Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Rock-Tenn in a civil rights action alleging religion and sex discrimination. The Eighth Circuit held that Title VII did not impose a legal obligation to provide an employee an articulated basis for dismissal at the time of firing, and an employer was certainly not bound as a matter of law to whatever reasons might have been provided; rather, it was well-established that a employer may elaborate on its explanation for an employment decision; and, in this case, there was no contradiction between the explanation given to plaintiff at the time of his termination and the non-discriminatory reasons for termination that Rock-Tenn articulated during this litigation. The court also held that plaintiff failed to show sufficient evidence that Rock-Tenn's proffered reasons for firing him -- poor performance -- were pretexts for discrimination. View "Rooney v. Rock-Tenn Converting Co." on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit dismissed petitioners' challenge to the FMCSA's final rule entitled "Medical Examiner’s Certification Integration." Petitioners are the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and an OOIDA member. Petitioners alleged that the new administrative rule means that OOIDA members were being subjected to more onerous sleep apnea tests, which in turn has led to delays, or worse, denials of medical certification to drive commercial motor vehicles. The court held that petitioners have not provided any evidence to support the second element of standing: causation. The court found that the two affidavits submitted by petitioners to prove that they have standing either contained generalized allegations or were not fairly traceable to the final rule. View "Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assoc. v. U.S. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to at-will employees in an action alleging breach of contract against Panera. Plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of themselves and a class of similarly situated store managers, alleging that Panera violated employee agreements by imposing a bonus cap. The court noted that under Missouri law, the agreements amounted to offers by Panera to enter into an unilateral contract; the court held that the Supreme Court of Missouri would conclude that an offerree must merely begin performance; and since each of the managers in the class here had at least begun performing under the offer, Panera could not modify the offer terms as to any manager. The court rejected Panera's contention that it reserved the power to modify or terminate its bonus offer before the managers began performing in accordance with that offer, and Panera's derivative argument that the district court should have revisited its decision to certify the class after determining that the bonus offers were offers to make a unilateral contract. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's rejection of Panera's novation, waiver, estoppel, and commercial frustration defenses. View "Boswell v. Panera Bread Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint in district court, alleging sex, race, and age discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The Eighth Circuit found that plaintiff likely adequately exhausted her remedies, and her pleadings indicated this prerequisite, especially on a motion to dismiss. Even if the lack of an initial verified charge would have indicated lack of exhaustion, the documents plaintiff supplied with her objections, including a copy of the verified charge mailed on July 28 and received by the EEOC, plus the Notice of Right to Sue, indicated she had cured any deficiency in the exhaustion requirements. Finally, the district court's failure to conduct a de novo review after plaintiff filed timely and specific objections was reversible error. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with directions to allow plaintiff to amend her pleadings. View "Rush v. Arkansas DWS" on Justia Law

by
Southern petitioned for review of the Board's decision ordering the company to bargain with the union. The Eighth Circuit held that substantial evidence supported the Board's determination that Southern violated section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by making a number of unlawful campaign statements that threatened plant closure; by making promises of benefits to employees who voted to decertify the union; by promulgating an unlawful reporting rule; by creating the impression that protected activities were under surveillance; and by unlawfully interrogating employees. However, the Board erred by determining that Southern violated section 8(a)(1) by communicating to employees that continued unionization was futile; by disparaging the union; and by threats of discipline, job loss, and other reprisals. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support the Board's determination that Southern violated section 8(a)(3) because the company was motivated by anti union animus, and Southern did not prove otherwise. The Board did not err in determining that the company violated sections 8(a)(5) and (1) by unilaterally restricting union meetings to a cubicle because the union's meeting space was a subject of mandatory bargaining. Finally, there was sufficient evidence to support the Board's findings that the 2012 petition was tainted by the company's unfair labor practices. View "Southern Bakeries, LLC v. NLRB" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting the Union's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. In this case, plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the Union had engaged in unfair labor practices, in violation of section 8(b)(4) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 158(b)(4). The court held that the Union's conduct did not violate the statute absent a "cease doing business" object beyond the disruption of relationships with customers and suppliers, which any picketed business would suffer. The cessation of business between the Markets and their customers and suppliers was not an object prohibited by section 158(b)(4)(ii)(B). The court held that enmeshing a secondary party in the union's conflict with the owner of a now-defunct business was not conduct sufficient to constitute a violation of the statute. View "Wartman v. