Articles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Plaintiffs, active and retired Baltimore police officers and firefighters who participate in a public pension plan, challenged the City's decision changing the manner in which annual increases to pension benefits are calculated. Plaintiffs claimed that the substitution of a cost-of-living adjustment for a "variable benefit" violates the members' rights under the Contract Clause and the Takings Clause. The court concluded that the members' rights under the Contract Clause were not impaired because the members retained a state law remedy for breach of contract. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment with respect to the City's elimination of the variable benefit. The court affirmed the district court's decision upholding the remaining portions of the ordinance at issue, and vacated the district court's order dismissing the Takings Clause claim. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Cherry, Jr. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City" on Justia Law

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Norfolk Southern appealed the district court's order remanding to state court a claim brought against it under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. 51-60. Norfolk also petitioned for a writ of mandamus vacating the district court's order and either dismissing the case, or alternatively, remanding to the district court to address the merits of its federal defense to the FELA claim. The court concluded that 28 U.S.C. 1447(d) barred review of the district court's order by appeal or via mandamus; Norfolk Southern has not established entitlement to mandamus relief because it has not shown a clear and indisputable right to such relief; and, accordingly, the court dismissed Norfolk Southern's appeal and deny its mandamus petition. View "In re: Norfolk Southern Railway Co." on Justia Law

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GEICO appealed the district court's order granting partial summary judgment against them on the issue of liability in an action asserting denial of overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq. Plaintiffs cross-appealed an order granting partial summary judgment against them on several issues relating to the remedy to be awarded. With no final decision to review, the court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the appeals before it. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeals. View "Calderon v. GEICO General Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an assistant district attorney (ADA) for the county, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, against defendant, the elected district attorney (DA) during plaintiff's tenure, alleging that he was fired for exercising his free-speech rights in violation of the United States and North Carolina Constitutions. The district court granted summary judgment against defendants. The court reversed, concluding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to defendant on the First Amendment claim on the basis of qualified immunity. A reasonable DA in defendant's position would have known that he could not fire an ADA running for public office for speaking publicly in his capacity as a candidate on matters of public concern when the speech was critical of a program that substantially reduced the DA's office's caseload but there was no reason to believe the speech would negatively impact the DA's office's efficiency. The court reversed the summary judgment on the state-law claims as well. View "Smith v. Gilchrist, III" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer for racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. 1981. Plaintiff's claims were based on two conversations she had with a coworker where the coworker made racially derogatory and highly offensive comments. The court concluded that the district court did not err in excluding plaintiff's answers to interrogatories from consideration as part of the summary judgment record. The court also concluded that, while in the abstract, continued repetition of racial comments of the kind plaintiff's coworker made might have led to a hostile work environment, no allegation in the record suggested that a plan was in motion to create such an environment, let alone that such an environment was even likely to occur. Plaintiff had not presented evidence such that a reasonable juror could find that her workplace was permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment and create an abusive working environment. The statements at issue were singular and isolated. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment View "Boyer-Liberto v. Fontainebleau Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that he was unlawfully fired in retaliation for engaging in activities protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), 18 U.S.C. 1514A. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. The court affirmed, concluding that plaintiff had not successfully established the contributing factor element of his prima facie case. In this instance, the standard would be toothless if the court held that a preponderance of the evidence showed that the long-past activities at issue affected plaintiff's termination given the lengthy history of antagonism and the intervening events which caused the Outside Directors to view plaintiff as an insubordinate. View "Feldman v. Law Enforcement Assoc. Corp." on Justia Law

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Petitioner filed suit for survivor's benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. 901-945. Petitioner sought review of an April 2012 decision of the BRB affirming the denial of benefits by an ALJ. The court held that petitioner satisfied the test for survivor's benefits: she is the surviving spouse of a miner whose death was hastened by pneumoconiosis due at least in part to coal mine employment. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with directions to award benefits without further administrative proceedings. View "Collins v. Pond Creek Mining Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer, Dal-Tile, alleging claims of racial and sexual hostile work environment, constructive discharge, and common law obstruction of justice. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Dal-Tile. The court reversed the grant of summary judgment on the hostile work environment claims and remanded for further consideration because a reasonable fact-finder could find that there was an objectively hostile work environment based on both race and sex and that Dal-Tile knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to adequately respond. The court affirmed, however, the grant of summary judgment on the claims of constructive discharge and common law obstruction of justice. View "Freeman v. Dal-Tile Corp." on Justia Law

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The EEOC filed suit alleging that an employee retirement benefit plan maintained by the County discriminated against employees in the protected age group of 40 years of age and older, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621-634, by requiring them to pay high contribution rates than those paid by younger employees. In this interlocutory appeal, the court held that the district court correctly determined that the County's plan violated the ADEA, because the plan's employee contribution rates were determined by age, rather than by a permissible factor. The court also concluded that the ADEA's "safe harbor provision" applicable to early retirement benefit plans did not shield the County from liability for the alleged discrimination. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's award of summary judgment on the issue of liability and remanded for consideration of damages. View "EEOC v. Baltimore County, Maryland" on Justia Law

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Dickenson Coal contested a citation by the Secretary of Labor for violating the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, Pub. L. No. 95-164, 91 Stat. 1290, by failing to report an injury at one of its mines within ten days of its occurrence. The ALJ awarded summary judgment in the Secretary's favor and the Commission declined to exercise discretionary review of the ALJ's decision. Dickenson Coal petitioned for review. The court concluded that the unambiguous language of 30 C.F.R. 50.20(a) imposed an unconditional duty upon Dickenson Coal to report the injury within ten days. Dickenson Coal was not relieved of this duty when the injured person's employer timely reported the incident. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Dickenson-Russell Coal Co. v. Secretary of Labor" on Justia Law