Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the final order of the circuit court determining that Plaintiff's complaint filed against Defendants alleging wrongful discharge in contravention of substantial public policy failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, holding that Plaintiff failed adequately to plead the self-defense exception to the at will employment doctrine. Plaintiff, who was employed by Defendants as an at will employee, was fired after he engaged in a physical altercation with a co-worker in the workplace. Plaintiff later brought a complaint alleging that he was wrongfully discharged because he used "only absolutely necessary force to defend himself." The circuit court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss, holding that where Plaintiff was engaged in an altercation that did not involve a threat of lethal immune danger he was not fired in violation of substantial public policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's complaint failed to contain any facts indicating that he faced lethal imminent danger, and therefore, Plaintiff failed to adequately plead the self-defense exception to the at will employment doctrine set forth in Feliciano v. 7-Eleven, Inc., 559 S.E.2d 713 (W. Va. 2001). View "Newton v. Morgantown Machine & Hydraulics of West Virginia, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court insofar as it denied summary judgment to Beth Thompson on Joseph Whitt's intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment claims, holding that Thompson was immune from liability on those claims. Whitt was terminated from his employment as IT Director for Cabell County. Whitt sued Thompson, the Cabell County Administrator who informed Whitt of his termination, and the Cabell County Commission, which made the decision to terminate. The circuit court denied Thompson's motion for summary judgment on grounds of immunity and both Defendants' motions for summary judgment on the merits of the substantive claims in the complaint. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the court's order insofar as it denied statutory immunity to Thompson on the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment, holding that Thompson was entitled to immunity; and (2) declined to review the court's ruling denying summary judgment on Whitt's whistleblower claims. View "Cabell County Commission v. Whitt" on Justia Law

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After the Authority implemented a reduction in force (RIF), plaintiffs filed suit against the Authority and others under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and New York law, alleging that the termination of union-represented employees violated the employees' First Amendment right to associate. At issue was whether State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition v. Rowland, 718 F.3d 126, 134 (2d Cir. 2013), which held that union activity is protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of association and that heightened scrutiny applies to employment decisions that target an employee "based on union membership," extends to agency fee payors (AFPs), who are not union members, based solely on the fact that AFPs are represented by a union during collective bargaining. The Second Circuit held that the First Amendment protections apply to union members but do not extend to AFPs based on union representation alone. The court held that AFPs did not have a First Amendment right to freedom of association merely because they were represented by a union during collective bargaining. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for the district court to determine whether the layoffs of the thirteen AFPs were justified under rational basis review. View "Donohue v. Milan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of current and former retail sales employees of Sterling Jewelers, filed suit alleging that they were paid less than their male counterparts, on account of their gender, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act. After an arbitrator certified a class of Sterling Jewelers employees that included employees who did not affirmatively opt in to the arbitration proceeding, the district court held that the arbitrator exceeded her authority in purporting to bind those absent class members to class arbitration. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that the arbitrator was within her authority in purporting to bind the absent class members to class proceedings because, by signing the operative arbitration agreement, the absent class members, no less than the parties, bargained for the arbitrator's construction of their agreement with respect to class arbitrability. The court remanded to the district court to consider, in the first instance, the issue of whether the arbitrator exceeded her authority in certifying an opt-out class. View "Jock v. Sterling Jewelers Inc." on Justia Law

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Ford had worked as a Deputy Sheriff for several years when another driver crashed into her patrol vehicle, severely injuring Ford’s dominant right hand. She has not regained use of her hand and suffers sometimes-debilitating pain. The Sheriff’s Office placed Ford on light-duty tasks for a year. Ford physically could not resume her work as a deputy and was purportedly told that she could either accept a civilian position with a pay cut, resign, or be fired. Ford requested Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101 accommodations: a hands-free telephone, voice-activated software, an ergonomic work station, the ability to take breaks when needed for pain, and training for her supervisors. Each request, except the voice-activated software, was granted. Ford accepted a civilian position. Ford alleges that she then suffered three years of disability harassment. The Office transferred two workers, of whom Ford complained. Ford had multiple complaints about other co-workers. The Office switched Ford from a fixed to a rotating schedule. Ford unsuccessfully requested to be returned to a fixed schedule, saying that the rotating schedule exacerbated her complex regional pain syndrome, attaching a physician’s note to that effect. Ford unsuccessfully applied four times to be transferred or promoted before she secured a transfer to the violent-offender registry, where she continues to work. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of most of Ford’s discrimination claims on summary judgment. A district court may properly separate claims based on specific adverse employment actions, retaliation, denial of reasonable accommodation, and hostile work environment. On her demotion claim, Ford failed to present evidence that some vacant job existed closer to her original job, rendering the visitation clerk demotion unreasonable. There were no material disputes of fact as to the promotion decisions. View "Ford v. Marion County Sheriff's Office" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court certifying a class pursuant to Ark. R. Civ. P. 23, holding that the circuit court properly granted the class certification filed by Appellees. Appellees, employees of Appellant, filed their class-action complaint alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment based on Appellant's failure to compensate them for earned but unused vacation time. The circuit court entered an amended order granting class certification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellees met their burden of proof as to the commonality requirement; (2) Appellees met their burden of proof as to the predominance requirement; and (3) a class action was a superior means of resolving the contractual dispute at the heart of this case. View "Industrial Welding Supplies of Hattiesburg, LLC v. Pinson" on Justia Law

