Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The case involves Thryv, Inc., a company that had a dispute with the union representing some of its sales employees. The union complained to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging that Thryv engaged in several unfair labor practices. The NLRB agreed with the union and ordered Thryv to take significant steps to remedy the alleged violations. Thryv petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for review.Previously, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ruled in favor of the NLRB's General Counsel in part and Thryv in part. The ALJ agreed with the General Counsel that Thryv failed to respond to the Union’s information requests, constituting six unfair labor practices. However, the ALJ disagreed with the General Counsel that Thryv’s layoffs violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), finding that Thryv had bargained in good faith.The NLRB affirmed the ALJ’s finding that Thryv violated the NLRA by failing to comply with the Union’s information requests. However, it disagreed with the ALJ about the layoffs and held them unlawful. The NLRB held that Thryv had an obligation to bargain with respect to the layoffs and that Thryv breached that obligation by presenting the layoffs as a fait accompli and withholding information from the Union that the Union needed to bargain effectively.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted Thryv’s petition and vacated the NLRB’s order in part. The court disagreed with the NLRB's conclusion that Thryv's layoffs violated the NLRA. The court held that Thryv was permitted to implement its last best, final offer (LBFO) upon reaching an impasse with the Union. The court found that Thryv complied with the terms of the LBFO, which included providing the Union with thirty days’ notice before initiating layoffs, providing the Union an opportunity to discuss the layoffs, and offering severance payments to the affected employees. Therefore, the court concluded that Thryv's layoffs were lawful so long as Thryv and the Union remained at overall impasse on the date the layoffs occurred. The court also enforced the NLRB’s order requiring Thryv to cease and desist from failing and refusing to furnish the Union with requested information that is relevant and necessary to the Union’s performance of its functions as the collective-bargaining representative of its employees. View "Thryv v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The case involves an employee, Pamela Cook, who filed a lawsuit against her employer, the University of Southern California (USC), and two coworkers, alleging discrimination and harassment. USC moved to compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement signed by Cook as a condition of her employment. The agreement required Cook to arbitrate all claims against USC, its agents, affiliates, and employees, regardless of whether they arose from the employment relationship. The trial court denied the motion, finding the arbitration agreement was permeated by unconscionability, which could not be severed from the agreement. USC appealed this decision.The Superior Court of Los Angeles County had previously denied USC's motion to compel arbitration. The court found that the arbitration agreement was both procedurally and substantively unconscionable. Procedurally, the court found the agreement to be a contract of adhesion, made a condition of Cook's employment. Substantively, the court found the agreement to be unconscionable due to its infinite scope, covering all of Cook's claims regardless of their relation to her employment, and its infinite duration, surviving the termination of Cook's employment indefinitely. The court also found a lack of mutuality in the agreement, as it required Cook to arbitrate her claims against USC and all of USC’s “related entities,” but did not require USC’s “related entities” to arbitrate their claims against Cook.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Four affirmed the trial court's decision. The appellate court agreed with the lower court's findings of both procedural and substantive unconscionability. The court found that the arbitration agreement was one-sided, overly broad in scope, and indefinite in duration. The court also agreed with the lower court's refusal to sever the unconscionable provisions and enforce the remainder of the agreement, finding that the agreement was permeated with unconscionability. View "Cook v. University of Southern California" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Donald Ververka, was an administrator for a veterans home operated by the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet). He was removed from his position after reporting safety and health issues at the home and potential violations of federal law to his superiors and an independent state agency. Ververka sued CalVet, alleging that his termination was in retaliation for his whistleblowing activities, in violation of Labor Code section 1102.5.The case went to trial, and the jury found that Ververka's protected disclosures were contributing factors in CalVet's decision to remove him. However, the jury also found that CalVet was not liable because it proved it would have made the same decision for non-retaliatory reasons. After the trial court entered judgment for CalVet, Ververka moved to vacate the judgment, arguing that he was entitled to declaratory relief and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. The trial court denied the motion.On appeal, Ververka argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to vacate the judgment. He contended that an employer’s “same decision” showing under section 1102.6 precludes only an award of damages and backpay and an order of reinstatement, and as a result, he was entitled to declaratory relief and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. The Court of Appeal disagreed, concluding that the whistleblower statutes are not reasonably susceptible to Ververka’s interpretation. The court affirmed the judgment and dismissed the cross-appeal as moot. View "Ververka v. Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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John Sandy Campbell, a Resource Specialist Teacher at Chavez Social Justice Humanitas Academy from 2015 to 2017, was dismissed from her employment with the Los Angeles Unified School District due to excessive absences and other issues. The Commission on Professional Competence upheld her dismissal, and Campbell challenged this decision by filing a petition for writ of mandate in the superior court. The superior court, exercising its independent judgment, denied Campbell’s petition and upheld her dismissal.The proceedings to adjudicate Campbell’s dismissal were extensive, with the administrative hearing spanning 11 days. Campbell contended that the superior court erred in affirming her dismissal because the Commission miscited and applied the wrong statutory subdivisions at her dismissal hearing, and the court failed to apply “new” precedent when determining Campbell’s fitness to teach. The superior court recognized that the Commission cited incorrect subdivisions of section 44932 in its legal conclusions but noted that the Commission accurately listed, by name, the correct section 44932 causes for Campbell’s dismissal in these legal conclusions.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Eight affirmed the superior court's decision. The appellate court found that Campbell had not demonstrated error in the lower court's decision. The court also rejected Campbell's insufficiency challenge due to her failure to present all the relevant evidence. Furthermore, the court found Campbell's argument that the superior court erred by not applying a more recent case law unconvincing. The court concluded that Campbell failed to overcome the presumption that the result was correct and affirmed the judgment, awarding costs to the District. View "Campbell v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law

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The case involves an employee, Massiel Hernandez, and her employer, Sohnen Enterprises. Hernandez signed an arbitration agreement with Sohnen, which stated that any disputes would be governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). When Hernandez filed a complaint against Sohnen for disability discrimination and Labor Code violations, the parties agreed to arbitrate. However, Sohnen failed to pay the arbitration fees within 30 days of the due date. Hernandez then filed a motion to withdraw from arbitration and litigate in state court, as permitted under California Code of Civil Procedure section 1281.97. The trial court granted the motion, finding that Sohnen had breached the arbitration agreement.Sohnen appealed, arguing that the FAA, not California law, governed the arbitration agreement and preempted section 1281.97. The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Five, agreed with Sohnen. The court found that the arbitration agreement was governed by the FAA, including both its substantive and procedural provisions. As a result, the procedures of section 1281.97 did not apply, and the trial court's order was reversed. The court also held that even if section 1281.97 did apply, it would still reverse the order because the FAA preempts the provisions of section 1281.97 that mandate findings of breach and waiver when an agreement falls within the scope of the FAA and does not expressly adopt California arbitration laws. View "Hernandez v. Sohnen Enterprises" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Susan Seago, a former paraprofessional who became a teacher in 2017. As a paraprofessional, she was a member of the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS), but upon becoming a teacher, she was required to join the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF). Seago attempted to transfer her PERS credits and contributions to her new TPAF account by filling out an "Application for Interfund Transfer" and sending it to her employer, the Edison Township Board of Education (Edison BOE), for completion. However, the Edison BOE failed to complete its portion of the application and submit it on time, resulting in the expiration of Seago's PERS account.The Edison BOE challenged the denial of Seago's interfund transfer application, admitting its mistake in not submitting the application on time. However, the TPAF Board denied the interfund transfer request, and the Appellate Division affirmed this decision. The case was then brought before the Supreme Court of New Jersey.The Supreme Court of New Jersey held that the TPAF Board acted arbitrarily, capriciously, and unreasonably when it denied Seago’s interfund transfer application. The court found that Seago had acted in good faith and had taken reasonable steps to ensure that her interfund transfer application was filed. The court also noted that Seago would suffer significant harm from the denial of her interfund transfer application, as she would lose her "Tier 1" membership status and would have to wait an additional five years to retire, ultimately receiving a lower monthly pension allowance. The court concluded that under the unique facts of this case, equity required that the TPAF Board grant Seago’s interfund transfer application. The court reversed the decision of the Appellate Division and instructed the TPAF Board to grant Seago's application for an interfund transfer as if her application had initially been timely filed. View "Seago v. Board of Trustees, Teachers' Pension and Annuity Fund" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Yvonne Craddock, an African American woman who was terminated from her employment at FedEx Corporate Services following a workplace altercation. Craddock alleged that her termination was racially motivated, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The case was presented to a jury, which concluded that FedEx's reason for termination was pretextual, but that Craddock had failed to demonstrate that FedEx intentionally discriminated against her because of her race. Craddock appealed, arguing that the district court had made several errors, including forcing her to bifurcate the liability and damages portions of her trial and excluding testimony and evidence pertaining to events post-termination.The district court had granted FedEx’s motion to dismiss Craddock’s libel claim, Family Medical Leave Act claim, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 claim, and spoliation claim, but denied dismissal of her Title VII claims. After discovery, the court granted