Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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USERRA Section 4316(b)(1) requires employers to provide employees who take military leave with the same non-seniority rights and benefits as their colleagues who take comparable non-military leaves. Plaintiff, a commercial airline pilot and military reservist, filed a class action brought under USERRA. Plaintiff alleged that because Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air Industries (collectively, the “Airlines”) provide paid leave for non-military leaves, including jury duty, bereavement, and sick leave, the Airlines are also required to pay pilots during short-term military leaves. The district court disagreed, granting summary judgment to the Airlines and concluding as a matter of law that military leave is not comparable to any other form of leave offered by the Airlines.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The panel held that the district court erred in concluding that no reasonable jury could find military leave comparable to non-military leave. In reaching this conclusion, the district court erred by comparing all military leaves, rather than just the short-term military leaves at issue here, with the comparator non-military leaves. The district court also erred by disregarding factual disputes about each of the three factors in the comparability analysis: duration, purpose, and control. The panel held that because factual disputes existed, comparability was an issue for the jury.   The panel, therefore, reversed and remanded. It instructed that on remand, the district court should consider in the first instance the issue of whether “pay during leave” was a standalone benefit that the airlines provided under their collective bargaining agreements to any employee on leave. View "CASEY CLARKSON V. ALASKA AIRLINES, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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The National Labor Relations Board (the Board) petitioned for enforcement of a final order issued against Aakash, Inc. d/b/a Park Central Care and Rehabilitation Center (Aakash). The Board ruled that Aakash had violated Sections 8(a)(5) and (1) of the National Labor Relations Act (the Act), 29 U.S.C. Section 158(a)(5) and (1), by refusing to recognize and bargain with Service Employees International Union, Local 2015 (the Union). Aakash cross-petitioned, admitting that it refused to bargain but asserted that the court should nonetheless vacate the Board’s order.   The Ninth Circuit granted the Board’s petition for enforcement. The panel rejected Aakash’s contentions. The panel held that the President may remove the Board’s General Counsel at any time and for any reason. The panel held that several canons of construction supported their conclusion. Even if history mattered here, past administrations have maintained that the General Counsel was removable at will. Finally, neither of the established two exceptions to the President’s plenary removal power applied here. The panel disagreed with Aakash’s claims that the RNs were supervisors because they held the authority to assign, discipline, and responsibly direct employees, and they exercised that authority using independent judgment. First, Aakash failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that the RNs assigned work using independent judgment within the meaning of 29 U.S.C. Section 152(11). Nor did the RNs discipline employees. The power to issue verbal reprimands or report to higher-ups did not suffice. Finally, Aakash did not prove that the RNs responsibly directed other employees using independent judgment. The panel, therefore, concluded the RNs were not statutory supervisors under the National Labor Relations Act. View "NLRB V. AAKASH, INC." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was terminated from her employment as a Revenue Officer at the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) for assessed Unauthorized Access of Taxpayer Data (“UNAX”) offenses. After unsuccessfully pursuing an internal Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) complaint, Plaintiff brought suit against the Treasury Secretary in the United States District Court for the Central District of California alleging that her termination was based on impermissible criteria of age and national origin in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, respectively. The district court granted summary judgment to the Treasury Secretary on the grounds that Plainitff: (1) failed to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination; and (2) failed to show that the IRS Management’s proffered reasons for terminating her were pretext for age or national origin discrimination.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel wrote that at step one of the legal framework for a discrimination action, the district court found that none of Plaintiff’s evidence established a prima facie case of age discrimination. The panel agreed with the district court that most of Plaintiff’s evidence comprised “circumstantial evidence”—her superior’s alleged exaggeration of her offenses, assignment of menial tasks, selection of draconian penalties. The panel held, however, that the record was not devoid of direct evidence of age discrimination. The panel was satisfied that the record taken as a whole supported Plaintiff’s prima facie case of age discrimination. The panel held that the Secretary’s proffered reasons for its action was sufficient. View "JOAN OPARA V. JANET YELLEN" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a long-time teacher in the Evergreen School District #114 (District) in Vancouver, Washington. Before the 2019–2020 school year began, he attended two days of teacher training and brought with him a MAGA hat. The question, in this case, is whether the First Amendment was violated when a principal told Plaintiff he could not bring his Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat with him to teacher-only trainings on threat of disciplinary action and when the school board affirmed the denial of the teacher’s harassment complaint filed against the principal.