Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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Fair Labor Standards Act claims, not dependent on interpretation of collective bargaining agreement, need not be arbitrated, where arbitration clause does not include a clear waiver. Certified nursing assistants, sued their employer, Silver Care, for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and related New Jersey laws, claiming that Silver underpaid them for overtime by failing to include certain hourly wage differentials in the calculation of plaintiffs’ regular rate of pay, and by deducting plaintiffs’ half-hour meal breaks from their total hours worked, although they often worked through those breaks. Silver unsuccessfully moved to dismiss or to stay the proceedings, citing the arbitration clause in the governing collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The Third Circuit affirmed. A court may compel arbitration of a plaintiff’s federal statutory claim when the arbitration provision clearly and unmistakably waives the employee’s ability to vindicate that right in court and the federal statute does not exclude arbitration as an appropriate forum. If no clear or unmistakable waiver exists, arbitration may be compelled if the plaintiff’s FLSA claim “depends on the disputed interpretation of a CBA provision,” which must “first go to arbitration.” Silver did not dispute that the arbitration provision lacks a clear and unmistakable waiver. Neither of the FLSA claims depend on disputed interpretations of CBA provisions. View "Jones v. SCO Silver Care Operations LLC" on Justia Law

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Delaware State University hired Dr. Grevious as an associate professor and as a department chairperson in August 2010, with a contract to end in June 2011. Grevious complained that her supervising administrators were impeding her work on reaccreditation based on her gender. In 2011, the University gave Grevious a renewable contract as an associate professor for the 2011- 2012 academic year. Grevious was unable to meet the reaccreditation deadline. The University terminated her term as chairperson. Grevious filed an EEOC charge of discrimination; the investigation was closed for lack of corroborating evidence. The University revoked Grevious’s renewable contract and issued her a terminal contract ending her employment effective May 2012. Grevious claims that the Provost admitted that this was based on the EEOC charge, unrelated to her teaching or professional performance. She filed a second EEOC charge. The Provost denied making such admissions, stating that the decision was based on Grevious’s documented interpersonal conflicts at the University. Grevious sued, alleging retaliation under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-3, and retaliation under 42 U.S.C. 1981. The district court rejected her claims on summary judgment. The Third Circuit reversed with respect to her contract revision claim, but otherwise affirmed, holding that at the prima facie stage, a plaintiff need only proffer evidence sufficient to raise the inference that her engagement in a protected activity was the likely reason for the adverse employment action, not the but-for reason. View "Carvalho-Grevious v. Delaware State University" on Justia Law

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Egan worked for the Port Authority, 2008-2012, primarily managing fleet vehicles. During his first two years, only a small percentage of his work involved “economic development.” He did not perform any economic development work after 2010. Egan suffers from migraine headaches and claimed that their frequency increased with his transfer to the Engineering Department. He applied for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave in April 2012. The Port Authority approved intermittent FMLA leave. An issue arose in July because Egan had been reporting only the “approximate” number of hours he worked. In October, Egan was informed that all “economic development functions” were being eliminated, his “temporary reassignment” to the Engineering Department was “deemed completed,” and he was terminated. Egan alleged violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, and retaliation for exercising his FMLA rights, 29 U.S.C. 2601. A jury rejected his claims. The Third Circuit vacated as to the FMLA claim; the district court erred in refusing to give a mixed-motive jury instruction. A Department of Labor regulation permits a plaintiff to rely on a mixed-motive theory if the evidence, direct or circumstantial, permits a reasonable juror to conclude that use of FMLA leave was a negative factor in the employer’s adverse employment decision. View "Egan v. Delaware River Port Authority" on Justia Law

