Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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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

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, disability discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and breach of fiduciary duty. The court held that plaintiff's discrimination claim failed because Mid Dakota offered a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for its actions: his inability to get along with others; plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claims failed because he failed to show he was retaliated against for reporting racial slurs and racially charged comments; plaintiff's False Claims Act retaliation claim failed because there was no evidence, direct or otherwise, that his decision to report the allegedly fraudulent billing practices of a colleague caused—much less solely caused—Mid Dakota to force him out; and plaintiff's claim under the North Dakota Business Corporation Act failed because he was an at-will employee. View "Bharadwaj v. Mid Dakota Clinic" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that plaintiff failed to allege a claim that a state prosecutor retaliated against him for seeking unpaid overtime compensation. The court held that plaintiff waived his First Amendment retaliation claim by failing to brief the issue; because plaintiff is not an employee under section 215(a)(3) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the district court did not err in dismissing his claim; because plaintiff failed to point to any alteration or extinguishment of a right or legal status on appeal, he failed to state a due process claim; and because plaintiff failed to allege a conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. 1985(2), his sections 1985(3) and 1986 claims also failed. Finally, the court held that there was no error in dismissing plaintiff's state law claims and in denying him leave to file a third amended complaint. View "Liscomb v. Boyce" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's action alleging a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court held that the district court erred by dismissing plaintiff's claim where plaintiff's allegations were sufficient to state a claim based on the statutory elements of the ADA. In this case, plaintiff has plausibly alleged that defendant refused to consider rehiring him because of his disability. The court also held that plaintiff's request for leave to amend was not futile and should have been granted. View "Cook v. George's, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former police officer, filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the city and the chief of police, alleging unlawful retaliation for exercising his First Amendment right to participate in a media interview, deprivation of his right to pretermination process, and violation of his rights under the North Dakota Constitution. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment. The court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment on the First Amendment claim where plaintiff failed to prove his speech as a public employee was protected by the First Amendment. In this case, the district court found that plaintiff was not speaking as a citizen in a local news interview; plaintiff's speech during the interview was not on a matter of public concern because his asserted desire was to clear the name of his Facebook alias, which was a purely private interest; and even assuming plaintiff was a citizen commenting on a matter of public concern, his speech at the interview was not First Amendment protected, because it created great disharmony in the workplace, interfered with plaintiff's ability to perform his duties, and impaired his working relationships with other employees. The court also held that plaintiff was not deprived of his right to due process, and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. View "Nagel v. City of Jamestown" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against current and former members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, alleging that adverse employment actions were taken against him in retaliation for his protected First Amendment speech. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, holding that plaintiff's non-testimonial speech was not entitled to First Amendment protection. In this case, although it was undisputed that plaintiff spoke as a private citizen and his speech was of public concern, the highway patrol has shown sufficient evidence of disruption to the efficiency of its operations. Under the Pickering balancing test, the court held that the factors weighed in favor of the highway patrol's interest in efficiency and indicated that plaintiff's speech activity was more likely than not impeding his ability to perform his job duties as a police officer. Therefore, defendants were entitled to qualified immunity regarding plaintiff's speech to the family of the victim of a drowning accident, on social media, and to the news reporter. The court also held that the remaining testimonial speech was not a substantial or motivating factor in the adverse employment actions against plaintiff. Finally, plaintiff's civil conspiracy and failure to supervise claims failed as a matter of law. View "Henry v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Dolgencorp's Auxvasse, Missouri store employed six people. Price, a sales associate, contacted the Union. Myers, an organizing director, obtained authorization cards and filed an election petition. The Union and Dolgencorp agreed to the terms of an election to be held on December 8, 2017. On November 17, 2017, Myers created a group text message conversation between himself, Price, and employees Miles and Durlin. Through the election date, Miles and Durlin actively participated in group conversations and never expressed opposition to Union representation. The six eligible employees voted, 4-2, to unionize. After the election, Miles and Durlin told Dolgencorp’s vice president they voted in favor of the Union but that Price and Myers pressured them using threats and bribes. Dolgencorp filed objections, alleging Price acted as an agent of the Union and engaged in misconduct that materially affected the election result. The NLRB certified the Union as the exclusive representative. Dolgencorp refused to recognize the Union. The Eighth Circuit upheld the Board’s finding that Dolgencorp engaged in an unfair labor practice (National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1), (5)). Conclusions that Price's comments were not meant to be intimidating or to influence witness testimony and that Price was not acting as a union agent or with apparent authority were supported by substantial evidence. An alleged tire-slashing threat occurred outside the critical period; the offer of an unconditional $100 loan did not substantially impair an employee's free choice in the election. View "Dolgencorp, LLC v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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Paskert, an Auto$mart sales associate, was supervised by Burns. Bjorkland was also a sales associate. Paskert alleges she was prevented from completing her training. Burns frequently lost his temper with everyone, he ridiculed and screamed at his employees, he referred to female customers using derogatory names, and threw objects. Bjorkland and Paskert heard Burns remark that he “never should have hired a woman” and wonder whether he could make Paskert cry. Burns openly bragged at work about his purported sexual conquests. Bjorkland witnessed Burns attempt to rub Paskert’s shoulders. Burns stated, “Oh, if you weren’t married ... I could have you.” Paskert and Bjorkland reported these incidents to the Director. After a few months on the job, Paskert was demoted. Three days later, she was discharged for insubordination, a poor sales record and use of profanity. The Iowa Civil Rights Commission issued a right-to-sue letter. Paskert’s federal complaint cited sex discrimination based on a hostile work environment and retaliation. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Burns’s alleged behavior, while reprehensible and improper, was not so severe or pervasive as to alter the terms and conditions of Paskert’s employment. Paskert failed to exhaust her retaliation claim. Because hostile work environment claims are separate from sex discrimination claims, and because Paskert failed to make any separate arguments regarding sex discrimination in her briefs, the claim was not before the court. View "Paskert v. Burns" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of UPS, holding that plaintiff's action alleging that he was fired because of his race in violation of the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993 was preempted under the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). In this case, plaintiff's claim depended on interpreting the collective bargaining agreement provisions, and thus was completely preempted under the LMRA. Therefore, the district court did not err by denying plaintiff's motion to remand to state court or in granting judgment for UPS. View "Johnson v. Humphreys" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit granted a petition for review of the ARB's final decision ruling that CP violated the whistleblower retaliation provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) when it suspended a locomotive engineer for his untimely reporting of a "work-related personal injury" or a "hazardous safety or security condition." The court agreed with CP's argument that the ARB's analysis of the contributing factor element of the employee's prima facie case used a legal causation standard contrary to controlling Eighth Circuit precedents. The court held that the ARB's reasoning was both contrary to the court's governing precedents and fatally flawed; the FRSA prohibits a rail carrier from discriminating against an employee for engaging in protected activity; the employee does not have to conclusively prove retaliatory motive but must show more than temporal proximity between the protected activity and the adverse action; and the court expressly rejected the contention that, when an employer learns about an employee's conduct warranting discipline in a protected injury report, the report and the discipline are "inextricably intertwined" and this factual connection is "sufficient to establish the contributing-factor element of his prima facie case." Because the ARB did not attempt to apply the appropriate Eighth Circuit legal standard, the court remanded to the ARB with instructions. View "Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Corp. v. U.S. Department of Labor Administrative Review Board" on Justia Law