Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Selig on her claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's claim of retaliation under the FMLA where a reasonable jury could find that plaintiff suffered retaliation for intending to use FMLA leave in the future. In this case, there are a number of factual disputes that are material to plaintiff's FMLA retaliation claim and thus summary judgment was not appropriate. However, the court affirmed in all other respects, holding that plaintiff is not disabled under the ADA and that plaintiff has not identified any evidence that she was terminated as a result of Selig's failure to give her notice of her FMLA rights. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Munoz v. Selig Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that Miami Auto Max violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, seeking over $12,000 in unpaid wages and liquidated damages. After defendant refused an offer of judgment for $3,500, he went to trial and prevailed, winning a verdict for $97 plus an equal amount in liquidated damages. The district court awarded him 37 percent of his requested attorney's fees and taxed against him the costs incurred by the parties after the offer of judgment. Plaintiff appeals both the final judgment and the order awarding fees and taxing costs.The Eleventh Circuit dismissed in part and affirmed in part, holding that plaintiff's appeal of the final judgment is untimely and that his appeal of the order awarding attorney's fees and taxing costs has no merit. In this case, the district court acted within its discretion to award a reasonable fee in light of plaintiff's limited success at trial, where he recovered only $194.40 after demanding $12,795.30. Furthermore, the district court correctly applied Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68 to tax the parties' post-offer costs against plaintiff. View "Vasconcelo v. Miami Auto Max, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the University and others alleging that the parties' collective bargaining agreements' (CBA) "Conflict of Interest/Outside Activities" policy was unconstitutionally vague, that his termination breached the CBA, and that the University had used his insubordination as a pretext for First Amendment retaliation. Plaintiff's action stemmed from the University's termination of plaintiff after he attracted national news media attention for publicly questioning whether the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting had in fact occurred.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment rulings and its denial of plaintiff's post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff's failure to exhaust the CBA's mandatory grievance-and-arbitration procedures barred his claim that the University breached the CBA by firing him. Although the court affirmed the district court on the constitutional claims, the court applied a different analysis. Without deciding the issue, the court assumed for the purposes of this appeal that plaintiff could constitutionally challenge the Policy on vagueness grounds. The court held that plaintiff's vagueness challenge failed on the merits, and his facial and as-applied First Amendment challenges to the Policy's reporting requirement failed. Furthermore, plaintiff's challenge to the Policy's conflict-of-interest provision failed on the merits. Because plaintiff's constitutional challenges failed, his declaratory judgment claim based on the same grounds also failed. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the Faculty Senate meeting transcript. View "Tracy v. Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of TriNet in an action brought by TriNet, as the successor-in-interest of Gevity, a professional employer organization (PEO). Gevity claimed tax credits from 2004 to 2009 based on its payment of FICA taxes on the tip income of its client companies' employees. The IRS asserts that such credits were not allowed because Gevity was not the "employer" entitled to claim the credits as that term is defined in 26 U.S.C. 3401(d). The court concluded that, under the statutes applicable to the period at issue, Gevity was the statutory employer entitled to claim the FICA tip credit because it—not its client companies—controlled the payment of the wages subject to withholding. View "TriNet Group, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff won a substantial arbitration award against his former employer, the employer sought vacatur in federal court. The district court agreed with the employer, Citi, that plaintiff had been an at-will employee and thus the arbitrators exceeded their powers by finding that he had been wrongfully terminated.The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's vacatur of the arbitration award, holding that plaintiff and Citi agreed to arbitrate all disputes about plaintiff's employment. The court stated that, under the Federal Arbitration Act, the merits of plaintiff's dispute were committed to the arbitrators and Citi does not get to start over in federal court because it identifies a possible legal error in arbitration. Therefore, the district court erred by substituting its own legal judgment for that of the arbitrators. View "Gherardi v. Citigroup Global Markets, Inc." on Justia Law

