Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Daphne Berry v. Crestwood Healthcare LP, et al
Plaintiff, a black female, worked at Crestwood Hospital as an emergency department nurse from 2007 to 2018. Plaintiff repeatedly complained about racial discrimination in the months before Crestwood Healthcare terminated her employment. But, also during that period, Crestwood uncovered evidence that Plaintiff engaged in bullying and other misconduct. After Plaintiff sued Crestwood for retaliating against her complaints of discrimination, she argued that circumstantial evidence created a reasonable inference of retaliation under either the McDonnell Douglas framework or a “convincing mosaic” of proof. The district court disagreed and entered summary judgment in favor of Crestwood. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that although an employee may prove retaliation with whatever circumstantial evidence creates a reasonable inference of retaliation, Plaintiff’s evidence falls short. The court wrote that Plaintiff turned to evidence of systematically better treatment of similarly situated employees. She asserts that two employees engaged in similar misconduct but were not terminated. The court explained that nothing in the record suggests that either of those employees engaged in misconduct comparable in degree or kind to Plaintiff’s misconduct. Neither employee was the subject of multiple reports that they were unprofessional, threatening, intimidating, and abusive. The court explained that because Plaintiff cannot prove that other employees engaged in a similar degree of misconduct, she lacks evidence of better treatment of similarly situated employees. View "Daphne Berry v. Crestwood Healthcare LP, et al" on Justia Law
Ronda Scott v. Advanced Pharmaceutical Consultants Inc, et al.
The case at hand is about whether Plaintiff was retaliated against by her former employer, Advanced Pharmaceutical Consultants, Inc. (“APC”), and the company that contracted with her employer, Centurion of Florida, LLC (“Centurion”) (together, “Defendants”), for engaging in protected activity. Plaintiff’s complaint alleged four counts. Centurion and APC both moved for summary judgment on all counts. The district court granted summary judgment on three of them. The district court directed the clerk to enter a final judgment on the three resolved counts, and it certified that the fourth count satisfied the requirements of 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b) for immediate interlocutory review, should either party file an appropriate application with the Eleventh Circuit. At issue is whether the district court’s certification was proper as to Plaintiff’s direct appeal and whether the requirements of 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b) have been met as to Centurion’s cross-appeal. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the answer to both questions is not and dismissed the appeals for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The court explained that there are substantial reasons to delay resolving Plaintiff’s appeal of her whistleblower counts against APC. Plaintiff’s whistleblower counts against Centurion and APC are identical. It makes good sense that appeals of an order dismissing those counts should be heard together. But because there is no final judgment against Centurion, the court wrote that it lacks the power to adjudicate those counts against Centurion at this time. View "Ronda Scott v. Advanced Pharmaceutical Consultants Inc, et al." on Justia Law
Cynthia Diane Yelling v. St. Vincent’s Health System
Plaintiff worked as a hospital nurse for St. Vincent’s Health System. After St. Vincent’s fired her, Plaintiff sued, alleging race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. 1981. The district court granted summary judgment for St. Vincent’s, and Plaintiff appealed.On appeal, Plaintiff claimed she presented sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment as to all her claims. She also claimed that the district court erred in applying the McDonnell Douglas framework to a “mixed-motive” retaliation claim.The Eleventh Circuit held that Plaintiff's hostile work environment claim failed because there was no evidence of severe or pervasive harassment; Bostock v. Clayton County, 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020) did nothing to undermine the application of McDonnell Douglas to retaliation claims because but for causation still applies; Plainitff's retaliation claim cannot survive; and disparate-treatment claim fails because there is no evidence that race played a role in her termination. View "Cynthia Diane Yelling v. St. Vincent's Health System" on Justia Law
Phyllis Edwards v. Dothan City Schools, et al
