Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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The controversy, in this case, is rooted in the propriety of a lawyer charging a wage earner a contingent attorney’s fee for prosecuting the wage earner’s Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) claims in a U.S. District Court. The wage earner paid the contingent fee and then sued his lawyer in Alabama state court to recover part of the fee. That court stayed the action so the wage earner and his lawyer could present the attorney’s fee controversy to the District Court that had presided over the FLSA case. The district court found the contingent fee excessive, ordered the lawyer to return the attorney’s fee, and dismissed the proceeding as moot.   The Eleventh Circuit dismissed the appeal and instructed the district court to vacate its order and deny the attorney’s and Plaintiff’s motions for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court explained that had Plaintiff’s Rule 60 motion sought actual Rule 60 relief, the district court would have had jurisdiction to entertain it because the district court had jurisdiction over the underlying FLSA and employment discrimination controversy. But Plaintiff did not ask for—and the District Court did not grant—the type of relief authorized by Rule 60. Doing anything more than reopening the matter that had previously been dismissed, which is all Rule 60 allows, required an independent jurisdictional basis. The district court did not have such an independent jurisdictional basis when it litigated the state court breach of contract action as if it had been brought under 28 U.S.C. Section 1332. View "Carlos Padilla v. Redmont Properties LLC, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued her employer based on theories of (1) failure to accommodate in violation of the Rehabilitation Act; (2) retaliation in violation of the Rehabilitation Act; and (3) pregnancy discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act after she was terminated following her request for an accommodation related to unspecified "child-birth complications." The district court granted summary judgment for GOSA on all three claims.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, finding that as part of her initial burden to establish that a requested accommodation is reasonable under the Rehabilitation Act, an employee must put her employer on notice of the disability for which she seeks an accommodation and provide enough information to allow her employer to understand how the accommodation she requests would assist her. View "Nicole Owens v. State of Georgia, Governor's Office of Student Achievement" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff a female employee of Wakulla County (“the County”), worked for the County’s building department. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in federal district court for, among other claims, the County’s violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the present case, Plaintiff filed a five-count complaint against the defense attorneys for the County. The defense attorneys and their law firms filed several motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The district court dismissed the complaint, explaining that Plaintiff’s alleged facts did not demonstrate that the defense attorneys for the County had engaged in a conspiracy that met the elements of 42 U.S.C. Section 1985(2).   Plaintiff’s complaint suggested that the defense attorneys filed the complaint for the “sole benefit of their client rather than for their own personal benefit.” Alternatively, Plaintiff points to the fact that the County defense attorneys had been aware of Plaintiff’s recordings for many months and only reported her recordings to law enforcement when they learned that Plaintiff “insist[ed] on her right to testify in federal court about the recordings and present them as evidence” in the sexual harassment case.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that per Farese, it is Plaintiff’s burden to allege facts that establish that the County defense attorneys were acting outside the scope of their representation when they told law enforcement about Plaintiff’s recordings. Here, Plaintiff but in no way suggests that the defense attorneys were acting outside the scope of their representation, thus her Section 1985(2) claims were properly dismissed. View "Tracey M. Chance v. Ariel Cook, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs here—proposed class representatives of former employees of various Burger King franchisees—plausibly alleged that Burger King and its franchisees engaged in “concerted action” in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The district court, though, dismissed the Plaintiffs’ complaint on the basis that Burger King and its franchisees constituted. A single economic enterprise and were not capable of the concerted action that a Section 1 violation requires.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded, concluding that the complaint plausibly alleged concerted action. The court explained that the No-Hire Agreement removes that ability and also prohibits the hiring of any Burger King employee for six months after they have left another Burger King restaurant. In this way, the No-Hire Agreement “deprive[s] the marketplace of independent centers of decisionmaking [about hiring], and therefore of actual or potential competition.” For this reason, the court wrote, that the Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that the No-Hire Agreement qualifies under Section 1 of the Sherman Act as “concerted activity,” and the Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that aspect of a Sherman Act Section 1 violation. View "Jarvis Arrington, et al v. Burger King Worldwide, Inc., et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was working as a human resources manager for Georgia Pacific when she gave deposition testimony in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against her former employer. A week after finding out that she had testified against her former employer, Georgia Pacific fired her. Plaintiff then sued Georgia Pacific for unlawfully retaliating against her in violation of Title VII.   The district court granted summary judgment to Georgia Pacific because it interpreted Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision as inapplicable. Georgia Pacific defends the summary judgment in its favor on the two grounds the district court gave and also puts forward three grounds that the court did not reach, contending that: Plaintiff's complaint goes beyond the scope of her EEOC charge; she has not established a genuine issue of material fact on causation; she has not established a genuine issue of material fact on pretext.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that the district court erred on both grounds it gave for entering summary judgment against Plaintiff. The court explained that neither the manager exception nor the requirement that an employee’s conduct relates to her current employer has any basis in the statutory text. They are not a part of Title VII’s opposition clause or participation clause. Additionally, Georgia Pacific’s proposed alternative grounds for summary judgment each fail. Plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies, and she has created a genuine issue of material fact on both causation and pretext. View "Marie Patterson v. Georgia Pacific, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs worked as property damage investigators for OSP Prevention Group. After their employment with OSP ended, Plaintiffs brought Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) claims against the company and its owner (collectively, “OSP”) for unpaid overtime wages. The district court granted summary judgment in OSP’s favor after concluding that Plaintiff fit within an FLSA exemption covering “administrative” employees. They both contend that they weren’t administrative employees but instead were “production” employees who performed the core service that OSP sold to its clients: investigating damage to property.   