Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff filed claims for discrimination and retaliation against her former employer, defendant and real party in interest Centinela Skilled Nursing & Wellness Centre West, LLC. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion to stay litigation and compel the parties to proceed in arbitration. When Defendant failed to pay its arbitration fees by a statutory deadline, Plaintiff moved the trial court to lift the stay of litigation and allow her to proceed in court. The trial court denied the motion, and Plaintiff filed the instant petition for a writ of mandate directing the trial court to reverse that denial.   The Second Appellate District granted the petition for writ of mandate. The court directed g the trial court to (1) vacate its order denying Plaintiff’s motion under Code of Civil Procedure sections 1281.97 and 1281.99; (2) enter an order lifting the stay of litigation and allowing Plaintiff to bring her claims in court; and (3) conduct further proceedings on Plaintiff’s motion for sanctions under section 1281.99.   The court agreed with Plaintiff that, based on the plain language as well as the legislative history of section 1281.97, the Legislature intended courts to apply the statute’s payment deadline strictly. Thus, under section 1281.97, subdivision (a)(1), Defendant was in material breach of the arbitration agreement even though, as the trial court found, the delay in payment was inadvertent, brief, and did not prejudice Plaintiff. Further, the court rejected Defendant’s argument that the FAA preempts section 1281.97. View "Espinoza v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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In 2010, Scaife, an African-American woman, began working as a specialist classifying VA jobs. Scaife received “Outstanding” or “Excellent” ratings on her annual performance reviews. After a few years, Earp, a white male, became Scaife’s immediate supervisor. Scaife claims he mistreated women employees. In 2016, Earp told Scaife and another black female that he wanted them to classify positions higher if told to do so. When Scaife inquired whether doing so would violate regulations, Earp became “aggressive.” Scaife inquired about the process for addressing a hostile work environment and sent text messages to Earp’s supervisor. After an incident during which another white male referred to Scaife as a "N-----," Scaife filed EEO charges. Scaife received a formal counseling email. Scaife later accepted an offer for the same classifier position at a California VA center, which allowed her to work remotely.Scaife sued under Title VII, claiming a race and gender-based hostile work environment, retaliation, and constructive discharge. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the VA. Given the totality of circumstances, Scaife failed to show that the one-time use of the N-word outside of her presence established a hostile work environment based on race. Scaife failed to show harassment based on gender, that the alleged conduct was severe or pervasive, or that she endured a hostile work environment based on both race and gender. Absent evidence that she suffered an adverse action, Scaife cannot establish retaliation. View "Scaife v. United States Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the appellate court reversing the judgment of the trial court finding that Defendant had discriminated against Plaintiff during the course of her employment by failing to provide reasonable accommodations for her disability, in violation of the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 46a-60(b)(1), and had unlawfully retaliated against her, holding that the trial court did not err.In reversing the judgment of the trial court, the appellate court concluded that the trial court improperly admitted into evidence written settlement communications, in violation of Conn. Code Evid. 4-8 and that the error was prejudicial. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the written communications into evidence; and (2) the other evidentiary errors identified by the appellate court were harmless. View "Kovachich v. Dep't of Mental Health & Addiction Services" on Justia Law

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Cecil Bristow suffered from a chronic lung disease, COPD, and attributed it to coal-mine dust from years of working in coal mines. An administrative law judge and the Benefits Review Board agreed with Bristow and awarded him benefits. Bristow's most recent employer, Energy West Mining Company, petitioned the Tenth Circuit for judicial review of the Board's decision, and the Tenth Circuit denied the petition, finding the Board did not err in upholding the administrative law judge's award of benefits. View "Energy West v. Bristow" on Justia Law

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Rodriguez sued Parivar under California’s labor laws, alleging that Parivar misclassified her as an exempt employee, while she “spent the majority of her time performing the exact same duties as non-exempt employees” at Parivar's restaurant. As an affirmative defense, Parivar argued that under wage order 5-2001’s “executive exemption” Rodriguez was exempt from overtime, meal period, and rest period requirements. A jury rejected Parivar’s executive exemption defense; finding, by a 9-3 vote, Parivar failed to prove that, as the special verdict question put it, “Rodriguez performed exempt duties more than half of the time.” The jury found that Rodriguez was owed $26,786.54 in overtime pay. The court awarded $11,570.21 in prejudgment interest and $932,842.63 in attorney fees and litigation costs.The court of appeal reversed. The narrow framing of the special verdict question effectively barred Parivar from proving its executive exemption defense, allowing the jury to find liability without addressing Parivar’s realistic expectations for how Rodriguez should have allocated her time. Given the 9-3 vote that Parivar did not prove Rodriguez spent more than half of her time performing exempt duties and given the heavily-contested question of whether she spent that time performing duties that meet the test of the executive exemption, it is reasonably probable that the jury would have reached a result more favorable to Parivar absent the special verdict error. View "Rodriguez v. Parivar, Inc." on Justia Law