Plaintiff was hired as the Superintendent of Dothan City Schools in Dothan, Alabama. The employment contract stated Plaintiff could only be terminated for cause. Furthermore, the contract stated that the termination would not be effective until the Board provided Plaintiff with a statement of the cause for termination and allowed her an opportunity for a hearing. Lastly, the employment contract provided that Plainitff could resign with or without cause as long as she gave at least 120 days notice in writing of her resignation to the Board. Six days after Plaintiff’s intent to resign was sent, Plaintiff alleges that the Board voted to terminate Plaintiff’s contract. She brought claims for deprivation of due process and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, conspiracy to violate civil rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1985, and breach of contract. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims with prejudice. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of Plaintiff’s due process claims and affirmed the district court’s denial of Plaintiff’s conspiracy and breach of contract claims. The court explained that instead of construing all ambiguities in Plaintiff’s favor, the district court used the minutes to recharacterize the allegations within Plaintiff’s complaint. When taking the factual allegations in Plaintiff’s complaint as true, there is a plausible claim for relief. In paragraph 18 of the complaint, Plaintiff’s classifies her communication as an “intent” to resign, not an actual resignation. The court wrote that the district court erred by ignoring that Plaintiff had a plausible claim to relief and not drawing reasonable inferences in her favor. View "Phyllis Edwards v. Dothan City Schools, et al" on Justia Law
Mary E. Harris v. The Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County
Plaintiff, a black nurse who was disciplined and ultimately fired by her employer, Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County—appealed the district court’s entry of summary judgment on her Title VII and state-law claims alleging (1) employment discrimination, (2) hostile work environment, and (3) retaliation. Harris contends that the district court erred in rejecting all three claims. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court wrote that Public Health Trust says that several incidents that occurred at Jackson Reeves shouldn’t be considered because they weren’t caused by Plaintiff’s race. The court wrote that it agreed with Public Health Trust that three of the incidents weren’t caused by Harris’s race and, accordingly, shouldn’t be considered as part of the hostile-work-environment calculus. Further, the court reasoned that even considering Plaintiff’s limited evidence in the light most favorable to her, these are not, given the totality of the circumstances, sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of her employment and create an abusive working environment. View "Mary E. Harris v. The Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County" on Justia Law
Chris Ronnie v. U.S. Department of Labor
Petitioner was employed at Office Depot as a senior financial analyst. He was responsible for, among other things, ensuring data integrity. One of Ronnie’s principal duties was to calculate and report a metric called “Sales Lift.” Sales Lift is a metric designed to quantify the cost-reduction benefit of closing redundant retail stores. Petitioner identified two potential accounting errors that he believed signaled securities fraud related to the Sales Lift. Petitioner alleged that after he reported the issue, his relationship with his boss became strained. Eventually, Petitioner was terminated at that meeting for failing to perform the task of identifying the cause of the data discrepancy. Petitioner filed complaint with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and OSHA dismissed his complaint. Petitioner petitioned for review of the ARB’s decision. The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition. The court explained that Petitioner failed to allege sufficient facts to establish that a reasonable person with his training and experience would believe this conduct constituted a SOX violation, the ARB’s decision was not arbitrary or capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. The court wrote that Petitioner’s assertions that Office Depot intentionally manipulated sales data and that his assigned task of investigating the discrepancy was a stalling tactic are mere speculation, which alone is not enough to create a genuine issue of fact as to the objective reasonableness of Petitioner’s belief. View "Chris Ronnie v. U.S. Department of Labor" on Justia Law
Langston Austin, et al. v. Glynn County, Georgia, et al.