The Eleventh Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court finding that OSP has failed to show that the FLSA’s administrative exemption applies to Plaintiffs. The court explained that Plaintiffs engaged in OSP’s core function of damage investigations. Given the nature of their employer’s business, their investigative factfinding duties amounted to production work. Those duties did not involve “work directly related to [OSP’s] management or general business operations.” 29 C.F.R. Section 541.200(a)(2). The court wrote it need not address whether their work met the additional administrative exemption requirement of “includ[ing] the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.” Section  541.200(a)(3). Both requirements must be met for the exemption to apply. View "Philip Fowler, et al v. OSP Prevention Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit was tasked with determining whether the Tampa Electric Company violated OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response  (“HAZWOPER”) standard when employees at one of its power plants responded to an ammonia release without donning certain protective gear.   The case arose when one of the underground pipes became over-pressurized, and, as it was designed to do, the system automatically diverted ammonia from that pipe to the sump. About 45 minutes after the ammonia began to vent, a security guard heard the alarm sounding at the skid and smelled ammonia. He began having trouble breathing and reported the leak. Once notified, control-room personnel dispatched “rovers”—specially trained response employees—to manage the ammonia release   Because the rovers arrived at the skid without a “self-contained breathing apparatus[es],” OSHA fined Tampa Electric $9,054 under 29 C.F.R. Section 1910.120(q)(3)(iv). Tampa Electric appealed the citation. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (“Commission”) held that Tampa Electric’s response to the ammonia release wasn’t an “emergency response” within the meaning of the HAZWOPER standard and, therefore, that the company hadn’t violated that standard. The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition for review and affirmed the order of the Commission. The court held that the release here was controlled— or, in the words of the regulation, that it wasn’t “uncontrolled.” Because the response to it wasn’t an “emergency response,” the HAZWOPER standard didn’t apply to the rovers’ conduct. And because the HAZWOPER standard didn’t apply, Tampa Electric didn’t violate it. View "U.S. Department of Labor v. Tampa Electric Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff an attorney employed by the Atlanta Housing Authority (“AHA”), which is a recipient of federal grant funds—was fired after challenging the negotiation tactics of AHA’s new CEO (“CEO”). Plaintiff’s complaints filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) inspector general and the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia were both dismissed for failure to state a claim under the NDAA.   On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the district court erroneously concluded that Section 4712 did not apply to her as an employee of a federal “grantee,” and erroneously found that she merely alleged a difference of opinion, not a specific violation of a contract or grant.   The Eleventh Circuit agreed with Plaintiff that she falls within the class of disclosing persons protected by Section 4712, however, the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The court explained that when Congress and the President enacted Section 4712 of the NDAA, they extended its protections to employees of federal grantees, not just federal contractors. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court’s holding that employees like Plaintiff could not qualify for whistleblower protections. However, Plaintiff failed to show that her belief that the CEO’s actions evinced gross mismanagement was reasonable. Nor did she show that she had a reasonable belief that the CEO’s actions constituted an abuse of authority or a violation of a law, rule, or regulation. Thus, Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. View "Karen Fuerst v. The Housing Authority of the City of Atlanta, Georgia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a claim against Miami-Dade County under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Plaintiff claimed she was a county employee and that the County abused the Program to save labor costs; the County argued that Plaintiff was never a county employee. As part of cross-motions, the parties stipulated that Plaintiff’s participation in the Program “solely to acquire “training in forensic photography.” The District Court determined that Plaintiff was an intern, not an employee, using the primary beneficiary test adopted by the Eleventh Circuit.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court first explained that Plaintiff does not qualify as a volunteer under the volunteer exception. Further, under the internship exception, an intern learning under an employer is not considered “employed” by the FLSA so long as the intern is the primary beneficiary of the relationship. To determine who the primary beneficiary of an intern-employer relationship is, the court looks to seven non-exhaustive factors.   Here, the facts show that Plaintiff learned forensic photography from a highly regarded county program for free and over a six-month period. And in participating in the Program, Plaintiff clearly understood that she would not be paid and that she was not entitled to a job with Miami-Dade County following her internship.  Further, Plaintiff gained both valuable practical experience and training from forensic photography professionals and Program assignments throughout the entirety of her participation. Likewise, the County’s receipt of some benefit from Plaintiff’s internship under the sixth factor does not transform the County into the primary beneficiary of its relationship with Plaintiff. View "Brandi McKay v. Miami-Dade County" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs are “business development managers” tasked with persuading corporate customers to purchase vehicles for their fleets. The task often requires over 40 hours of effort per week, and the plaintiffs argue that they are entitled to overtime compensation. The defendants argue that the plaintiffs are covered by the administrative exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).Under the FLSA, employees who work over 40 hours per week are generally entitled to time-and-a-half overtime compensation. However, not all workers qualify, as the statute exempts employees working in “a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity.” The plaintiffs contend that they do not meet the third prong of the exemption, which requires that they exercise discretion and independent judgment concerning matters of significance. The court reasoned that a worker need not have “limitless discretion” or a total lack of supervision to qualify as an administrative employee. Further, the defendant pointed to ample evidence that the plaintiffs exercised discretion in their job pursuits. The court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment finding that the administrative exemption in the FLSA applies to the plaintiffs. View "Alicia Brown v. Nexus Business Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law