Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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Dean Dabbasi was terminated by his employer, Motiva Enterprises, in 2019. Dabbasi filed a lawsuit alleging age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA), as well as disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the TCHRA. He claimed that his termination was due to his age and a cardiac incident he experienced during a performance improvement plan (PIP) meeting. Motiva argued that Dabbasi was terminated for poor performance and attitude.The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted summary judgment in favor of Motiva. The court found that Dabbasi's claims related to his transition to a different role and the failure to place him in a promised position were time-barred or not actionable. The court also held that Dabbasi failed to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination because he was not replaced by someone younger in his final position. Additionally, the court concluded that Dabbasi was not disabled at the time of his termination, as he returned to work without restrictions after his medical leave.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reviewed the case. The court found that the district court erred in evaluating Dabbasi's age-discrimination claim in isolation rather than considering the totality of the evidence. The appellate court determined that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether Dabbasi was terminated because of his age. However, the court agreed with the district court that Dabbasi failed to establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination, as he was not disabled at the time of his termination.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Dabbasi's disability-discrimination claim but reversed the summary judgment on his age-discrimination claim, remanding it for further proceedings. View "Dabbasi v. Motiva Enterprises" on Justia Law

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The case involves Lion Elastomers, a synthetic rubber manufacturer, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Lion Elastomers had been found guilty of unfair labor practices by the NLRB for threatening, disciplining, and discharging an employee, Joseph Colone, for engaging in protected activities. The NLRB applied the Atlantic Steel standard to assess whether Colone's behavior lost its protected status. However, before the appeal of the Board’s decision had been briefed, the NLRB issued a new interpretation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in a case called General Motors, which overruled Atlantic Steel. The NLRB then sought a remand to apply this new interpretation to the Lion Elastomers case.The case was remanded to the NLRB by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, instead of applying the new interpretation from General Motors as expected, the NLRB used the remand proceeding to overrule General Motors and return to the Atlantic Steel standard. Lion Elastomers argued that the NLRB exceeded the scope of the remand and violated its due-process rights during the remand proceeding.The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Lion Elastomers. The court found that the NLRB had exceeded the scope of the remand by not applying the General Motors standard as expected. The court also found that the NLRB had violated Lion Elastomers's due-process rights by not giving the company an opportunity to be heard before deciding to overturn General Motors. The court vacated the NLRB's decision and remanded the case back to the NLRB, instructing it to apply the General Motors standard to this case. View "Lion Elastomers v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Deborah Strickland, an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), who was suspended for 15 days without pay following a series of incidents involving her supervisor. Strickland appealed her suspension to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), claiming disability discrimination. The MSPB refused to consider the entire disciplinary decision after determining one part of the decision was correct. Strickland then appealed to the district court, which affirmed the MSPB's decision.The district court upheld the MSPB's decision and dismissed Strickland's Rehabilitation Act claims. Strickland then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Court of Appeals found that the MSPB erred in refusing to review the VA's entire disciplinary decision and that both the MSPB and the VA erred by failing to analyze the non-exhaustive factors articulated in Douglas v. Veterans Admin. The Court of Appeals vacated the district court's and the MSPB's orders, reversed the district court in part, and remanded to the district court with instructions to remand to the MSPB for additional proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Strickland v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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The case involves Sharon Lewis, an African-American woman who worked as an assistant athletic director for Louisiana State University’s (LSU) football team. Lewis alleges that she experienced and witnessed numerous instances of racist and sexist misconduct from former head football coach Les Miles and that she received complaints of sexual harassment from student workers that she oversaw. In 2013, LSU retained Vicki Crochet and Robert Barton, partners of the law firm Taylor, Porter, Brooks & Phillips LLP, to conduct a Title IX investigation of sexual harassment allegations made against Miles. The report and its contents were kept confidential, and allegations brought by the student complainants were privately settled.The district court dismissed Lewis's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) claims against Crochet and Barton because Lewis’s claims were time-barred and she failed to establish proximate causation. On appeal of the dismissal order, a panel of this court affirmed the district court on the grounds that Lewis knew of her injuries from alleged racketeering as early as 2013, and thus the four-year statute of limitations had expired before she filed suit in 2021.The district court ordered Lewis to file a motion to compel addressing the lingering “issues of discoverability and the application of [its Crime-Fraud Exception Order].” The district court denied Crochet and Barton’s motion for a protective order and compelled the depositions of Crochet and Barton and the disclosure of documents drafted during the 2013 investigation. Crochet and Barton timely appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s Crime-Fraud Exception Order and remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion. The court concluded that the district court clearly erred in holding that Lewis established a prima facie case that the Board violated La. R.S. 14:132(B) and that the alleged privileged communications were made in furtherance of the crime and reasonably related to the alleged violation. View "Lewis v. Crochet" on Justia Law