Plaintiffs worked as detention officers for Glynn County under Sheriff Jump’s supervision. Although it is unclear from the record whether the Officers are formally deputy sheriffs, it is undisputed that they are, at minimum, direct employees of Sheriff Jump, in his official capacity, akin to deputies. The Officers brought a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action alleging that the County “illegally calculated their and other detention officers’ overtime wages.” The County moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. In response, the Officers amended their complaint to include Sheriff Jump in his individual capacity. The County and Sheriff Jump then moved to dismiss the amended complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim, arguing that neither defendant was the Officers’ employer under the FLSA. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed both the district court’s denial of the Officers’ motion for leave to amend and its ultimate dismissal of the amended complaint. The court held that the district court correctly dismissed the Officers’ complaint against Sheriff Jump in his individual capacity because he is not an “employer” under the FLSA. Further, the court agreed with the district court that Sheriff Jump would be entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity when making compensation decisions for his employees. Further, the court held that Georgia “retained its Eleventh Amendment immunity” from suits in federal court for breach-of-contract claims because no statute or constitutional provision “expressly consents to suits in federal court. View "Langston Austin, et al. v. Glynn County, Georgia, et al." on Justia Law
Paul Ossmann v. Meredith Corporation
Plaintiff was the Chief Meteorologist at CBS46, an Atlanta news station. But during his tenure, female colleagues raised repeated complaints that he engaged in inappropriate conduct and sexual harassment—including “compliments” about appearance, sexually charged language, requests for nude photos, and more. Plaintiff, who is white, alleges that he was terminated because of his race in violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1981. The sexual harassment justification, he says, was just a pretext. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court wrote that the ultimate question in any discrimination case is whether the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff based on race. Here, Plaintiff failed to show that a reasonable jury could conclude that Defendant terminated his employment because he was white. The court explained that Plaintiff notes that the station’s new meteorologist is a Hispanic woman. However, Plaintiff mostly argued that the existence of race data on the corporate form meant that he was fired because he was white. The court explained Plaintiff lacked direct evidence of discrimination, he lacked evidence that Defendant treated his race as a factor favoring his termination, and he lacked evidence that Defendant treated similarly situated non-white employees more favorably. On the other hand, Defendant has produced extensive evidence of Plaintiff’s sexual harassment, which is a valid, nondiscriminatory reason for his termination. The court explained that on this record, no reasonable jury could infer that Defendant’s justification was pretext for race discrimination. View "Paul Ossmann v. Meredith Corporation" on Justia Law
Security Walls, LLC v. National Labor Relations Board
Employer provides security for NASA and employs approximately 40 security officers. Employee was hired as a security officer in 2018. After learning that his pay did not increase as promised after completing his training, Employee and a co-worker who was in a similar position sought reimbursement of unpaid wages. Employee wired both employees their missing wages, but Employee was not paid for other reimbursements he believed he was entitled to.After Employee and several co-workers were caught using their personal cell phones, Employee was suspended pending an investigation. The other co-workers received less severe disciplinary sanctions, if any.After review, the NLRB found that Employee engaged in protected concerted activity on several occasions and that Employer violated Section 8(a)(1)5 of the NLRA. Employer filed a petition for review with the Eleventh Circuit.The Eleventh Circuit denied Employer's petition for review of an NLRB decision finding that Employer unlawfully terminated Employee for engaging in activity protected under the National Labor Relations Act. View "Security Walls, LLC v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
Isaac Payne v. Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc.
Plaintiff sued The Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc. (“SCAD”) for race discrimination and retaliation after he was fired from his job as Head Fishing Coach. As part of his employment onboarding, however, Plaintiff signed a document agreeing to arbitrate—not litigate—all legal disputes that arose between him and SCAD. Accordingly, SCAD moved to dismiss and compel arbitration. The district court, approving and adopting the magistrate judge’s Report and Recommendation (“R & R”), granted SCAD’s motion. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the district court erred by ignoring that his agreement with SCAD was unconscionable and that SCAD waived its right to arbitrate. He also argued that the district court abused its discretion in rejecting his early discovery request. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting SCAD’s motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. The court concluded that the Plaintiff’s arbitration agreement is neither substantively nor procedurally unconscionable. Further, the court found that SCAD did not waive its right to enforce arbitration and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Plaintiff’s request for early discovery. In short, the court concluded that Plaintiff is bound by his agreement to arbitrate his legal claims against SCAD. View "Isaac Payne v. Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc." on Justia Law