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Johnson was a Dyess Air Force Base firefighter from 2017-2019. In 2018, Johnson’s mother came to live with Johnson's family. She took around 13 pills to treat health issues; Johnson was taking “seven or eight” pills. The Air Force subsequently selected Johnson for a mandatory random drug test. He tested positive for oxycodone and oxymorphone. Johnson told his supervisor, Ranard, that he had accidentally taken his mother’s pills instead of his own prescribed medication. Ranard proposed that Johnson be fired. The deciding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Fletcher, fired Johnson, explaining that he could not “risk the possibility of Johnson] coming to work again under the influence of illicit drugs.” At an arbitration hearing, Fletcher testified that he “just [didn’t] believe” that Johnson accidentally took his mother’s pill, having consulted his wife, a registered nurse, and his brother-in-law, a nurse practitioner, who “confirmed that the likelihood of that happening is slim to none.” The arbitrator denied Johnson’s grievance, affirming his termination.The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded. Fletcher’s ex parte communications violated Johnson’s right to due process. When Fletcher’s relatives allegedly “confirmed” that the chances of Johnson taking his mother’s pill were “slim to none,” they were not confirming information in the record; they were providing new opinions on the evidence. View "Johnson v. Department of the Air Force" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs deliver baked goods by truck to stores and restaurants in designated territories within Connecticut. They brought an action in district court on behalf of a putative class against Flowers Foods, Inc. and two of its subsidiaries, which manufacture the baked goods that the plaintiffs deliver. Plaintiffs allege unpaid or withheld wages, unpaid overtime wages, and unjust enrichment pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act and Connecticut wage laws. The district court granted Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the case.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s order compelling arbitration and dismissing the case. The court explained that it concludes that an individual works in a transportation industry if the industry in which the individual works pegs its charges chiefly to the movement of goods or passengers, and the industry’s predominant source of commercial revenue is generated by that movement. Here, because Plaintiffs do not work in the transportation industry, they are not excluded from the FAA, and the district court appropriately compelled arbitration under the Arbitration Agreement. View "Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Jeannie Parker fielded calls for United Airliines, booking flight reservations. Parker took FMLA leave because she had a vision disorder and her father had cancer. About five months after approving the leave, Parker’s supervisor suspected Parker was avoiding new calls by telling customers that she would get additional information, putting the customers on hold, and chatting with coworkers about personal matters while the customers waited. The supervisor characterized Parker’s conduct as “call avoidance.” This suspicion led to a meeting between the supervisor, Parker, and a union representative. Following the meeting, United suspended Parker while investigating her performance. During this investigation, the supervisor reviewed more of Parker’s phone calls with customers and recommended that United fire Parker. United’s policies prohibited the supervisor from firing Parker; United had to select a manager to conduct a meeting and allow participation by Parker, her supervisor, and a union representative. All of them could present arguments and evidence, and the manager would decide whether to fire Parker. At the second meeting, the union representative asked United to apply its progressive discipline policy rather than terminate Parker's employment, to which United declined. Policy allowed Parker to appeal by filing a grievance; if she were to submit a grievance, another manager would conduct the appeal, wherein Parker could again be represented by the union, and present additional arguments. Parker filed a grievance but declined to participate, relying on her union representative. The union representative admitted in the conference call that Parker had “no excuse for the demonstrated behavior of call avoidance except for being under extreme mental duress.” With this admission, the union representative asked United to give Parker another chance. The senior manager declined and concluded that United hadn’t acted improperly in firing Parker. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on whether United's termination was made in retaliation for Parker's taking FMLA leave. Specifically, whether FMLA's prohibition against retaliation applied when the employee obtained consideration by independent decisionmakers. "Retaliation entails a causal link between an employee’s use of FMLA leave and the firing. That causal link is broken when an independent decisionmaker conducts her own investigation and decides to fire the employee." The Tenth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to United. View "Parker v. United Airlines" on Justia Law

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Claimant Joseph Worrall challenged an Employment Security Board decision finding him ineligible for unemployment compensation and liable to the Vermont Department of Labor for an overpayment. In November 2020, a claims adjudicator found that claimant was disqualified from receiving benefits as of the week ending May 2, 2020, because he left his employment voluntarily without good cause attributable to his employer. The claims adjudicator determined that claimant was obligated to repay $15,028 in overpaid benefits. Claimant argues on appeal that the Board erred in finding him disqualified for benefits. According to claimant, the Board accepted that he undertook efforts to relocate out of state before receiving a return-to-work notice. Based on this premise, claimant asserts that he was “unavailable for work” at the time his employer offered him the opportunity to return and that he was therefore entitled to benefits. Finding no error in the Board's decision, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Worrall v. Department of Labor (Snowfire Ltd., Employer)" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that Claimant's claim for disability benefits was not barred by res judicata and that the Workers' Compensation Board misconstrued the reopening statute, Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.125(1)(d) and (2), holding that the court of appeals did not err.In 2017, Claimant received a work-related injury, and an administrative law judge (ALJ) awarded her temporary total disability benefits. In 2019, Claimant alleged a worsening of her condition, and her claim was reopened pursuant to section 342.125(1)(d). An ALJ awarded Claimant permanent partial disability benefits and future medical benefits. The Board reversed, holding that the ALJ's original decision was supported by substantial evidence and therefore was res judicata. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Board misconstrued section 342.125 and erred in its res judicata analysis. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that nothing in the plain language of section 342.125 precludes reopening of a temporary disability award. View "Lakshmi Narayan Hospitality Group Louisville v. Jimenez" on Justia Law