Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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In 2020, while wildfires swept through portions of Sonoma County, close to many homes, Sheriff Essick met with the County Board of Supervisors, fire officials, and members of the public in a streamed town hall meeting. Essick provided updates on an evacuation strategy and fielded questions from the public. When asked whether evacuated residents might be permitted to reenter mandatory evacuation zones to feed pets and animals left behind, Sheriff Essick refused to grant such permission, citing safety concerns. Sheriff Essick’s subsequent communications led to a harassment complaint. An independent investigator, Oppenheimer, conducted an inquiry and prepared a written report. A newspaper requested that the county release the complaint, the report, and various related documents) California Public Records Act (CPRA), Gov. Code 6250). The trial court denied Essick's request for a preliminary injunction barring the report's release. The court of appeal affirmed. The court rejected arguments that the Oppenheimer Report should be classified as confidential under CPRA exemptions for “peace officers” “personnel records,” or reports or findings relating to a complaint by a member of the public against a peace officer The county is not estopped from releasing the Oppenheimer Report nor bound to keep the results of the investigation confidential. Nothing in the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights explicitly grants or mentions confidentiality from CPRA requests, Sonoma County is not Essick's “employing agency.” View "Essick v. County of Sonoma" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought the action against her former employer Brookdale Senior Living Communities, Inc. (“Brookdale”), pursuant to California’s Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) Cal. Lab. Code sections 2698-2699.5, allow aggrieved employees to recover civil penalties for Labor Code violations on behalf of themselves, the state, or other employees. Plaintiff and Brookdale agreed to a settlement. Appellant who was a plaintiff in an overlapping PAGA case against Brookdale, filed a motion to intervene in Plaintiff’s action to object to the PAGA settlement.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to intervene, and dismissed her appeal of the district court’s approval of the PAGA settlement between Plaintiff and Brookdale. The court held that Appellant was not a party to Plaintiff’s case and could not appeal the approval of the PAGA settlement.   The court first considered whether Appellant was entitled to intervene in Plaintiff’s case as a matter of right under Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2). The court held that Appellant’s motion for intervention as a matter of right failed at the fourth and final prong of the Wilderness Society v. U.S. Forest Serv., 630 F.3d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir. 2011), test, which requires that an applicant’s interest must be inadequately represented by the parties to the action. Appellant needed to make a compelling showing to demonstrate inadequate representation. The court concluded she failed to make this required showing. As a non-party to this action, Appellant had no right to appeal the district court’s approval of the PAGA settlement. View "CAROLYN CALLAHAN V. BROOKDALE SENIOR LIVING CMTY." on Justia Law

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In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Port Authority, a municipal bus and light-rail operator, required its uniformed employees to wear face masks. Initially, Port Authority was unable to procure masks for all its employees, so they were required to provide their own. Some employees wore masks bearing political or social-protest messages. Port Authority has long prohibited its uniformed employees from wearing buttons “of a political or social protest nature.” Concerned that such masks would disrupt its workplace, Port Authority prohibited them in July 2020. When several employees wore masks expressing support for Black Lives Matter, Port Authority disciplined them. In September 2020, Port Authority imposed additional restrictions, confining employees to a narrow range of masks. The employees sued, alleging that Port Authority had violated their First Amendment rights.The district court entered a preliminary injunction rescinding discipline imposed under the July policy and preventing Port Authority from enforcing its policy against “Black Lives Matter” masks. The Third Circuit affirmed. The government may limit the speech of its employees more than it may limit the speech of the public, but those limits must still comport with the protections of the First Amendment. Port Authority bears the burden of showing that its policy is constitutional. It has not made that showing. View "Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 v. Port Authority of Allegheny County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Reginald Martin named truck driver Rodney Thomas, his employer Greer Logging, LLC, and its insurer National Liability and Fire Insurance Company as defendants in this personal injury case. Plaintiff alleged he and defendant Thomas were involved in a collision: Thomas was operating a 2016 Peterbilt tractor truck owned by Greer Logging and was backing into a driveway. Plaintiff alleged that following the accident he suffered from several injuries including head/facial contusions, multiple broken ribs, a fractured sternum, an open fracture of the tibial plateau, an open comminuted fracture of his left patella, and open wounds of the left leg, knee, and ankle. At issue in this motion for partial summary judgment was whether a plaintiff could pursue both a negligence cause of action against an employee for which the employer was vicariously liable, and a direct claim against the employer for its own negligence in hiring, supervision, training, and retention as well as a negligent entrustment claim, when the employer stipulated that the employee was in the course and scope of employment at the time of the injury. The Louisiana Supreme Court held that a plaintiff could maintain both claims even if the employer has stipulated to the course and scope of employment. The Court therefore reversed the partial summary judgment in favor of the employer which dismissed the claims asserted directly against it, and remanded to the district court. View "Martin v. Thomas et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant, the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 13 (the Union), in which the Court denied the Town of North Providence's petition to vacate an arbitration award and granted the Union's motion to confirm the award, holding that the arbitrator so imperfectly executed his authority that he did not provide a mutual, final, and definite award upon the subject matter, as required under R.I. Gen. Laws 28-9-18(a)(2).This action arose from a dispute between the Union and the Town regarding the effect of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) governing the employment relationship between the Town and the Town's police officers. The arbitrator found in favor of the Union, and the superior court granted the Union's motion to confirm the award. