Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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Troutbrook Company LLC, which operates a hotel in Brooklyn, New York, was found to have violated the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to bargain in good faith with the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO. After the hotel’s employees voted for union representation in 2018, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certified the Union as their representative. Troutbrook challenged this certification and initially refused to bargain, which the NLRB found unlawful in 2019. The company then engaged in negotiations with the Union but refused to discuss economic subjects such as wages and benefits until all non-economic subjects were resolved.The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that Troutbrook violated Sections 8(a)(5) and 8(a)(1) of the Act by refusing to bargain over economic subjects and restricting the non-economic subjects it would discuss. The NLRB upheld this decision, noting that Troutbrook’s refusal to discuss economic subjects unreasonably fragmented the negotiations and reduced the parties’ bargaining flexibility. The Board also granted the Union’s request for a twelve-month extension of its certification due to Troutbrook’s conduct.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reviewed the case and found substantial evidence supporting the NLRB’s determination. The court noted that Troutbrook consistently refused to bargain over economic subjects throughout the negotiations, which obstructed the parties’ ability to make progress. The court rejected Troutbrook’s arguments that its bargaining strategy was justified by the COVID-19 pandemic and that the Union’s conduct excused its refusal to bargain. The court denied Troutbrook’s petition for review and granted the NLRB’s cross-application for enforcement of its order. View "Troutbrook Company LLC v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The case involves Hospital de la Concepción, Inc. (HDLC), a hospital in Puerto Rico, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). HDLC reduced the work hours of its employees, represented by Unidad Laboral de Enfermeras(os) y Empleados de la Salud (Union), without bargaining with the Union. HDLC argued that it was privileged under the collective-bargaining agreements (CBAs) to unilaterally reduce employees’ work hours without bargaining and that it had no obligation to provide the Union with the information requested. The NLRB cross-applied for enforcement of its decision and order.The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that HDLC violated the National Labor Relations Act by failing to bargain with the Union before reducing the employees’ work hours and by failing to provide the Union with requested information relevant to the decision to reduce work hours. The NLRB affirmed and adopted the ALJ's findings with modifications.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied HDLC’s petition and granted the NLRB’s cross-petition for enforcement. The court found that the CBAs did not authorize HDLC to unilaterally reduce its employees’ hours. The court also found that HDLC had a duty to respond to the Union’s information requests and failed to do so. The court rejected HDLC’s argument that the Board erred by failing to consider a defense not relevant to the theory under which it was charged. The court also found no error with the Board’s conclusion that HDLC failed to demonstrate that the economic exigencies exception privileged its unilateral reduction in employees’ scheduled work hours. Finally, the court could not consider HDLC’s argument that the Board should have excluded interim earnings from its remedy due to HDLC's failure to object before the Board. View "Hospital de la Concepcion v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The case involves an Asian American federal employee, Tommy Ho, who alleged that his employer declined to promote him in retaliation for his previous activity protected by Title VII. Ho had been employed as a criminal investigator in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) since 1999. He filed an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint in 2015 alleging racial discrimination. In 2017 and 2018, he applied for three promotions but was not selected for any of them. Ho filed two more EEO complaints alleging that these non-selections were due to retaliation. The case at hand centers on Ho's application for a program manager position in 2019, for which he was not selected.The district court dismissed Ho's complaint, holding that it failed to sufficiently allege a causal connection between Ho's protected EEO activity and his non-selection for the program manager position. The court concluded that the ten-month gap between Ho's latest protected activity and his non-selection was too long to support an inference of causation.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The appellate court found that, when viewed as a whole and in the light most favorable to Ho, his allegations narrowly sufficed to support a plausible inference that his protected activity was a but-for cause of his non-selection. The court noted that Ho had previously complained about the conduct of the very people responsible for filling the opening, and that he was qualified for the position. The court also noted that the alleged reason for Ho's non-selection was entirely subjective. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Ho v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The case involves Tanya Mills, who sued her former employer, Anadolu Agency NA, Inc., under the D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law. Mills alleges that she worked as an Executive Producer in Anadolu’s D.C. news bureau until she was terminated in July 2019. She claims that Anadolu unlawfully delayed the payment of her final month’s wages and that it continues unlawfully to withhold the value of her accrued but unused leave. Anadolu moved to dismiss Mills’s suit for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that none of its contacts with the D.C. forum related to Mills’s wage-payment claims. The district court agreed and dismissed the case.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The court held that Mills only needed to allege facts sufficient to show Anadolu’s purposeful contacts with the District of Columbia and a nexus between those contacts and her claim under D.C.’s Wage Payment and Collection Law. The court found that Mills had adequately pled a joint-employment relationship with Anadolu sufficient to survive its motion to dismiss for failure to state a legal viable claim. The court also rejected Anadolu’s alternative ground for dismissal based on a forum-selection clause in an agreement Mills signed with Anadolu’s Turkish parent company. The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Mills v. Anadolu Agency NA, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involves the Federal Education Association Stateside Region (FEA-SR), a teachers' union, and the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). The parties were negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) when they reached an impasse. The Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) was called in to resolve the remaining issues. The FSIP issued an order resolving the impasse, but FEA-SR refused to sign the agreement, arguing that the FSIP lacked jurisdiction to resolve certain issues. FEA-SR filed an arbitral grievance claiming that the Department of Defense's submission of the agreement for agency head review without FEA-SR's signature violated the contractual ground rules and constituted bad faith bargaining.The arbitrator found in favor of FEA-SR, concluding that the Department of Defense had committed unfair labor practices by cutting negotiations short and submitting an unexecuted agreement for agency head review. The FLRA, however, set aside the arbitrator's award, finding that the arbitrator could not review whether the FSIP had jurisdiction over the disputed issues and that the agreement was "executed" when the FSIP issued its order.FEA-SR petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for review of the FLRA's decisions. The court held that it had jurisdiction to review the petition because the FLRA's decisions involved an unfair labor practice. However, on the merits, the court rejected FEA-SR's claims and denied the petition for review. The court agreed with the FLRA that the arbitrator lacked authority to review the FSIP order and that the agreement was executed when the FSIP issued its order. View "Federal Education Association Stateside Region v. FLRA" on Justia Law

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The case involves Dr. Elizabeth Schacht, a staff anesthesiologist and critical care physician at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital complex in Colorado. In 2018, she was fired due to consistent and serious problems with her patient care, professionalism, and communication. The hospital Director deemed her performance as a potential imminent threat to patient welfare. After her dismissal, Dr. Schacht appealed to a VA Disciplinary Appeals Board, which upheld her discharge following a four-day evidentiary hearing. Dr. Schacht then filed an action in federal district court, challenging the Board's decision.The district court initially granted in part and denied in part both parties' motions for summary judgment. It rejected most of Dr. Schacht's procedural claims except her contention that the Board's failure to explain why it had excluded her additional evidence was arbitrary and capricious. The court remanded the case for the Board to provide either an explanation for its evidentiary ruling or a revised decision. Upon remand, the Board explained that it had rejected Dr. Schacht's submission due to its late submission and irrelevance to the case. The district court accepted the Board's reasoning and granted summary judgment to the agency.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment. It found that the Board's decision to reject Dr. Schacht's late submission was reasonable and not arbitrary. The court also held that the Board's decision to uphold Dr. Schacht's firing was not arbitrary or capricious as it adequately explained why it believed no alternative penalty would redress Dr. Schacht's unprofessional conduct. View "Schacht v. Lieberman" on Justia Law

