Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries
Bernstein v. Virgin America, Inc.
A class of California-based flight attendants employed by Virgin America filed a putative class action, alleging that Virgin America violated California labor laws. The district court certified a class of similarly-situated plaintiffs and granted summary judgment to plaintiffs on virtually all of their claims.As a preliminary matter, the Ninth Circuit held that the dormant Commerce Clause does not bar applying California law. The panel held that Virgin America's compensation scheme based on block time did not violate California law. The panel explained that the fact that pay was not specifically attached to each hour of work did not mean that Virgin America violated California law. The panel also held that Virgin America was subject to the overtime requirements of Labor Code section 510; California's meal and rest break requirements are not preempted by the Federal Aviation Act or the Airline Deregulation Act; Ward v. United Airlines, Inc., 466 P.3d 309, 321 (Cal. 2020) -- which held that California Labor Code section 226(a) applied to workers who do not perform the majority of their work in any one state, but who are based for work purposes in California -- is applicable to the wage statement claim in this case; because the California Supreme Court held that section 226 applied under these circumstances, sections 201 and 202 apply as well; because applicability of California law has been adjudicated on a class-wide or subclass-wide basis, no individual choice-of-law analysis was necessary; and Virgin America was not subject to heightened penalties for any labor code violation that occurred prior to the district court's partial grant of plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated. The panel also vacated the district court's order granting attorney's fees and costs to plaintiffs, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bernstein v. Virgin America, Inc." on Justia Law
National Hot Rod Ass’n v. National Labor Relations Board
The DC Circuit granted a petition for review of the Board's decision determining that the Association violated section 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by refusing to bargain with the Union. The court explained that the Association's challenge is really to the Board's certification of the Union's victory in the representation election which was decided by one vote. The court concluded that the Board was at fault in preventing at least one of the bargaining unit employees from possibly casting a vote. Therefore, the court denied enforcement of the Board's order. View "National Hot Rod Ass'n v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
Alston v. Town of Brookline, Massachusetts
In this civil rights action alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. 1981, 1983, and 1985, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing with prejudice Plaintiff's claims against Stanley Spiegel and later granting summary judgment in favor of the remaining defendants, holding that the allegations against Spiegel failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.Defendant's second amended complaint named as defendants the Town of Brookline, Massachusetts, the Brookline Board of Selectmen, certain members of the Board, Spiegel (a town meeting member), and others. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants discriminated against him on the basis of race, retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights, and conspired to enforce the Town's policy of opposing racial equality. After the district court disposed of Defendant's claims he appealed, arguing that the district court erred by dismissing his claims against Spiegel. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that there were no facts pleaded in the complaint sufficient to ground a reasonable inference that Spiegel was liable to Defendant for any of the causes of action he brought. View "Alston v. Town of Brookline, Massachusetts" on Justia Law
Werba v. Association of Village Council Presidents
Several months after returning from maternity leave, an association’s employee accepted a new special projects position with reduced hours that allowed her to work from home. Later that year she was terminated; the association explained that there were no more special projects for her to work on and the position was no longer necessary. The employee filed suit, alleging that the association had unlawfully discriminated against her based on pregnancy and parenthood. Considering all the evidence before it, the trial court concluded that there were no genuine issues of material fact relevant to the employee’s discrimination claim, and that the association was entitled to summary judgment. The employee appealed, contending the superior court should not have considered the evidence submitted after the filing of the deficient motion and that, even if all evidence was considered, the association was not entitled to summary judgment. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court acted within its discretion by accepting the authenticating affidavit with the association’s reply, and that it properly considered all the evidence before it in granting summary judgment. View "Werba v. Association of Village Council Presidents" on Justia Law
Bunton v. Alaska Airlines, Inc.
An employee sued her former employer for wrongful termination. The employee died, but her attorney continued to litigate, negotiate, and mediate the case for another year before informing the court or opposing counsel of her death. The superior court concluded the attorney had committed serious ethical violations related to this delay and disqualified him from the case. Post-disqualification, the attorney filed a motion to substitute the personal representative of the employee’s estate as plaintiff. The superior court issued an order dismissing the case on several grounds. The Alaska Supreme Court found the court did not abuse its discretion by disqualifying the attorney and denying the motion for substitution he submitted. The superior court was correct to dismiss the case, as only one party remained, but the Supreme Court concluded granting summary judgment in favor of the former employer and supervisor was error. "The estate is not entitled to appeal the court’s refusal to enforce a draft settlement agreement signed by the employee before her death and does not have standing to appeal the sanctions imposed against the attorney. But because the estate was not allowed to participate as a party, we conclude that awarding affirmative relief against it was error." View "Bunton v. Alaska Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law
Chambers v. District of Columbia
The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the District in an action brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by plaintiff, alleging that OAG's denial of her multiple requests for a lateral transfer to a different unit within OAG constituted unlawful sex discrimination and unlawful retaliation for filing discriminatory charges with the EEOC. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiff failed to establish that she suffered an adverse employment action. In this case, no reasonable jury could conclude that plaintiff suffered materially adverse consequences associated with the denial of her lateral transfer requests for purposes of her discrimination or retaliation claim. View "Chambers v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law
Leggett & Platt, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board
Employer petitioned for review of NLRB orders which concluded, among other things, that employer had committed an unfair labor practice (ULP) by withdrawing recognition from its employees' union based on a petition signed by a majority of the bargaining unit members seeking a withdrawal of recognition. The Board considered the withdrawal of recognition unfair because of a later petition circulated by the union to the opposite effect, which the union had not disclosed to the employer at the time of the withdrawal of recognition.The DC Circuit concluded that the Board's refusal to retroactively apply Johnson Controls, 368 NLRB No. 20, a Board precedent ruling that employers engaging in the same conduct under similar circumstances do not commit unfair labor practices, was arbitrary and capricious. The court explained that the Board has clearly departed from its prior established precedent by not applying the Johnson Controls standard retroactively to this case—Johnson Controls and this case are factually indistinguishable. Accordingly, the court granted the employer's petition and denied the Board's cross-application for enforcement of its orders. Finally, the court concluded that substantial evidence supports the Board's finding that the Human Resources Manager for employer did not direct a newly-hired bargaining unit employee to another unit employee to have the new-hire sign the petition. Accordingly, the court denied the petition as to this issue. View "Leggett & Platt, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
Wittkopf v. Stewart’s Firefighter Food Catering, Inc.
