Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
EEOC v. Propak Logistics, Inc.
The EEOC initiated a lawsuit against Propak more than six and one-half years after a Propak employee filed his discrimination charge. The district court granted Propak's motion for summary judgment. At issue on appeal was whether the district court abused its discretion in ordering that the EEOC pay attorneys' fees to Propak, the prevailing defendant employer. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that the EEOC acted unreasonably in initiating this litigation. The court need not address the district court's alternative holding that the EEOC's continued pursuit of the litigation was unreasonable in light of the developing record in the case. The court declined to address the district court's well-reasoned fee calculation. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "EEOC v. Propak Logistics, Inc." on Justia Law
Lincoln v. DOWCP
Petitioner sought attorney's fees from Ceres for his purusit of a claim for disability benefits under section 928(a) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. 928(a). The court concluded that section 928(a)'s plain language requires fee-shifting only when an employer has paid no compensation within 30 days of receiving the official claim. In this case, Ceres voluntarily paid petitioner one week's compensation within 30 days of receiving his claim, and thereby admitting to liability for the injury for the purposes of section 928(a). Ceres met the requirement of section 928(a), moving the dispute to section 928(b). Petitioner was entitled to the services of an attorney but, under the LHWCA's fee-shifting scheme, petitioner was not entitled to have that attorney paid for by Ceres. The court held that Ceres's payment of one week's benefits at the maximum compensation rate, being directly tied as it was to petitioner's alleged injury, qualified as "compensation" within the meaning of section 928(a). Finally, the court rejected petitioner's claim that when Ceres filed a notice of controversion prior to the payment at issue, it signaled that it was controverting his claim, and by doing so, irrevocably triggered section 928(a). Accordingly, the court denied the petition View "Lincoln v. DOWCP" on Justia Law
Barton v. House of Raeford Farms, Inc.
Plaintiffs, former and current employees, filed suit against Columbia Farms, asserting a claim for the payment of unpaid wages, withheld in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., and the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act (S.C. Wages Act), S.C. Code Ann. 41-10-10 to -110. Plaintiffs also asserted a second claim for retaliation against them for instituting workers' compensation proceedings, in violation of S.C. Code Ann. 41-1-80. The court reversed the jury award on the S.C. Wages Act claims, concluding that those claims were preempted by section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. 185, and should have been dismissed. As for the retaliation claims under S.C. Code Ann. 41-1-80, the court reversed as to 6 employees because they failed to present evidence satisfying the governing legal standards for recovery under state law. As to the retaliation claims of the remaining two employees, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Barton v. House of Raeford Farms, Inc." on Justia Law
McCray v. Maryland Dep’t of Transp.
Plaintiff, an employee of MTA for four decades, filed suit against MTA alleging various forms of discrimination after her position was terminated due to budget cuts. The court concluded that, because summary judgment was granted before plaintiff had a chance to discover facts essential to her claim, and she alleged discrimination occurring before any legislative activity, the district court's Rule 56(d) denial was an abuse of discretion. The court concluded, however, that the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's age discrimination and disability discrimination claims were barred by sovereign immunity. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "McCray v. Maryland Dep't of Transp." on Justia Law
Cobra Natural Resources, LLC v. Federal Mine Safety & Health Review Comm’n
Cobra sought appellate relief from a decision of the Commission temporarily reinstating a coal miner. At issue was whether a Commission decision granting temporary reinstatement to a coal miner was immediately appealable by the coal operator under the collateral order doctrine. The court concluded that the Commission's decision failed to satisfy the requirements of the collateral order doctrine and, therefore, the collateral order doctrine did not permit an interlocutory review of the proceedings. Accordingly, the court dismissed Cobra's petition for review for lack of jurisdiction. View "Cobra Natural Resources, LLC v. Federal Mine Safety & Health Review Comm'n" on Justia Law
Summers v. Altarum Institute, Corp.
Plaintiff filed suit against Altarum, alleging that Altarum discriminated against him by wrongfully discharging him on account of disability and that Altarum failed to accommodate his disability. Plaintiff was terminated after he injured his legs on a subway platform and was on short-term disability benefits. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's dismissal of his wrongful-discharge claim. The court concluded that, under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-325, 122 Stat. 3553, and its implementing regulations, an impairment is not categorically excluded from being a disability simply because it is temporary. In this instance, the impairment alleged by plaintiff fell comfortably within the amended Acts' expanded definition of disability. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Summers v. Altarum Institute, Corp." on Justia Law
Hoschar v. Appalachian Power Co.
Plaintiffs, Mr. and Mrs. Hoschar, filed suit in West Virginia state court against APCO and ICI, seeking damages for an infectious lung disease called histoplasmosis that Mr. Hoschar allegedly contracted while working as a boilermaker at one of APCO's coal-fired power plants. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's denial of their motion to remand the case to state court and the district court's grant of APCO's motion for summary judgment in favor of APCO. The court concluded that APCO has carried its burden of establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction because the record amply demonstrated that the location where APCO's officers direct, control, and coordinate APCO's activities was Columbus, Ohio. The court held that APCO did not have actual or constructive knowledge of a potential histoplasmosis risk, and therefore, APCO did not owe Mr. Hoschar a duty to guard against it. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of APCO. View "Hoschar v. Appalachian Power Co." on Justia Law
Fox v. Elk Run Coal Co., Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against Elk Run, alleging that the company committed fraud on the court and therefore deprived her coal miner husband of nearly a decade of benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA), 30 U.S.C. 901-945. Plaintiff contended that Elk Run had committed fraud on the court because it had not disclosed certain expert reports to its expert pulmonologists. The court affirmed the Board's finding that Elk Run's conduct was not sufficiently egregious to meet the high bar for a claim of fraud on the court because it did not amount to an intentional design aimed at undermining the integrity of the adjudicative process. The court found that Elk Run's conduct did not, under Supreme Court and circuit precedent, demonstrate the commission of a fraud upon the court. View "Fox v. Elk Run Coal Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Durham v. Jones
After a deputy sheriff broadly publicized the corrupt and unlawful practices occurring in the Office of the Sheriff, the Sheriff terminated his employment. A jury awarded $1.1 million in favor of the deputy on his claim of retaliation for the exercise of his First Amendment rights. At issue was whether the district court erred in failing to grant qualified immunity to the Sheriff. The court found that the district court was right to conclude that the Sheriff violated the deputy's First Amendment right. The court concluded that it was clearly established at the time that an employee's speech about serious governmental misconduct was protected. Accordingly, the court held that the district court did not err in failing to grant qualified immunity to the Sheriff and affirmed the judgment. View "Durham v. Jones" on Justia Law
National Treasury Employees Union v. Federal Labor Relations Authority
The Union sought to amend its collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the IRS to permit probationary employees to use the agreement's grievance procedures to challenge removals alleged to be in violation of statutory rights or procedures. After the IRS refused to negotiate on the grounds that the proposal would grant probationary employees greater procedural protections that were authorized under law and regulation, the Union appealed to the FLRA. The FLRA granted judgment in favor of the IRS and the Union appealed. The court declined to reverse the FLRA's judgment because such a decision would ignore the statutory and regulatory frameworks that Congress and the executive branch have put in place, create a stark circuit split, and overturn nearly thirty years of settled public-employee practice. View "National Treasury Employees Union v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law