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The case involves Absolute Healthcare, operating as Curaleaf, a company that runs medical marijuana dispensaries across the United States. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Curaleaf committed four unfair labor practices, including unlawfully firing an employee, Anissa Keane, for attempting to unionize a Curaleaf store in Gilbert, Arizona. The NLRB also ordered Curaleaf to read aloud to its Gilbert-based employees a notice describing the Board’s findings and to grant the union access to Curaleaf’s Gilbert store.The case was initially heard by an administrative law judge who found in favor of the NLRB on all four charges. The judge ordered Curaleaf to reinstate Keane with backpay, to read aloud a notice of the unfair labor practice findings to Curaleaf Gilbert employees, and to grant the union access to Curaleaf Gilbert’s facilities any time Curaleaf spoke to its employees about unionization. Curaleaf appealed to the NLRB, challenging only the unlawful-discharge finding and the notice-reading and union-access remedies. A divided three-member panel of the NLRB affirmed the administrative law judge's decision.The case was then reviewed by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The court held that the NLRB's finding that Curaleaf unlawfully fired Keane was not supported by substantial evidence. The court also held that the NLRB's notice-reading and union-access remedies could not be enforced. However, the court granted the NLRB's cross-application for enforcement as to the three uncontested unfair labor practices. View "Absolute Healthcare v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The case involves David W. Noble, Jr., a candidate for president in the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) election, who sought to publish his campaign material in the NALC's magazine, the Postal Record. The NALC denied Noble's request, citing an internal policy that only allows political advertisements to be run in the magazine's designated election issue. Noble sued NALC, asserting that the Union was required to publish his campaign material under Section 401(c) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). The district court granted NALC's motion to dismiss the complaint, interpreting the LMRDA to only require a union to coordinate the delivery of a candidate’s standalone, already-printed campaign material to its membership, not to publish a candidate's campaign advertisements.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed with the district court's interpretation of the LMRDA. The appellate court held that the term "distribute" in Section 401(c) of the LMRDA includes the publication of campaign literature in a union magazine. The court also found that the district court misapplied the reasonableness standard by focusing on the reasonableness of NALC's internal policy rather than the reasonableness of Noble's request. The court further held that requiring NALC to publish Noble's campaign material would not constitute compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment. The court reversed the district court's dismissal of Noble's claim and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Noble v. National Association of Letter Carriers" on Justia Law

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The case involves Anthony Perry, a former employee of the Census Bureau, who retired under a settlement agreement after the Bureau initiated procedures to terminate him. Perry filed a "mixed case" appeal before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), alleging violations of the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) and various federal anti-discrimination laws. The MSPB dismissed the case, stating it lacked jurisdiction over voluntary retirement decisions. Perry appealed to the district court, which upheld the MSPB's decision and granted summary judgment in favor of the government.Perry then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, arguing that the district court erred by not considering his discrimination claims de novo and by affirming the MSPB's dismissal of his case for lack of jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals partially reversed the district court's decision, ruling that the district court should have allowed Perry to litigate the merits of his discrimination claims as required by statute. However, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's conclusion that the MSPB correctly dismissed Perry's mixed case for lack of jurisdiction. View "Perry v. Raimondo" on Justia Law

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Dr. Jennifer Seed, a former employee of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed a lawsuit against the EPA and the United States, alleging age discrimination. Seed claimed that she was involuntarily demoted to a junior position as older managers were replaced with younger employees. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the EPA, concluding that Seed had not provided sufficient evidence to support her claim of age discrimination.The district court's decision was based on its finding that Seed had not provided direct evidence of discriminatory intent that would entitle her to a trial, nor had she provided indirect evidence that would give rise to an inference of discrimination. The court also found that Seed had not shown that she was treated less favorably than younger employees after her reassignment or that her treatment was based on her age.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed Seed's appeal, ruling that the court lacked jurisdiction to address the merits of her reassignment claims because she lacked standing under Article III of the United States Constitution. The court found that Seed had not demonstrated that a favorable court decision would likely redress her claimed injuries. The court therefore remanded the case to the district court with instructions to vacate the grant of summary judgment and to dismiss the reassignment claim for lack of standing. View "Seed v. EPA" on Justia Law