Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration of plaintiff's age discrimination suit against OneMain. The court held that the district court correctly rejected plaintiff's meeting of the minds argument on the merits based on Mississippi law. In this case, the district court found that the electronic communications transmitting the Arbitration Agreement clearly identified an arbitration agreement as the subject of the communications, and that plaintiff was given the opportunity to reach the Agreement and certified that she had done so. Furthermore, the district court correctly held that plaintiff's procedural unconscionability challenge was a challenge to the the Agreement's enforceability and therefore must be decided by an arbitrator rather than the courts. View "Bowles v. OneMain Financial Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Dr. Sandra Leal appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL). Leal brought suit against USM and the IHL for breach of contract and disability discrimination. Dr. Sandra Leal was a junior faculty member at USM. After spending several years at USM, Leal applied for tenure and promotion in 2012, but, at the recommendation of faculty members, she deferred her application for one year. In September of 2013, she resubmitted her application and materials. On October 4, 2013, her department voted not to recommend her application. Leal was notified of this on October 7, 2013. Each review of her application cited an insufficient number of publications as the primary reason for not recommending Leal’s application. Following these reviews, in March of 2014, Leal wrote to USM’s then-provost. Leal had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis throughout her time at USM, but, for the first time, she claimed it as a disability. She requested an additional year to remedy her insufficient number of publications. Both the provost and USM’s president recommended that Leal’s application be denied. Leal was notified of these determinations on March 24, 2014, and April 30, 2014, respectively. Leal sought review of her application by the IHL, and the IHL considered her request and ultimately rejected her application too. Because Leal has failed to demonstrate any genuine issue of material fact and failed to demonstrate that USM and the IHL were not entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment. View "Leal v. University of So. Miss." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Worldplay on plaintiff's claim of retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The court held that the district court erroneously applied the court's decision in Gowski v. Peake, 682 F.3d 1299, 1312 (11th Cir. 2012), and required plaintiff to show that the alleged retaliation was sufficiently pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment. However, the proper standard in a retaliation case is the one set out by the Supreme Court in Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 57 (2006), where the retaliation is material if it well might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination. In this case, the court held that a jury must decide plaintiff's retaliation claim and thus remanded for a jury trial. View "Monaghan v. Worldpay US, Inc." on Justia Law

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EF appealed from the trial court's judgment awarding vacation wages to three of EF's former exempt employees. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that Labor Code section 227.3 applies to EF's purported "unlimited" paid time off policy based on the particular facts of this case. In this case, EF never told its employees that they had unlimited paid vacation; EF had no written policy or agreement to that effect, nor did its employee handbook cover these plaintiffs; and plaintiffs took less vacation than many of EF's other managers and exempt employees covered by the handbook, whose accrued vacation vested as they worked for EF month after month. View "McPherson v. EF Intercultural Foundation, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting Albertson's LLC's motion for partial summary judgment concluding that the Utah Occupational Safety and Health Act (UOSHA) preempted Plaintiff's wrongful termination claim, holding that UOSHA does not reflect a clear legislative intent to preempt common law remedies. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Albertson's fired him because he reported a workplace injury. Plaintiff asserted three causes of action - wrongful termination in violation of public policy, breach of contract, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The district court concluded that UOSHA preempted Plaintiff's claim for wrongful termination. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that where UOSHA contains no exclusive remedy provision and where Utah Code 34A-6-110(1) instructs that UOSHA does not limit or repeal other legal obligations, it cannot be concluded that UOSHA's structure and purpose demonstrate a legislative intent to preempt common law causes of action. View "Graham v. Albertsons" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Steven Kientz spent many years as a "dual status" technician with the Kansas Army National Guard, where he worked as a mechanic on electronic measurement equipment. Plaintiff’s position required him to simultaneously serve as a member of the National Guard, a second job with separate pay and separate responsibilities. In retirement, Plaintiff receives a monthly pension payment under the Civil Service Retirement System based on his service as a dual status technician. Plaintiff also receives Social Security retirement benefits based on contributions he made to the Social Security system from his separate pay as a National Guard member. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on whether a dual status service technician’s civil service pension was “based wholly on service as a member of a uniformed service” under 42 U.S.C. 415(a)(7)(A). After review, the Court concluded Plaintiff's civil service pension is not “wholly” based on service as a member of a uniformed service, and his pension payments were therefore subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision ("WEP"). Plaintiff’s dual status technician work was at least partially distinct from the performance of his military duties. And Plaintiff received separate compensation and separate pensions for his performance of those distinct roles. The Court concurred with the district court and Social Security Administration that Plaintiff's Social Security retirement benefits were subject to the WEP. View "Kientz v. Commissioner, SSA" on Justia Law