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Joseph Work, a former employee of Intertek, filed a collective action against the company for unpaid overtime, liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees, and relief for the collective class. Intertek objected to the judicial forum and requested arbitration. The dispute centered on whether the agreed-upon Arbitration Agreement provided for individual or class arbitration. Work sought class arbitration, while Intertek sought individual arbitration. Intertek filed a Motion to Compel Individual Arbitration, arguing that the Arbitration Agreement did not contain an express delegation clause and was silent on class arbitration.The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled that the issue of class arbitrability was delegated to the arbitrator. The court held that the Arbitration Agreement incorporated certain JAMS Rules by reference, which delegate questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator, including the question of class arbitrability. The district court granted Work’s motion to dismiss and denied Intertek’s motion to compel individual arbitration.On appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Intertek argued that consent to class arbitration was absent and that the language in the Arbitration Agreement was not clear. The court rejected both arguments, affirming the district court's decision. The court held that the Arbitration Agreement was not ambiguous and that it clearly incorporated the JAMS Rules by reference. The court concluded that the language in the Arbitration Agreement was "clear and unmistakable" in its incorporation of the JAMS Rules, which provide that the arbitrator decides the question of arbitrability. View "Work v. Intertek" on Justia Law

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The case involves Thryv, Inc., a company that had a dispute with the union representing some of its sales employees. The union complained to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging that Thryv engaged in several unfair labor practices. The NLRB agreed with the union and ordered Thryv to take significant steps to remedy the alleged violations. Thryv petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for review.Previously, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ruled in favor of the NLRB's General Counsel in part and Thryv in part. The ALJ agreed with the General Counsel that Thryv failed to respond to the Union’s information requests, constituting six unfair labor practices. However, the ALJ disagreed with the General Counsel that Thryv’s layoffs violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), finding that Thryv had bargained in good faith.The NLRB affirmed the ALJ’s finding that Thryv violated the NLRA by failing to comply with the Union’s information requests. However, it disagreed with the ALJ about the layoffs and held them unlawful. The NLRB held that Thryv had an obligation to bargain with respect to the layoffs and that Thryv breached that obligation by presenting the layoffs as a fait accompli and withholding information from the Union that the Union needed to bargain effectively.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted Thryv’s petition and vacated the NLRB’s order in part. The court disagreed with the NLRB's conclusion that Thryv's layoffs violated the NLRA. The court held that Thryv was permitted to implement its last best, final offer (LBFO) upon reaching an impasse with the Union. The court found that Thryv complied with the terms of the LBFO, which included providing the Union with thirty days’ notice before initiating layoffs, providing the Union an opportunity to discuss the layoffs, and offering severance payments to the affected employees. Therefore, the court concluded that Thryv's layoffs were lawful so long as Thryv and the Union remained at overall impasse on the date the layoffs occurred. The court also enforced the NLRB’s order requiring Thryv to cease and desist from failing and refusing to furnish the Union with requested information that is relevant and necessary to the Union’s performance of its functions as the collective-bargaining representative of its employees. View "Thryv v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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Rick Milteer, a disabled veteran and an observant African American Messianic Jewish believer, was employed by Navarro County, Texas, in its Texoma High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) division as an Information Technology (IT) manager. Milteer alleged that he faced discrimination, retaliation, and failure to accommodate in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. His claims were based on his supervisor's refusal to allow him to work remotely while recovering from surgery and during the Covid-19 pandemic, and his subsequent suspension and termination after he discovered a data breach and reported it.The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Navarro County, dismissing all of Milteer's claims. The court found that Navarro County was Milteer's employer and that the County had provided a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating Milteer's employment. The court also found that Milteer had failed to produce any evidence that he had informed the County of his disabilities or requested an accommodation from the County.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. The appellate court found that the district court erred in treating Navarro County and the Texoma HIDTA as separate entities and in failing to impute the actions of Milteer's supervisor to the County. The court held that the Texoma HIDTA was not a legal entity capable of employing individuals, and that the actions and inactions of Milteer's supervisor could be imputed to the County. The court concluded that this error impacted the district court's analysis of Milteer's claims, necessitating a remand for further proceedings. View "Milteer v. Navarro County" on Justia Law

