Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Morrison v. County of Fairfax, VA
Plaintiffs, current and former Fairfax County fire captains, filed suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201-219, alleging that they are entitled to overtime pay. The court held that plaintiffs do not fall within the FLSA's exception for certain executive and administrative employees whose primary job duties are management-related. In this case, the County has not submitted evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to find, under the clear and convincing standard, that plaintiffs’ primary duty is anything other than first response. Therefore, plaintiffs are entitled to overtime compensation under the FLSA. The court reversed and remanded. View "Morrison v. County of Fairfax, VA" on Justia Law
McFeeley v. Jackson Street Entm’t
Plaintiffs, exotic dancers, filed suit alleging that their dance clubs failed to comply with the minimum wage standards pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., and corresponding Maryland wage and hour laws. The district court held that plaintiffs were employees of the defendant companies and not independent contractors. The court concluded that, based on the totality of the circumstances, the relationship between plaintiffs and defendants falls on the employee side of the spectrum. The court found that the many ways in which defendants directed the dancers rose to the level of control that an employer would typically exercise over an employee. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in rejecting defendants’ good faith defense for the period prior to September 2011 and awarding plaintiffs liquidated damages for that period; the trial court correctly excluded evidence showing plaintiffs’ earnings in the form of tips and performance fees; and the court found no grounds for reversal based on defendant's claims of error regarding jury instructions, the verdict sheet, or the denial of a new trial motion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "McFeeley v. Jackson Street Entm't" on Justia Law
Conrad v. CSX Transp., Inc.
After CSX charged plaintiff, one of its employees, with "serious" violations of the company's safety policy, plaintiff filed suit under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), 49 U.S.C. 20109, alleging that he was disciplined in retaliation for his activities as local chairman of the transportation union. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of CSX, concluding that plaintiff had failed to show that any CSX employee involved in the disciplinary process had also known about his union activities. The court held that the “knowledge” relevant for a retaliation claim under the FRSA must be tied to the decision-maker involved in the unfavorable personnel action. The court concluded that, because plaintiff does not present sufficient evidence that the relevant CSX decision-makers knew of his protected activities, his claims fail as a matter of law at the prima facie stage. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Conrad v. CSX Transp., Inc." on Justia Law
NLRB v. Bluefield Hospital
After registered nurses employed at the Hospitals elected the Union as their bargaining representative, the Hospitals challenged the election results and refused the Union’s requests to bargain. The Board issued a final decision concluding that the Hospitals violated the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 151 et seq., by refusing to bargain with the Union. Determining that the Hospitals did not waive their argument regarding the Board's lack of quorum, the court gave deference to the Board's interpretation and concluded that the Regional Director’s authority to act was not abrogated during the period when the Board lacked a quorum. The court rejected the Hospitals' argument that the Regional Director was not validly appointed because the Acting General Counsel, was without authority to act at the time of Regional Director Harrell’s appointment. It is the Board - not the General Counsel - that retains final authority over the appointment of a Regional Director, and the Board approved the appointment of the Regional Director in this case. The court further concluded that there is no merit in the Hospitals' contention that the Board appointed the Regional Director after the Board lost a quorum and consequently, the appointment was invalid. Finally, the court concluded that the Hospitals’ sole challenge to the merits of the Board’s final decision was baseless. Accordingly, the court granted the Board's application for enforcement. View "NLRB v. Bluefield Hospital" on Justia Law
Nestle Dreyer’s Ice Cream Co. v. NLRB
After the Board certified a collective bargaining unit consisting of all maintenance employees at an ice-cream production facility operated by Dreyers, the company contends that the Board petitioned for review. The court held that the Board acted within its broad discretion in certifying the Union’s petitioned-for unit where the Regional Director (RD), under the Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile framework, applied the traditional community-of-interest factors to determine not only that the maintenance employees share a community of interest amongst themselves, but also that maintenance employees form a group distinct from production employees. By doing so, the RD did not allow the extent of organization to control his decision. The court rejected Dreyer's objections that focused on attacking Specialty Healthcare rather than on the Board's decision in this case. Accordingly, the court denied Dreyer's petition for review and granted the Board's cross-petition for enforcement. View "Nestle Dreyer's Ice Cream Co. v. NLRB" on Justia Law
EEOC v. Maritime Autowash, Inc.
