Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Swales v. KLLM Transport Services, LLC
Plaintiffs filed a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) against KLLM over a minimum wage labor dispute. The district court granted plaintiffs' certification request, applying the widely used Lusardi test, a two-step method for certifying a collective.The Fifth Circuit declined to delineate the district court's notice-sending discretion under the Lusardi test, rejecting Lusardi's two-step certification rubric. The court explained that Lusardi has no anchor in the FLSA's text or in Supreme Court precedent interpreting it. The court noted that the word "certification," much less "conditional certification," appears nowhere in the FLSA. Instead, the court embraced interpretive first principles: (1) the FLSA's text, specifically section 216(b), which declares (but does not define) that only those "similarly situated" may proceed as a collective; and (2) the Supreme Court's admonition that while a district court may "facilitat[e] notice to potential plaintiffs" for case-management purposes, it cannot signal approval of the merits or otherwise stir up litigation. The court concluded that these are the only binding commands on district courts. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's grant of conditional certification and remanded for further proceedings. View "Swales v. KLLM Transport Services, LLC" on Justia Law
Cordua Restaurants, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board
The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's order finding that the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by firing an employee for engaging in activities protected under the Act.The court held that the Board is entitled to summary enforcement of its order remedying the employer's Section 8(a)(1) violation with respect to the no-solicitation rule. The court also held that the employer waived issues related to the employee's engagement in protected activities and the Board's finding that management had knowledge of the employee's protected conduct. The court concluded that substantial evidence supports the Board's finding of animus, and substantial evidence supports the Board's finding that the employer's purported reasons for firing the employee were pretextual. Therefore, the employer has failed to establish that it would have fired the employee absent his engagement in protected conduct. Finally, the court upheld the Board's order directing the employer to offer the employee full reinstatement and backpay. View "Cordua Restaurants, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
Lindsley v. TRT Holdings, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against Omni, alleging (1) pay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Texas Labor Code, and the Equal Pay Act; (2) promotional discrimination under Title VII and the Texas Labor Code; and (3) retaliation for filing a charge with the EEOC and for taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Title VII, the Texas Labor Code, and the Equal Pay Act. The district court granted summary judgment to Omni.In regard to the pay discrimination claims as it pertains to the three men who previously held the same position as plaintiff yet were paid more, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court erred in concluding that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case. Rather, plaintiff showed that she held the same position as two other employees did, at the same hotel, just a few years after they did, and that she was paid less than they were. The court also concluded that Omni failed to set forth a non-discriminatory reason for that pay disparity. Therefore, the court reversed in part and remanded. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiff's Equal Pay Act claim insofar as it relies on other unnamed male food and beverage directors from different Omni hotels, but remanded for a determination of whether plaintiff can establish a prima facie case with respect to those comparators under Title VII and the Texas Labor Code.In regard to the promotional discrimination claims, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Omni because plaintiff withdrew her name from consideration and understood that she would have been given the offer if she reconsidered. In this case, plaintiff was not rejected by Omni. Rather, she rejected the opportunity from Omni. In regard to the retaliation claims, plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation because she could not demonstrate an adverse employment action. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to establish adverse employment action in response to her requesting and taking FMLA leave; plaintiff puts forth no evidence that the deletion of the computer files was in any way motivated by retaliation; and plaintiff's constructive discharge claim failed. View "Lindsley v. TRT Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law
Baisley v. International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Plaintiff filed suit to invalidate IAM's opt-out procedures as violative of his First Amendment rights, the Railway Labor Act (RLA), and IAM's Duty of Fair Representation. The district court dismissed the action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).The Fifth Circuit affirmed, finding no constitutional infirmity in the IAM's opt-out procedures under the settled decisions of the Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit. In this case, the court distinguished the three cases plaintiff presented regarding public-sector unions, Knox v. SEIU, Local 1000, 567 U.S. 298 (2012), Harris v. Quinn, 573 U.S. 616 (2014), and Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018), and explained that it is undisputed that applying them to this private-sector dispute would require the court to extend into a new realm. Furthermore, by extension, plaintiff's constitutional avoidance, statutory, and Duty of Fair Representation claims also fail. View "Baisley v. International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers" on Justia Law
Hewitt v. Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc.
The Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and substituted this opinion in its place. The petition for rehearing en banc remains pending.Plaintiff worked as a tool pusher for Helix and was paid a daily rate. Although Helix concedes that it required plaintiff to work over forty hours per week, Helix nevertheless attempts to avoid the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime penalty by characterizing plaintiff as either an executive or highly compensated employee—both of which are exempt from the FLSA overtime requirements. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Helix.The court reversed, holding that an employer can pay a daily rate under 29 C.F.R. 541.604(b) and still satisfy the salary basis test of section 541.602—but only if the employer complies with both the minimum weekly guarantee requirement and the reasonable relationship test. In this case, Helix does not comply with either prong because it pays plaintiff a daily rate without offering a minimum weekly required amount that is paid regardless of the number of hours, days or shifts worked, and Helix does not comply with the reasonable relationship test. The court noted that its reading of the regulations finds support not only from the Sixth and Eighth Circuits, but also in repeated statements by the Labor Department. The court rejected contentions to the contrary and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hewitt v. Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc." on Justia Law
Molina-Aranda v. Black Magic Enterprises, LLC
Plaintiff filed suit against Carmen and Jessie Ramirez and their company, Black Magic, alleging that the Ramirezes violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Plaintiffs claimed that the Ramirezes brought them to the United States under the H-2B visa program to work as construction workers, but once plaintiffs arrived in the country, they were made to work as truck drivers. Plaintiffs also claimed that the Ramirezes unlawfully deducted from their paychecks, denied them overtime pay, and sometimes failed to pay them entirely. The district court dismissed the claims for failure to state a claim, declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' related state law claims, and denied plaintiffs' later-filed motion for leave to amend the complaint.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' RICO claims where plaintiffs failed to adequately plead proximate causation; affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend; reversed the dismissal of plaintiffs' FLSA claims where plaintiffs have adequately alleged that they handled goods or materials that had at some point travelled interstate, and that they lost wages as a result of the alleged FLSA violations; vacated the dismissal of the state law claims for new consideration of supplemental jurisdiction; and remanded for further proceedings. View "Molina-Aranda v. Black Magic Enterprises, LLC" on Justia Law
Cunningham v. Castloo
The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to defendant in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims premised on the denial of a name-clearing hearing in violation of procedural due process. The court held that the alleged violative nature of defendant's conduct was not clearly established as unconstitutional. In this case, the law was not clearly established that plaintiff's request "to speak with" defendant constituted a request for a name-clearing hearing in the context of the court's "stigma-plus-infringement" test, such that denying the request would amount to a procedural-due-process violation. View "Cunningham v. Castloo" on Justia Law
Stelly v. Duriso
Plaintiff filed suit against the unions she was affiliated with, as well as a maritime association, for sexual harassment under federal employment law, arguing that defendant's conduct created a hostile work environment. Plaintiff also filed suit against defendant himself for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) under Texas state law. The district court entered a default judgment in plaintiff's favor on the IIED claim and plaintiff ultimately prevailed at trial against the other defendants.The Fifth Circuit first held that a party's failure to file a motion to set aside a default judgment in the district court does not prevent the party from appealing that judgment to the court. On the merits, the court vacated the default judgment on the IIED claim, concluding that plaintiff could not pursue an IIED against defendant in light of the other statutory remedies available to plaintiff. The court explained that a plaintiff generally cannot sustain an IIED claim if the plaintiff could have brought a sexual harassment claim premised on the same facts. In this case, the gravamen of plaintiff's IIED claim is for sexual harassment; plaintiff used defendant's conduct as a basis for her Title VII claims against the other defendants; plaintiff ultimately prevailed on those claims against the union; and the availability of those statutory remedies on the same facts forecloses her IIED claims against defendant. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Stelly v. Duriso" on Justia Law
Salazar v. Lubbock County Hospital District
Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer, UMC, alleging age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). Plaintiff claimed that she and several other elderly employees were fired and replaced by younger respiratory therapists, whom UMC paid at a lower rate. Both parties agreed that plaintiff demonstrated a prima facie case of age discrimination and that UMC articulated a legitimate, non-discriminatory basis for her termination.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of UMC, holding that plaintiff failed to adduce sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute over the veracity of UMC's proffered reasons for plaintiff's discharge. In this case, UMC's articulated reasons for plaintiff's termination were her poor performance and demonstrated lack of effort to change her behavior. The court concluded that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to create doubt as to whether this reason was a mere pretext for discrimination. View "Salazar v. Lubbock County Hospital District" on Justia Law
Jones v. New Orleans Regional Physician Hospital Organization, Inc.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Peoples Health Network in an action brought by former employees, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The district court concluded that the employees' job duties fall within the administrative employee exemption to the statute.The court agreed and concluded de novo that the evidence created no genuine issue of material fact and the district court had ample support from the record to conclude that plaintiffs were salaried employees; plaintiffs' primary job duties directly relate to the management or general business operations of Peoples Health or its customers; and plaintiffs' primary job duties included the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance. The court also concluded that the district court applied the correct standard of review, and the district court made clear in its conclusion that it was applying the summary judgment standard to Peoples Health's burden of proving the administrative exemption by a preponderance of the evidence. View "Jones v. New Orleans Regional Physician Hospital Organization, Inc." on Justia Law