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 653" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for MJ Optical in plaintiff's suit alleging that she was the victim of sex discrimination, age discrimination, and a hostile work environment. The court held that plaintiff did not suffer an adverse employment action and thus her claims for disparate treatment on the basis of sex failed. Likewise, plaintiff's claim of age discrimination failed because she could not maintain a claim for disparate treatment on account of her age. Finally, plaintiff's hostile work environment claim failed because she did not indicate in a timely manner the complained-of conduct was unwelcome. View "Blake v. MJ Optical, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2012, plaintiff filed suit against Union Pacific under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. 51 et seq., alleging liability for a lower back injury. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that plaintiff's suit was time-barred because he should have known about his injury and its cause more than three years before filing suit. In this case, plaintiff, a locomotive engineer for Union Pacific, testified that in 2007 and 2008 he experienced recurring lower-back pain that he attributed to potholes in the tracks, and that this was the same pain for which he later sought medical treatment. View "White v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

by
Clyde Carter, Jr. injured his shoulder and neck while working as a carman at BNSF Railway Company’s yard in Kansas City, Kansas. Carter immediately reported the injury to BNSF. The following year, he filed a Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) damage action, alleging that BNSF’s negligence caused his injury. BNSF’s discovery in defending the FELA lawsuit included a July 2009 deposition of Carter. In January 2012, as trial approached, a BNSF manager reviewed discovery materials provided by BNSF’s attorneys. He discovered discrepancies between Carter’s deposition testimony and information provided on his employment application and medical questionnaire submitted to BNSF in 2005. Thompson initiated a disciplinary investigation into potentially dishonest statements. Later, BNSF opened a second disciplinary investigation to determine if Carter signed a false statement that he arrived at work on time on February 5, 2012. The investigations culminated in two "on-property" evidentiary hearings, the conclusions of which found Carter committed dishonesty violations and recommended discipline in accordance with BNSF’s Policy for Employee Performance Accountability (PEPA). It was recommended Carter be terminated for dishonesty, a "stand alone" violation that could result in dismissal without regard to an employee's prior disciplinary history. Following termination, Carter filed an FRSA complaint with the Department of Labor, alleging that BNSF initiated the investigations leading to his dismissal in retaliation for Carter reporting the August 2007 work-related injury. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration dismissed Carter’s complaint, finding he committed the violations, and BNSF proved by clear and convincing evidence that "other employees who had not engaged in protected activity have been dismissed from service for dishonesty." Carter filed objections. After an evidentiary hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that BNSF violated 49 U.S.C. 20109(a)(4) and awarded reinstatement, back pay, attorneys’ fees, and $50,000 punitive damages. BNSF filed an administrative appeal. The Secretary’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) affirmed the ALJ. BNSF appealed. The Eighth Circuit found the ALJ's reasoning was based on a flawed interpretation of the FRSA; though the Administrative Review Board did not rely on the ALJ's chain-of-events causation theory, it affirmed based on findings which were either non-existent or insufficient to support the Board's contributing factor and affirmative defense rulings. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded with instructions. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. LABR" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit against BNSF, alleging retaliation claims under the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20109(a)(1)(C). The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of certain claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and conclusion that claims that were properly exhausted failed on the merits. The court held that the district court properly concluded that claims asserting additional adverse actions were unrelated to the claims in plaintiffs' OSHA complaint and unexhausted, and plaintiffs failed to exhaust their claims asserting retaliation for alleged protected activity in their statements to a claims representative. In regard to properly exhausted claims, the court held that, assuming that providing information about an injury caused by the carrier's negligence could give rise to liability, plaintiffs first alleged protected activity -- handwritten statements to the trainmaster -- fell short of satisfying section 20109(a)(1). Furthermore, plaintiffs' testimony at the investigative hearing could not have contributed to earlier adverse actions, and plaintiffs failed to prove that the discipline imposed by the company for rule violations was made with retaliatory motive. View "Foster v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law