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Defendants in Plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 action. The panel first concluded that Plaintiff was engaged in speech protected by the First Amendment because the undisputed facts demonstrated that his MAGA hat conveyed a message of public concern, and he was acting as a private citizen in expressing that message. The record failed to establish, however, that the school district’s Chief Human Resource Officer, took any adverse employment action against Plaintiff, and for this reason, Plaintiff’s First Amendment retaliation claim against that defendant failed as a matter of law.   Further, any violation of Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights by the principal was clearly established where longstanding precedent held that concern over the reaction to controversial or disfavored speech itself does not justify restricting such speech. For these reasons, the panel reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the principal. View "ERIC DODGE V. EVERGREEN SCHOOL DISTRICT #114, ET AL" on Justia Law

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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracts with CoreCivic to incarcerate detained immigrants in 24 facilities across 11 states. Plaintiffs, detained solely due to their immigration status and neither charged with, nor convicted of, any crime, alleged that the overseers of their private detention facilities forced them to perform labor against their will and without adequate compensation in violation of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, the California Trafficking Victims Protection Act (“California TVPA”), various provisions of the California Labor Code, and other state laws.   The Ninth Circuit filed (1) an order denying a petition for panel rehearing and, on behalf of the court, a petition for rehearing en banc; and (2) an opinion (a) amending and superceding the panel’s original opinion and (b) affirming the district court’s order certifying three classes. The panel held that the district court properly exercised its discretion in certifying a California Labor Law Class, a California Forced Labor Class, and a National Forced Labor Class. The panel held that, as to the California Forced Labor Class, Plaintiffs submitted sufficient proof of a classwide policy of forced labor to establish commonality. The panel agreed with the district court that narrowing the California Forced Labor Class based on the California TVPA’s statute of limitations was not required at the class certification stage. Further, the panel held that, as to the National Forced Labor Class, the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Plaintiffs presented significant proof of a classwide policy of forced labor and that common questions predominated over individual ones. View "SYLVESTER OWINO, ET AL V. CORECIVIC, INC." on Justia Law

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Appellants J.K. and Mr. Electric (jointly “Mr. Electric”) challenged the district court’s grant of summary judgment in this 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 action in favor of Defendants-Appellees, and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (together “the Department”). Two Mr. Electric employees provided the Department with copious amounts of Mr. Electric’s data, particularly printouts of cell site location information that provided GPS coordinates for company vehicles which showed all movement of electricians in the field. The Department used the data to write citations and assess administrative fines against Mr. Electric for violations of Washington’s electrical code stemming from improper supervision of journeymen electricians in Clark County.   Appellants argued that Carpenter v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 2206 (2018), and Wilson v. United States, 13 F.4th 961 (9th Cir. 2021), foreclosed the Department’s use of Appellants’ location information because, when read together, the cases extinguished the applicability of the private search exception to the Fourth Amendment to location information.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for Appellees. The panel noted that although Carpenter held that the third-party doctrine does not apply as an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement when the government seeks cell site location information, the private search exception is an altogether separate exception to the Fourth Amendment. View "JAMES KLEISER, ET AL V. BENJAMIN CHAVEZ, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. owns and operates numerous local television stations. Nexstar acquired KOIN-TV, a local television station in Portland, Oregon, from LIN Television Corporation (LIN). When it acquired KOIN-TV, Nexstar adopted the CBA between Local 51 and LIN. A union representative, began asking employees to sign a petition in support of the union, but a Nexstar manager allegedly interfered with her activities by interrupting her and telling her not to talk about the union or to hand out union bulletins.   