This case arose from an Idaho Industrial Commission determination denying an application for unemployment benefits. William Wittkopf appealed pro se the Commission’s determination that he was ineligible for unemployment benefits because he voluntarily quit his job without good cause and he willfully made a false statement or willfully failed to report a material fact in his unemployment application. On appeal, Wittkopf challenged the factual findings made by the Commission and argued it violated his right to due process by taking into consideration the fact that he voluntarily terminated his employment approximately two and a half years prior to applying for unemployment benefits. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded: (1) Wittkopf failed to provide a cogent argument on appeal regarding whether his right to due process was violated; (2) the Commission’s determination that Wittkopf voluntarily terminated his employment at Stewart’s Firefighter without good cause and without exhausting all reasonable alternatives was supported by substantial and competent evidence; and (3) the Commission’s determination that Wittkopf willfully made a false statement or willfully failed to report a material fact in order to obtain benefits was supported by substantial and competent evidence. Accordingly, the Commission’s decision and order denying Wittkopf’s application for unemployment benefits was affirmed. View "Wittkopf v. Stewart's Firefighter Food Catering, Inc." on Justia Law
Ryser v. Shelter Mutual Insurance
The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether an injured passenger riding in a vehicle negligently driven by one co-worker and owned by another co-worker, when all three were acting within the course and scope of their employment, could recover UM/UIM benefits under the vehicle owner’s insurance policy. Although the parties disputed the meaning of the phrases “legally entitled to recover” and “legally entitled to collect” under section 10-4-609, C.R.S. (2020) the Court did not resolve that dispute here because, assuming without deciding that plaintiff Kent Ryser’s interpretation was correct, the Court concluded that he still could not prevail. Specifically, the Court found an injured co-worker was barred by operation of the Workers’ Compensation Act's (“WCA”) exclusivity and co-employee immunity principles from recovering UM/UIM benefits from a co-employee vehicle owner’s insurer for damages stemming from a work-related accident in which another co-employee negligently drove the owner’s vehicle and the injured party was an authorized passenger. Though the Court's reasoning differed from the appellate court's judgment, it affirmed the outcome: summary judgment was properly entered in favor of the insurance company. View "Ryser v. Shelter Mutual Insurance" on Justia Law
Oden v. Minot Builders Supply, et al.
Chris Oden appealed a district court order vacating a transcribed Missouri foreign judgment. Oden argued: (1) vacating the transcribed Missouri judgment violated the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution; (2) the court erred in relying on a decision issued between the parties in prior litigation because that decision was barred by administrative res judicata as the result of Oden’s Missouri workers compensation claim; and (3) the court erred by affording a prior judgment res judicata effect while that case was pending on appeal. In May 2010, Oden was injured in Missouri while employed by Minot Builders Supply. North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance (“WSI”) accepted the claim and awarded benefits for Oden’s injuries. In May 2013, Oden filed a claim for compensation in Missouri for the same work-related injury. In October 2013, WSI suspended payment of further benefits on Oden’s claim after Oden claimed benefits Missouri. Subsequent to Oden settling his Missouri workers compensation claim, WSI sent Oden notice that the prior North Dakota workers compensation award was being reversed because Oden’s receipt of benefits in Missouri. WSI provided notice to Oden his workers compensation benefits were being denied, informed Oden he would need to reimburse WSI, and informed Oden he had thirty days to request reconsideration. Oden did not request reconsideration of WSI’s decision. In July 2018, WSI commenced an action in North Dakota against Oden seeking reimbursement for previous payments made to Oden. The district court in the Burleigh County case granted summary judgment in favor of WSI and awarded WSI the full amount paid to Oden, plus accruing interest, costs, and disbursements. Oden argued in the North Dakota case that WSI was bound by the Missouri workers compensation settlement because the settlement agreement included a signature of an attorney purportedly acting on behalf of WSI. The court determined WSI could not be bound by the Missouri agreement because WSI was not a party to the settlement, and there was no evidence to support a finding that the attorney who purportedly signed on behalf of WSI had any authority to represent WSI or act as WSI’s agent. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Oden v. Minot Builders Supply, et al." on Justia Law