Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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A consulting company and its owner appealed the district court's determination that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to pay certain employees proper overtime compensation. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment holding that the payment system violated the FLSA because it used a blended rate that functioned as the actual hourly rate for all hours worked, regardless of whether those hours were overtime or non-overtime. The court noted that, upholding such a scheme and accepting the company's retroactive justifications would undercut one of the fundamental purposes of the FLSA: ensuring that employees are adequately paid for all overtime hours. View "US Department of Labor v. Fire & Safety Investigation Consulting Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether a false rumor that a female employee slept with her male boss to obtain promotion can ever give rise to her employer's liability under Title VII for discrimination "because of sex." In this case, plaintiff was terminated after she complained of a hostile work environment stemming from the rumor. The Fourth Circuit held that the allegations of the employee's complaint, where the employer was charged with participating in the circulation of the rumor and acting on it by sanctioning the employee, did implicate such liability. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims alleging discrimination and retaliation for complaining about such a workplace condition. However, the court affirmed the dismissal of the third claim because the employee failed to exhaust it before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. View "Parker v. Reema Consulting Services, Inc" on Justia Law

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The EEOC filed suit against McLeod for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), because McLeod required a longtime employee with a disability to undergo a work-related medical exam and then wrongfully discharged her based on her disability. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to McLeod, and held that a reasonable jury could conclude that it was unreasonable for McLeod to believe that the employee was medically unable to navigate its campuses without posing a direct threat to her own safety. Therefore, McLeod was not entitled to summary judgment on the illegal exam claim. Furthermore, it was not certain that navigating to and within McLeod's campuses was essential to the employee's job. Accordingly, McLeod was not entitled to summary judgment on the wrongful discharge claim. View "EEOC v. McLeod Health, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and the union he represents filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging First and Fourteenth Amendment claims, seeking to reinstate privileges that granted them special access to restricted Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) property. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the transportation officials, holding that the MTA's actions against the union did not amount to unconstitutionally adverse behavior. In this case, plaintiff and the union's interest in maintaining access to restricted MTA property was slight when compared to the government's interest in regulating such access. Therefore, MTA's access policies were not sufficiently adverse to support a First Amendment retaliation claim. The court rejected the Fourth Amendment claims, holding that the police acted reasonably when it escorted plaintiff from MTA property. In this case, plaintiff's lawful purpose did not give him carte blanche to access restricted MTA offices, and the MTA had explicitly barred him from entering its restricted property without permission. Therefore, the police had probable cause to believe that plaintiff was violating the law. Finally, there was no reversible error in denying plaintiff and the union's discovery requests. View "McClure v. Ports" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's award of summary judgment for Virtus, plaintiff's former employer, in an action seeking to collect on a state court judgment entered against defendants. The court held that plaintiff's claims were not precluded under Virginia's doctrine of res judicata, because he could not have brought those claims at the time of his earlier litigation. In this case, plaintiff could not have brought his fraudulent transfer claims in the arbitration proceedings, because it was only after the state court judgment was entered that plaintiff would have actual notice of any potential fraudulent transfer claims. Similarly, because plaintiff was required to obtain a judgment against Virtus before bringing his alter-ego claim, the claim had not accrued at the time of the arbitration proceedings. View "Bennett v. Garner" on Justia Law

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The judicially mandated exhaustion requirement is a nonjurisdictional precondition to suit under section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act. Plaintiff filed suit against his union and former employer under section 301 for breach of a collective bargaining agreement that governed his employment. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the action based on failure to exhaust the agreement's grievance procedures. The court held that the district court erred in treating exhaustion as a matter of jurisdiction. The court also held that the district court erred in holding that the collective bargaining agreement in fact required exhaustion. View "Staudner v. Robinson Aviation, Inc." on Justia Law

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IPC hired Ray in 2002. McDowell was Ray’s supervisor. In 2013, Ray was transferred to the shipping department where she reported to Owens and to McDowell when Owens was not present. In 2003, McDowell started acting inappropriately toward Ray, including asking Ray to engage in sexual activity with him. On one occasion, McDowell grabbed Ray’s thigh. In 2013, Ray reported McDowell’s behavior to Owens and to supervisor, Smith. Both offered to report Ray’s allegations. Ray declined out of fear of retaliation, but frequently called Owens requesting to leave work because of McDowell’s conduct. Under IPC’s policy, when a supervisor is notified of potential harassment, the supervisor is required to report that allegation. Neither supervisor formally reported any of Ray’s complaints. In 2014, McDowell learned that Ray had complained and confronted Ray, who denied making any complaints. Around the same time, McDowell informed Ray that she could no longer perform voluntary overtime work, which represented a significant portion of her income. Other operators still were allowed to work voluntary overtime. Ray reported McDowell’s conduct to IPC’s human resources department. Investigators obtained evidence of the harassment from other employees and concluded that McDowell was lying but IPC did not discipline McDowell. Ray complained about McDowell twice more; IPC did not discipline McDowell, but instructed him to stop “manually adjust[ing] the line.” Ray sued, alleging hostile work environment and retaliation, 42 U.S.C. 2000e. The Fourth Circuit vacated summary judgment that had been entered in favor of IPC, finding genuine issues of material fact on both claims. View "Ray v. International Paper Co." on Justia Law

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Ott worked for Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS). In 2010, she learned that a pediatrician had molested her daughter, causing Ott to develop PTSD and severe anxiety. She took medical leave and transferred to a different location. Ott says that her co-worker harassed Ott about her daughter and Ott’s mental health for a year and that DPSCS ignored the harassment. Ott’s performance deteriorated. DPSCS forced her to resign in March 2014. While still employed, Ott filed an EEOC discrimination charge, which proceeded slowly; eventually, the agency found reasonable cause for Ott’s claims and referred them to the Department of Justice, which issued a right to sue notice in July 2016. Ott filed suit in October 2016, asserting claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her Rehabilitation Act claims as untimely. Because the Rehabilitation Act does not contain a limitations period, courts borrow the time limit from the most analogous state law claim and have previously applied Maryland’s three-year general civil case limitation. After the Fourth Circuit last addressed the issue, Maryland amended its Fair Employment Practices Act (MFEPA) to align more closely with the Rehabilitation Act so that the MFEPA qualifies as the most analogous Maryland law. The MFEPA’s two-year statute of limitations applies and bars Ott’s claims. Ott did not meet the exacting standard for invoking the doctrine of equitable tolling. View "Ott v. Maryland Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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AirFacts appealed the district court's judgment for defendant on AirFacts' breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets claims. Determining that it had jurisdiction, the court held that AirFacts did not abandon its claim under Paragraph 4.2 of the Employment Agreement and vacated as to this issue. In regard to the breach of contract claim, the court held that there was no legal error in the district court's conclusion that defendant did not misappropriate the Proration Documents in emailing them to himself for continued AirFacts business. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "AirFacts, Inc. v. De Amezaga" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the employer in an action alleging that the unauthorized review and disclosure of plaintiff's confidential personnel files to support her racial and religious discrimination claims constituted protected activity under Title VII. The court held that, under the opposition clause, unauthorized disclosures of confidential information to third parties are generally unreasonable. In this case, plaintiff's unauthorized review and duplication of confidential personnel files did not constitute protected opposition or participation activity. The court also held that section 704(a) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not protect a violation of valid state law that poses no conflict with Title VII. The court explained that, like in plaintiff's opposition claim, she failed to meet her burden of proving that the sheriff terminated her employment because she engaged in protected activity. View "Netter v. Barnes" on Justia Law