Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Liles v. C.S. McCrossan, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against CSM, alleging civil rights violations after she was terminated. The district court granted summary judgment to CSM. The court concluded that plaintiff failed to establish the causation element of her prima facie case of retaliation and reprisal based on the attenuated temporal proximity of the decline in her work performance and the her complaints, and the lack of evidence from which a jury could infer a discriminatory motive. Therefore, the district court properly granted summary judgment to CSM on these claims. The court also concluded that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's gender discrimination claims where plaintiff had a history of satisfactory performance and the evidence demonstrated that her supervisors and coworkers had on numerous occasions informed her of perceived deficiencies in her work. Finally, the court concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment to CSM on plaintiff's hostile work environment claim where she failed prove that the comments at issue were so objectively and subjectively offensive that they altered the terms and conditions of her employment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Liles v. C.S. McCrossan, Inc." on Justia Law
Gunderson v. BNSF Railway
Plaintiff filed suit alleging that BNSF violated the Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA), 49 U.S.C. 20109, when it terminated his employment for harassing a co-worker and threatening a supervisor. The district court ultimately granted BNSF summary judgment on the merits and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's retaliation claim because he failed to submit evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to infer that his FRSA-protected activities were a contributing factor in BNSF's decision to discharge him for harassing and intimidating a co-worker. Because BNSF did not sufficiently develop its alternative waiver argument, did not raise a laches or estoppel defense in the district court or on appeal, and presented insufficient proof (if any) on these fact intensive issues, the court left these questions for another day. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Gunderson v. BNSF Railway" on Justia Law
NLRB v. Chipotle Services
This case arose out of Chipotle's decision to fire an employee who was involved in a campaign for higher pay in the fast-food industry. The Board claimed that Chipotle fired the employee for his union activities, but Chipotle argued that the employee was fired for missing a mandatory meeting and had a history of deficient performance and motivation. The Board applied the Wright Line framework and described the General Counsel's initial burden. Chipotle argued that the burden was a mistake and the General Counsel instead needed to act according to the language in the court's recent opinion in Nichols Aluminum, LLC v. NLRB. Because Chipotle failed to raise this argument before the Board, or otherwise contest the ALJ's application of the Wright Line standard, the court was jurisdictionally barred from considering Chipotle's argument. Because no extraordinary circumstances exists in this case, the court denied the petition and enforced the order. View "NLRB v. Chipotle Services" on Justia Law
Wilson v. Arkansas DHS
Plaintiff, an African American female, filed suit against DHS, alleging disparate treatment on account of race, and retaliation in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2 and 2000e-3(a). The district court dismissed the claims. On appeal, plaintiff argued that the district court erred in dismissing her claim for disparate treatment "on account of her race, when she was disciplined for something that a Caucasian female employee did not accomplish." The court concluded that plaintiff's claim of discipline did not allege that the Caucasian employee was not disciplined or received less discipline. The court explained that without an allegation of disparate treatment, this claim failed. The court concluded, however, that the district court erred in dismissing the retaliation claim where plaintiff alleged but-for causation. The court explained that plaintiff's claim permitted the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Wilson v. Arkansas DHS" on Justia Law
Nash v. Optomec, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, Optomec, alleging that he was terminated on account of his age in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), Minn. Stat. 363A.01 et seq. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Optomec because plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination. The court reasoned that, even if he had, there was insufficient evidence to suggest the lawful reason Optomec gave for its decision was pretext for an underlying unlawful motive. In this case, Optomec's reasons for firing plaintiff was that he lacked the skill set and potential Optomec wanted from lab technicians to account for the company's anticipated growth. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Nash v. Optomec, Inc." on Justia Law
Heim v. BNSF Railway
After plaintiff was seriously injured on the job, BNSF disciplined him for violations of BNSF rules that led to his injury. Plaintiff filed suit, alleging that BNSF's discipline violated the employee-protections provision of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20109(a)(4). The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for BNSF, concluding that plaintiff failed to establish that his supervisors intentionally retaliated against him for filing his injury report. In this case, without more specific evidence of an improper retaliatory motive, the court found that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case. View "Heim v. BNSF Railway" on Justia Law
Blackorby v. BNSF Railway
After plaintiff was disciplined by his employer, BNSF, for not promptly reporting a workplace injury, he filed suit claiming that BNSF's discipline violated the employee-protections provision of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20109(a)(4). The jury awarded plaintiff damages for emotion distress. The court concluded, however, that its decision in Kuduk v. BNSF Railway Co. required plaintiff to establish intentional retaliation and that the jury instructions did not compel such a finding. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Blackorby v. BNSF Railway" on Justia Law
Sieden v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against Chipotle, alleging claims under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), Minn. State. 363A et seq., for reprisal, age discrimination, and sexual orientation discrimination. On appeal, plaintiff challenges the district court's grant of summary judgment on his reprisal claim. Chipotle claims that he was discharged due to declining work effort and performance. The court concluded that plaintiff failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Chipotle’s stated reason for terminating his employment was pretextual. Therefore, the district court correctly determined that his reprisal claim under the MHRA fails as a matter of law and the court affirmed the judgment. View "Sieden v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc." on Justia Law
Guenther v. Griffin Construction Co.
Semmie John Guenther, Jr., filed an administrative charge with the EEOC, alleging that his former employer, Griffin Construction, discriminated against him on the basis of his disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. When Guenther passed away while his charge was pending, the special administrator of his estate filed suit on his behalf when he received the EEOC right-to-sue letter. The district court dismissed the action based on Ark. Code Ann. 16-62-101(a)(1) and found the claim had abated. The court held that federal common law does not incorporate state law to determine whether an ADA claim for compensatory damages survives or abates upon the death of the aggrieved party. The court joined its sister circuits that have allowed the individual’s estate to bring and maintain a suit for compensatory damages under the ADA in place of the aggrieved party. Therefore, Guenther’s ADA claim for compensatory damages survived his death and Griffin Construction is not entitled to judgment on the pleadings. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Guenther v. Griffin Construction Co." on Justia Law
Grant v. City of Blytheville, Arkansas
Plaintiff filed suit against the City, alleging violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621-634, and 42 U.S.C. 1983. Plaintiff alleged that he was terminated from his job on account of his race and age after being employed by the City for twenty-seven years. The court affirmed the district court's grant of the City's motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that the district court did not err in setting aside the entry of default judgment where the City's delay in filing its answer was excusable and there was no bad faith or intentional effort to delay on the City's part; plaintiff failed to identify no similarly situated employee outside plaintiff's protected class who was treated more favorably by the City, and thus the inference-of-discrimination element of plaintiff's prima facie case has not been established on this basis; plaintiff failed to identify any biased comments made by a decisionmaker that might establish an animus-based inference of discrimination; there has been no showing that the City failed to follow any applicable policy in making the decision to fire plaintiff and no inference of discrimination has been established on this basis; and the City consistently cited insubordination as its reason for firing plaintiff, and thus there is no record-based shifting-reasons basis for an inference of discrimination. Accordingly, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to substantiate his claims of race and age discrimination with sufficient probative evidence to permit a rational trier of fact to find in his favor. The court affirmed the judgment. View "Grant v. City of Blytheville, Arkansas" on Justia Law