Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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Davis, a former Congressman, mayoral candidate, candidate for governor of Alabama, and federal prosecutor, is Black. In 2016, he became Executive Director of LSA, a non-profit law firm serving low-income Alabamians. Davis experienced problems with some of his subordinates and colleagues; some complained to LSA’s Executive Committee. On August 18, 2017, as Davis left work, he was informed that the Executive Committee had voted to suspend him with pay pending an investigation of those complaints. A “Suspension Letter” cited spending decisions outside the approved budget, failure to follow LSA's hiring policies and procedures, creating new initiatives without Board approval, and creating a hostile work environment for some LSA employees. LSA posted a security guard in front of its building and hired Mowery, an Alabama political consultant, to handle public relations related to Davis’s suspension. Mowery had handled one of Davis’s failed political campaigns until their relationship soured; Mowery had worked for the campaign of Davis’s opponent in another race.Days later, Davis notified the Board of his resignation. He filed suit, alleging race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and under Title VII, and defamation. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. Being placed on paid leave was not an adverse employment action and Davis did not raise a fact issue on his constructive discharge claim. LSA’s disclosures to Mowery did not constitute “publication”—an essential element of defamation. View "Davis v. Legal Services Alabama, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that relocation benefits provided by a railroad to its employees are exempt under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act as bona fide and necessary expenses incurred by the employee in the business of the employer, 26 U.S.C. 3231(e)(1)(iii). The court also held that, because no regulatory substantiation requirements apply, CSX is entitled to a refund. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the United States in regard to whether relocation benefits are exempt under section 3231(e)(1)(iii); reversed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment in regard to CSX's need and failure to satisfy the Accountable Plan Regulation; and remanded for the district court to calculate the amount of CSX's refund and administer the notification process. View "CSX Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiff in an action brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). After considering the FLSA, the Supreme Court's decision in Overnight Motor Transportation Co. v. Missel, 316 U.S. 572 (1942), as well as the Department of Labor's regulatory guidance, the court held that Plastipak paying plaintiff bonuses—a shift premium for night work and holiday pay—on top of his fixed salary does not preclude the use of the fluctuating workweek method. The court explained that so long as an employee receives a fixed salary covering every hour worked in a week, the payment of a bonus on top of the employee's fixed salary does not bar an employer's use of the fluctuating workweek method to calculate overtime pay. Therefore, the district court erred in concluding otherwise. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hernandez v. Plastipak Packaging, Inc." on Justia Law

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Akal, a government contractor, repatriates persons ordered removed from the U.S., transporting detainees on airplanes. Akal staffs it flights with air security officers (ASOs). Once the detainees have been transported to their respective destinations, the ASOs are required to return to the U.S. aboard the same aircraft. Because return flights carry no detainees, the ASOs have few affirmative duties during them. On arrival, the ASOs unload and clean the plane and perform other minor administrative duties to prepare for the following day. Akal acknowledges that under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 207it has to pay its ASOs for overtime spent on the Returns. For Returns lasting longer than 90 minutes, Akal automatically deducts one hour from each shift as a “meal period” and instructs ASOs to disengage from work duties during meal periods.ASOs sued Akal under the FLSA for unpaid wages. The district court granted the ASOs summary judgment, holding that Akal’s automatic “meal period” deductions violated the Act but that Akal had acted in good faith and had not willfully violated the FLSA. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. Akal was not entitled to make the challenged meal-period deductions from otherwise compensable work. The district court correctly found that Akal acted in good faith and not willfully. View "Gelber v. Akal Security, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Denny's, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and seeking to bring claims on behalf of herself and all similarly situated tipped employees who were subject to Denny's alleged policy or practice of paying these employees sub-minimum hourly wages in violation of the tip-credit provisions of the FLSA.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that material issues of fact exist concerning plaintiff's dual-jobs-regulation claims (Counts Two and Three), and thus summary judgment was not appropriate. The court also concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's tip-credit notification claim (Count One). Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's entry of summary judgment as to Count One, but reversed its entry of summary judgment as to Counts Two and Three. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Rafferty v. Denny's, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's final judgment against plaintiff in an action brought against Koch for race and national origin discrimination under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and Title VII. In regard to plaintiff's Batson challenges, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case for Juror 9. Even assuming plaintiff established a prima facie case for Juror 32, Koch offered plausible non-discriminatory reasons for the strike; a company defending the decisions of a manager in a civil lawsuit would naturally not want a current union member and disgruntled worker's compensation claimant on the jury.The court rejected plaintiff's argument that Koch counsel's violation of the order in limine so prejudiced the jury that a new trial is warranted. Rather, considering the length of the trial, the shortness of the offending remarks, the context of the "prevailing party" comment as a response to a door plaintiff opened, and the curative instructions offered, the court could not find that the district court abused its discretion by denying plaintiff's motions for mistrial and a new trial. View "Vinson v. Koch Foods of Alabama, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit granted Ridgewood's petition for review of the Board's order finding that Ridgewood committed several unfair labor practices in violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The court agreed with Ridgewood that it did not coercively interrogate Preferred applicants during job interviews; that the Board's discriminatory hiring finding is not supported by substantial evidence; and that Ridgewood was not a Burns successor and was not obligated to recognize and bargain with the union or respond to the union's information requests. Accordingly, the court denied the Board's cross-petition for enforcement. View "Ridgewood Health Care Center, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff challenged his discharge in federal court, but the district court held that it did not have jurisdiction to hear his claims brought pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the Mandamus Act because the Veterans' Benefits Act (VBA) is a comprehensive statutory scheme governing the discipline of VA employees and was the exclusive remedy for review of plaintiff's employment discharge. The district court also held that while the VBA did not bar plaintiff's procedural due process claims, the claims were not colorable because he received all the process due to him.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the district court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over any claim under the APA because the VBA is a comprehensive statutory scheme that precludes APA review; the district court did not have jurisdiction to hear a constitutional claim because plaintiff did not present a colorable due process claim; and there is no basis for mandamus jurisdiction because plaintiff has not established a clear right to any relief or a clear duty of the VA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's decision but remanded solely so that the district court can amend its judgment to reflect that it is a dismissal without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction. View "Hakki v. Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, the Sheriff of Broward County, under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the Sheriff retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights by suspending him with pay pending an investigation into his conduct.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), because plaintiff failed to allege that he suffered an adverse employment action. In this case, plaintiff filed suit against the Sheriff only five days after he was suspended with pay in accordance with the governing collective bargaining agreement. The court agreed with the district court that a five-day suspension with pay does not constitute adverse action for purposes of a First Amendment retaliation claim. The court explained that such a temporally-limited suspension pending an investigation into alleged misconduct would not deter a reasonable person from exercising his First Amendment rights. View "Bell v. Sheriff of Broward County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer, Alfa, alleging disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plaintiff contends that, although Alfa claims she was terminated because of automation of some of her job responsibilities, she was actually terminated because of the high costs to Alfa in treating her multiple sclerosis (MS).The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Alfa, concluding that plaintiff was denied full discovery. In this case, Alfa did not demonstrate a burden or abuse of process sufficient to justify such limitations on discovery, and especially in light of the relevant nature of the information sought by plaintiff. Therefore, the district court committed a clear error of judgment by denying plaintiff the opportunity to depose the then-Executive Vice President of Human Resources. View "Akridge v. Alfa Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law