Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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The insurer of a Louisiana sugarcane farm raised several arguments that the farm was entitled to statutory immunity under Louisiana workers' compensation law from an action brought by two injured cane planters. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of plaintiffs, holding that plaintiffs were neither employees of the farm nor its independent contractors. Rather, plaintiffs were employees of the farm's independent contractor. Therefore, the farm was not entitled to statutory immunity from suit. View "Jorge-Chavelas v. Louisiana Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's summary judgment award to plaintiffs in an action alleging that Premier misclassified them as independent contractors and failed to compensate them for overtime pay pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Plaintiffs are directional driller consultants (DD) and Premier is a company that specializes in directional drilling for oil. The district court determined that plaintiffs were employees, not independent contractors (IC). However, the court applied the factors in United States v. Silk, 331 U.S. 704 (1947), and held that the degree of control factor favored IC status; plaintiffs had enough control over their profits and losses to have this factor support IC status; the skill and initiative required in performing the job favored IC status; and the permanency of the relationship weighed in favor of IC status. The court evaluated three additional relevant factors and reached the same conclusions as the district court. View "Parrish v. Premier Directional Drilling, L.P." on Justia Law

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Chase petitioned for writ of mandamus after the district court conditionally certified a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action and directed that approximately 42,000 current and former Chase employees receive notice of the litigation. Chase claimed that arbitration agreements waived most of the employees' right to proceed collectively against Chase and that those agreements were enforceable under their terms. The Fifth Circuit denied the petition and held that, although Chase has shown that the issue presented was irremediable on ordinary appeal and that the writ of mandamus was appropriate under the circumstances, Chase has not shown a clear and indisputable right to the writ. The court held, however, that the district court erred by ordering that notice be sent to employees who signed arbitration agreements and by requiring Chase to provide personal contact information for the Arbitration Employees. Therefore, the court continued the stay of the district court's December 10, 2018, order for thirty days to give the court full opportunity to reconsider that order. View "In Re: JPMorgan Chase & Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, alleging a claim under the anti-retaliation provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The district court concluded that the employer's decision to fire plaintiff was not prohibited retaliation and that plaintiff did not have an objectively reasonable belief that a violation of reporting requirements had occurred. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the employer, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that paragraph 22 of the declaration of plaintiff's witness was impermissible expert testimony. Therefore, there was no genuine issue of material act as to whether plaintiff's purported belief that his employer was misreporting its revenue was objectively reasonable in light of the undisputed facts. View "Wallace v. Andeavor Corp." on Justia Law

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The panel opinion, special concurrence, and dissent previously issued in this case were withdrawn, and the following opinions were substituted in their place. Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, BNSF, for disability discrimination and retaliation after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and later placed on medical leave. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to BNSF on plaintiff's disability discrimination claim because there was a fact issue as to whether BNSF discriminated against plaintiff. However, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the retaliation claim and held that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of an unlawful retaliation. View "Nall v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for rehearing and petition for rehearing en banc. The court substituted this opinion in place of its prior opinion. The court affirmed the district court's judgment as to plaintiff's hostile work environment claim and held that plaintiff sufficiently alleged sustained harassment that undermined his ability to work. In this case, he was repeatedly subjected to behavior that was hostile, intimidating, and bullying, and it was done publicly over a period of more than three years. Furthermore, defendant was deliberately indifferent to this racially hostile work environment. The court also affirmed as to the 42 U.S.C. 1981 claim and held that defendant retaliated after plaintiff complained about discrimination by transferring him to the night shift in a different division. Therefore, plaintiff's allegations supporting unlawful retaliation establish a violation of his constitutional rights, one that a reasonable official would know was unlawful. However, the court held that defendant was entitled to qualified immunity on the First Amendment retaliation claim where it was not clearly established that an internal complaint of discrimination made only to supervisors, primarily to vindicate one's own rights, qualified as speech made as a "citizen" rather than as an "employee." View "Johnson v. Halstead" on Justia Law

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In Blum v. Gulf Oil Corp., 597 F.2d 936 (5th Cir. 1979), the Fifth Circuit held that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The court held that Blum remained binding precedent. Nonetheless, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in an action alleging that Phillips 66 discriminated against an employee based on the employee's transgender status. The court held that the district court correctly granted summary judgment for the employer because the employee failed to present sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case of discrimination, and because the employee failed to present a genuine issue of material fact concerning pretext. In this case, the employee did not present evidence that any non-transgender applicants were treated better, and Phillips 66 identified a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for rescinding the offer—namely, the employee's misrepresentations regarding her prior employment. View "Wittmer v. Phillips 66 Co." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit withdrew the prior opinion and substituted the following opinion. In this case, a nurse alleged that an assisted living center allowed a hostile work environment to continue by not preventing a resident's repetitive harassment. Plaintiff filed suit under Title VII after she was terminated in part for refusing to care for an aggressive patient in a nursing home. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the harassment claim and held that the evidence of persistent and often physical harassment by the aggressive patient was enough to allow a jury to decide whether a reasonable caregiver on the receiving end of the harassment would have viewed it as sufficiently severe or pervasive even considering the medical condition of the harasser. In this case, 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. The court allowed the district court to consider plaintiff's retaliation claim via direct evidence for the first instance on remand. View "Gardner v. CLC of Pascagoula, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Chief Justice Valdez in his individual and official capacities, arguing that Valdez intervened in plaintiff's hiring as retaliation for plaintiff filing a complaint against Valdez. The Fifth Circuit held that Valdez is entitled to qualified immunity because it was not clearly established as of May 2014 that where a briefing attorney swore as part of his employment to comply with a code of conduct requiring him to report judicial misconduct to a specific state authority, he nonetheless spoke as a citizen in reporting a judge to that authority. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's order denying Valdez's motion for summary judgment in both his official and individual capacity. View "Anderson v. Valdez" on Justia Law

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After the union filed a grievance against Southwest for using non-union vendors to clean the interiors of remaining overnight aircraft, the arbitrator ruled that the grievance was timely because the union filed it within ten working days after the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was signed. The Fifth Circuit reversed the arbitration award in favor of the union and held that the arbitrator erroneously ruled that the CBA became effective on the date it was signed. In this case, the arbitrator ignored the unambiguous terms of the CBA. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Southwest Airlines Co. v. Local 555" on Justia Law