Articles Posted in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Plaintiff and her union appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment on their First Amendment retaliation claims. Defendants cross-appealed a later order denying them attorneys' fees. The court remanded so that the district court could evaluate on a more detailed basis the incidents that it dismissed collectively as "petty workplace gripes" where there was evidence suggesting that some of these actions were taken as part of a more general campaign and hence might in context have greater materiality than when viewed in isolation. The court concluded that plaintiffs carried their burden of production sufficient to survive summary judgment as to the three involuntary transfers at issue. Plaintiffs presented a genuine factual dispute as to whether an internal investigation was retaliatory. Further, the district court erred in determining that defendant County was not subject to Monell liability. Defendants' cross-appeal is moot. The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Thomas v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a police officer, filed suit after he was terminated following severe interpersonal problems between him and other police officers. Plaintiff contended that these interpersonal problems resulted from his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and that the police department discharged him based on his disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. The jury returned a general verdict for plaintiff, finding that he was disabled and that the City had discharged him because of his disability. The court reversed, holding that, based on the evidence presented, the jury could not have found plaintiff disabled under the ADA. Plaintiff's ADHD did not substantially limit plaintiff's ability to work or to interact with others. Therefore, the district court erred in denying the City's motion for judgment as a matter of law. View "Weaving v. City of Hillsboro" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a police officer, filed suit against the City and the LAPD alleging that he was fired in retaliation for testifying, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 215(a)(3). Plaintiff claimed that the real reason he was fired was not because he worked through lunch without requesting overtime, but rather because he testified in a lawsuit brought by a fellow officer. On appeal, the City and the LAPD contend that the jury was not correctly instructed. The court concluded that the Board of Rights recommendation that plaintiff's employment be terminated did not preclude his FLSA retaliation claim. On the merits, the court concluded that the district court did not commit reversible error in declining to give the jury two requested special instructions and to submit several proposed special verdict questions tied to those instructions. The district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney's fees and liquidated damages. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View " Avila v. LAPD" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a class action against defendants, motor carriers, alleging that defendants routinely violate California's meal and rest break laws, Cal. Lab. Code 226.7, 512; Cal. Code Regs. tit.8, 11090. The district court held on summary judgment that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994, 49 U.S.C. 14501(c)(1), preempts those state laws as applied to motor carriers. The court concluded that the Act does not preempt California's meal and rest break laws as applied to defendants because those laws are not related to defendants' prices, routes, or services. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Dilts v. Penske Logistics, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the County on their challenge to the SFSD's policy prohibiting male deputies from supervising female inmates in the housing units of SFSD's jails. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the County on plaintiffs' sex discrimination claims and derivative claims where the County was not entitled to summary judgment because it was unable to bear its burden of demonstrating that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether it was entitled to a "bona fide occupational qualification" (BFOQ) defense. On summary judgment, the County may not rely on deference to the Sheriff's judgment in order to meet its burden of proving that it was entitled to a BFOQ defense. In the absence of deference to the Sheriff's judgment, the County was also unable to meet its burden of proving that there was no issue of material fact as to whether its policy of excluding all male deputies from the female housing units was a legitimate proxy for excluding only those deputies that truly pose a threat to the important interests SFSD rightfully sought to protect. Because the district court's conclusion that the County was entitled to a BFOQ defense was also the basis for its denial of plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, the court also vacated the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion. The court dismissed plaintiffs' evidentiary challenges; affirmed the district court's award of attorney's fees; and affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the County on Plaintiff Gray's retaliation claims. View "Ambat, et al. v. City & Cnty. of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a class action suit to recover unpaid overtime wages from her former employer, Bloomingdale's. The district court granted Bloomingdale's motion to compel arbitration, determining that shortly after being hired by Bloomingdale's, plaintiff entered into a valid, written arbitration agreement and that all of her claims fell within the scope of that agreement. The court concluded that plaintiff had the right to opt out of the arbitration agreement, and had she done so she would be free to pursue this class action in court. Having freely elected to arbitrate employment-related disputes on an individual basis, without interference from Bloomingdale's, she could not claim that enforcement of the agreement violated either the Norris-LaGuardia Act, 29 U.S.C. 101 et seq., or the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 151 et seq. The court concluded that the district court correctly held that the arbitration agreement was valid and, under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq., it must be enforced according to its terms. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Johnmohammadi v. Bloomingdale's, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a class action suit alleging that Nordstrom violated various state and federal employment laws by precluding employees from bringing most class action lawsuits in light of AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion. Nordstrom, relying on the revised arbitration policy in its employee handbook, sought to compel plaintiff to submit to individual arbitration of her claims. The district court denied Nordstrom's motion to compel. The court concluded that Nordstrom satisfied the minimal requirements under California law for providing employees with reasonable notice of a change to its employee handbook, and Nordstrom was not bound to inform plaintiff that her continued employment after receiving the letter constituted acceptance of new terms of employment. Accordingly, the court concluded that Nordstrom and plaintiff entered into a valid agreement to arbitrate disputes on an individual basis. The court reversed and remanded for the district court to address the issue of unconscionably. View "Davis v. Nordstorm, Inc." on Justia Law

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Drivers, California residents who worked for Affinity, filed suit alleging that Affinity wrongfully classified them as independent contractors, failed to pay them sick leave, vacation, holiday, and severance wages; and improperly charged them workers' compensation insurance fees. The court concluded that the undisputed facts indicated that Affinity had the right to control the details of the drivers' work, and the application of the secondary factors weigh in favor of a finding that the drivers were employees. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's decision that the drivers were independent contractors and held that they were Affinity's employees under California law. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Ruiz v. Affinity Logistics Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against BNSF, alleging claims under MCA 39-2-703, which governs the liability of a railway for negligent mismanagement. BNSF removed to federal court. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's order granting summary judgment in favor of BNSF. The district court found that plaintiff's claims were preempted by the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 151-88. Applying the Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. v. Norris framework, the court concluded that plaintiff's state claim concerning a collision was not preempted. The right of railway employees to sue on the basis of negligence or mismanagement resulting in termination may be unusual in other jurisdictions, but such a right is undoubtedly recognized in Montana. The court concluded that plaintiff's claim concerning the conduct leading to the collision was independent of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and did not require interpretation by the CBA. Therefore, plaintiff's claim was not preempted by the RLA. The court also concluded that BNSF's disciplinary proceedings were not the legal cause of plaintiff's suspension and termination. Consequently, plaintiff's punitive damages claim was reinstated. The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Wolfe v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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Peabody appealed the Board's affirmance of the ALJ's decision ordering Peabody to pay a coal miner's surviving spouse all the benefits to which the coal miner was entitled to receive under the Black Lung Benefits Act, 20 C.F.R. 718.201(a). The court concluded that the ALJ did not violate the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 553, by considering the regulatory preamble to the Black Lung Benefits Act in his decision and the ALJ's award of benefits to the coal miner was supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the court denied Peabody's petition for review. View "Peabody Coal v. OWCP" on Justia Law