Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Tessier’s, Inc. v. Secretary of Labor
After a Tessier's employee was modifying a hole cover on the roof of an unfinished building when the cover collapsed and he fell 22 feet to the floor below, OSHA issued a citation against Tessier's under 29 C.F.R. 1926.501(b)(4)(i), for failing to protect its employees from falling through holes.The Eighth Circuit denied the petition for review filed by Tessier's, concluding that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's conclusion that the employees had removed a one-foot-by-three-foot section of the cover before it collapsed and, in doing so, exposed a hole. Because this hole was not covered and was more than six feet above the second floor, Tessier's was required to protect its employees from falling by means of an alternative form of fall protection, which it had not done. Therefore, the ALJ did not err in concluding that Tessier's had committed the violation. View "Tessier's, Inc. v. Secretary of Labor" on Justia Law
Onyiah v. St. Cloud State University
Plaintiff, a tenured professor, filed suit against MSCU, the University, and five University employees, under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and 1983, claiming various discrimination and retaliation counts. Plaintiff's complaint stemmed from a series of decisions made between 2013 and 2016 about faculty class schedules, resource allocation, and participation in certain programs. Plaintiff, a Black man born in Nigeria, claimed the individual defendants made these adverse decisions against him because of his race and national origin. Plaintiff also claimed the individual defendants retaliated against him for an earlier lawsuit against the University, and for reporting a University employee's alleged discriminatory conduct.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's freestanding section 1981 claims, concluding that he was barred from asserting section 1981 retaliation claims against state actors. The court also affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's section 1983 claims, concluding that plaintiff failed to provide direct evidence of retaliation and thus failed to establish causation. View "Onyiah v. St. Cloud State University" on Justia Law
Bills v. Cactus Family Farms, LLC
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Cactus Farms in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging a violation of the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court concluded that the district court did not err in finding that plaintiff was exempt from coverage under the FLSA because he was an agricultural employee. In this case, plaintiff's load assessments were on-the-farm practices "incident to or in conjunction with such farming operations" regardless of whether the assessment was for the transportation of pigs between farms or for their transportation from a farm to processing. View "Bills v. Cactus Family Farms, LLC" on Justia Law
Rapp v. Network of Community Options, Inc.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of NCO in an action brought by plaintiffs under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court agreed with the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs failed to put forth evidence establishing that they worked overtime hours and that NCO had constructive knowledge of their claimed overtime hours. The court need not reach the questions whether plaintiffs' claims are foreclosed by the statute of limitations or whether they are entitled to liquidated damages. View "Rapp v. Network of Community Options, Inc." on Justia Law
Henson v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.
Plaintiff filed suit against Union Pacific in Missouri state court, alleging age discrimination, constructive discharge, and hostile work environment claims under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA). Plaintiff also filed suit against Missouri resident Foster B. McDaniel, claiming that McDaniel aided and abetted Union Pacific in its discriminatory acts. After Union Pacific removed to federal court, the district court granted McDaniel's motion to dismiss and denied plaintiff's motion to remand. The district court later granted Union Pacific's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's hostile work environment claim.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the district court did not err in dismissing McDaniel on the basis of fraudulent joinder because plaintiff's complaint failed to make a colorable claim that McDaniel directly oversaw or was actively involved in discrimination. The court also concluded that the district court did nor err in determining plaintiff did not administratively exhaust his constructive discharge claim. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err in granting Union Pacific summary judgment on plaintiff's hostile work environment claim because plaintiff failed to establish age-related harassment sufficiently severe or pervasive to establish the existence of a hostile work environment. View "Henson v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law
Quiles v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., Inc.
