Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the superior court's denial of administrative mandamus relief in an action stemming from the Appeals Board's decision finding that the company violated various state regulations. The court held that the superior court properly applied the substantial evidence standard of review. The court also held that, based on an examination of the administrative record, substantial evidence supported the Appeals Board's findings that the company freely and voluntarily consented to the inspection; Cal/OSHA's failure to preserve the original inspection file did not deprive the company of due process; and the violations underlying the four contested citations were properly classified. View "Nolte Sheet Metal v. Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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Young, diagnosed with emphysema in 2002, had worked in coal mines for 19 years, retiring from Island Creek Coal in 1999. During and after work, Young would often cough up coal dust. For 35 years, Young smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day. Young sought benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 902(b). Because Young had worked for at least 15 years as a coal miner and was totally disabled by his lung impairment, he enjoyed a statutory presumption that his disability was due to pneumoconiosis. If Young was entitled to benefits, Island Creek, Young’s last coal-mine employer, would be liable. After reviewing medical reports, the ALJ awarded benefits. The Benefits Review Board affirmed, noting that if there was any error in the ALJ’s recitation of the standard, that error was harmless. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review, first rejecting an Appointments Clause challenge as waived. The ALJ did not err by applying an “in part” standard in determining whether Island Creek rebutted the presumption that Young has legal pneumoconiosis. To rebut the “in part” standard, an employer must show that coal-mine exposure had no more than a de minimis impact on a miner’s lung impairment. The ALJ reasonably weighed the medical opinions and provided thorough explanations for his credibility determinations. View "Island Creek Coal Co. v. Young" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the district court's judgment denying a petition for writ of mandate pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure sections 1085 and 1094.5. Plaintiff alleged that the Department improperly extended his probation; he became a permanent employee 12 months after his hire date; and as a permanent employee, he was entitled to a hearing before discharge. The court held that there was no prohibition against the Department acting unilaterally so long as the other requirements of rule 12.02(B) of the Los Angeles County Civil Service Rules were met; rule 12.02 expressly permits the Department to exclude from the calculation of the probationary period, those times when an employee is absent from duty, and makes no reference as to whether that absence is paid or unpaid; the court interpreted the term "absent from duty" to mean that an employee is missing from his or her obligatory tasks, conduct, service, or functions, arising from his or her position, here, the position of deputy sheriff; and plaintiff failed to articulate what, if any, duties he was required to perform during the period he was on Relieved of Duty status. View "Amezcua v. L.A. County Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an employee of 4T Construction, filed suit against McKenzie under both negligence-based and strict liability law principles after he was seriously injured while replacing a high voltage transmission line for a project. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for McKenzie, holding that the parties' contract clearly and unambiguously stated that 4T was retained as an independent contractor. In this case, the parties' contract stated that 4T was an independent contractor that performs its work without supervision by McKenzie. The court held that McKenzie did not retain control over 4T's and plaintiff's actions. Finally, the North Dakota Supreme Court has declined to hold a utility company strictly liable for injuries and damages from contact with high tension power lines, and McKenzie was not liable under a theory of strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities. View "Meyer v. McKenzie Electric Cooperative, Inc." on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit held that the Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act of 1992 (Coal Act) required Arch Coal, as a person related to a 1988 last signatory operator (LSO), to provide security, and the security previously provided on behalf of Arch Coal's former subsidiaries does not satisfy that requirement. In this case, the letter of credit was no longer in force and the proceeds that the Trustees drew from it did not satisfy the requirement that Arch Coal provide security in one of the three ways allowed by statute. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment to the Trustees of the United Mine Workers of America 1992 Benefit Plan. View "Holland v. Arch Coal, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Employer and dismissing two former employees' complaint seeking paid time off (PTO) compensation under the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act (Wage Act), holding that the employees did not meet the written employment agreement's stated conditions to earn PTO. As an affirmative defense to Employees' claims, Employer argued that Employees' claims were barred by the terms of the agreement. Specifically, Employer argued that because Employees did not have billable hours and did not bill hours to a client no PTO accrued under the agreement. The district court sustained Employer's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Employees did not bill to clients more than forty hours of work per week Employees did not earn PTO under the terms of the employment agreement. View "Drought v. Marsh" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court dismissing Plaintiff's petition alleging that she had sustained a severe and permanent brain injury as a result of an accident with a nail gun while she was at work for Builders Supply Company, Inc., holding that the compensation court did not err in concluding that Plaintiff had been willfully negligent. The workers' compensation court dismissed Plaintiff's petition upon finding that she intentionally shot herself in the head with the nail gun. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the compensation court (1) did not abuse its discretion in excluding the testimony of Plaintiff's expert witness as a discovery sanction; (2) did not abuse its discretion in declining to grant Plaintiff a second continuance; and (3) did not err in finding that Plaintiff acted with willful negligence. View "Eddy v. Builders Supply Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), of plaintiff's EEO complaint challenging his removal from his job as a power-plant mechanic with the Army Corps of Engineers. 5 U.S.C. 7121(d), a provision of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA), provides that unionized federal employees seeking to bring discrimination claims may "raise the matter" through either (1) their union's negotiated procedure, or (2) their agency's EEO office, "but not both." In light of the wording and legislative history of 5 U.S.C. 7121(d), as well as the persuasive consensus among courts within and outside this circuit, the panel adopted the definition of the term "matter" as set forth in Bonner v. Merit Systems Protection Board, 781 F.2d 202 (Fed. Cir. 1986), and held that the term "matter" in section 7121(d) refers to the "underlying action" in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) grievance or the EEO complaint. In this case, plaintiff's EEO complaint raised the same matters as previously covered in plaintiff's union grievance. Furthermore, the panel would not impute a hostile-work-environment claim where no such allegation expressly appeared in the EEO complaint. The panel noted that, although plaintiff's EEO complaint was barred, there was a procedure available to him to raise his hostile-work-environment claim in the grievance process. View "Heimrich v. United States Department of the Army" on Justia Law

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In this case addressing whether the limitation under Cal. Unemp. Ins. Code 1253.3 that public school employees are not eligible to collect unemployment benefits under certain circumstances applies to substitute teachers and other public school employees during the summer months the Supreme Court held that a summer session does not fall within the period of unemployment benefits ineligibility mandated by 1253.3 if the summer session constitutes an "academic term." Under section 1253.3, public school employees are ineligible to collect unemployment benefits during "the period between two successive academic years or terms" if the employees worked during "the first of the academic years or terms" and received "reasonable assurance" of work during "the second of the academic years or terms." Each claimant in this case filed for unemployment benefits for the period between May 27, 2011 and August 15, 2011. The court of appeals concluded that summer sessions are not "academic terms" under section 1253.3, and therefore, the claimants were not eligible for benefits. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a summer session is an "academic term" within the meaning of the statute if the session resembles the institution's other academic terms based on objective criteria such as enrollment, staffing, budget, instructional program or other objective characteristics. View "United Educators of San Francisco, AFT/CFT v. California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an assistant professor at Macalester College, filed suit against the college after she was terminated for violating the college's policies on student-teacher relationships. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims for discriminatory discharge based on disability under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). The court held that plaintiff's claim regarding the departing provost was raised for the first time on appeal and therefore could not be considered by the court; the district court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that plaintiff's motion to amend her complaint to add claims under the Family Medical Leave Act was untimely and futile; and, even if plaintiff made a prima face case of discrimination, the court concluded on de novo review that the college articulated a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating plaintiff based on her sexual relationship with a former student. Finally, the court held that plaintiff's claim for failure to accommodate her disability under section 504 failed as a matter of law. View "Naca v. Macalester College" on Justia Law