Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries
Jimenez v. Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Markets, Inc.
Decedent was hit by a pickup truck in a crosswalk at a major intersection. After the accident, the decedent, who was on a 15-minute work break, walked back to the Whole Foods Market (the store) where he worked. There, store employees gave him an ice pack, a form to fill out relating to his injury, and a ride home. He died several hours later. The decedent is survived by his wife and three children (Plaintiffs), who filed this wrongful death action against several parties, including Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Markets, Inc. (Mrs. Gooch’s), the parent company of the store and the decedent’s employer. Mrs. Gooch’s demurred to the operative first amended complaint because an administrative law judge and the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board had found the decedent’s injury and death to be employment-related and, therefore within the scope of workers’ compensation. The trial court sustained the demurrer. The Second Appellate District affirmed. Plaintiffs first argued that Mrs. Gooch’s, through its employees, acted in a dual capacity following the accident. The court explained that Plaintiffs cite no case holding that a negligent undertaking theory is viable in the circumstances of the case. Plaintiffs also argued that the fraudulent concealment exception to the exclusive remedy rule applies. The court explained that the complaint does not allege that the decedent was unaware of his injury. Moreover, according to the operative complaint, Mrs. Gooch’s was unaware of the decedent’s injury until he advised his supervisors that he had been in an accident. View "Jimenez v. Mrs. Gooch's Natural Food Markets, Inc." on Justia Law
Samantha LaCoe v. City of Sisseton
Plaintiff was hired as a Law Enforcement Officer by the Sisseton, South Dakota, Police Department. Plaintiff and the City signed a Sisseton Police Department Employment Contract (the “Contract”) requiring Plaintiff to reimburse the City for the cost of her training if she left the Department before completing 36 months of employment. In January 2022, Defendant, the City’s Chief of Police, informed Plaintiff that the Police Commission had lost confidence in her, and Defendant asked Plaintiff to resign, which she did. Plaintiff filed this 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 action, asserting, along with other claims, that the City and numerous individual defendants violated her Fourteenth Amendment procedural and substantive due process rights. The district court granted Defendants’ motion. Plaintiff appealed only the dismissal of her due process claims. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court agreed with the district court the Supreme Court of South Dakota would rule that the Contract did not change an at-will employment relationship. The court explained that for Plaintiff’s claim against the City to survive a motion to dismiss, her complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” The court agreed with the district court that the Complaint “failed to allege any unconstitutional policy or custom that enabled” Defendants to deprive Plaintiff of her alleged federal due process rights. Counsel for Plaintiff could only respond that the Complaint plausibly alleged the practice of violating the three-year term in the City’s employee reimbursement contracts. That practice was not alleged in the Complaint and, in any event, is nothing more than a “facially lawful municipal action.” View "Samantha LaCoe v. City of Sisseton" on Justia Law
Smith v. Excel Fabrication, LLC
Mitchell Smith was employed by Amalgamated Sugar Company (“Amalgamated”) in Nampa, Idaho, when he was injured falling from a flight of stairs after the handrail gave out. Amalgamated had contracted with Excel Fabrication, LLC (“Excel”), to construct and install the flight of stairs and the handrail. Smith received worker’s compensation benefits from Amalgamated. Smith then sued Excel as a third-party tortfeasor, alleging that Excel had been negligent in its construction and installation of the staircase. Excel moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was a “statutory co-employee” with Smith and, therefore, it was immune from liability as a result of the exclusive remedy rule. The district court agreed and granted Excel’s motion for summary judgment. The district court then dismissed the case, with prejudice. Smith appealed. Based on the district court’s failure to recognize the differences between an independent contractor from either a contractor or a subcontractor, the Idaho Supreme Court held that the district court erred in granting Excel’s motion for summary judgment: the text of the Worker’s Compensation Law indicated that “independent contractors” were fundamentally different from “contractors and subcontractors” as those terms were used throughout the Idaho Worker’s Compensation Act. Because of this fundamental difference, an independent contractor was not immune from third-party tort liability as a statutory employer. The judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Smith v. Excel Fabrication, LLC" on Justia Law
Ringsred v. City of Duluth
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the determination of the district court that the underlying First Amendment retaliation claim brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983 was time-barred, holding that the continuing violation doctrine did not apply to toll the statute of limitations.Plaintiff brought this action alleging that Defendant, the City of Duluth, retaliated against him in violation of his rights under the First Amendment by making false statements and engaging in other negative conduct toward him. In dismissing the claim, the trial court rejected Plaintiff's reliance on the continuing violation doctrine. The court of appeals reversed and reinstated Plaintiff's section 1983 retaliation claim against the City, concluding that the continuing violation doctrine did not apply because the acts Plaintiff alleged as retaliation were discrete acts that were actionable when committed and therefore did not constitute a continuing violation that tolled the statute of limitations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the continuing violation doctrine did not apply in this case. View "Ringsred v. City of Duluth" on Justia Law
Langston Austin, et al. v. Glynn County, Georgia, et al.
