Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that Falcon Jet violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act when it failed to pay team leaders and production liaisons not less than one and one-half times their regular rates for hours worked in excess of forty per week after June 6, 2014. Sixteen other team leaders and production liaisons joined the action. Falcon Jet claimed exemptions for executive or administrative employees and highly-compensated employees. The district court held that the exemptions do not apply and awarded plaintiffs liquidated damages. The Eighth Circuit reversed and held that the district court erred in granting plaintiffs summary judgment on the limited record, because the record did not establish that every plaintiff was not an exempt employee for the entire period at issue. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Coates v. Dassault Falcon Jet Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to plaintiff's former employer, Con-E-Co, on plaintiff's sex discrimination claim, her sexual harassment claim, and her retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act. The court held that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination because she did not demonstrate that she met Con-E-Co's legitimate job expectations or that Con-E-Co treated her differently than similarly situated male employees; the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to Con-E-Co regarding her sexual harassment claim based on vulgar behavior directed at her by her coworkers, because plaintiff failed to demonstrate that she subjectively perceived the alleged harassment as abusive; and plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case for retaliation in response to either her race discrimination or sex discrimination complaints. View "Gibson v. Concrete Equipment Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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After apprentice electrician Timothy Sky was seriously burned by an arc flash while connecting wires from a new electrical panel at the ADM corn processing plant, Jacobs was cited for a single serious violation of 29 C.F.R. 1910.335(a)(1)(i) for failing to ensure that Sky was wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The ALJ upheld the citation and the Commission denied Jacobs' administrative appeal. The Eighth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that substantial evidence on the record supports the ALJ's finding that Jacobs knew or should have known of the need to reevaluate its permissive PPE policy when Sky was told he had not finished the work. The court rejected Jacobs' contentions that the ALJ erred in failing to establish an affirmative defense; Sky violated its work rule requiring employees to stay within the scope of their assigned work; 29 C.F.R. 1910.335(a)(1)(i) does not impose a legal duty on employers to ensure that employees wear appropriate PPE; and the citation mistakenly stated that Sky was terminating the ground wire when the arc flash occurred. The court concluded that Jacobs' contentions were either without merit or did not warrant vacating the ALJ's final decision. View "Jacobs Field Services North America, Inc. v. Scalia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer, Allina, for race and national origin discrimination as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the discrimination claims, holding that the record demonstrates that Allina considered plaintiff's race only to ensure that any corrective action was not based on racial discrimination; without direct evidence of discrimination, the court relied on the burden shifting McDonnell Douglas analysis; and, assuming plaintiff established a prima facie case, plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Allina's stated reason for terminating her was pretext. The court explained that nothing in Allina's Violence-Free Workplace policy or other policies prohibit Allina from treating some offenses as more severe than others and selecting a corrective action that it believes is proportional to the level of severity for the violation. In this case, Allina's response to plaintiff's grievance and the deposition of an Allina human resources director make clear that Allina believed that pushing a coworker was more severe than throwing a lab coat at a co-worker and that plaintiff's behavior justified a more severe punishment. View "Findlator v. Allina Health Clinics" on Justia Law

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Sysco Minnesota filed suit against Local 120 under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) for violating their collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The Eighth Circuit held that Local 120 waived its right to the CBA's prescribed non-judicial grievance procedures, including arbitration. In this case, Local 120's failure to seek relief under the CBA’s prescribed grievance procedures in a timely manner caused the parties to complete all discovery and litigate the merits of Sysco Minnesota's breach claim. Furthermore, the district court did not err in finding that Local 120 violated the picket line clause in the CBA; Local 120 waived the right to engage in sympathy strikes; and the court was not persuaded that Local 120 did not authorize, participate in, or ratify the picket line. View "Sysco Minnesota, Inc. v. Teamsters Local 120" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the County on plaintiff's claim of interference with her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and retaliation against her for asserting those rights. Plaintiff's claims arose when she was put on administrative leave following an investigation into her involvement in her husband's sexual abuse of their children. The court held that plaintiff failed to show any prejudice from the County's delay in acting on her FMLA request or its failure to give her notice of her FMLA rights. The court rejected the FMLA interference claim, holding that plaintiff was neither asked to nor required to complete work-related tasks while on leave. Rather, the activities plaintiff was asked to do related to the underlying child-protection investigation, her FMLA request, and her employment status. The court also held that the County was entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's discrimination claim where the undisputed sequence of events does not demonstrate a causal link between her FMLA request and the Board's decision to proceed with a meeting regarding whether to terminate her employment. In this case, the Board's actions were based on the maltreatment determination. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err in declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding costs to the County. View "Thompson v. Kanabec County" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for a new trial in an action seeking damages under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, and rejected his contention that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to provide the jury with a specific damages instruction. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to give a specific instruction based on Eighth Circuit Manual of Model Instruction 15.70's optional list of damages because plaintiff's evidence was insufficient to support a claim of future damages. In this case, the district court's generic instructions permitted plaintiff to present his theory of the case—that BNSF breached a duty it owed to him causing his shoulder injury. Furthermore, the district court's instructions did not impact plaintiff's substantial rights. View "Hall v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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Marion Carter sued the Pulaski County Special School District for race discrimination under Arkansas state and federal laws. Carter taught at the Joe T. Robinson High School in the School District. She also coached the cheer and dance teams. In 2017, the school's principal recommended to the District Superintendent that Carter's cheer and dance duties not be renewed for the 2017-2018 school year, and that she be offered a teaching contract only. The principal cited: (1) lack of student participation in cheer and dance in the previous two years; (2) inappropriate cheer routines at sporting events; and (2) inappropriate behavior of cheerleaders during out-of-town travel. After a hearing, the District's School Board accepted the recommendation not to renew Carter's cheer and dance contract. The District filled the cheer position with an African-American woman, and eliminated all dance teams district-wide. The Eighth Circuit concurred with the district court's grant of summary judgment to the District on all claims. The Court found Carter's allegations were insufficient to defeat summary judgment. View "Carter v. Pulaski CO Special School Dist" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that Dr. Pepper retaliated against him for complaining about racial discrimination at the company. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Dr. Pepper, holding that, even if plaintiff made a prima facie case of retaliation, Dr. Pepper provided legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for its actions based on plaintiff's performance under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. In this case, Dr. Pepper alleged that plaintiff had an inability to adjust to new management expectations, an unwillingness to be coached, and a refusal to sit through his interim performance review. The court also held that plaintiff failed to create a jury issue on pretext. View "Couch v. American Bottling Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Berkadia in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging that the employer terminated him in retaliation for actions protected by the False Claims Act (FCA) and Missouri law. The court held that defendant failed to establish direct evidence of retaliation. Although defendant produced evidence that Berkadia management did not implement, and were at times critical of, some of his suggestions regarding compliance with HUD regulations, there is also evidence that plaintiff's supervisors disapproved of other parts of his job performance. Therefore, he failed to prove that his termination was solely motivated by protected activity under the FCA. The court also held that, even assuming that his wrongful discharge claim was not waived, none of the HUD compliance issues plaintiff raised internally during his tenure amount to "serious misconduct" on the part of Berkadia or its employees. Therefore, plaintiff's wrongful-termination claim failed, because he failed to show that Berkadia's activity violated clearly mandated public policy. View "Sherman v. Berkadia Commercial Mortgage" on Justia Law