupted twelve-week FMLA leave period would have made a difference to whether plaintiff could have passed her essential-functions test and returned to work. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's entry of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ramji v. Hospital Housekeeping Systems, LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendant Daniel Clapp plead no contest to concealing the true extent of his physical activities and abilities from his employer, the Department of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), and the State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF). Consistent with a resolution negotiated by the parties, the trial court granted defendant three years’ probation, and as a condition of probation, ordered him to pay restitution. Following a hearing, defendant was ordered to pay $30,095.68 to SCIF for temporary disability benefits and $81,768.01 to CHP for benefits wrongfully obtained. He was also ordered to pay $1,350 and $70,159 to SCIF and CHP respectively for investigative costs. Defendant appealed the restitution award as to investigation costs contending that, as public investigative agencies, neither SCIF nor CHP was entitled to reimbursement for the costs of investigating his claim. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded that as direct victims of defendant’s fraud, both CHP and SCIF were indeed entitled to restitution for investigative costs incurred in an effort to justify discontinuance of payments and recoup money defendant fraudulently obtained. View "California v. Clapp" on Justia Law