Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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After plaintiff's position was eliminated, he filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the county, alleging a First Amendment retaliation claim. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the county's motions for summary judgment, judgment as a matter of law, and new trial. The court held that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine was inapplicable; plaintiff's claim was not judicially estopped based on his response in his unemployment application; and plaintiff's failure to appeal the Board's decision in state court did not preclude his First Amendment claim under section 1983. The court also held that plaintiff's position was not a policymaking position, and the jury's verdict in favor of plaintiff was supported by sufficient evidence. In this case, there was evidence that at least three of the five board members had retaliatory motive, and the evidence was legally sufficient to support the jury's verdict. View "Griggs v. Chickasaw County" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied Southern Hens' petition for review of the ALJ's determination that the poultry processing plant committed two violations of occupational safety standards after an employee suffered a serious injury when her hand got caught in a machine's moving parts. The court upheld the ALJ's decision with regard to the lockout violation because Southern Hens lacked the sort of established work rule required for the "unpreventable employee misconduct" defense; upheld that machine-guarding standard and adopted the reasonably predictable standard, holding that there was substantial evidence that employee injury from the hazard was reasonably predictable; and upheld the penalties for the lockout violation and the machine-guarding violation. View "Southern Hens, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer on plaintiff's claims of discrimination based on age, disability, and national origin. The court held that an intake questionnaire, which does not contain a clear and concise statement of facts alleging unlawful employment practices, was insufficient to constitute a charge of discrimination. Therefore, plaintiff filed an untimely charge of discrimination which resulted in his failure to properly exhaust his administrative remedies. The court also held that equitable tolling did not apply in this case because plaintiff did not act with due diligence. View "Caycho Melgar v. T.B. Butler Publishing Co." on Justia Law

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In 2016, the Texas federal court enjoined the DOL's proposed Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Overtime Rule and specifically enjoined the DOL from implementing and enforcing that proposed rule, pending further order of that court. In 2017, a restaurant worker in New Jersey filed suit against her former employer, Chipotle, in the New Jersey federal court for unpaid overtime pay, relying on the proposed Overtime Rule. At issue was whether the Texas federal court may hold the restaurant worker and her attorneys in contempt for filing the FLSA lawsuit against Chipotle in the New Jersey federal court and contending that she was entitled to overtime pay according to the proposed Overtime Rule. The Fifth Circuit held that the Texas federal court did not have the authority under Rule 65(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to hold the restaurant worker and her attorneys in contempt, because she and her attorneys did not act in privity with, and she was not adequately represented by, the DOL in the injunction case. Therefore, the Texas federal court lacked personal jurisdiction over the worker and her attorneys. The court reversed the district court's judgment, including the award of attorneys' fees against her and her lawyers, rendering judgment in their favor. View "Texas v. United States Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former deputy constable, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against defendants, alleging that they violated his First Amendment rights when he was terminated for reporting the illegal acts of the then-Constable and others to law enforcement authorities. Applying Texas law, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the county and the Constable in his official capacity as barred by res judicata where plaintiff had previously filed a state court action against the county. The court also affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the Constable in his individual capacity based on qualified immunity, because it was not clearly established at the time whether a law enforcement officer's involvement in an investigation with outside law enforcement enjoyed protection under the First Amendment. Furthermore, the Constable was entitled to qualified immunity on the First Amendment's Petition Clause claim where plaintiff's grievance from his termination did not constitute a matter of public concern and plaintiff did not allege that he was treated differently than similarly situated deputy constables. View "Harmon v. Dallas County" on Justia Law

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This action arose from a dispute over the integration of former TWA pilots into American Airlines' pilot seniority lists. Former TWA pilots filed suit against American and its union under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), seeking to vacate an arbitration award and enjoin its implementation. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion that former TWA pilots lacked standing to challenge the arbitration award. The court held that Mitchell v. Continental Airlines was controlling in this case and that an individual grievant generally lacks standing to challenge the results of a binding arbitration process where a union has the sole authority to compel arbitration under a CBA formed pursuant to the RLA. The court also held that, to the extent the union permitted modifications to the CBA's grievance and arbitration proceedings, this was not arbitrary, discriminatory, or evidence of bad faith. View "Horner v. American Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of their national origin discrimination claims under Title VII against the University. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' disparate treatment claims, holding that plaintiffs alleged sufficient facts to state a plausible claim that the University's various actions taken against them were motivated by anti-Italian bias. In this case, the district court erred by holding plaintiffs to a heightened pleading standard. The court affirmed as to the district court's disparate impact and hostile work environment claims and remanded in part for further proceedings. View "Cicalese v. University of Texas Medical Branch" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint against her former employers, alleging that she was fired because of her sexual orientation (heterosexual) and Defendant Huber's reaction to plaintiff's pro-heterosexual speech. Plaintiff, the manager of PNP's human resources department, made a Facebook post criticizing a man wearing a dress and noting his ability to use the women's bathroom and/or dressing room. The court held that plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claim failed because Title VII does not protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and, even if it did, the district court did not err in finding that plaintiff could not have reasonably believed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was a prohibited practice. The court also held that the district court correctly dismissed the state claim because none of defendants were state actors and were therefore not covered by the the restrictions of Article 1, section 7 of the Louisiana constitution. View "O'Daniel v. Industrial Service Solutions" on Justia Law

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Petitioner filed a whistleblower complaint against his former employer, HMS, alleging that he was terminated because of disclosures he made regarding HMS's billing practices. The OIG found that, although petitioner had made protected disclosures, they were not a contributing factor to HMS's decision to fire petitioner and that HMS would have fired him absent the disclosures. HHS adopted the OIG's report and denied petitioner's claim. The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of HHS's decision, holding that the four years that passed between petitioner's 2009 disclosures and his 2013 firing, as well as a "lack of other evidence" supporting a finding of retaliation, bolstered HHS's conclusion that petitioner's disclosures were not contributing factors in HMS's decision to fire him, and was enough to satisfy the "highly deferential" arbitrary and capricious standard. In this case, the OIG's summary of its interviews with petitioner's supervisors and several other HMS employees sufficiently supported HHS's conclusion that HMS fired petitioner because of his poor performance or as part of a reduction-in-force. View "Frey v. HHS" on Justia Law

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After a jury found in plaintiff's favor in an action alleging that she was fired because of her race and sex, it awarded her just $1. The district court then denied plaintiff both reinstatement and front pay, leaving her with no remedy. The court held that the district court should not have considered two of the four factors it relied on in denying reinstatement, and thus the court could not review its conclusion that plaintiff's reinstatement would not further the remedial goals of Title VII. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings without suggesting how the district court should exercise its discretion based on the two factors that remain or other permissible considerations that the district court may find relevant. View "Bogan v. MTD Consumer Group, Inc." on Justia Law