Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

by
In this appeal from the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) Title III court in Puerto Rico the First Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Petitioner's mandamus petition for failure to state a claim, holding that the Title III court correctly dismissed the petition for writ of mandamus.The petition at issue alleged that when the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) announced that it would increase some medical co-pays while decreasing others in order to comply with its certified fiscal plan PREPA violated two provisions of a Puerto Rican statute. Petitioner, which represented the employees of PREPA, sought to compel PREPA to comply with the savings and pre-existing conditions provisions of Act No. 26-2107, P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 3, 9461 et seq. The Title III court denied mandamus relief, concluding that Petitioner did not meet its burden of showing that there were no adequate alternative remedies. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the petition was correctly dismissed because Petitioner did not demonstrate that there was no adequate alternative remedy available for its members to recover from PREPA. View "Union de Trabajadores de la Industria Electrica y Riego v. Ortiz Vazquez" on Justia Law

by
Thompson, an African-American, has arthritis in her knees, back, and neck. Her doctor gave her lifting restrictions at a previous job. She was approved for Social Security Disability payments in 2014 based on a primary disability of morbid obesity and a secondary disability of arthritis. She is no longer morbidly obese. Fresh hired Thompson, age 52, as a production worker in 2016. Thompson did not mention her arthritis diagnosis and did not have restrictions on her ability to work; she performed her job duties without accommodations. Thompson later decided she would like to work part-time “to get some work done on [her] back.” Her supervisors do not recall any conversations about her pain or desire to work part-time. She did not provide medical documentation. Fresh began experiencing a reduction in sales and changed its shift schedule. Thompson indicated that she was unable to work the new schedule but did not provide an explanation. Thompson later asked about part-time hours. As one of five employees who indicated that she could not work proposed shift changes, Thompson was laid off.Thompson sued, alleging disability discrimination, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101–12117, age discrimination, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621–634, and race discrimination, under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2–2000e-5. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Fresh. Thompson has not established a prima facie case of discrimination. View "Thompson v. Fresh Products, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit denied petitions for review of the FMCSA's determination that federal law preempted California’s meal and rest break rules (MRB rules), as applied to drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles who are subject to the FMCSA's own rest break regulations.The panel held that the agency's decision reflects a permissible interpretation of the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 and is not arbitrary or capricious. Applying Chevron deference to the agency's interpretation of the statute and the phrase "on commercial motor vehicle safety," the panel held that even assuming petitioners identified a potential ambiguity in the statute, the agency's reading was a permissible one. In this case, the FMCSA reasonably determined that a State law "on commercial motor vehicle safety" is one that "imposes requirements in an area of regulation that is already addressed by a regulation promulgated under [section] 31136." Furthermore, the FMCSA's 2018 preemption decision also reasonably relied on Congress's stated interest in uniformity of regulation.The panel concluded that the FMCSA permissibly determined that California's MRB rules were State regulations "on commercial motor vehicle safety," so that they were within the agency's preemption authority. The panel also concluded that the FMCSA faithfully interpreted California law in finding that California's rules were "additional to or more stringent than" federal regulations. Finally, the panel concluded that the agency did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in finding that enforcement of the MRB rules "would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce." View "International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration" on Justia Law

by
When an employee working a "one week on, one week off" schedule takes continuous leave, an employer may count both the on and off weeks against the employee's Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave entitlement. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Secretary in an action alleging that Alaska miscalculated the amount of FMLA leave that certain employees of the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) were entitled to take.The panel held that the term "workweek" in 29 U.S.C. 2612(a)(1) has the same meaning it carries under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The panel explained that it is a fixed, pre-established period of seven consecutive days in which the employer is operating. Under that reading of the term, when a rotational employee takes continuous leave, both his on and off weeks count as "workweeks of leave" under section 2612(a)(1). Thus, the panel concluded that Alaska may insist that rotational employees who take 12 workweeks of continuous leave return to work 12 weeks later. The panel also held that it need not defer to the Secretary's contrary interpretation of the statute under Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134 (1944). View "Scalia v. Alaska" on Justia Law

by
The Alaska Department of Corrections investigated its employee David Wilson for potentially criminal misconduct. It ordered him to answer questions from investigators but assured him that his answers and any evidence derived from those answers could not be used against him criminally. Wilson was terminated for refusing to answer and claimed the State violated his constitutional privilege against self­ incrimination by failing to tell his lawyer that his answers to the investigator could not be used against him in a criminal proceeding. After review of his appeal, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded that by terminating Wilson for refusing to answer those questions, the State of Alaska did not violate his privilege against self-incrimination, under either the U.S. Constitution or the Alaska Constitution. The State did notify Wilson that his answers could not be used against him criminally, and Wilson not only confirmed at the time that he understood this notification, but also in the subsequent court proceedings introduced no evidence to the contrary. View "Wilson v. Alaska" on Justia Law