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In this case alleging unjust enrichment, breach of contract, and promissory estoppel the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Appellants' motion for class certification, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in concluding that Appellants did not meet the Ark. R. Civ. P. 23 requirements for class certification. Appellants, former employees of Cooper Clinic, P.A., filed a class-action complaint against Cooper Clinic and the entities that acquired Cooper Clinic's assets (collectively, Mercy). Appellants sought to certify a class to consist of individuals who worked for Cooper Clinic and were terminated as part of the merger with Mercy without being paid for their unused vacation time. The circuit court denied the motion for class certification on the basis that all former employees had eventually been paid for their unused vacation time. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the class of individuals who were not paid for their unused vacation time at the time of the termination of their employment with Cooper Clinic still existed and that the circuit court abused its discretion by relying on Cooper Clinic's payments to employees with unused vacation-time balances to defeat Rule 23's requirements. View "Vaughn v. Mercy Clinic Fort Smith Communities" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal held that Allergan was not entitled to summary adjudication of plaintiff's first cause of action for disability discrimination. The court held that plaintiff provided direct evidence of disability discrimination where Allergan terminated him because the temporary corporate benefits staffer mistakenly believed he was totally disabled and unable to work. The court held that Allergan was not entitled to summary adjudication of plaintiff's fourth cause of action for retaliation where plaintiff's emails would permit a reasonable trier of fact to find that he sufficiently communicated to Allergan that he believed the way he was treated (i.e. ignored and not accommodated for his disability) was discriminatory. Furthermore, Allergan failed to articulate a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for plaintiff's termination. The court held that plaintiff's fifth cause of action for failure to prevent discrimination and seventh cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy should survive summary adjudication for the same reasons as his causes of action for discrimination and retaliation. Accordingly, the court issued a peremptory writ of mandate vacating the trial court's order to the extent it granted summary adjudication on these causes of action. View "Glynn v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Ohio Department of Public Safety fired Trooper Johnson after he sexually harassed women while on duty. When the Department learned of the first incident, it let him sign a “Last Chance Agreement,” which said the Department would not fire him if he followed the rules for two years. When the Department learned of another incident, it fired Morris Johnson for violating the Last Chance Agreement. The district court and Sixth Circuit found that the Department did not racially discriminate against Johnson in doing so. Johnson did not show that he was “similarly situated” in all of the relevant respects to an employee of a different race who was treated better. While Johnson and a white trooper both acted inappropriately, their situations were different. The white trooper’s first incident was unverified while the Department verified all of Johnson’s incidents. Johnson propositioned a woman to go out with him; the white trooper did not. Johnson pulled a woman over without probable cause to ask her out; the white trooper did not. Johnson went to a woman’s home; the white trooper did not. The two troopers had different direct supervisors and were subject to different standards because Johnson signed a Last Chance Agreement. View "Johnson v. Ohio Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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In 2010-2016, Valdivia worked for the District and received excellent performance evaluations. In 2016, she began reporting to Sisi. Valdivia began experiencing insomnia, weight loss, uncontrollable crying, racing thoughts, inability to concentrate, and exhaustion. Valdivia went into work late and left work early because she could not control her crying. She told Sisi about her symptoms and asked for a 10‐month position, instead of her 12‐month job. Sisi declined. After a third conversation, Sisi told Valdivia that she needed to decide whether she was staying. Valdivia sought out Sisi several more times and eventually submitted her resignation. Valdivia immediately regretted her decision and went to Sisi’s home, crying and asking to rescind her resignation. Sisi denied that request. Valdivia's physician noted depression. The next day, Valdivia began her new job; she was able to work for only four days before quitting. She was hospitalized and treated for anxiety and severe major depressive disorder. A psychiatrist later testified that it would be “difficult for anybody to work” with her symptoms. She sued under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. 2601−2654, claiming that the District interfered with her rights by failing to provide her with notice or information about her right to take job‐protected leave. A jury awarded her $12,000 in damages. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the District’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. The District has not met the high bar to set aside a jury verdict. The District had notice of Valdivia’s problem through her conduct and direct reports. View "Valdivia v. Township High School District 214" on Justia Law