Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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The Fifth Circuit held, consistent with the dissent in Faludi v. U.S. Shale Sols., 950 F.3d 269, 271 (5th Cir. 2020), that an employee who is paid a daily rate is not paid on a "salary basis" under 29 C.F.R. 541.602(a). In this case, plaintiff filed suit against his employer, Helix, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), alleging that Helix did not pay him on a "salary basis" because it calculated his pay based on a daily, rather than weekly, rate. Helix countered that plaintiff's daily rate was greater than the weekly salary requirement under Labor Department regulations. Helix argued that, so long as plaintiff worked at least a single day during any particular week, he would receive more than the weekly salary requirement, and was therefore paid on a "salary basis" under Labor Department regulations. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Helix and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that plaintiff was paid on a daily rate—so he was paid "with" (not "without") "regard to the number of days or hours worked," in direct conflict with the plain language of section 541.602(a)(1). Therefore, plaintiff was not paid on a salary basis. View "Hewitt v. Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment in a Fair Labor Standards Act suit brought by plaintiff for unpaid overtime wages. The court held that the district court properly held that plaintiff was exempt, as a highly compensated employee, from the statutory mandate that employers provide overtime compensation for employees. In this case, plaintiff was an organ procurement coordinator, engaged in a literal procurement for the company. Therefore, the court held that plaintiff's duties directly related to the management or general business operations, that performance was customary and regular, and plaintiff waived his argument that he performed primarily manual work. View "Smith v. Ochsner Health System" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that American Marine was liable for most of plaintiff's injuries. Plaintiff was working as a seaman for American Marine when he was injured on board a vessel owned by the employer. The court held that American Marine has failed to demonstrate that the district court’s finding of unseaworthiness was clear error; American Marine failed to establish that plaintiff's accident was mostly his own fault where the district court clearly evaluated the evidence and made no inconsistent findings about causation, finding plaintiff 20 percent at fault; American Marine failed to carry its burden of demonstrating clear error in the district court's choice between competing experts; the district court's finding of diminished earning capacity was not clearly erroneous; in regard to the district court's award of past medical expenses because of American Marine's negligence, plaintiff's failure to prove that he was obliged to reimburse his attorneys for his medical expenses is irrelevant; and the district court did not clearly err in crediting plaintiff's testimony about his current condition. View "Luwisch v. American Marine Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). Plaintiff alleged that the Board of the HCC violated his First Amendment right to free speech when the Board publicly censured him. The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiff's allegations established standing and a state law claim for relief under section 1983 for a First Amendment violation. In this case, plaintiff alleged that the censure was issued to punish him for exercising his free speech rights and caused him mental anguish. Under the court's precedent, plaintiff's allegation of retaliatory censure is enough to establish an injury in fact. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded the section 1983 claim for damages for further proceedings. However, plaintiff's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief were moot because he is no longer a Board trustee. Therefore, the court granted HCC's motion for partial dismissal of plaintiff's appeal, instructing the district court to dismiss plaintiff's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief after remand. View "Wilson v. Houston Community College System" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of plaintiffs, property tax consultant employees, holding that plaintiffs were not exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) because the firm pointed to no job responsibility carried out by a property tax consultant that related in any way to the management or general business operations of the company or its customers. The court also held that the fluctuating-workweek method did not apply in this case, because the preponderance of the evidence supports the conclusion that there was no mutual agreement between plaintiffs and the firm that plaintiffs would be paid a fixed weekly salary regardless of the number of hours worked. View "Fraser v. Patrick O'Connor & Assoc." on Justia Law

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After the EEOC brought an enforcement action against Vantage on behalf of an employee, Vantage moved to dismiss based on the EEOC's failure to exhaust administrative remedies. In a one-sentence judgment, the district court agreed and dismissed. The Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that the EEOC intake questionnaire was sufficient as a charge and, although verified outside of the filing period, was "timely" by virtue of the relation-back regulation. The court noted that the dilatory response of the employee's counsel to the EEOC's months-long requests to file his client's verified charge was inexcusable, and counsel should never ignore applicable Americans with Disabilities law and regulations. Furthermore, the Supreme Court's decision in Edelman v. Lynchburg College, 535 U.S. 106, 113, 118, 122 S. Ct. 1145, 1149, 1152 (2002), and Fed. Express Corp. v. Holowecki, 552 U.S. 389, 402, 128 S. Ct. 1147, 1158 (2008), were designed to accomplish fair and efficient resolution of discrimination complaints filed more often than not by pro se individuals. View "EEOC v. Vantage Energy Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration of plaintiff's age discrimination suit against OneMain. The court held that the district court correctly rejected plaintiff's meeting of the minds argument on the merits based on Mississippi law. In this case, the district court found that the electronic communications transmitting the Arbitration Agreement clearly identified an arbitration agreement as the subject of the communications, and that plaintiff was given the opportunity to reach the Agreement and certified that she had done so. Furthermore, the district court correctly held that plaintiff's procedural unconscionability challenge was a challenge to the the Agreement's enforceability and therefore must be decided by an arbitrator rather than the courts. View "Bowles v. OneMain Financial Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Shell in an action brought by plaintiff under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In this case, the day after Shell formally disciplined plaintiff for violating its attendance policy, she missed her scheduled shift because she got arrested for drunk driving and wrecked her truck. The court held that employees cannot immunize themselves from legitimate termination by taking FMLA leave. In regard to plaintiff's FMLA retaliation claim, the court held that Shell produced evidence that plaintiff would have been lawfully terminated had she not taken leave, and thus she had no right to return to work. The court held that plaintiff failed to make a prima facie case under the ADA because she did not present admissible evidence establishing that she was disabled or that Shell regarded her as disabled. Even if plaintiff had made a prima facie case, her argument failed for the same reasons her FMLA retaliation claim failed. View "Amedee v. Shell Chemical, L.P." on Justia Law

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After a union representing employees of Southwestern Bell Telephone Company filed a grievance against the company, the arbitrator initially sided with the union and found that the company had violated the parties' collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The arbitrator later vacated his earlier decision and issued a modified decision. The district court upheld the arbitrator's actions. The Fifth Circuit affirmed under the "extraordinarily narrow" standard of review that applies in its consideration of arbitration awards. The court held that the arbitrator grounded his modification within the rules that governed the parties' agreement. In this case, because the February award stemmed from a colorable interpretation of the parties' CBA, the arbitrator drew the "essence" of his decision from the parties' agreement and did not exceed his authority. View "Communications Workers of America v. Southwestern Bell Telephone Co." on Justia Law

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After a jury awarded plaintiffs each damages for unpaid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the jury determined that the county had not shown that plaintiffs' recommendations as to other employees were given "particular" weight" or that their primary duties were management. Plaintiffs are lieutenants in the Travis County Sheriff's Office, and their main responsibility is to manage the operation of units of sergeants and deputies. The county claimed that plaintiffs were executive employees and thus exempt from the FLSA's overtime mandate. The Fifth Circuit held that the evidence was sufficient for a rational juror to conclude that the county had not met its burden of demonstrating that plaintiffs' recommendations are given particular weight, so much so that the jury acted irrationally in concluding otherwise. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to grant a new trial. View "Miller v. Travis County" on Justia Law