by
When LaSpina began working for the Scranton Public Library, all Library employees were exclusively represented in collective bargaining by Local 668. No employee had to join the Union; an employee could join and pay full membership dues or decline to join and pay a lesser nonmember “fair-share fee.” LaSpina joined the Union. In 2018, the Supreme Court held, in "Janus," that compelling nonmembers to pay fair-share fees violates their First Amendment associational rights. LaSpina resigned from the Union and sued, seeking monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief, including a refund of the portion of the dues she paid the Union equal to the nonmembers’ fair-share fees, and a refund of membership dues deducted from her paycheck after she resigned.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims. LaSpina had no standing to seek a refund of any portion of the dues she made prior to Janus because she cannot tie the payment of those dues to the Union’s unconstitutional deduction of fair-share fees from nonmembers. If LaSpina is due a refund of monies that were deducted from her wages after she resigned, the claim is not a federal one. LaSpina’s claim that the Union may not collect any dues from an employee until that employee knowingly and freely waives their constitutional right to resign from membership and withhold payments is moot as LaSpina no longer is a Union member. View "LaSpina v. SEIU Pennsylvania State Council" on Justia Law

by
In 2006 Conners began work as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at a VA-operated facility near Chicago. Her duties included treating and observing patients, giving immunizations, managing the front desk, teaching classes, and completing paperwork. In 2011 she was hit by a car and suffered severe injuries. Her supervisor initially permitted her to retain her LPN position but radically reduced her responsibilities to only teaching and paperwork. After more than two years in that status, the VA concluded that Conners could not perform the essential duties of an LPN even with reasonable accommodations and unsuccessfully attempted to work with her on an acceptable reassignment. The VA terminated her employment.Conners sued the VA under the Rehabilitation Act for failing to accommodate her disability, retaliating against her, and subjecting her to a hostile work environment based on her disability. The district court rejected the claims on summary judgment. Only the accommodation claim was appealed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Conners had to prove that when she was fired she was a “qualified individual with a disability,” capable of performing the essential functions of an LPN with or without reasonable accommodation. Conners’s abilities to stand and walk were severely limited, making it impossible for her to treat and observe patients, respond to medical emergencies, give immunizations, or manage the front desk View "Conners v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court responded to a question posed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by answering that the Court's decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, 4 Cal.5th 903 (2018), applies retroactively.In Dynamex, the Supreme Court held that the standard commonly known as the "ABC test" applies under California law in determining whether workers should be classified as employees or independent contractors for purposes of obligations imposed by California's wage orders. In concluding that the standard set forth in Dynamex applies retroactively the Supreme Court relied primarily on the fact that Dynamex addressed an issue of first impression and did not change a settled rule upon which the parties had relied. The Court further concluded that the retroactive application of the ABC test to cases pending at the time Dynamex became final was not improper or unfair. View "Vasquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment against Matthew White and for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HP), White's former employer, on White's claims based on Maine employment law, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.The district court held that controlling Maine Law Court decisions meant White's claims for accrued vacation pay and bonus pay were without merit and that White's remaining claims for equitable relief were unavailing. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) under Maine, law, White had no right to be paid for unused vacation time except as provided for in his employment agreement; (2) White's bonus compensation claims were meritless; (3) the district court was within its discretion to permit HP to produce an additional document before summary judgment; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion in commenting about the parties' statements of material facts. View "White v. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs-Appellants worked on banana plantations in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama. They sued the plantations in Delaware in 2012, claiming that while working on the plantations they suffered personal injuries from a pesticide known as 1, 2, Dibromo 3, Chloropropane (“DBCP”). Defendants-Appellees were numerous companies alleged to have caused the Plaintiffs’ exposure to DBCP and their resulting injuries. In 2013 the Superior Court dismissed the Plaintiffs’ complaint under what was sometimes referred to as Delaware’s McWane doctrine (the “Dismissal Order”). On December 31, 2018 Plaintiffs moved to vacate the Dismissal Order under Superior Court Civil Rule 60(b)(6). The Superior Court denied the Plaintiffs’ motion, finding that the motion was untimely and Plaintiffs failed to show extraordinary circumstances for vacating the judgment. Plaintiffs have appealed that order to the Delaware Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error, however, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Chaverri et al. v. Dole Food Company, et al." on Justia Law