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The case involves Marcus Anderson and Reed Clark, current and former employees of Harris County, who allege that Constable Christopher Diaz violated their First Amendment rights. They claim that Diaz instituted reforms to ensure his re-election, which included requiring employees to work on his campaign and retaliating against those who impeded campaign functions. The plaintiffs assert that Diaz had final authority over employment decisions and that his actions resulted in various adverse employment actions, ranging from transfer to termination.The plaintiffs initiated a suit against Diaz and Harris County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming Diaz violated their First Amendment rights. Harris County filed a motion to dismiss, which the district court granted, finding that Diaz was not a policymaker for Harris County. The district court dismissed all claims against the county with prejudice. Two years later, the district court issued a final judgment regarding the claims against Harris County, allowing the plaintiffs to appeal.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court agreed with the lower court's finding that Diaz, as a constable of a single precinct, was not a final policymaker for Harris County. The court also rejected the plaintiffs' alternative argument that Harris County was liable for Diaz's employment decisions under a delegation or rubber-stamp theory. The court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to show that the alleged First Amendment violations were the result of an official county policy, and therefore, their claims against Harris County were dismissed. View "Anderson v. Harris County" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around the procedural interplay between two Mississippi statutes—the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) and the Mississippi Whistleblower Protection Act (MWPA). Mark Johnson, the plaintiff, filed a retaliation complaint under the MWPA, alleging that he was fired from his position as general manager of the Clarksdale Public Utilities Authority (CPU) for reporting inefficiency and incompetence. Johnson later added claims for First Amendment retaliation and breach of contract.The district court held that the procedural requirements of the MTCA applied to Johnson’s MWPA claim, and because the court concluded he didn’t comply with them, it dismissed his claim. The district court also concluded that Johnson’s First Amendment retaliation and breach-of-contract claims were time-barred because the three-year statute of limitations for these claims ran after Johnson filed his first complaint but before he amended to add these claims—and neither claim relates back. Johnson appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit was unable to make a reliable Erie guess as to whether the MTCA’s procedural requirements apply to MWPA claims because it lacked clear guidance from Mississippi courts on how the two statutes interrelate. Therefore, the court certified this question to the Supreme Court of Mississippi: When a plaintiff brings a claim against the government and its employees for tortious conduct under the MWPA, is that claim subject to the procedural requirements of the MTCA? View "Johnson v. Miller" on Justia Law

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In the case considered by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, employee Michael Ashford sued his former employer, Aeroframe Services, and Aviation Technical Services (ATS), alleging unpaid wages and other damages. The case, which began in Louisiana state court and was later removed to federal court, was complicated by numerous claims and counterclaims among the parties, including third-party defendant Roger Allen Porter, who was Aeroframe's sole principal.Initially, Ashford and other employees pursued claims against Aeroframe and ATS, alleging that negotiations between the two companies led to Aeroframe's insolvency and employees' loss of wages. ATS, in turn, cross-claimed against Aeroframe and Porter, alleging financial losses from its failed attempt to acquire Aeroframe. Porter also cross-claimed against ATS, asserting tortious interference and unfair trade practices.The Court of Appeals previously remanded the case to the district court, finding that the parties were not aligned in their interests at the time of the lawsuit's filing, and the district court lacked jurisdiction due to lack of diversity among the parties. Upon reconsideration, however, the district court found new evidence indicating that the interests of Aeroframe, Porter, and the employees were aligned from the inception of the litigation and that an irrevocable settlement agreement between them existed, allowing removal under the relevant law.The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's ruling, finding that the non-ATS parties' interests were aligned from the litigation's inception. The Court also affirmed the district court's dismissal of all claims against ATS and the individual judgments against Aeroframe in favor of the employees. View "Ashford v. Aviation Technical Svc" on Justia Law