Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries
Citizens of Humanity, LLC v. Ramirez
After an employee brought a wage and hour class action against her employer and prior to certification, the parties settled. The employer paid a sum to the employee and she dismissed the class claims without prejudice, with court approval. Then the employer brought a malicious prosecution action against the employee and her counsel. The employee and her counsel each moved to strike the action under the anti-SLAPP law, which the trial court denied on the basis that the employer established a prima facie showing of prevailing on its malicious prosecution cause of action.The Court of Appeal concluded that, because the prior action resolved by settlement, the employer is unable to establish that the action terminated in its favor as a matter of law. The court explained that the class claims are not severable from the individual claims for the purposes of the favorable termination analysis. Furthermore, the entire action terminated by settlement – a termination which was not favorable to the employer as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for determination of one unadjudicated anti-SLAPP issue, and whether the employee and her counsel are entitled to an award of attorney fees. View "Citizens of Humanity, LLC v. Ramirez" on Justia Law
Weatherly v. Ford Motor Co.
Plaintiff filed suit against Ford under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), claiming that Ford terminated him twice and took other adverse employment action against him based on his asthma and scoliosis. The district court dismissed the FMLA claim as time-barred, and dismissed his ADA and MHRA claims on the ground that he exhausted his administrative remedies.The Eighth Circuit concluded that FMLA claims were sufficient to survive a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion. The court also concluded that plaintiff has cleared the exhaustion hurdle on his MHRA claim but has pulled up short on his three ADA claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Weatherly v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law
Gutwill v. City of Framingham
The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants - the City of Framingham and Chief of the Framingham Police Department - in this Garcetti speech-retaliation and Massachusetts Whistleblower Act action brought by Plaintiff, an FPD detective, holding that the district court did not err.Plaintiff brought this lawsuit challenging allegedly retaliatory employment actions, including a five-day suspension and his being put on paid administrative leave during an investigation. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that Defendants met their burden to show that the adverse employment decisions would have occurred despite Plaintiff's protected speech. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Defendants met their burden to prove an independent non-retaliatory basis for Plaintiff's discipline. View "Gutwill v. City of Framingham" on Justia Law
Davari v. West Virginia University Board of Governors
The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of the West Virginia University Board of Governors (WVU BOG) on Plaintiff's claims alleging that the West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVUIT) breached its agreement to pay him a supplementary salary for serving as director of a research center, holding that summary judgment was improper on Plaintiff's claim brought under the West Virginia Wage Payment Collection Act (WPCA), W. Va. Code 21-5-1 through 18.Plaintiff, a professor at WVUIT, brought this action against WVU BOG, which manages the educational operations of WVUIT, bringing a common law claim for breach of contract, alternative equitable claims of quantum merit and unjust enrichment, and a statutory cause of action under WPCA. WVU BOG, a state agency, moved for summary judgment, invoking the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The circuit court granted summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) sovereign immunity did not bar Plaintiff's claims under the WPCA, and genuine issues of disputed fact existed as to whether WVU BOG violated the WPCA; and (2) summary judgment was properly granted on the remaining claims. View "Davari v. West Virginia University Board of Governors" on Justia Law
Alaska, Department of Health and Social Services v. Thomas et al.
An Alaska State Commission for Human Rights (State) employee with preexisting medical conditions was involved in a work-related motor vehicle accident in January 2017. The employee consulted with Dr. Teresa Bormann two days after the accident; Dr. Bormann referred the employee to chiropractic treatment. After several month of treatment, Dr. Bormann referred the employee to physical therapy at United Physical Therapy (UPT) for chronic neck pain and headache. After an evaluation UPT recommended eight weeks of twice weekly physical therapy. Dr. Bormann endorsed the treatment plan, and the employee’s symptoms improved enough that she reduced her physical therapy visits to once a week beginning in mid-January. She saw UPT three times in February 2018. Payment for these February visits became the main dispute before the Board. The State arranged an employer’s medical evaluation (EME) with a neurologist and an orthopedist. The EME doctors diagnosed the employee with a cervical strain caused by the accident as well as several conditions they considered preexisting or unrelated to the work injury. After the State filed a retroactive controversion of medical treatment, the employee’s healthcare provider filed a workers’ compensation claim seeking payment for services it provided before the controversion was filed. The State disputed its liability for payment, and after several prehearing conferences, the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board set a hearing on the merits of the provider’s claim. The Board ordered the State to pay the provider approximately $510.00 for the services. The State appealed, disputing several procedural aspects of the decision, and the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission affirmed the Board’s decision. Finding no reversible error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s decision. View "Alaska, Department of Health and Social Services v. Thomas et al." on Justia Law
Communications Workers of America v. National Labor Relations Board