The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's orders involving plaintiff and Union Pacific's motions for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) and plaintiff's motion for attorney fees in this suit under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that the lack of damages or equitable relief at the district court level did not strip this court of subject matter jurisdiction. On the merits, the court concluded that the district court improperly granted plaintiff's motion for judgment as a matter of law where a reasonable jury could find Union Pacific attempted to fit plaintiff into an appropriate job within the corporation's reorganized structure upon his return from deployment, thereby leading to the conclusion Union Pacific reemployed him in accordance with the escalator position principle. The court reversed the district court's JMOL decision on the reemployment claim.In addressing the denial of its own JMOL motion, Union Pacific raised affirmative defenses for the first time on appeal. The court will not consider Union Pacific's new arguments on appeal. Nonetheless, on the record before the court and on de novo review, the court concluded that the district court should have granted Union Pacific's motion for JMOL because no reasonable jury could find in favor of plaintiff on his reemployment claim. In this case, the record does not support the conclusion that Union Pacific failed to place plaintiff in the position that he would have otherwise been in had he not been deployed. Finally, because plaintiff was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on his reemployment claim, he does not qualify as a prevailing party for the purpose of recovering attorney fees. View "Quiles v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Richardson v. BNSF Railway Co.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of BNSF in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging constructive discharge and intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) under Nebraska law. The court concluded that the Railway Labor Act (RLA) divested the district court of subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's constructive discharge claim and thus the claim was properly dismissed.However, the court concluded that the district court erred in dismissing the IIED claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) because that claim can be resolved interpreting the collective bargaining agreement. Therefore, the district court did have subject matter jurisdiction over the claim. Nevertheless, the court concluded that dismissal was appropriate under Rule 12(b)(6) because the complaint failed to state a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress under Nebraska law no matter what the collective bargaining agreement says. In this case, plaintiff alleged that BNSF or its employees disciplined and fired him without cause and berated him with expletive laced language and threats of physical violence. The court explained that it is unnecessary to interpret the collective bargaining agreement to conclude that these allegations do not support a reasonable inference of liability. Rather, plaintiff's allegations of discipline and termination without cause are insufficient to generate a reasonable inference of liability because discipline and termination without cause are not so outrageous that they give rise to a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress under Nebraska law. View "Richardson v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law
Gardner v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Walmart in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging age discrimination under the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA). The court assumed that plaintiff met his prima facie burden under the McDonnell Douglas standard, but concluded that Walmart offered a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating his employment, the violation of the Hazardous Materials Endorsement policy while on a Third Written (a policy meaning he could be fired if disciplined again). The court also concluded that plaintiff's evidence was insufficient to allow a reasonable juror to find that Walmart's proffered reason for firing him was pretextual. View "Gardner v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law
Gillick v. Elliott
Employer-appointed trustees filed a complaint in the district court seeking the appointment of an impartial umpire to resolve a deadlock on a motion, pursuant to Section 302(c)(5) of the Labor Management Relations Act, brought by one of the employer-appointed trustees. The district court dismissed the complaint and declined to appoint an umpire.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that, based on the entirety of the Trust Agreement, the delegation proposed by the employer trustees' motion is beyond the trustees' authority to implement. The court explained that because the proposed delegation and amendment to the Trust Agreement are beyond the trustees' authority to implement, the deadlocked motion is not a matter arising in connection with the administration of the plan or a matter within the trustees' jurisdiction. Therefore, the Trust Agreement does not authorize the appointment of a neutral umpire to resolve the deadlocked motion. Furthermore, because the court found that adopting the employer trustees' proposed motion would require amending the Trust Agreement, the court also necessarily concluded that the deadlocked motion does not concern trust fund "administration" under section 302(c)(5). Accordingly, the deadlocked motion is not a matter of trust "administration" under either the Trust Agreement or section 302(c)(5), and thus the district court did not err in declining to appoint an umpire. View "Gillick v. Elliott" on Justia Law
Gould v. Bond
Gould was appointed as a business agent for the Carpenters Regional Council by the Executive Secretary-Treasurer (EST). Gould began complaining of financial and administrative waste in 2008. The EST removed Gould. Gould sued, asserting wrongful termination. Gould received voluminous Council documents in discovery and, in a letter to the EST, outlined alleged financial improprieties and breaches of fiduciary duties. The Council hired the Calibre accounting firm to perform an audit and invited Gould to assist in the investigation. Gould questioned Calibre’s independence but agreed to provide documents.Gould subsequently sought to amend his state court suit to add Labor Code breach of fiduciary duty counts against the EST, 29 U.S.C. 501(b). The Council declared that the EST’s approval of expenditures was outside the scope of Gould’s demand letter and therefore “Calibre was not asked to investigate” The state court denied Gould leave to add the claims. The documents Gould provided were never forwarded by the Council's attorney to Calibre. The audit concluded that the Council’s expense reimbursement policy was sound. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of Gould’s motion for leave to file a federal complaint under 29 U.S.C. 501(b) against the EST. A union member who files a Section 501(b) lawsuit after a union has taken action in response to the member’s request should show an objectively reasonable ground for belief that the union’s accounting or other action was not legitimate. Gould failed to make the necessary showing and failed to meet the condition precedent of a timely and appropriate request to sue or recover damages or secure an accounting or other appropriate relief within a reasonable time. View "Gould v. Bond" on Justia Law