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Class plaintiffs are seven named plaintiffs representing six putative classes under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). Plaintiffs also filed suit on behalf of themselves and 516 individuals who opted in to a conditionally certified collective action (the "collective plaintiffs") under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Class plaintiffs alleged that Chipotle misclassified them as exempt employees in violation of the labor laws in six states, and collective plaintiffs alleged that Chipotle misclassified them as exempt employees in violation of the FLSA. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying class certification on the basis of a lack of predominance and superiority. While reasonable minds could disagree, on the record before the court, it could not say that the district court's factual findings were clearly erroneous or that its conclusion was outside the range of permissible decisions. However, the court vacated the district court's order decertifying the collective action, holding that the district court committed legal error by improperly analogizing the standard for maintaining a collective action under the FLSA to Rule 23 procedure, and relying on that improper analogy in concluding that named plaintiffs and opt-in plaintiffs are not "similarly situated." In this case, the district court committed legal error in employing the "sliding scale" analogy to Rule 23 as it improperly conflated section 216(b) with Rule 23 and that rule's more stringent requirements. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Scott v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court to the extent it enjoined the State from prohibiting unobtrusive picketing about matters of public concern in negotiations for a new labor agreement with the CWA Local 6360, holding that Mo. Rev. Stat. 105.585(2)'s prohibition against "picketing of any kind" is unconstitutional, but severance of the phrase renders the provision constitutional. The circuit court enjoined the State from enforcing or implementing section 105.585(2)'s mandated prohibition against "picketing of any kind" in negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with certain public employees. In so holding, the circuit court declared section 105.585(2) unconstitutional under both the state and federal constitutions as it relates to picketing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 105.585(2) violates Mo. Const. art. I, 8; (2) severance of the portion of the statute prohibiting "picketing of any kind" is applicable and appropriate; and (3) permanent injunction was the appropriate remedy in this case. View "Karney v. Department of Labor & Industrial Relations" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Defendant and dismissing Plaintiff's wrongful termination claim, holding that the record did not support summary judgment in this case. Plaintiff, a former at-will employee working as a police officer, was allegedly terminated for stealing food from the cafeteria. In this action, Plaintiff alleged that the true reason for his termination was adverse testimony he gave in an unemployment compensation appeal hearing on behalf of a former coworker. In granting summary judgment for Defendant, the trial court concluded that because Plaintiff was not subpoenaed to testify, his testimony did not fall within the public policy exception to at-will employment, which would have barred his firing. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) even though Plaintiff was not provided a paper subpoena before testifying, he was constructively compelled to testify once he was at the hearing; and (2) therefore, Plaintiff's testimony was protected under the public policy exception to at-will employment. View "Perkins v. Memorial Hospital of South Bend" on Justia Law

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Torres was a long-time employee at Vitale’s Italian Restaurants located throughout Western Michigan. Although Torres and other Vitale’s employees often worked more than 40 hours per week, they allege that they were not paid overtime rates for those hours. Vitale’s required the workers to keep two separate timecards, one reflecting the first 40 hours of work, and the other, reflecting overtime hours. The employees were paid via check for the first card and via cash for the second. The pay was at a straight time rate on the second card. Torres alleged that employees were deprived of overtime pay and that Vitale’s did not pay taxes on the cash payments. Torres sought damages under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961. The district court dismissed, holding that the remedial scheme of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201, precluded the RICO claim. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. The claims based on lost wages from the alleged “wage theft scheme” cannot proceed. However, the FLSA does not preclude RICO claims when a defendant commits a RICO-predicate offense giving rise to damages distinct from the lost wages available under the FLSA. The court remanded Torres’s claim that Vitale’s is liable under RICO for failure to withhold taxes. View "Torres v. Vitale" on Justia Law