Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

by
Plaintiff filed suit against defendant under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), seeking to recover unpaid overtime wages. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendant because plaintiff was exempt from the FLSA. In this case, plaintiff fit within the highly compensated employee exemption to the FLSA. However, the court vacated the award of costs because the district court did not state its reasons for declining to award costs to the prevailing party. Accordingly, the court remanded the issue to the district court. View "Faludi v. U.S. Shale Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of Appellant's sexual harassment claims based on a hostile work environment, holding that the district court erred in concluding that alleged incidents of harassment that occurred earlier than 2014 were time-barred and that the error contributed to other flaws in the court's analysis. Appellant brought this action claiming sexual harassment and retaliation under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Puerto Rico Commonwealth law. Defendant asserted that he was sexually harassed for more than a decade and thus subjected to a hostile work environment and that managers at his workplace retaliated against him for complaining about this treatment. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant on all claims. The First Circuit remanded the case, holding (1) the district court did not err in dismissing the retaliation claims; but (2) a jury could reasonably find that incidents that allegedly occurred in 2014 were instances within the limitations period of a claimed pattern of sexually charged interactions, and the court's statute-of-limitations error necessarily impacted its assessment of the hostile work environment claim. View "Nieves-Borges v. El Conquistador Partnership, L.P." on Justia Law

by
The Federal Railway Safety Act (FRSA) provides that if railroad carriers retaliate against employees who report safety violations, the aggrieved employee may file a complaint with OSHA within 180 days after the alleged retaliation, 49 U.S.C. 20109(d)(2)(A)(ii). The Secretary of Labor then has 210 days to issue a final decision. If the Secretary takes too long, the employee may file suit. Guerra, a Conrail conductor and brakeman, alleged that Conrail urged him to ignore safety regulations. When he refused, Conrail threatened him and eliminated incidental perks of his job. Guerra reported this to Conrail’s compliance office. He says he was told that if he kept reporting safety issues, there would be “undesirable consequences.” Soon after Guerra filed complaints about allegedly defective braking systems, a train Guerra was operating failed to brake properly and ran through a railroad switch. On April 6, 2016, Conrail notified Guerra that he would be suspended. On May 10, Guerra’s attorney, Katz, allegedly filed a FRSA complaint. Receiving no response, on November 28, Katz followed up with OSHA by email. OSHA notified Guerra that his claim was dismissed as untimely because OSHA first received Guerra’s complaint 237 days after the retaliation. Guerra attempted to invoke the common-law mailbox rule’s presumption of delivery. The district court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The Third Circuit affirmed on other grounds. FRSA’s 180-day limitations period is a non-jurisdictional claim-processing rule. Guerra’s claim still fails because he has not produced enough reliable evidence to invoke the common-law mailbox rule. View "Guerra v. Consolidated Rail Corp" on Justia Law

by
Citing the Fair Labor Standards Act, which entitles employees to overtime pay for their hours of work that exceed 40 hours per week, 29 U.S.C. 207(a)(1), a group of U.S. Border Patrol Agents sought compensation for activities they claim were performed during “hours of work” while attending a voluntary canine instructor course. Agents who do not seek canine instructor certification by attending that course do not suffer any adverse consequences with respect to their existing jobs. Agents are motivated to obtain canine instructor certification in order to “mak[e] that next step in [their] career” and to potentially become a “course development instructor or . . . to be maybe an assistant director, even director.” The Claims Court granted the government summary judgment. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The course did not constitute “hours of work” under the Office of Personnel Management's regulations. The student instructors were not “directed to participate” in off-hours studying within the meaning of 5 C.F.R. 551.423(a)(2); the primary purpose for enrolling in the DCIC was for career advancement. View "Almanza v. United States" on Justia Law

by
During his probationary employment period, Smith challenged and failed to follow directions, was confrontational, engaged in unsafe conduct, and received unsatisfactory evaluations. He filed internal and union complaints, alleging abusive language, docking his hours, and racial discrimination. The Illinois Department of Transportation discharged Smith. Smith sued the Department under Title VII, arguing that it had subjected him to a hostile work environment and fired him in retaliation for his complaints about racial discrimination. The district court granted the Department summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court was within its discretion in concluding that Smith’s expert witness testimony was inadmissible as not based on “sufficient facts or data” under Federal Rule of Evidence 702(b). An affidavit sworn by one of Smith’s supervisors was inadmissible because it lacked a proper foundation and was “replete with generalized assertions." Given the extensive evidence that Smith was not meeting his employer’s legitimate expectations, a reasonable jury could not find that the Department fired him because of his protected activity rather than for his poor performance nor could a reasonable jury have resolved the hostile work environment claim in Smith’s favor. View "Smith v. Illinois Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