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After the Medical Center suspended plaintiff's medical privileges, plaintiff filed suit against the Medical Center, an injunction against the suspension, and a declaration that the Health Care Quality Improvement Act provided no immunity from damages to the Medical Center.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and remanded with instructions to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff contends only that federal question jurisdiction exists over his suit, but a request for declaratory relief that a federal law does not entitle the opposing party to a defense ordinarily does not raise a federal question under 28 U.S.C.1331. The court explained that, because the Declaratory Judgment Act does not enlarge the court's jurisdiction, plaintiff must still assert an underlying ground for federal court jurisdiction. In this case, plaintiff's complaint does not establish that the Medical Center could file a coercive action under federal law. Furthermore, a plaintiff cannot create federal question jurisdiction by seeking a declaration that a federal defense does not protect the defendant. Therefore, plaintiff's request for declaratory judgment does not establish federal question jurisdiction. View "Patel v. Hamilton Medical Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit granted rehearing en banc and affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to plaintiff's retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. 1981. The court first held that plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Kia's stated reason for firing her -- solicitation of another employee to sue the company -- was a pretext to mask a retaliatory motive, and thus she has necessarily failed to show that a reasonable jury could find that but for the filing of her EEOC charge she would not have been fired.The court also held that an employee's oppositional conduct under Title VII is not protected if the means by which the employee has chosen to express her opposition so interferes with the performance of her job that it renders her ineffective in the position for which she is employed. In this case, Kia held a good faith belief that plaintiff had abandoned her responsibility to try to resolve an employee's dispute without litigation when she instead actively solicited a complaining employee to sue the company and provided the employee with the name of an attorney to use; Kia determined it could no longer keep her as its Manager of Team Relations, the department to which unhappy employees were sent to air their complaints; and Kia fired plaintiff because she chose to act in a way that conflicted with the core objectives of her sensitive and highly important position. View "Gogel v. KIA Motors Manufacturing of Georgia, Inc." on Justia Law

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After Costco terminated plaintiff, who has been deaf since birth, she filed suit in Florida state court for violations of the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA). After Costco removed the case to federal court, the case went to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Costco on one count of wrongful termination, but against the company on plaintiff's failure-to-accommodate claim. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment to Costco for judgment as a matter of law on the failure-to-accommodate claim.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that there was insufficient evidence to support plaintiff's failure-to-accommodate claim. In this case, plaintiff failed to point to a specific instance in which she needed an accommodation and was denied one. The court stated that it cannot hold that an employer fails to reasonably accommodate a deaf employee when it provide her with on-demand access to live sign-language interpreters at two, convenient locations within her place of work; when it goes further to provide on-site person interpreters for larger, group meetings; when it arranges a thorough training session on deaf culture, pursuant to the plaintiff's request; and when the plaintiff's general manager—the supervisor who was the sole subject of her sole complaint—resolves to improve his relationship with the plaintiff by attending multiple, one-on-one training sessions. View "D'Onofrio v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law

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Warren, a manufacturer of unitary electric (UE) heaters for HVAC systems, filed suit against its competitor, Tutco and against a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), UL. Warren's claims are based on its allegations that, UL certified Tutco's UE heaters as compliant, even though the heaters are not actually compliant. Warren sought damages and injunctive relief under the Lanham Act for false advertising and contributory false advertising, damages under the common law of unfair competition, and declaratory and injunctive relief under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA).The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Tutco's and UL's joint motion to dismiss. In this case, Warren calls UL's authorization to Tutco to use UL's mark, and Tutco's advertisements to that effect, "misrepresentations," but it really means nothing more than (by its lights) a "misinterpretation" of UL 1995. However, it does not follow, that even a misinterpretation of UL 1995 is a falsity -- or a "deceptive act" within the meaning of the Lanham Act -- rather than a matter of opinion, provided it was made in good faith and in accordance with OSHA's criteria for independence, procedural regularity, etc. The court held that, because all of Warren's claims against UL and Tutco are based upon the same allegation of falsity, they fail for want of a misrepresentation or a deceptive act. View "Warren Technology, Inc. v. UL LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in Trees's favor on his hostile work environment and national origin discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA).The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Trees on plaintiff's national origin discrimination claim, holding that the claim fails as a matter of law where the supervisor's statement, although reprehensible, was not direct evidence that plaintiff was fired because of his national origin. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Trees on the hostile work environment claim, holding that plaintiff provided evidence sufficient to raise a material issue of fact as to whether the harassment was objectively severe or pervasive. In this case, plaintiff provided ample evidence that the harassment he faced was frequent; a reasonable jury could conclude that the harassment was sufficiently severe; the supervisor's conduct was sufficiently humiliating to support a hostile work environment claim; and, although more attenuated than typical interference-with-job-performance arguments, the court could not say on this record that plaintiff's on-the-job suicide attempt was wholly unrelated to his job performance. View "Soto Fernandez v. Trees, Inc." on Justia Law