Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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A disinterested observer could not reasonably conclude that the Commission violated SEC Rule of Practice 900(a). Although Rule 900(a) sets timelines by which the Commission would ideally adjudicate cases, the permissive language of the text could not lead an employee to reasonably conclude that failing to meet such aspirational guidelines would amount to a "violation." Plaintiff petitioned for review of the Board's decision affirming the ALJ's determination that plaintiff was not entitled to relief under the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(8). After plaintiff was fired from his position at the SEC, plaintiff claimed that his supervisor terminated him in reprisal for raising concerns about his section's alleged chronic inefficiency. The Second Circuit held that the ALJ did not err in rejecting plaintiff's Rule 900(a) claim and that the ALJ more than adequately explained why an employee in plaintiff's position could not have reasonably concluded that Rule 900(a) was violated. Because the ALJ did not actually analyze plaintiff's claims that he made protected disclosures when he raised concerns that Adjudication violated Rule 900(b), the court remanded the issue to the ALJ. Finally, the court declined to address plaintiff's claims of evidentiary and discovery error. Accordingly, the court denied in part, granted in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Flynn v. SEC" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the Board's holding that Frontier-Kemper was responsible for the payment of benefits to a coal miner under the Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA), 30 U.S.C. 901 et seq. Frontier Constructors and Kemper Construction formed a partnership that worked on heavy construction projects. The Partnership later reorganized into a newly-formed corporation, Frontier-Kemper. The court agreed with the Board that Frontier-Kemper was a successor operator and that the miner's employment with both Frontier-Kemper and the Partnership could be combined in determining Frontier-Kemper's potential liability; there was no retroactive effect in applying the expanded definition of "operator" to the Partnership for the purpose of combining the miner's employment there with his later work at Frontier-Kemper; and the ALJ correctly found that the miner worked for Frontier-Kemper and the Partnership cumulatively for at least one year. View "Frontier-Kemper Constructors, Inc. v. DOWCP" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of their complaint against Schmidt Baking Co. under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law. Although professional motor carriers, like Schmidt Baking Co., generally are exempt from the FLSA's requirement that employers pay "overtime" wages for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week, Congress recently waived this exemption for motor carrier employees whose work, in whole or in part, affects the safety of vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less. The Fourth Circuit held that plaintiffs fell within the group of employees protected by the waiver and were thus entitled to overtime wages for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the FLSA claims, but affirmed the dismissal of plaintiffs' separate claims brought under Maryland law. View "Schilling, Jr. v. Schmidt Baking Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose out of an underlying action to enforce the health benefits provisions of two court-approved settlement agreements. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. The court held that a motion for preliminary injunction filed before the act to be enjoined has occurred, and subsequently intended to restore the status quo once it has been disturbed, was not moot. The court also held that the district court had jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claim pursuant to Section 502(a)(1)(B) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). On the merits, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits; that they were likely to suffer irreparable harm without a preliminary injunction; and that the balance of the equities and the public interest favor an injunction. View "Di Biase v. SPX Corp." on Justia Law

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The EEOC filed suit on behalf of a Consol Energy employee, alleging that Consol violated Title VII by constructively discharging the employee instead of accommodating his religious beliefs. In this case, the employee was forced to resign because his religious beliefs prevented him from using a biometric hand scanner. Consol provided an alternative to employees who could not use the hand scanner for non-religious reasons, but refused to accommodate the employee here for his religious objection. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the EEOC. The district court subsequently denied Consol's post-verdict motions. The Fourth Circuit held that Consol was not entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law where the evidence presented at trial allowed the jury to conclude that Consol failed to make available to a sincere religious objector the same reasonable accommodation it offered other employees, in clear violation of Title VII. Furthermore, the court found no error in the numerous evidentiary challenges raised by Consol nor in the district court's determinations regarding lost wages and punitive damages. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "EEOC v. Consol Energy, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Cava, alleging a Title VII retaliation claim for reporting alleged sexual harassment between employees. Plaintiff's supervisor concluded, after an investigation, that plaintiff made up the allegations. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff, holding that neither plaintiff nor amici have cited any case holding that the opposition clause protects employees' pretending to oppose Title VII violations by intentionally fabricating allegations, and the court was not aware of any; while the case law plaintiff and amici presented favor liberally interpreting the statute to further the goal of encouraging employees to come forward, they did not favor rewriting a statute that conditions liability on the existence of a retaliatory motive; and there was no genuine dispute of fact regarding the reasonableness of Cava's investigation into whether plaintiff fabricated her conversation with an employee. View "Villa v. Cavamezze Grill, LLC" on Justia Law