Maritime employed Elmer Escalante, an undocumented alien, at one of its two full-service carwashes. After Escalante filed a complaint against Maritime with the EEOC for discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., the EEOC issued a subpoena seeking information from Maritime related to Escalante’s charges. The parties disagree on how Escalante’s undocumented status affects the EEOC’s authority to investigate his charges. The district court denied the EEOC's application for subpoena enforcement. The court held that the EEOC’s subpoena, designed to investigate Escalante’s Title VII charges, is enforceable. In this case, the plain language of Title VII provides a "plausible" or "arguable" basis for the EEOC's subpoena where Title VII allows any "person claiming to be aggrieved" to file charges with the EEOC, and nothing explicitly bars undocumented workers from filing complaints. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "EEOC v. Maritime Autowash, Inc." on Justia Law
Harbourt v. PPE Casino Resorts Maryland
Plaintiffs, trainees at the Casino, filed a putative class action against the Casino, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201-219; the Maryland Wage and Hour Law (MWHL), Md. Code, Lab. & Empl. 3-401 to -431; and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (MWPCL), Md. Code, Lab. & Empl. 3-501 to -509. The district court granted the Casino's motion to dismiss, holding that the trainees failed to show that the primary beneficiary of their attendance at the training was the Casino rather than themselves. The court concluded that the trainees alleged facts supporting their claim that the Casino, and not the trainees, primarily benefited from the training where the Casino received a very large and immediate benefit - an entire workforce of over 800 dealers trained to operate table games to the Casino’s specifications at the very moment the table games became legal. The trainees, in contrast, received very little because the training was unique to the Casino’s specifications and not transferable to work in other casinos. Moreover, there are charges that the training was either conceived or carried out in such a way as to violate the spirit of the minimum wage law. Finally, the trainees allege, and the Casino acknowledges, that the Casino paid all participants in the "dealer school" the minimum hourly wage for the last two days of the twelve weeks of training. Because the trainees have alleged sufficient facts to support their claims, the court reversed and remanded. View "Harbourt v. PPE Casino Resorts Maryland" on Justia Law
Groves v. Communication Workers of America
Plaintiffs filed suit against their employer, AT&T; their union, CWA; and CWA's local affiliate, Local 3702 under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185. Plaintiffs and AT&T settled, and the district court granted CWA and Local 3702's motion for summary judgment. The court held that a hybrid section 301 suit can not properly be used to challenge union conduct that, though obstructive, did not contribute to the employees’ failure to exhaust their contractual remedies for the employer’s conduct. The court held that a section 301 claim requires an allegation that the union’s breach of its duty of fair representation played some role in the employee’s failure to exhaust his contractual remedies. In this case, plaintiffs do not allege that the Union’s conduct prevented them from grieving their terminations under the collective bargaining agreement. And because plaintiffs did not file a grievance with the Union, the Union did not know that plaintiffs were terminated until after the contractual period for filing a grievance had passed. The court held that there must be some causal nexus between a union’s breach of its duty of fair representation and an employee’s failure to exhaust contractual remedies. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Groves v. Communication Workers of America" on Justia Law
Gentry v. East West Partners Club
Plaintiff filed suit after her termination against her former employers for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12112(a), and for other violations of state and federal law. The jury found in favor of plaintiff on certain state law claims and in favor of the employers on all other claims. The court concluded that the district court correctly applied a but-for causation standard to plaintiff's ADA claim; the court rejected plaintiff's claim that the district court erred in instructing the jury where the "prevents or significantly restricts" standard is too demanding under the ADA Amendments Act, Pub. L. No 110-325, section 5; even if the court assumes that the district court’s instruction was erroneous and that the error was plain, plaintiff has not shown that it affected her substantial rights; and the court rejected plaintiff's contention that the district court erred in instructing the jury on the “regarded as” prong of the definition of disability because she failed to show how she was prejudiced. Therefore, the court found no abuse of discretion and no serious prejudice to plaintiff that warrants vacating the verdict on her disability discrimination claims. Further, the court rejected plaintiff's challenge to the district court’s instruction on “record of” disability where she did not object to the instruction and on appeal did not explain how the omitted language applies to her case. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's challenges to the damages the jury awarded on her state law claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Gentry v. East West Partners Club" on Justia Law
Calderon v. GEICO General Ins. Co.
In an action asserting denial of overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., and the New York labor law (NYLL), N.Y. Lab. Law 650 et seq.; N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 12, 142–2.2, GEICO appealed the district court's grant of judgment against them and plaintiffs cross-appealed several rulings related to the remedy awarded. The court agreed with plaintiffs' argument that, in the absence of an award of liquidated damages, the district court abused its discretion in declining to award prejudgment interest on the basis that GEICO acted in good faith in treating its Investigators as exempt. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s decision denying prejudgment interest under the FLSA and NYLL and remanded so that the district court may award prejudgment interest. The court otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "Calderon v. GEICO General Ins. Co." on Justia Law