Based on a finding that the Regional Director was likely to succeed on the merits of the complaint and applying an inference of likely irreparable harm, the district court granted a preliminary injunction. An administrative law judge ruled in favor of the Regional Director, finding that Nexstar had violated Section 8(a)(1) and (5) of the NLRA. The Board affirmed the ALJ decision and ordered relief for the union. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s order granting a petition of the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) for preliminary injunctive relief.   The panel held that a Section 10(j) injunction proceeding is the type of case that is inherently limited in duration because the controversy over the injunction exists only until the Board issues its final merits decision. The panel concluded that the Section 10(j) injunction met the first prong. The panel held that the Section 10(j) injunction also met the exception’s second prong, because there was a reasonable expectation that the complaining party, Nexstar, will be subject to a petition for a Section 10(j) injunction in the future. View "RONALD HOOKS V. NEXSTAR BROADCASTING, INC." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sought unpaid overtime wages for the period between January 1, 2015, and February 1, 2016, during which a Department of Labor rule entitling homecare workers to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was temporarily vacated. The district court conditionally certified a putative collective consisting of In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) providers who worked overtime during this period.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s orders granting summary judgment in favor of Los Angeles County Department of Social Services and denying partial summary judgment to Plaintiffs. Reversing in part and remanding, the panel held that the County was a joint employer, along with care recipients, of IHSS providers, and thus could be liable under the FLSA for failing to pay overtime compensation.   The panel held that, notwithstanding differences between the IHSS program operating in Los Angeles County today and the programs analyzed in Bonnette, the County was a joint employer of Plaintiffs, in light of the economic and structural control it exercised over the employment relationship. The panel directed the district court, on remand, to grant partial summary judgment to Plaintiffs on the issue of whether the County was a joint employer of IHSS providers.   Further, the panel held that the district court did not err in granting partial summary judgment to the County on the issue of willfulness and denying partial summary judgment to plaintiffs on the issue of liquidated damages. The panel held that a determination of willfulness and the assessment of liquidated damages are reserved for the most recalcitrant violators. View "TRINA RAY, ET AL V. LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Pursuant to Rule 8.548(b)(2) of the California Rules of Court, the Ninth Circuit requested that the Supreme Court of California decide the certified question presented below: Do non-convicted incarcerated individuals performing services in county jails for a for-profit company to supply meals within the county jails and related custody facilities have a claim for minimum wages and overtime under Section 1194 of the California Labor Code in the absence of any local ordinance prescribing or prohibiting the payment of wages for these individuals? View "ARMIDA RUELAS, ET AL V. COUNTY OF ALAMEDA, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Before her retirement, Plaintiff was employed by the Oregon Health Authority, and SEIU was the exclusive representative for her bargaining unit. Plaintiff never joined SEIU, but the State deducted union dues from her salary and remitted the dues to SEIU. Plaintiff alleged that SEIU forged her signature on a union membership agreement. Plaintiff demanded that the State and SEIU stop the dues deductions and return the withheld payments. After she retired, Plaintiff filed this action against State defendants and SEIU, alleging several constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims for prospective relief against all defendants for lack of jurisdiction and her claims for retrospective relief against Service Employees International Union Local 503 (“SEIU”) for failure to allege state action under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. Because jurisdiction is a threshold issue, the panel first considered whether it could entertain Plaintiff’s claims for prospective declaratory and injunctive relief against all defendants. As to Plaintiff’s claims for prospective relief for violation of her First Amendment rights, the panel concluded that her fear of future harm was based on a series of interferences that were too speculative to establish a “case or controversy” for the prospective relief she sought.   Plaintiff’s theory that potential future unauthorized dues deductions chilled the exercise of her First Amendment rights was also too speculative to establish standing. The panel concluded that she lacked any concrete interest in her future wages or her right to be free from compelled union speech that were threatened by the alleged lack of procedural safeguards. View "JODEE WRIGHT V. SEIU LOCAL 503, ET AL" on Justia Law