Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Demetris v. Transport Workers Union of America
After American filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it sought to reject and to renegotiate its collective bargaining agreements with TWU. American and TWU negotiated new agreements, including an early separation program. TWU members who took advantage of the Early Separation Program filed two putative class-actions alleging that TWU breached its duty of fair representation by excluding them from the bulk of the equity distribution. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the consolidated actions, holding that TWU did not breach its duty of fair representation. In this case, TWU's equity distribution scheme was not arbitrary; the allegations of discrimination were implausible; and TWU did not act in bad faith. View "Demetris v. Transport Workers Union of America" on Justia Law
Rizo v. Yovino
After plaintiff discovered that she was payed less than her male counterparts for the same work, she filed suit under the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. 206(d); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5; and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Cal. Gov. Code 12940. The County conceded that it paid plaintiff less than comparable male employees for the same work, but raised an affirmative defense to a claim under the Equal Pay Act that the differential was "based on any other factor other than sex." In this case, the County claimed that the pay differential was a result of prior salary. The court concluded that Kouba v. Allstate Insurance Co. is controlling in this case. Kouba held that prior salary can be a factor other than sex, provided that the employer shows that prior salary effectuates some business policy and that the employer uses prior salary reasonably in light of its stated purpose as well as its other practices. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's denial of the County's motion for summary judgment, remanding with instructions for the district court to evaluate the business reasons offered by the County and to determine whether the County used prior salary reasonably in light of its stated purposes as well as its other practices. View "Rizo v. Yovino" on Justia Law
Santillan v. USA Waste of California
Plaintiff, a 53-year-old garbage truck driver, filed suit against USA Waste, his employer of 32 years, alleging wrongful termination based on age discrimination and retaliation. The district court granted summary judgment for USA Waste. The court held that the district court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of USA Waste because plaintiff established a prima facie case under both his age discrimination and retaliation theories, and USA Waste failed to introduce any evidence that it had a legitimate reason for firing him. In this case, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), Pub.L. 99-603, 100 Stat. 3359, did not require proof of employment eligibility from plaintiff, and USA Waste could not make plaintiff's reinstatement contingent on verification of his immigration status because doing so would violate California public policy. Furthermore, plaintiff's use of an attorney was activity protected by California public policy, USA Waste fired plaintiff because he was represented by his attorney at the Settlement Agreement negotiations, and the district court erred by holding that USA Waste provided a legitimate reason for firing plaintiff. Therefore, the court concluded that USA Waste failed to meet its burden as to plaintiff's claim based on retaliation discrimination. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied plaintiff's oral request for leave to amend the complaint eight months after the filing deadline. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Santillan v. USA Waste of California" on Justia Law
Brunozzi v. Cable Communications, Inc.
Plaintiffs Matteo Brunozzi and Casey McCormick, technicians for CCI, filed separate suits alleging that CCI's compensation plan violated the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 207, and Oregon's statutory requirement that an employer pay all wages earned and unpaid after terminating an employee, ORS 652.140. Brunozzi also alleged additional claims under Oregon law. The district court granted summary judgment for CCI. The court held that CCI's pay plan violated the FLSA's overtime provisions. In this case, the diminishing "bonus" device in CCI's pay plan caused it to miscalculate the technicians' regular hourly rate during weeks when they work overtime and allowed CCI to pay the technicians less during those weeks. Consequently, the court reversed as to this issue and also reversed as to plaintiffs' claim under ORS 652.140. Having examined the text, context, and pertinent legislative history, the court found that the Oregon legislature intended the term "reported" in ORS 659A.199 to mean a report of information to either an external or internal authority. In this case, Brunozzi complained to his supervisors on several occasions that he was not being properly compensated for overtime. Therefore, the court reversed as to Brunozzi's retaliation claim under ORS 659A.199. The court also reversed as to Brunozzi's retaliation claim under ORS 652.355 where the act of complaining about inadequate wages was a protected activity. View "Brunozzi v. Cable Communications, Inc." on Justia Law
Zetwick v. County of Yolo
Plaintiff, a county correctional officer, filed suit alleging that the county sheriff created a sexually hostile work environment, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov't Code 12900 et seq. Plaintiff alleged, among other things, that defendant greeted her with unwelcome hugs on more than one hundred occasions, and a kiss at least once, during a 12-year period. The district court granted summary judgment for the sheriff and the county. The court concluded that a reasonable juror could conclude that the differences in hugging of men and women were not, as defendants argue, just "genuine but innocuous differences in the ways men and women routinely interact with members of the same sex and of the opposite sex." The court also held that the district court's contrary conclusion may have been influenced by application of incorrect legal standards. In this case, the district court had not properly considered the totality of the circumstances where the district court failed to consider whether a reasonable juror would find that hugs, in the kind, number, frequency, and persistence described by plaintiff, created a hostile work environment. The court concluded that plaintiff submitted evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that, even if the sheriff also hugged men on occasion, there were "qualitative and quantitative differences" in the hugging conduct toward the two genders. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Zetwick v. County of Yolo" on Justia Law
Brandon v. Maricopa County
Plaintiff filed suit against the county and certain county officials after she was terminated as a litigation attorney for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office (MCAO). Before her termination, county officials requested that she not be assigned further cases in which the county was a party and which involved risk management. A jury returned a verdict for plaintiff, finding that she was terminated in retaliation for her exercise of First Amendment rights in speaking to a newspaper reporter, and against certain county officials for state-law based tortious interference with her employment contract. The court concluded that no reasonable jury could conclude that the county's risk management office was not the client. Therefore, the court reversed the tortious interference with contract judgment because Defendants Wilson and Armfield's conduct was not improper. With the legally defined scope of an attorney's duties in mind, the court explained that it becomes obvious that plaintiff's comments to the newspaper could not constitute constitutionally protected citizen speech under the principles from Dahlia v. Rodriguez. Accordingly, the court reversed the First Amendment retaliation verdict. The court remanded for the district court to enter judgment for defendants and vacated the fee award. View "Brandon v. Maricopa County" on Justia Law
Mayes v. WinCo Holdings, Inc.