FedEx’s motion for summary judgment on Craddock’s Title VII claims. The case was then taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.The Court of Appeals held that the district court did not abuse its discretion regarding the claims raised by Craddock, and affirmed the jury’s verdict. The court found that the district court's decision to bifurcate the trial was not an abuse of discretion, and that the court's exclusion of testimony and exhibits postdating the termination was not erroneous. The court also found no error in the district court's trial rulings and case management decisions, and concluded that the jury verdict form was not plainly erroneous. The court further held that the cumulative effect of the alleged errors did not deprive Craddock of a trial consistent with constitutional guarantees of due process. View "Craddock v. FedEx Corporate Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case revolves around the Employees Retirement System of the Government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (ERS), which was established in 1951 as the Commonwealth's pension program for public employees. The appellants are seven individual beneficiaries of pensions paid by ERS. They had been litigating claims against UBS Financial Services Inc. (UBS) in the Commonwealth Court of First Instance related to UBS's role in issuing ERS pension funding bonds in 2008. Meanwhile, in January 2022, as part of its broad authority to promulgate orders necessary to carry out the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), the district court confirmed the Modified Eighth Amended Title III Joint Plan of Adjustment (the Plan).The district court had previously confirmed the Plan, which implemented several changes related to ERS and its pension plan payments to retired Commonwealth employees. The Plan replaced the Committee with the Avoidance Action Trustee as the plaintiff with exclusive power to prosecute the Underwriter Action and recover damages that ERS incurred. The Plan also ordered the immediate dissolution of ERS.UBS filed a motion to enforce the Plan, requesting that the district court enjoin the ERS Beneficiaries from pursuing the Commonwealth Action. The district court granted UBS's motion and enjoined the ERS Beneficiaries from pursuing the Commonwealth Action. The district court concluded that the ERS Beneficiaries' Commonwealth Action claims were rooted in a generalized injury and were derivative of ERS's right to recover on its own behalf. The district court further rejected the ERS Beneficiaries' arguments that they were entitled to recover for non-derivative general tort claims against UBS under various Commonwealth statutes.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, concluding that the ERS Beneficiaries sought to raise derivative claims that belong exclusively to the Trustee or the Commonwealth. The court held that continued litigation of the FAC's derivative claims violates the terms of the Plan and PROMESA. View "UBS Financial Services Inc. v. Estate of Jose Nazario Serrano" on Justia Law

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The case involves Douglas Milczak, a long-term employee of General Motors (GM), who alleged that he was subjected to age-based harassment by his managers and subordinates, with the aim of pushing him into early retirement. Milczak claimed that this harassment violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. After enduring several years of alleged degradation, he filed an action against GM. GM moved for summary judgment, arguing that the record did not support any of his claims. The district court granted the motion.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that Milczak failed to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination. While the court acknowledged that Milczak had experienced offensive comments from his manager, it found that these comments did not constitute age-based harassment that was severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment. The court also found that Milczak failed to show that GM's personnel actions were based on his age or that similarly situated younger employees were treated more favorably. Finally, the court found that Milczak failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation, as he could not demonstrate a causal connection between his protected activities and the adverse actions taken by GM. View "Milczak v. General Motors, LLC" on Justia Law

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In September 2021, John Sandy Campbell filed a lawsuit against her former employer, the Los Angeles Unified School District, alleging racial discrimination and retaliation for whistleblowing. These allegations were in violation of Labor Code sections 1102.5 and 1106 and Government Code section 12940 (the Fair Employment and Housing Act). The District demurred, arguing that Campbell had not complied with the Government Code’s claim presentation requirement and that the statute of limitations barred her cause of action under the Act. The trial court sustained the District's demurrer without leave to amend, citing Le Mere v. Los Angeles Unified School District and Government Code section 12965, subdivision (c)(1)(C).The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Eight reviewed the trial court's ruling independently and applied the standard for demurrers. The court agreed with the trial court, stating that a plaintiff suing a public entity for damages must timely present a written claim to the entity before filing suit. Campbell had not demonstrated that she substantially complied with the claim presentation requirement. Furthermore, Campbell's amended complaint did not plead compliance with the claim presentation requirement.Additionally, Campbell's claim for violation of the Act was time-barred. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing had provided Campbell a Right to Sue notice dated October 9, 2018, giving her one year to file a civil action. Campbell did not sue until September 2021, making her suit untimely. The court also rejected Campbell's argument that the discovery rule saved her lawsuit. The court affirmed the judgment and order sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend and awarded costs to the respondent. View "Campbell v. L.A. Unified School Dist." on Justia Law