Plaintiffs worked as detention officers for Glynn County under Sheriff Jump’s supervision. Although it is unclear from the record whether the Officers are formally deputy sheriffs, it is undisputed that they are, at minimum, direct employees of Sheriff Jump, in his official capacity, akin to deputies. The Officers brought a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action alleging that the County “illegally calculated their and other detention officers’ overtime wages.” The County moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. In response, the Officers amended their complaint to include Sheriff Jump in his individual capacity. The County and Sheriff Jump then moved to dismiss the amended complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim, arguing that neither defendant was the Officers’ employer under the FLSA. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed both the district court’s denial of the Officers’ motion for leave to amend and its ultimate dismissal of the amended complaint. The court held that the district court correctly dismissed the Officers’ complaint against Sheriff Jump in his individual capacity because he is not an “employer” under the FLSA. Further, the court agreed with the district court that Sheriff Jump would be entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity when making compensation decisions for his employees. Further, the court held that Georgia “retained its Eleventh Amendment immunity” from suits in federal court for breach-of-contract claims because no statute or constitutional provision “expressly consents to suits in federal court. View "Langston Austin, et al. v. Glynn County, Georgia, et al." on Justia Law
Cruz v. City of Merced
Appellant, a former police officer, was terminated from the Merced City Police Department (Department) based on allegations he conducted an illegal search, submitted a false police report, and committed perjury at a court hearing. Appellant appealed to the personnel board (Board), which found the City of Merced (City) failed to show Appellant had submitted a false police report or had conducted an illegal search. However, the Board found that Appellant was not truthful in explaining certain details concerning the search. Consequently, the Board rejected the majority of charges against Appellant, but sustained portions of charges relating to his untruthfulness. The Board recommended that Appellant not be terminated, but instead that he be demoted without backpay. The Merced City Manager reversed the decision and upheld Appellant’s termination. The trial court rejected Appellant’s challenges to the city manager’s decision. The Fifth Appellate District concluded that the trial court erred in upholding several of the charges against Appellant. The court explained that while it upholds several other charges, it remanded for the trial court to determine whether the surviving charges are sufficient to support the consequence of termination. The court upheld the court’s apparent finding that Appellant intentionally opened the bag and that Appellant’s testimony that the bag opened inadvertently as a result of how he grabbed the straps was untruthful. The court wrote that it cannot affirm the judgment because the possibility remains that the trial court could conclude, in its independent judgment, that the surviving charges are insufficient to support Defendant’s termination (i.e., that the termination decision was an abuse of discretion). View "Cruz v. City of Merced" on Justia Law
Li v. Jenkins
Plaintiff sued defendants Jeff Jenkins, Jeff Jenkins Productions, LLC, and Bongo, LLC, for breach of contract and eight other causes of action. Plaintiff’s complaint alleged she conceived the idea for and worked to develop and coproduce a popular television program that came to be known as Bling Empire on Netflix. In the spring of 2018, Plaintiff presented the idea for the program to Defendant Jenkins during a series of discussions, and she gave Jenkins written development material concerning the program. Plaintiff alleged causes of action for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent inducement, and other claims. Defendants responded with an anti-SLAPP motion. The Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s order denying Defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion to strike Plaintiff’s complaint. The court concluded that adhering to the two-part test announced in FilmOn.com Inc. v. DoubleVerify Inc. (2019) 7 Cal.5th 133 (FilmOn), that while the creation of a television show is an exercise of constitutionally protected expression, in this case, there is no “functional relationship” between the activity challenged in the complaint and the issue of public interest, as required by FilmOn. Further, the court wrote that the conduct challenged, while it “implicates” a public issue, does not “contribute to public discussion of that issue” Consequently, Defendants’ activity excluding Plaintiff and failing to compensate her was not undertaken “in furtherance of free speech ‘in connection with’ an issue of public interest.” View "Li v. Jenkins" on Justia Law
