Articles Posted in U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals

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The cases on appeal are among several similar actions brought by a single law firm alleging systemic underpayment in the healthcare industry in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201, Pennsylvania law, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1001,and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961. Nurses and other patient-care professionals, on behalf of a putative class, claimed that their employers maintained unlawful timekeeping and pay policies: under the “Meal Break Deduction Policy,” the timekeeping system automatically deducted 30 minutes of pay daily for meal breaks without ensuring that the employees actually received a break; under the “Unpaid Pre- and Post-Schedule Work Policy,” the employees were prohibited from recording time worked outside of their scheduled shifts; under the “Unpaid Training Policy,” employees were not paid for time spent at “compensable” training sessions. The district court dismissed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The overtime claim was factually inadequate: the plaintiffs “failed to allege a single specific instance in which a named Plaintiff worked overtime and was not compensated for this time.” View "Davis v. Abington Mem'l Hosp." on Justia Law

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Lupyan was a CCI instructor since 2004. Her supervisor, Thomas, noticed that she seemed depressed and suggested she take a personal leave of absence. On a request form, Lupyan requested “personal leave” from December 4 through December 31, 2007. Thomas suggested that she seek short-term disability coverage instead. Lupyan received certification from her doctor. CCI’s human resources department determined that she was eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. 2601, rather than personal leave. CCI’s Administration instructed Lupyan to initial the box marked “Family Medical Leave” on her request and changed the projected date of return to April 1, 2008. FMLA rights were not discussed in the meeting. CCI allegedly mailed Lupyan a letter explaining the Act. Lupyan denies receiving the letter, and denies having any knowledge that she was on FMLA leave until she attempted to return to work. On March 13, 2008, Lupyan advised CCI that she had been released to return with restrictions. On April 1, Thomas informed Lupyan that she could not return with restrictions. Lupyan provided a full release from her psychiatrist, but was advised on April 9 that she was being terminated due to low student enrollment, and because she had not returned within the 12 weeks allotted for FMLA leave. Lupyan claims this was the first time she knew that she was on FMLA leave. Lupyan sued, claiming interference with her FMLA rights and that she was fired in retaliation for taking FMLA leave. The district court granted CCI summary judgment. The Third Circuit reversed, finding remaining issues of material fact. View "Lupyan v. Corinthian Colleges Inc." on Justia Law

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Former employees of RHI filed suit on behalf of themselves and others, alleging that RHI failed to pay overtime and improperly classified them as overtime-exempt employees in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201. Both had signed employment agreements that contained arbitration provisions: “[a]ny dispute or claim arising out of or relating to Employee’s employment, termination of employment or any provision of this Agreement” shall be submitted to arbitration. Neither agreement mentions classwide arbitration. RHI moved to compel arbitration on an individual basis. The district court granted the motion in part, compelling arbitration but holding that the propriety of individual versus classwide arbitration was for the arbitrator to decide. The court entered an order terminating the case. Rather than immediately appealing, RHI proceeded with arbitration until the arbitrator ruled that the employment agreements permitted classwide arbitration. The district court denied a motion to vacate the arbitrator’s partial award. The Third Circuit reversed. Because of the fundamental differences between classwide and individual arbitration, and the consequences of proceeding with one rather than the other, the availability of classwide arbitration is a substantive “question of arbitrability” to be decided by a court absent clear agreement otherwise. View "Opalinski v. Robert Half Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law

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The New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act, N.J. Stat. 34:11-56.25 (PWA) provides that laborers on certain public works projects are to be paid the prevailing wage. Carpenters hired to work on the Revel Casino Project in Atlantic City claimed that the Revel Casino Project is a “public work” within the meaning of the PWA because it received financial assistance in the form of incentives, tax exemptions, and tax reimbursements from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA), which, they argued is a “public body” within the meaning of the Act. They assigned their claims for unpaid prevailing wages to the plaintiffs, employee benefit plans within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001, and trust funds within the meaning of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. 141. The district court held that the claims were completely preempted under ERISA section 502(a). Although it did not directly address LMRA complete preemption, the court also noted that the complaint “seeks interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement.” The Third Circuit vacated and remanded with instructions to remand to state court, holding that neither statute completely preempts the PWA. View "NJ Carpenters v. Tishman Constr. Corp. of NJ" on Justia Law

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Shamokin Filler, a coal preparation facility in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, has been regulated by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) since 1977. After a change in ownership in 2009, the new owners challenged MSHA’s jurisdiction, contending that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), not MSHA, should oversee it. Presumably the new owners wanted to avoid the more stringent requirements imposed by MSHA regulations and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 30 U.S.C. 801. MSHA, rather than OSHA, has much stricter oversight requirements including regarding respirable coal dust standards. The Secretary of Labor and an Administrative Law Judge for the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission disagreed and concluded that Shamokin was engaged in the “work of preparing the coal,” as defined in the Mine Act. Shamokin argued that its plant does not engage in the “work of preparing the coal” because it makes its 100% coal products out of already processed coal. The Third Circuit rejected the argument and denied a petition for review. Shamokin’s interpretation of the statute lacked any basis in the text of the Mine Act. View "Shamokin Filler Co. Inc v. Fed. Mine Safety & Health Review Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Hildebrand was a detective for the Allegheny County DA’s Office when he was terminated in 2011. He unsuccessfully filed an internal grievance. Hildebrand claimed that his termination was part of “a well-known and established practice to push out older workers through termination or forced resignation.” Hildebrand completed an Intake Questionnaire with the EEOC, indicating that he was the victim of age discrimination and that he “want[ed] to file a charge of discrimination.” The EEOC subsequently issued a right-to-sue letter. Hildebrand sued, asserting violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621-634, Title VII (retaliation), 42 U.S.C.1983 (violation of the Equal Protection Clause; First Amendment free speech rights), and the Pennsylvania Whistleblower and Human Relations Acts. The district court dismissed the Title VII retaliation claim and stated that the complaint failed to provide facts, i.e. specific dates, to establish exhaustion of administrative remedies. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal of the 1983 claims, but vacated dismissal of the ADEA claim. A state or local government employee may not maintain an age discrimination claim under section 1983, but may only proceed under the ADEA. A plaintiff is not obligated to plead exhaustion of administrative remedies with particularity, but may allege in general terms that the required administrative process has been completed. The EEOC Intake Questionnaire, when properly completed, constitutes a charge of discrimination. View "Hildebrand v. Allegheny Cnty." on Justia Law

