Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Haro v. City of Los Angeles
Plaintiffs, employed by the City as dispatchers or aeromedical technicians, filed suit alleging that the City violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 207(k), by compensating them as "fire protection" employees under section 207(k). The court affirmed the district court's finding that section 207(k)'s exemption did not apply to dispatchers and aeromedical technicians because plaintiffs did not qualify as "employees engaged in fire protection" as defined by section 203(y); affirmed the district court's findings that a three-year statue of limitations applied and liquidated damages were proper because the City acted in willful violation of the law; and affirmed the district court's decision that previously-paid overtime should be offset using a week-by-week calculation because the statutory language of section 207(h), as well as persuasive authorities, supported this method of calculation. View "Haro v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law
Baumann v. Chase Investment Services
Plaintiff filed suit in California state court under the California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA), Cal. Lab. Code 2698-2699.5, and then removed to district court. The issue presented on appeal was whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the removed action. In Urbino v. Orkin Services, the court held that potential PAGA penalties against an employer may not be aggregated to meet the minimum amount in controversy requirement of 28 U.S.C. 1332(a). The remaining issue was whether a district court may instead exercise original jurisdiction over a PAGA action under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), 1453, 1711-15. The court held that PAGA was not sufficiently similar to Rule 23 to establish the original jurisdiction of a federal court under CAFA. Accordingly, the district court could not exercise jurisdiction over this removed PAGA action under CAFA. And because, in light of Urbino, there was no federal subject matter jurisdiction under section 1332(a), plaintiff's motion to remand should have been granted. The court reversed and remanded with instructions to grant the motion. View "Baumann v. Chase Investment Services" on Justia Law
Escriba v. Foster Poultry Farms
Plaintiff filed suit against Foster Farms under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601, and California law. The parties disputed whether plaintiff sought FMLA leave in order to care for her ailing father in another country. The court concluded that an employee can affirmatively decline to use FMLA leave, even if the underlying reasons for seeking the leave would have invoked FMLA protection. The court concluded that the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's motion for judgment as a matter of law where, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, there was substantial evidence that plaintiff elected not to take FMLA leave. The jury had ample evidence to render a verdict against plaintiff due to her noncompliance with Foster Farms's "three day no-show, no-call rule." Because the district court issued a limiting instruction regarding plaintiff's prior FMLA leave, any error in admitting the evidence was harmless. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to award costs of suit to Foster Poultry. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Escriba v. Foster Poultry Farms" on Justia Law
REAOC v. County of Orange
Retired Employees and their spouses filed suit against the County, alleging that the Retired Employees have an implied vested right to the pooling of their health care premiums with those of current employees ("pooled premiums"). The court affirmed the district court's order granting the County's motion for summary judgment, concluding that Retired Employees failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact where they did not show any link to Retired Employees' claim of an implied right to an ongoing pool premium; a practice or policy extended over a period of time did not translate into an implied contract without clear legislative intent to create that right - and intent that Retired Employees has not demonstrated in this case; Retired Employees' assertions that its involvement in negotiations with the County revealed an implied contract right to the pooled premium also lacked evidentiary support; and the nature of Retired Employees' evidence underscored the absence of any definitive intent or commitment on the part of the County to provide for the pooled premium. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of the County's motion for summary judgment. View "REAOC v. County of Orange" on Justia Law
Aircraft Service Int’l v. Int’l Brotherhood of Teamsters
Section 152 First of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. 152 First, imposes a duty on all carrier employees to engage in the Act's labor dispute resolution procedures before ceasing to perform their work. ASIG filed suit against the IBT, requesting a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, and a declaratory judgment for a permanent injunction to enjoin a strike at Sea-Tac airport as unlawful under the Act. Because the employees of ASIG were carrier employees, they must comply with the Act. Because they were subject to this obligation, the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the strike injunction. The injunction did not violate the employees' or other defendants' First Amendment rights; it furthered the important governmental interest of regulating the economic relationship between labor and management and was no greater than essential to the furtherance of that interest. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Aircraft Service Int'l v. Int'l Brotherhood of Teamsters" on Justia Law
Hagen v. City of Eugene, et al.
