Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Calhoun v. Jack Doheny Companies, Inc.
JDC sought a preliminary injunction against its former employee for breach of a non-compete agreement. The district court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction in all its parts and with no concessions.The Fifth Circuit held that the district court, after acknowledging the agreement to be overbroad, erred in declining to adjudicate reformation of the agreement. In this case, the district court should have considered reformation of the agreement in the process of deciding the preliminary injunction motion. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded to the district court to allow relevant evidence and argument from the parties concerning reformation. Furthermore, the court noted that the district court should then decide what reformation, if any, would be reasonable under Texas law, and proceed to adjudicate the preliminary injunction motion in the light of its findings on reformation. View "Calhoun v. Jack Doheny Companies, Inc." on Justia Law
Six Dimensions, Inc. v. Perficient, Inc.
Six Dimensions filed suit against a former employee and a competitor, Perficient, alleging claims for breach of contracts, unfair competition, and misappropriation of trade secrets.The Fifth Circuit reversed the part of the judgment holding that the employee breached an employment contract and owed damages to Six Dimensions. The court held that the district court abused its discretion in denying the employee an opportunity to extend the arguments she had already made about the 2014 Agreement and have them apply to the 2015 Agreement. However, the court held that the district court did not reversibly err in interpreting California law and concluding that California's strict antipathy towards restraint of trade of any kind in California Business and Professions Code section 16600 voids the nonsolicitation provision here. The court also found no error in the district court's refusal to apply California's Unfair Competition Law, and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to find the jury's verdict contrary to the weight of the great evidence as to the misappropriation claim. Therefore, the court otherwise affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Six Dimensions, Inc. v. Perficient, Inc." on Justia Law
Hinkley v. Envoy Air, Inc.
Plaintiffs filed suit against Envoy in state court, alleging both disparate treatment and disparate impact based on age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). On appeal, plaintiffs contend that the district court for the northern district erred: by sua sponte transferring this action to the western district instead of remanding it to state court; and, if remand was not required, by dismissing their Texas Labor Code claim with prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) instead of without prejudice pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) (lack of jurisdiction).The Fifth Circuit rejected both claims and held that removal to the incorrect judicial district is procedural error and does not divest the district court of jurisdiction over a removed action. Accordingly, plaintiffs' challenge to the district court for the northern district's transfer pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1631 is moot, given the district court for the western district's transfer back to the northern district. The court also held that Texas Labor Code 21.202's 180-day filing requirement is mandatory but not jurisdictional. In light of this analysis, the court held that the district court, after concluding that plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege exhaustion of their mandatory administrative remedies, did not err by dismissing pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Furthermore, the district court did not err by dismissing with prejudice. View "Hinkley v. Envoy Air, Inc." on Justia Law
Echo Powerline, LLC v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
OSHA found that Echo violated 29 C.F.R. 1926.964(b)(1), the tension-stringing regulation, when two employees were electrocuted while rehanging a line. After the ALJ upheld the citation, Echo petitioned for review.The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the tension-stringing provision is sufficiently precise to repel Echo's vagueness challenge. In this case, the express language of the provision afforded Echo "sufficiently definite warning" of the conduct required. The court also held that the evidence of industry custom was unnecessary to establish Echo's violation where the provision is not unconstitutionally vague and instructs the employer about specific methods to use in order to comply. Therefore, the provision is not a performance standard and the ALJ did not err by declining to consider evidence that Echo's method complied with industry custom. View "Echo Powerline, LLC v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law
Houston Aquarium, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
The Fifth Circuit reversed the Commission's decision affirming the application of OSHA's commercial diving safety regulations to the dives its staff members perform to feed animals housed at the Aquarium and to clean the facility's tanks. A majority of the Commission panel affirmed the ALJ's determination that feeding and cleaning dives did not fall within the "scientific diving" exemption to the commercial standard.The court held that the ALJ did not err in crediting the compliance officer's testimony about the Commercial Diving Operations (CDO) standard as lay opinion testimony; even if the compliance officer testified to some matters that fell outside the realm of lay opinion testimony, the admission of the testimony was harmless; and the Aquarium's witnesses were properly treated as lay witnesses. Under a plain reading of the entire definition of "scientific diving," as well as the regulation guidelines and regulatory history, the court held that the activities performed during the feeding and cleaning dives fall within the plain text of the exemption. In this case, the Aquarium has shown that feeding and cleaning dives are a necessary component of its scientific research. View "Houston Aquarium, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law