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Gonzalez sued his former employer, the Waterfront Commission of the New York Harbor, a bi-state instrumentality of New Jersey and New York that was created in 1953 to investigate, deter, combat, and remedy criminal activity in the Port of New York-New Jersey. He sought to enjoin disciplinary proceedings initiated by the Commission as a violation of his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the First Amendment. The Commission had determined that Gonzalez, an employee (detective) since 1999 had made false statement in an affidavit concerning another employee’s discrimination suit. The district court denied Gonzalez’s motion and ultimately stayed and administratively terminated the suit, finding that the Younger abstention doctrine precluded federal interference with the ongoing state disciplinary proceedings. While appeal was pending, the Supreme Court issued its 2013 decision, Sprint Communications, Inc. v. Jacobs, clarifying the abstention inquiry and defining the outer boundaries of the abstention doctrine. The Third Circuit affirmed, concluding that the decision to abstain was appropriate under the Sprint decision. View "Gonzalez v. Waterfront Comm'n of NY Harbor" on Justia Law

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Ross joined Continental, a South Carolina tire manufacturer in 2008 and, in 2011, became District Manager. He reported to Gilhuly and worked from his Philadelphia home, independently setting his travel schedule and work priorities. Ross was responsible for a major customer, Reliable Tire. Gilhuly began receiving negative comments from Reliable’s owner, Betz, regarding Ross. Betz asked that Ross be taken off of Reliable’s account. Gilhuly was also unhappy with Ross’s presentations at meetings. In 2011, Gilhuly reported Ross’s deficiencies to the Human Resources Department, and began developing a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). Ross prepared a six-month plan of action that acknowledged his deficiencies. Less than a month after the PIP was implemented, Ross forwarded a letter from his doctor, indicating that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Ross was granted Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601, leave, during which he received regular compensation and benefits. His PIP remained “pending.” A month after Ross returned from leave, Gilhuly sent him a memo, acknowledging that progress had been made and extending the PIP for 60 days. Ross filed suit against Gilhuly and Continental, alleging interference with his FMLA rights and retaliation. While the suit was pending, Gilhuly sent a memo, indicating that Ross was still not meeting expectations, with 12 pages of explanation. Continental terminated Ross’s employment. The district court rejected his suit on summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed, stating that Ross received all to which he was entitled under the FMLA, and suffered no adverse employment consequences for doing so. View "Ross v. Gilhuly" on Justia Law

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A collective bargaining agreement provides that Teaneck police officers work regularly recurring work periods so that they work an average of 39.25 hours per week over the course of a calendar year. Officers work under either a "Six and Three" plan (six eight-hour tours over six consecutive days, then three consecutive days off) or a "Five and Two" plan (five eight-hour tours over five consecutive days with two consecutive days off). If an officer performs work in excess of normal hours in any tour of duty, that work is considered overtime which is compensated at a rate of time and one-half; overtime pay accrues in blocks based on the amount of time worked after a regular tour. The CBA provides for "muster time," 10 minutes before and 10 minutes at the end of their tours, so that for each eight-hour tour, officers may work eight hours and 20 minutes. On any given day, officers may work less than that depending on the length of the post-tour muster; officers are still given credit for the full eight hours and 20 minutes. There is no policy requiring that uniformed officers don or doff their uniform at Police Headquarters. Officers claimed violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201, by failing to pay proper overtime; provide compensation for muster time; and provide compensation for time spent putting on and taking off uniforms. The district court rejected the claims on summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed. View "Rosano v. Township of Teaneck" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Thompson was hired as a mortgage underwriter by Security Atlantic and assigned to a training class led by a representative of REMN, identified as a sister company of Security Atlantic. In 2010, allegedly in response to a HUD investigation into mortgage practices, Thompson and others were asked to fill out applications to work for REMN. Thompson completed the application; her subsequent paychecks were issued by REMN. Security Atlantic is no longer in business. Thompson and her colleagues continued to do the same work, at the same desks, at the same location. Thompson’s pay rate, work email address, and supervisors remained the same. Thompson alleged that the companies and individual supervisors permitted her and others to regularly work more than eight hours per day and more than 40 hours per week without overtime compensation; misrepresented to workers that they were exempt, salaried employees, ineligible for overtime pay. The district court dismissed her claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201–219, and the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law, N.J. Stat. 34:11-56a. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded Thompson provided sufficient information about the scope of the individual defendants’ workplace authority and of specific statements concerning overtime pay, to allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that they are liable. View "Thompson v. Real Estate Mortg. Network" on Justia Law