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the arbitrator's award failed to draw its essence from the contract, manifestly disregarded relevant portions of the CBA, and produced completely irrational results. View "Town of North Providence v. Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 13" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court denying arbitration requested by two unions - the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union and the United Steelworkers Local 12203 (collectively, Union) - on behalf of former two employees of the Boston Gas Company (Company) as to their claims for pension benefits, holding that this matter called for arbitration.The Union represented the two members in filing grievances regarding their underpaid pensions. The Union submitted the grievances to the Joint Pension Committee, which was unable to resolve the dispute. The Union subsequently sought arbitration over the grievances, but the Company refused to arbitrate. The First Circuit reversed, holding that it was up to an arbitrator, not a court, to determine the matters at issue in this case. View "United Steelworkers v. National Grid" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment dismissing Plaintiffs' lawsuit asserting race-based discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the suit for failure to state a claim.Plaintiffs represented a putative class of employees employed by Whole Foods and Amazon who were disciplined for wearing face masks with the message "Black Lives Matter." In their lawsuit, Plaintiffs alleged that the manner in which their employers enforced a previously unenforced dress code policy constituted race-based discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court dismissed all claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs did not adequately plead claims for racial discrimination and retaliation under Title VII. View "Frith v. Whole Foods Market, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was transferred from a class where she instructed emotionally disturbed (“ED”) children to a class where Plaintiff worked with children with moderate intellectual disabilities. Plaintiff alleged that one of her students sexually harassed her between fall 2018 through mid-March 2019. This student, S.M., was an eight-year-old boy diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”). Although the teacher in the classroom recorded the incidents in her notes, or “point sheets,” where she detailed each student’s daily behavior, Plaintiff claims the teacher was generally dismissive of her concerns. After exhausting her remedies with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Plaintiff filed suit against the Chesterfield County School Board (“the School Board”) alleging that she was subjected to a sexually hostile work environment in violation of Title VII.   The district court granted the School Board’s motion for summary judgment. At issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim on summary judgment. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, finding that the record does not support a prima facie case for hostile work environment sexual harassment. The court explained that Plaintiff cannot primarily rely upon her own statements to argue that S.M.’s conduct surpassed what could be expected of an eight-year-old child with his disabilities after two special education experts testified that it did not—instead, she is required by law to demonstrate it. Further, even if Plaintiff established that S.M. targeted her because of sex, she would still be unable to meet the third required element—that is, show that S.M.’s conduct rose to the level of severe or pervasive. View "Regina Webster v. Chesterfield County School Board" on Justia Law

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BPI owned property in unincorporated Humboldt County, with eight rental units, a post office, and its own water system. LaPaille served as CEO and CFO of BPI. From 2009-2016, Laurance and Elsie (plaintiffs) performed work for BPI, managing the water system and serving rent notices. BPI terminated their work when it suspected Laurance was not performing his maintenance jobs, was stealing supplies, and was using BPI’s water rights for a private venture. Plaintiffs were not paid for any work they performed for BPI apart from receiving free rent.Plaintiffs filed complaints, seeking regular and overtime wages, liquidated damages, and waiting time penalties. The Labor Commissioner agreed and found LaPaille personally liable. The superior court concluded plaintiffs were BPI employees, entitled to minimum wages a certain number of hours per week, with interest on those amounts. It awarded statutory damages for BPI’s failure to provide a wage statement, waiting time damages, and travel expense reimbursements. The court concluded BPI acted in good faith, with reasonable grounds to believe it was not violating the Labor Code, and declined to award liquidated damages and penalties. It concluded LaPaille was not personally liable.The court of appeal reversed in part. The trial court miscalculated the statute of limitations, erred in declining to impose personal liability on LaPaille, and improperly calculated waiting time penalties. View "Seviour-Iloff v. LaPaille" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was working as a human resources manager for Georgia Pacific when she gave deposition testimony in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against her former employer. A week after finding out that she had testified against her former employer, Georgia Pacific fired her. Plaintiff then sued Georgia Pacific for unlawfully retaliating against her in violation of Title VII.   The district court granted summary judgment to Georgia Pacific because it interpreted Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision as inapplicable. Georgia Pacific defends the summary judgment in its favor on the two grounds the district court gave and also puts forward three grounds that the court did not reach, contending that: Plaintiff's complaint goes beyond the scope of her EEOC charge; she has not established a genuine issue of material fact on causation; she has not established a genuine issue of material fact on pretext.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that the district court erred on both grounds it gave for entering summary judgment against Plaintiff. The court explained that neither the manager exception nor the requirement that an employee’s conduct relates to her current employer has any basis in the statutory text. They are not a part of Title VII’s opposition clause or participation clause. Additionally, Georgia Pacific’s proposed alternative grounds for summary judgment each fail. Plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies, and she has created a genuine issue of material fact on both causation and pretext. View "Marie Patterson v. Georgia Pacific, LLC, et al." on Justia Law