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Capps was hired in 1989, to operate a mixing machine.Capps suffers with Avascular Necrosis: A “loss of blood flow, severely limiting oxygen and nutrient delivery to the bone and tissues, essentially suffocating and causing death of those cells.” Capps developed arthritis in both hips which necessitated bilateral hip replacement in 2003. He experiences severe pain, sometimes lasting for days or weeks at a time. Capps was continuously recertified for intermittent Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601, leave until his employment was terminated in 2014, for violation of a policy concerning dishonesty. Capps purportedly tried to use FMLA leave for DUI court dates. The Third CIrcuit affirmed summary judgment, rejecting Capps’ claims of interference with and retaliation for exercise of his FMLA rights and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101. An employer’s honest belief that its employee was misusing FMLA leave can defeat an FMLA retaliation claim. While, under certain circumstances, a request for intermittent FMLA leave may also constitute a request for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, in this case, even if such a request was made, there is no evidence that the employer failed to provide any requested accommodation. View "Capps v. Mondelez Global LLC" on Justia Law

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Beginning in 2008, PGW, which manufactures auto glass, engaged in reductions in force (RIFs). Individual directors had broad discretion in selecting whom to terminate. PGW did not: train directors, employ written guidelines, conduct disparate-impact analysis, nor document why any particular employee was terminated. Plaintiffs, terminated in a March 2009 RIF, were each over 50 years old. After filing charges with the EEOC, plaintiffs brought an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) collective action, asserting disparate treatment, disparate impact, and retaliation. The district court ruled that ADEA subgroups are cognizable, and conditionally certified a collective action of terminated employees who were at least 50 years old. After the case was transferred, another district judge concluded that the action should be decertified because the opt-in plaintiffs’ claims were factually dissimilar from those of the named plaintiffs. The court also excluded: statistical evidence in favor of plaintiffs’ disparate-impact claim; an expert opinion on “reasonable” human-resources RIF practices; and testimony concerning age-related implicit-bias studies. The court granted held that the 50-and-older disparate-impact claim was not cognizable under the ADEA and granted summary judgment as to plaintiffs’ disparate-treatment claims. The Third Circuit vacated in part. The ADEA prohibits disparate impacts based on age, not 40-and-older identity. A rule that disallowed subgroups would ignore genuine statistical disparities that could otherwise be actionable under the plain text of the statute. The court vacated the exclusion of testimony by plaintiffs’ statistics expert and remanded for Daubert proceedings. View "Karlo v. Pittsburgh Glass Works LLC" on Justia Law

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Carroll was hired by the Delaware River Port Authority in 1989 as a police officer. From 1989-2009, he served six years as a Navy corpsman and 10 years in the Pennsylvania National Guard. When not on active military duty, Carroll maintained his Port Authority employment, achieving the rank of corporal in 2004. Carroll was deployed to Iraq in 2009, where he sustained injuries leading to cervical spondylosis, degenerative disk disease, bilateral torn rotator cuffs, brain injury, and high-frequency hearing loss. Carroll was in rehabilitation until his 2013 honorable discharge. Carroll has not worked for the Port Authority since his deployment. In 2010 and 2012, while on active duty but in rehabilitation, Carroll unsuccessfully applied for a promotion. Carroll sued under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301, alleging discrimination based on military service. After discovery, the court certified an interlocutory appeal on the question of whether Carroll must plead and prove that he was objectively qualified for promotion to sergeant in order to sustain his discrimination suit. The Third Circuit stated that plaintiffs need not plead or prove that they are objectively qualified in order to meet their initial burden under USERRA; instead, employers may raise a plaintiff’s lack of qualifications as a nondiscriminatory justification for declining to promote the plaintiff, notwithstanding military service. View "Carroll v. Delaware River Port Authority" on Justia Law