Plaintiff filed suit against the City of Eugene, the Police Department (EPD), and others, alleging that they violated his First Amendment rights when they removed him from his position on the EPD K-9 team in retaliation for repeatedly airing concerns about work-related safety issues to his supervisors. The court concluded that the evidence presented to the jury did not reasonably permit the conclusion that plaintiff established a retaliation claim where, as here, a public employee reports departmental-safety concerns to his or her supervisors pursuant to a duty to do so, that employee did not speak as a private citizen and was not entitled to First Amendment protection. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's denial of defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law and held that defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "Hagen v. City of Eugene, et al." on Justia Law
Rivera v. Peri & Sons Farms, Inc.
Plaintiffs, farmworkers who are Mexican citizens, filed suit against Peri & Sons, a Nevada corporation that produces, harvests, and packages onions. Plaintiffs alleged that the corporation violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq. Deferring to the DOL's interpretation, the court concluded that the district court erred in ruling that the corporation was not required to reimburse its employees during the first week of work for inbound travel and immigration expenses to the extent that such expenses lowered their compensation below the minimum wage. The court further concluded, inter alia, that the district court erred in concluding that the farmworkers had not pled their breach of contract claims with sufficient specificity where such allegations were sufficient to give the corporation fair notice and to make plaintiffs' breach of contract claims plausible. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the farmworkers' FLSA claims to the extent that they accrued within three years of filing; reversed its dismissal of their breach of contract claims; affirmed the dismissal of their claims under Nevada Revised Statutes 608.140; and reversed the dismissal of their other statutory and constitutional claims to the extent they accrued within two years of filing. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Rivera v. Peri & Sons Farms, Inc." on Justia Law
Chavarria v. Ralphs
Plaintiff filed suit against Ralphs alleging violations of the California Labor Code and California Business and Professions Code 17200 et seq. On appeal, Ralphs challenged the district court's denial of its motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that Ralphs' arbitration policy was unconscionable under California law. The court concluded that Ralphs' arbitration was procedurally unconscionable where, among other things, agreeing to Ralphs' policy was a condition of applying for employment and the terms were not disclosed to plaintiff until three weeks after she had agreed to be bound by it. In regards to substantive unconscionability, the court concluded, among other things, that Ralphs' terms required that the arbitrator impose significant costs on the employee up front, regardless of the merits of the employee's claims, and severely limited the authority of the arbitrator to allocate arbitration costs in the award. Further, the state law supporting such a conclusion was not preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 2. Accordingly, the court affirmed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Chavarria v. Ralphs" on Justia Law
State of Arizona v. ASARCO
Arizona filed suit against ASARCO on behalf of Angela Aguilar and the state. Aguilar later filed her own suit, alleging sexual harassment, retaliation, and constructive discharge. These proceedings were consolidated and removed to federal court. The jury found ASARCO liable on the sexual harassment claims only and the jury did not find any compensatory damages for Aguilar, instead awarding her one dollar in nominal damages for the sexual harassment claim. The jury also awarded Aguilar $868,750 in punitive damages. The district court subsequently ordered that the punitive damages be reduced to $300,000, which was the statutory maximum under Title VII for an employer of ASARCO's size. The court concluded that the punitive damages award was outside of constitutional limits and must be vacated. The court concluded that the requirement of a reasonable relationship between compensatory and punitive damages suggested that these damages should be reduced. However, given ASARCO's highly reprehensible conduct and the presence of a comparable civil penalty in the form of the Title VII damages cap, the court concluded that the Constitution did not bar the imposition of a substantial punitive award. Therefore, on remand, the district court could reorder a new trial unless plaintiff accepted a remittitur of $125,000. View "State of Arizona v. ASARCO" on Justia Law
Abdullah v. U.S. Security Associates, Inc.
Plaintiffs filed a class action on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated, alleging that USSA committed numerous violations of California labor laws, including, inter alia, requiring them to work through their meal periods. On appeal, USSA challenged the district court's certification of the meal break sub-class on the grounds that plaintiffs have not established "commonality," as required under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a)(2), or "predominance," as required under Rule 23(b)(3). The court concluded that plaintiffs' claims would yield a common answer that was "apt to drive the resolution of the litigation," as required by Rule 12(b)(3). The court agreed with the district court that the "nature of the work" inquiry would be a common one, focused on the legality of a single-guard staffing model, rather than a site-by-site inquiry; concluded that common issues of law or fact would predominate; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Rule 12(b)(3) was satisfied where plaintiffs' claims "will prevail or fail in unison" as required by the rule. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Abdullah v. U.S. Security Associates, Inc." on Justia Law