Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to defendants in an action brought by plaintiff, an African-American man, who claimed violation of his constitutional right to equal protection of the law. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that defendants, each mayors of the City of Naples at times when plaintiff was employed by the city, paid two specific white employees at a higher rate than he was paid. The court held that plaintiff failed to show a violation of his constitutional rights where there was no genuine dispute that plaintiff's job was not nearly identical to that of his proffered comparators. Therefore, the court remanded with instructions to enter judgment for defendants. View "Mitchell v. Mills" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied In-N-Out's petition for review of the Board's order finding that the company's rule prohibiting employees from wearing any type of pin or stickers on their uniforms was unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act. In this case, employees of the In-N-Out Burger in Austin wore buttons demonstrating solidarity with the "Fight for $15" campaign and managers responded by invoking the company rule. The court held that, by prohibiting employees from wearing any type of pin or stickers, In-N-Out's rule restricted its employees' section 7 rights and was therefore presumptively unlawful. The court upheld the Board's reasonable conclusion that In-N-Out failed to establish a special circumstances defense based on its public image interest. Finally, the court held that the company violated section 8(a)(1) by maintaining and enforcing the rule and by instructing an employee to remove his button, and when it responded to an employee's question about wearing the button by stating that the button was not part of the uniform. Accordingly, the court granted the Board's cross-application for enforcement. View "In-N-Out Burger, Inc. v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a nursing assistant, filed suit under Title VII against her employer after she was terminated in part for refusing to care for an aggressive patient in a nursing home. At issue on appeal were plaintiff's claims of hostile work environment and retaliation. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the employer and held that the hostile work environment claim could proceed to trial where a jury could conclude that an objectively reasonable caregiver would not expect a patient to grope her daily, injure her so badly she could not work for three months, and have her complaints met with laughter and dismissal by the administration. Furthermore, the employer knew or should have known of the hostile work environment and should have taken reasonable measures to try to abate it. The court also held that the retaliation claim could proceed to trial where there was a triable issue on the "but for" causation element. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Gardner v. CLC of Pascagoula, LLC" on Justia Law

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Davis filed a complaint with the Fort Bend County Human Resources Department alleging that a director had sexually harassed and assaulted her. An investigation led to the director’s resignation. According to Davis, her supervisor retaliated because the director was a personal friend of Davis's supervisor. Davis informed her supervisor that she could not work one specific Sunday because she had a "commitment” to attend a special church service. Her supervisor did not approve the absence. Davis attended the service and did not report to work. Fort Bend terminated her employment. Davis filed a charge with the Texas Workforce Commission then filed suit under Title VII. The Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment on her retaliation claim but reversed on her religious discrimination claim, finding genuine disputes of material fact as to whether Davis held a bona fide religious belief that she needed to attend the service and Fort Bend would have suffered an undue hardship in accommodating Davis’s religious observance. The Supreme Court denied Fort Bend’s petition for certiorari. On remand, Fort Bend argued—for the first time— that Davis had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. Holding that administrative exhaustion is a jurisdictional prerequisite in Title VII cases, the district court found Davis’s contention that Fort Bend had waived this argument “irrelevant.” The Fifth Circuit again reversed. Title VII’s administrative exhaustion requirement is not a jurisdictional bar but rather a prudential prerequisite and Fort Bend forfeited the argument. View "Davis v. Fort Bend County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board, filed suit against DISH, seeking an injunction against unilateral changes to employee wages during collective bargaining. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of an injunction in part, holding that the district court did not err in recognizing the nearly 25 percent disparity between union wages and non-union wages; such a basis provided sufficient factual support to survive an abuse of discretion standard of review; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by granting relief under Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act where exceptional circumstances were present. Finally, the court did not evaluate the district court's failure to issue a cease and desist order against other future unilateral changes by DISH. View "Kinard v. Dish Network Corp." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the jury's verdict in favor of plaintiffs, former employees of Crest, in an action alleging violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The court held that the magistrate judge incorrectly placed the burden of proof on Crest as to the SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act's applicability, and plaintiffs presented no evidence to meet their burden of proving the weight of the vehicles they operated. In this case, there was no legally cognizable evidence provided by plaintiffs to refute Crest's evidence that the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicles was more than 10,000 pounds and thus the Corrections Act was applicable. View "Carley v. Crest Pumping Technologies, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's due process claim, which alleged that plaintiff was deprived of his property interest in his job as superintendent. The court held that plaintiff has adequately stated a procedural due process claim because he did not receive a pre-termination hearing. The court affirmed with respect to plaintiff's remaining claims and remanded as to the property-based procedural due process claim. View "Greene v. Greenwood Public School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that her former employer, Vacation, interfered with her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FLMA). Vacation counter sued, alleging that plaintiff and her husband breached plaintiff's covenant not to compete, converted confidential information, and tortuously interfered with its business relationships, among other things, by conspiring to establish a competing vacation-sales franchise. After determining that the district court did not abuse its discretion by exercising supplemental jurisdiction, the court held that there were numerous disputes of material fact in this case. Therefore, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's grant of Vacation's motion for summary judgment. The court also vacated the district court's award of attorneys' fees, damages, and injunctive relief. View "D'Onofrio v. Vacation Publications, Inc." on Justia Law

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McCall resigned from Shaw and later became the CEO of Allied, Shaw’s direct competitor. Shaw sued, citing noncompete and nonsolicitation agreements in McCall’s employment contract. Those agreements call for arbitration and state that the employer may seek injunctive relief without waiving the right to arbitrate. The state court issued a Joint Protective Order. Aptim acquired the rights to McCall’s employment agreement but withdrew a subsequent motion for substitution in the suit. Aptim filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association. Shaw filed an amended petition, deleting its request for damages, and a motion to dismiss the amended petition with prejudice. McCall filed an opposition, an answer, a counterclaim, a petition for declaratory judgment, a motion to consolidate, and a motion for constructive contempt against Aptim for demanding arbitration in violation of the protective order, though Aptim was not then a party to the case. Aptim, without Shaw, sued in federal court to compel arbitration and to stay the state-court proceeding. Before the federal court ruled, the state court issued an order joining Aptim in the state-court action, retroactively effective, finding that Aptim and Shaw had waived their arbitration rights. The federal district court then ordered arbitration and stayed the state-court action. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, finding that the factors weighed against abstention because the case does not involve jurisdiction over a thing and federal law provides the rules of decision on the merits and strongly favors arbitration. View "Aptim Corp. v. McCall" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff and her husband's claims against LSU. The court held that the district court properly granted LSU’s motion for judgment as a matter of law for plaintiff's Title VII gender discrimination in pay claim where plaintiff failed to show circumstantial or direct evidence of discrimination; the district court properly granted LSU's motion for judgment as a matter of law for plaintiff's Louisiana whistleblower statute claim where plaintiff failed to prove that LSU retaliated against her for disclosing that the School of Art imposed unauthorized course fees that violated the Louisiana Constitution; and the district court properly granted LSU's motion for summary judgment for plaintiff's Louisiana state law spoliation claim where no LSU policy required the professor at issue to maintain, preserve, or provide his notes that were taken during the faculty member panel meeting that included a discussion of plaintiff's reappointment. View "Herster v. Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University" on Justia Law