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In 2009, two groups of Pennsylvania hospital employees claimed they were not properly compensated for work performed during meal breaks. They sought to bring a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 216(b). The actions were conditionally certified and “opt-in” notices were sent to potential plaintiffs. More than 3,000 individuals joined one collective action and more than 800 opted in to the other. The parties conducted collective action related discovery for nearly two years. Both judges subsequently decertified the collective actions, reasoning that the opt-in plaintiffs were not similarly situated to the named plaintiffs. Their job duties varied significantly; those duties were “highly relevant in terms of how, why and whether the employees were compensated properly for missed or interrupted meal breaks.” More than 300 different individuals supervised the plaintiffs and had individual authority to implement policies. The named plaintiffs successfully moved to voluntarily dismiss their claims with prejudice (FRCP 41(a)). The Third Circuit rejected an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The same law firm then filed new claims against the same defendants, with new named plaintiffs, which were dismissed based on issue preclusion. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that only plaintiffs who had accepted an offer of judgment had been dismissed with prejudice. When the other opt-in plaintiffs were dismissed without prejudice, they did not suffer an adverse judgment on the merits of any claim. View "Halle v. West Penn Allegheny Health System, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2008, Camden implemented a “directed patrols” policy, requiring police officers to engage with city residents even though the residents are not suspected of any wrongdoing. The program consisted of “a structured 15-20 minute deployment into a targeted area to accomplish a specific patrol or crime reduction function.” Officers are to obtain personal information from the individuals they interact with, if the individuals agree to provide it. During these encounters, officers should “approach community members" and "inquire about criminal activity or quality of life issues.” According to the city, directed patrols in Camden were not new. “[T]he difference ... was that directed patrols would be tracked and recorded. The Fraternal Order of Police sued, claiming Camden had imposed an unlawful quota on arrests or citations because officers on supplemental patrol were expected to conduct a minimum of 27 directed patrols per shift and officers on regular patrol were expected to perform a minimum of 18; failure to comply is cause for disciplinary action, in violation of N.J.S.A. 40A:14-181.2. Individual officers alleged retaliation. The court granted defendants summary judgment, finding the anti-quota statute inapplicable to the policy. The Third Circuit affirmed with respect to the anti-quota law and First Amendment retaliation, but reversed as to whistleblower-retaliation. View "Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1 v. City of Camden" on Justia Law

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In 2011, in response to a severe budget crisis, the Government of the Virgin Islands enacted the Virgin Islands Economic Stability Act (VIESA), which reduced most government employees’ salaries by 8%. Many government employees were covered by collective bargaining agreements that set forth detailed salary and benefit schedules. Their unions sued, alleging that the VIESA salary reductions constituted an impermissible impairment of the collective bargaining agreements, in violation of the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution. The district court, after a bench trial, held that VIESA did not violate the Contract Clause. The Third Circuit reversed, first holding that the issue is not moot, although VIESA has expired. The court’s determination will have a preclusive effect in pending arbitration between the unions and the government, concerning wages not paid in the interim. VIESA’s substantial impairment of the collective bargaining agreements was not reasonable in light of the fact that the government knew of its precarious financial condition when it agreed to the contracts. View "United Steel Paper and Forestry Rubber Manufacturing Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union AFL- CIO- CLC v. Government of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs worked 12-hour shifts at DuPont’s Towanda, Pennsylvania manufacturing plant and had to be onsite before and after their shifts to “don and doff” uniforms and protective gear. They were required to participate in “shift relief,” which involved employees from the outgoing shift sharing information about the status of work with incoming shift employees. The time spent donning, doffing, and providing shift relief ranged from 30-60 minutes a day. DuPont compensated plaintiffs for 30-minute meal breaks and two other non-consecutive 30-minute breaks during their twelve-hour shifts, although there was no legal requirement to do so. The paid break time always exceeded the amount of time plaintiffs spent donning and doffing and providing shift relief. The district court rejected, on summary judgment, plaintiffs’ claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201, and Pennsylvania’s Wage Payment and Collection Law, seeking overtime compensation for time they spent donning and doffing and performing “shift relief” on behalf of a purported class. The Third Circuit reversed, finding that the FLSA and applicable regulations, as its 2005 precedent in Wheeler v. Hampton Twp., limiting offsetting to “extra compensation” not included in the regular rate, compel the opposite result. View "Smiley v. EI DuPont de Nemours & Co." on Justia Law