Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer, alleging violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's MHRA claims on alternative grounds. The court held that, assuming that the company took adverse action against plaintiff during a meeting when the CEO raised an "exit strategy," plaintiff failed to show that the action was taken because of protected opposition to an unlawful employment practice under the MHRA. Furthermore, the decision to arrange an exit strategy was not motivated by plaintiff's marital status. View "Harrell v. Handi Medical Supply, Inc." on Justia Law

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On rehearing en banc, the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of summary judgment to defendant in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by plaintiff, alleging that defendant, plaintiff's boss, retaliated against him in violation of the First Amendment. In this case, plaintiff had run against his boss in a primary election and had publicly made statements about the sheriff's department and his plans to improve it. Defendant won the election and then terminated plaintiff's employment, claiming that plaintiff's campaign violated the department's rules of conduct. The court held that defendant was entitled to qualified immunity because he did not violate a clearly established statutory or constitutional right of which a reasonable person would have known. As in Nord v. Walsh. Nord, 757 F.3d 734, defendant could have reasonably believed that plaintiff's speech was at least potentially damaging to and disruptive of the discipline and harmony of and among co-workers in the sheriff's office and detrimental to the close working relationships and personal loyalties necessary for an effective and trusted local policing operation. View "Morgan v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit denied Wal-Mart's petition for review of OSHA's citation for two purported violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act's regulation relating to bloodborne pathogens. OSHA alleged that Wal-Mart failed to comply with regulations pertaining to providing hepatitis B vaccinations to employees who voluntarily served on a Serious Injury Response Team (SIRT) at Wal-Mart's Alachua, Florida, distribution center. The court held that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's finding that the collateral duty exception did not apply in part because SIRT employees did not respond to workplace injuries "generally at the location where the incident occurred" as subparagraph b. of the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Enforcement Procedures required. The court also held that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's decision to uphold Citation One where Wal-Mart did not provide four SIRT members with the third dose of the vaccine. Furthermore, substantial evidence supported the ALJ's decision to uphold Citation Two, and the ALJ did not err by finding that Citation Two was a repeat violation, where Wal-Mart failed to articulate through record evidence how the failure to offer the hepatitis B vaccine to the SIRT employees resulted in a different hazard than occurred from the failure to offer the vaccine to the retail store employees in 2012. View "Wal-Mart Stores East, LP v. Acosta" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1981 race discrimination claim. The court held that the employer articulated a legitimate, non-discriminatory basis for its hiring selection and plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the stated reason was a pretext for discrimination. In this case, the employer's regional executive selected another individual for a promotion, rather than plaintiff, because the individual scored the highest during the interviews and her duties were more directly relevant to the position. View "Nelson v. USAble Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that CenturyLink and CenturyLink's operations director terminated him in retaliation for a prior Fair Labor Standards Act suit he had participated in. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants on his FLSA retaliation claim, holding that there were no genuine issues of material fact as to defendants' motives for terminating him. In this case, defendants provided a legitimate, non-retaliatory ground for terminating plaintiff, his low productivity. The court also held that the district court did not err by determining that plaintiff was an independent contractor and lacked standing to bring his claim under the Minnesota Whistleblower's Act. Finally, plaintiff's claim for tortious interference was properly dismissed because neither CenturyLink nor the operations director violated federal or state law, and their interference was not independently tortious. View "Engelhardt v. Qwest Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging that defendant was grossly negligent and that this negligence caused plaintiff substantial harm. Both parties were electrical linesman. Plaintiff was injured at a worksite when a wire defendant's team disconnected from a downed pole snapped free and struck plaintiff in the face. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendant and held that the district court did not err in concluding that Iowa's Workers' Compensation Act provided the exclusive remedy for plaintiff's injury because he could not establish that defendant was grossly negligent. The court held that plaintiff failed to present evidence creating a factual dispute with regard to defendant's awareness that injury was probable. In this case, defendant's crew members agreed with him that the jerry-rigged setup would be the best way to secure the wire. While plaintiff's injuries suggested that the setup may have been negligent, mere negligence did not satisfy Iowa's stringent requirements for allowing co-employee liability. View "Van Dorn v. Hunter" on Justia Law

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Former employees of Honeywell, who retired before age 65 during the terms of Honeywell's 2007 and 2010 collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), filed a class action alleging that Honeywell's announced plan to terminate early retiree healthcare benefits at the end of 2017 breached the CBAs and violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), because those healthcare benefits vested when each class member retired. The Eighth Circuit agreed with the Sixth Circuit and held that the Supreme Court's decision in CNH Indus. N.V. v. Reese, 138 S. Ct. 761 (2018), was controlling in this case. Under Reese, the court held that plaintiffs' retiree healthcare benefits were not vested as a matter of law. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Pacheco v. Honeywell International Inc." on Justia Law

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Where a jury awarded plaintiff nominal compensatory damages and punitive damages for his claim of hostile work environment against his former employer, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's post-trial motions and grant of attorney's fees to plaintiff. The court held that the $250,000 award of punitive damages was supported by the record where plaintiff repeatedly complained to supervisors that his manager was using racial slurs and the company did not take action; plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1981 claim was timely under the applicable four year statue of limitations where the workplace abuse continued into the limitations period; the punitive damages amount was constitutionally sound in light of the degree of reprehensibility of defendant's misconduct; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney's fees and accepting the attorney's hourly rate as reasonable. View "Bryant v. Jeffrey Sand Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of summary judgment to the acting county sheriff and the county in an action brought by plaintiff alleging violation of her First Amendment right to intimate association. Plaintiff contended that the sheriff had terminated her based on her marriage to her husband, who had been terminated shortly before plaintiff. The court held that the sheriff's termination of plaintiff did not amount to a constitutional violation, because the fact that the marriage was a motivating factor in the decision to terminate plaintiff did not mean that the sheriff directly and substantially interfered with their marriage. In this case, the husband was terminated for sexually harassing other employees. Plaintiff was placed on administrative leave before the sheriff determined that her return would create a hostile work environment due to her loyalty to her husband. The court also held that, because the sheriff did not commit an unconstitutional act, no municipal liability attached to the county. View "Muir v. Decatur County, Iowa" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, Boeing, for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. Plaintiff was an at-will employee with Special Action Program (SAP) clearances and access for his classified work. After his SAP status was terminated, plaintiff refused Boeing's requests to debrief. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Boeing's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and grant of dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court held that the district court correctly concluded it had subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's wrongful termination claim where the claim did not challenge the merits of the security clearance decision. The court also held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim. In this case, plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because the manuals he cites did not clearly prohibit him from being debriefed in a SAP facility. View "Dubuque v. The Boeing Co." on Justia Law