T-Mobile's call centers employ customer service representatives (CSRs). Since 2009, the union, CWA, has attempted to organize T-Mobile CSRs but has not filed a representation petition. In 2015, T-Mobile launched T-Voice to “Enhance Customers and Frontline experience by identifying, discussing, and communicating solutions for roadblocks for internal and external customers. Provide a vehicle for Frontline feedback and create a closed-loop communication with T-Mobile Sr. Leadership,” with T-Voice representatives at each call center. T-Mobile emailed all CSRs: You can raise issues by reaching out to your T-Voice representatives. Prospective T-Voice representatives were told that they would be “responsible for gathering pain points from your peers.”CWA alleged that T-Voice was a labor organization under the National Labor Relations Act (Section 2(5)), T-Mobile supported T-Voice (Section 8(a)(2)), and its operation of T-Voice constituted solicitation of grievances during an ongoing organizing campaign and an implied promise to remedy those grievances (Section 8(a)(1)). The Board concluded that T-Voice did not “deal with” T-Mobile as required for it to be a “labor organization” and its operation did not violate Section 8(a)(2); given the duration of CWA’s organizing campaign, there was no inference that T-Voice would tend to erode employee support for union organizing.The D.C. Circuit upheld the Board’s finding that the creation of T-Voice was not aimed at interfering with union organizing but remanded with respect to whether T-Voice constitutes a labor organization. The Board has two lines of precedent: one holding an organization is not engaged in “dealing with” an employer unless the organization makes “group proposals,” the other has no such requirement. The Board needs to identify what standard it has adopted for separating “group proposals” from proposals of employee representatives. View "Communications Workers of America v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
Rubio v. CIA Wheel Group
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment entered against defendants after a bench trial in a wrongful termination action brought by a former employee. The employee alleged, inter alia, that CWG terminated her in violation of public policy because she had cancer.The court concluded that the $500,000 punitive damages award is not constitutionally excessive. In this case, the trial court properly considered harm to the employee beyond her economic damages; there are no comparable civil penalty provisions; defendants' conduct was reprehensible; and the punitive damages award is constitutionally permissible given the reprehensibility of defendants' conduct and the emotional harm to plaintiff. The court also concluded that defendants have not shown that the punitive damages are excessive under California law. The court further concluded that defendants have forfeited their claim that the trial court erred in considering Holdings's financial condition in assessing punitive damages. Finally, defendants have forfeited their claims based on Civil Code section 3294. View "Rubio v. CIA Wheel Group" on Justia Law
City of Laramie v. Hanft
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on his complaint seeking reinstatement of his employment and damages for his wrongful termination and the City of Laramie's failure to reinstate him, holding that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment but erred in denying Plaintiff's motion for costs on the ground that Plaintiff did not include the request in his complaint.The City discharged Plaintiff from his employment as a shift commander in the fire department. The City's Fire Department Civil Service Commission denied its consent to the discharge, and the Supreme Court gave effect to that order. The City did not reinstate Plaintiff, however, and he brought this action seeking reinstatement and damages. The district court ruled that Plaintiff was entitled to reinstatement and awarded him damages of approximately $280,000. The court denied Plaintiff's post-trial motion for attorney fees, costs, and pre-judgment and post-judgment interest. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the district court did not err in entering summary judgment for Plaintiff and in denying attorney fees and prejudgment interest; (2) the court did not err when it failed to specify post-judgment interest; and (3) the court erred in denying Plaintiff's request for costs. View "City of Laramie v. Hanft" on Justia Law
Zoller v. GCA Advisors, LLC
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendants' motion to compel arbitration of plaintiff's statutory employment discrimination and civil rights claims. Plaintiff, a former corporate attorney who became an investment banker with defendants, entered into an agreement that set her compensation and benefits, as well as provided that all disputes arising from her employment would be resolved through binding arbitration. Plaintiff also signed a second document that specified the arbitration procedures.The panel concluded that employment disputes are encompassed by the arbitration provisions, and plaintiff knowingly waived her right to a judicial forum. The panel applied Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20 (1991), where the Supreme Court has held that, while not all statutory claims may be appropriate for arbitration, if a party agreed to arbitration, the party will be held to that agreement unless the party could prove a congressional intent to preclude a waiver of judicial remedies for the statutory rights at issue. In this case, plaintiff carries the burden to show such an intention. The panel extended Gilmer to Title VII claims and held that there must be at least a knowing agreement to arbitrate employment disputes before an employee may be deemed to have waived judicial remedies.The panel assumed, without deciding, that the knowing waiver requirement remains good law and is applicable to these statutes despite the district court's failure to utilize the proper analysis to establish that the standard applies to these statutory claims. Instead, the panel held that this appeal is resolved on the arbitration agreement's clear language encompassing employment disputes and evidence that plaintiff knowingly waived her right to a judicial forum to resolve her statutory claims. The panel remanded to the district court with the direction that all claims be sent to arbitration and the case be dismissed without prejudice. View "Zoller v. GCA Advisors, LLC" on Justia Law
Thomas v. CalPortland Co.
The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for review of the Commission's decision concluding that petitioner failed to prove a prima facie case of discrimination under Section 105(c) of the Mine Safety and Health Act. Petitioner, a dredge operator, claimed that his former employer, CalPortland, discriminated against him for engaging in protected activities related to safety issues.The panel concluded that Section 105(c)'s unambiguous text requires a miner asserting a discrimination claim under Section 105(c) to prove but-for causation. Therefore, the panel rejected the Pasula-Robinette framework and concluded that the Commission applied this wrong causation standard. The panel explained that the Supreme Court has instructed multiple times that the word "because" in a statutory cause of action requires a but-for causation analysis unless the text or context indicates otherwise. Section 105(c) contains no such indication. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Thomas v. CalPortland Co." on Justia Law