Plaintiff was fired for theft and dishonesty from WinCo after twelve years of employment because she took a stale cake from the store bakery to the break room to share with fellow employees and told a loss prevention investigator that management had given her permission to do so. WinCo also determined that plaintiff's behavior rose to the level of gross misconduct under the store's personnel policies, denied plaintiff and her minor children benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), 29 U.S.C. 1161(a), 1163(2), and denied plaintiff credit for accrued vacation days. Plaintiff filed suit for gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., a claim under COBRA; and wage claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., as well as corresponding state law claims. The district court granted summary judgment for WinCo. The court concluded that the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's discrimination claims where ample circumstantial evidence, as well as powerful direct evidence of a supervisor's discriminatory comments, raise a material dispute regarding pretext; if WinCo fired plaintiff for discriminatory reasons, she may be entitled to COBRA benefits and thus the district court erred in dismissing that claim; and, likewise, the district court erred in dismissing the wage claims. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Mayes v. WinCo Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law
Reynaga v. Roseburg Forest Products
Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Roseburg, alleging hostile work environment, disparate treatment, and retaliation in violation of state and federal civil rights laws. The district court granted Roseburg’s motion for summary judgment. In regard to the hostile work environment claim, the court held that Roseburg employee Timothy Branaugh's conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment, and Roseburg knew about Branaugh’s misconduct and failed to take effective remedial action. In regard to the disparate treatment claim, the court held that plaintiff demonstrated the necessary prima facie case to survive summary judgment based on Roseburg terminating plaintiff's employment and breaking into plaintiff's locker. The court held that there is a genuine dispute of fact as to Roseburg’s discriminatory intent regarding those challenged actions. Finally, in regard to the retaliatory termination claim, the court held that a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that Roseburg’s proffered reason for terminating plaintiff was pretextual. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded the claims of hostile work environment, disparate treatment, and retaliation. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's other claims. View "Reynaga v. Roseburg Forest Products" on Justia Law
Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Schurke
This case arose out of a dispute between a flight attendant and the airline about her sick leave. Plaintiff claimed an entitlement to use her December vacation leave for her child’s illness without being charged points, under the Washington Family Care Act, Wash. Rev. Code 49.12.270(1). The Department determined that plaintiff was entitled to use her December vacation leave to care for her child in May, and the airline was fined $200 for violating the statute. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment against the airline’s preemption claim under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 151-188. The court concluded that the state law right and the collective bargaining agreement are inextricably intertwined. Minor disputes are preempted by the RLA and must be dealt with first through a carrier’s internal dispute resolution process, and then a System Adjustment Board comprised of workers and management. In this case, the court concluded that the question whether plaintiff could use her vacation leave in advance of her scheduled time for this purpose is to be determined by the dispute resolution process in the collective bargaining agreement, not by the state claim resolution process. Because the district court erred by rejecting preemption, the court reversed and remanded. View "Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Schurke" on Justia Law
Matson v. United Parcel Service, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against her employer, UPS, alleging a state law gender-based hostile work environment claim. A jury returned a verdict for plaintiff on that claim, but the district court granted UPS's motion for a new trial on the ground that the claim was preempted under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. 185(a). The jury in the second trial found for UPS. The court concluded that the district court erred in holding plaintiff's claim preempted. The court fashioned a two-part test to determine whether a state law claim is preempted under section 301. At the first step, the court asks “whether a particular right inheres in state law or, instead, is grounded in a CBA.” Only if the claim is “founded directly on rights created by collective-bargaining agreements” is preemption warranted at this step. At step two, “to determine whether a state law right is ‘substantially dependent’ on the terms of a CBA,” the court asks “whether the claim can be resolved by ‘look[ing] to’ versus interpreting the CBA.” In this case, the jury did not have to decide what any provision of the CBA requires. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's conclusion that plaintiff's claims were preempted to the extent they relied on her allegations regarding UPS’s extra work assignments, and reinstated the jury verdict from the first trial. The court also reversed the district court’s conclusion that the jury’s damages award was “grossly excessive” and remanded for reconsideration. View "Matson v. United Parcel Service, Inc." on Justia Law