Jody Rose v. PSA Airlines, Inc.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act’s Section 502(a)(1)(B) allows a beneficiary to “recover benefits due to him under the terms of his plan.” And ERISA’s Section 502(a)(3) allows a beneficiary to sue for “other appropriate equitable relief.” This case requires us to answer when—and under what conditions—a plaintiff may seek monetary relief under one of those provisions. Plaintiff’s son had a rare heart condition. He died at the age of twenty-seven, awaiting a heart transplant, which Plaintiff says that Defendants—who administered her son’s employer-based health benefits program—wrongfully denied. So she sued on behalf of his estate, seeking monetary relief under both Section 502(a)(1)(B) and 502(a)(3). The district court dismissed both claims. As to Plaintiff’s (a)(1)(B) claim, the court held that money was not one of the “benefits” that her son was owed “under the terms of his plan.” And, as to her (a)(3) claim, the court held that her requested monetary relief was too similar to money damages and was thus not “equitable.” The Fourth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part. The court explained that the district court correctly held that money was not one of the “benefits” that Plaintiff’s son was “due” “under the terms of his plan.” So it was right to dismiss her (a)(1)(B) claim. However, the court explained that it must vacate its complete dismissal of Plaintiff’s (a)(3) claim. While the district court correctly noted that compensatory, “make-whole” monetary relief is unavailable under Section 502(a)(3), it did not consider whether Plaintiff plausibly alleged facts that would support relief “typically” available in equity. View "Jody Rose v. PSA Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law
Jody Rose v. PSA Airlines, Inc.
Plaintiff’s son had a rare heart condition. He died at the age of twenty-seven, awaiting a heart transplant, which Rose says that Defendants—who administered her son’s employer-based health benefits program—wrongfully denied. So she sued on behalf of his estate, seeking monetary relief under both Section 502(a)(1)(B) and Section 502(a)(3). The district court dismissed both claims. As to Plaintiff’s (a)(1)(B) claim, the court held that money was not one of the “benefits” that her son was owed “under the terms of his plan.” And, as to her (a)(3) claim, the court held that her requested monetary relief was too similar to money damages and was thus not “equitable.” The Fourth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part. The court explained that the district court correctly held that money was not one of the “benefits” that Plaintiff’s son was “due” “under the terms of his plan.” So it was right to dismiss her (a)(1)(B) claim. But the court explained that it must vacate its complete dismissal of Plaintiff’s (a)(3) claim. The court explained that while the district court correctly noted that compensatory, “make-whole” monetary relief is unavailable under Section 502(a)(3), it did not consider whether Plaintiff plausibly alleged facts that would support relief “typically” available in equity. The court thus remanded for the district court to decide in the first instance whether Plaintiff can properly allege such a theory based on a Defendant’s unjust enrichment, including whether an unjust gain can be followed to “specifically identified funds that remain in Defendant’s possession” or to “traceable items that the defendant purchased with the funds.” View "Jody Rose v. PSA Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law
Wilson v. Schlumberger Technology
Plaintiff-appellee Mark Wilson claimed his former employer, Schlumberger Technology Corporation, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by classifying him as exempt from overtime pay for hours worked beyond the 40-hour workweek. At trial, the jury agreed with Wilson and awarded him nearly $40,000 in overtime backpay. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court should not have instructed the jury to determine whether Wilson’s salary was exempt under regulations guiding the application of the FLSA. "That was a legal issue for the court to determine." Because the instruction caused the jury to find in Wilson’s favor, the Court vacated the judgment and remanded for a new trial. View "Wilson v. Schlumberger Technology" on Justia Law