by
Bonni Genzer, an Uber driver, contended James River Insurance Company, Uber’s insurer, breached its contractual obligations by declining coverage for injuries she sustained in an accident on the return leg of a lengthy fare. Genzer also contended that, under Oklahoma law, the “mend the hold” doctrine limited James River to the grounds it gave for declining coverage before she sued. The district court granted summary judgment in James River’s favor, first ruling that Oklahoma had not adopted the mend-the-hold doctrine, and next holding that Genzer’s claim falls outside the scope of the governing insurance policy. The Tenth Circuit agreed as to both issues. View "Genzer v. James River Insurance Company" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for the Mayo Clinic in an action alleging employment discrimination under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In light of Supreme Court precedent, the panel held that its decision in Head v. Glacier Northwest, Inc., 413 F.3d 1053 (9th Cir. 2005), holding ADA discrimination claims are evaluated under a motivating factor causation standard, is no longer good law. The panel held that Head was irreconcilable with the Supreme Court's decisions in Gross v. FBL Fin. Servs., Inc., 557 U.S. 167 (2009), and Univ. of Texas Southwestern Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 570 U.S. 338 (2013). The panel agreed with its sister circuits and held that an ADA discrimination plaintiff bringing a claim under 42 U.S.C. 2112 must show that the adverse employment action would not have occurred but for the disability. Therefore, the district court correctly instructed the jury to apply a but for causation standard, rather than a motivating factor standard. View "Murray v. Mayo Clinic" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Medtronic in an employment discrimination action brought by plaintiff under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plaintiff alleged that he was terminated based on his morbid obesity, but the district court held that morbid obesity was not a physical impairment under the relevant EEOC regulations and interpretive guidance. The panel held that it need not determine whether morbid obesity itself is an impairment under the ADA, and affirmed the district court's judgment for Medtronic on alternative grounds. The panel held that, even assuming that morbid obesity were an impairment, or plaintiff suffered from a disabling knee condition that the district court could have considered, he would have to show some causal relationship between these impairments and his termination. In this case, there was no basis for concluding that he was terminated for any reason other than Medtronic's stated ground that he falsified records to show he had completed work assignments. View "Valtierra v. Medtronic Inc." on Justia Law

by
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 207, employers must pay employees one-and-a-half times their “regular rate” of pay for all hours worked above a 40-hour work week. “[R]egular rate” includes “all remuneration for employment paid to, or on behalf of, the employee,” subject to eight enumerated exemptions but “remuneration for employment” is not defined in the overtime provisions or elsewhere in the Act. The Department of Labor asserted that employers are bound to include bonuses from third parties in the regular rate of pay when calculating overtime pay, regardless of what the employer and employee may have agreed. The district court, agreeing with the Department, concluded that the incentive bonuses at issue must be included in the regular rate of pay because they are remuneration for employment and do not qualify for any of the statutory exemptions. The Third Circuit vacated in part. Incentive bonuses provided by third parties are not necessarily “remuneration for employment” under the Act, depending on the understanding of the employer and employee. In this case, the factual record did not support a finding that all of the incentive bonuses were necessarily remuneration for employment. View "Secretary United States Department of Labor v. Bristol Excavating, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Stone sued Troy Construction, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, alleging a willful violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). She claims that Troy paid local employees per diem compensation that should have been classified as wages and included in the regular rate of pay, which would have affected the calculation of overtime pay. The district court granted Troy summary judgment, holding that there had been no willful violation of the FLSA. Whether a violation is willful determines the length of the applicable statute of limitations; the court applied a two-year statute of limitations and concluded that Stone’s claims were time-barred. The Third Circuit vacated. The district court required a showing of conduct worse than recklessness while recognizing that Troy “appear[ed] to agree that excluding per diem[s] when calculating overtime rates for [out-of-state] employees is acceptable under the statute.” Troy therefore knew that per diems for non-local employees were implicated and permissible under the FLSA, but Troy’s professed ignorance about the implications of the same per diems paid to local employees did not meet the court’s standard. That analysis did not give Stone the benefit of a fair inference that Troy did recognize the implication of the per diems paid to local employees. View "Stone v. Troy Construction LLC" on Justia Law