Sanderson Farms, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the Commission's determination that Sanderson violated various regulations of the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).The court held that the ALJ's determination that the compressor cutouts and the emergency stops are subject to the mechanical integrity program was not an abuse of discretion or otherwise contrary to law; the ALJ's determination that Sanderson failed to rebut the presumption of exposure to a hazard was not an abuse of discretion or otherwise contrary to law; and the Secretary bore his burden with respect to all elements of a violation regarding Items 5a and 5b. View "Sanderson Farms, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law
Wigginton v. Jones
After plaintiff was denied tenure as an assistant professor of Legal Studies at the University of Mississippi, he filed suit against several university officials in their individual capacities, alleging that they violated his substantive due process rights when they evaluated his eligibility for tenure in an arbitrary and capricious manner. A jury subsequently awarded plaintiff over $200,000 in damages for lost wages and past and future pain and suffering.The Fifth Circuit reversed and rendered judgment in favor of defendants, holding that the district court erred when it denied defendants' motions for qualified immunity and concluded that plaintiff had a clearly established property interest. In this case, plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the language in his contract that allegedly guaranteed him a "fair process of tenure review" gave rise to a clearly-established property right. View "Wigginton v. Jones" on Justia Law
Lyons v. Katy Independent School District
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the school district in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging claims under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) for discrimination and retaliation.Regardless of whether the "transitory and minor" nature of the impairment was part of plaintiff's prima facie case or an affirmative defense to her claim of "regarded as" disability discrimination, the court held that the school district is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's "regarded as" disability-based discrimination claim. In this case, there are no facts in dispute regarding the transitory and minor nature of the perceived impairment from plaintiff's lap band surgery. Although the court held that the district court erred in its determination that plaintiffs failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation because she failed to present sufficient evidence of a causal connection, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the school district on the retaliation claim because plaintiff failed to meet her summary judgment burden of pointing to evidence demonstrating that the legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons proffered by the school district for its actions were pretextual. The school district proffered that plaintiff was removed from coaching basketball because it was the school district's understanding that she did not like coaching basketball and did not want to do so. View "Lyons v. Katy Independent School District" on Justia Law
McIntyre v. Nissan North America, Inc.
The Fifth Circuit withdrew its previous opinion and substituted the following opinion.The court affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motions for summary judgment in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging that he was wrongfully discharged for having a firearm in his vehicle parked in the employee lot. Plaintiff argued that his discharge was wrongful under Miss. Code. Ann. 45-9-55(1).The court held that the section 45-9-55(2) exception applies because the general public's access to Lot 1B was restricted or limited. Therefore, the statutory exception to the right of an employee to have a firearm in his vehicle applies in this case. The court declined to consider Nissan's remaining arguments. View "McIntyre v. Nissan North America, Inc." on Justia Law
Denton County Electric Coop v. NLRB
The Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and substituted the following opinion.The court denied in part and granted in part CoServ's petition for review and denied in part and granted in part the Board's cross-application for enforcement. The court held that CoServ's challenge against the Board's findings of unfair labor practices failed; under the governing four-factor test, substantial evidence supports the Board's finding that CoServ's unfair labor practices tainted the second decertification petition; as to the affirmative bargaining order, the Board failed to justify it under Fifth Circuit case law; and, because a bargaining order was not justified, the court vacated the order. The court also vacated the Board's issuance of the public-notice-reading order because it cannot be justified under the facts of this case. View "Denton County Electric Coop v. NLRB" on Justia Law