Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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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

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Plaintiff is an individual provider (“IP”) of in-home care for her disabled son. Under Washington law, IPs are considered public employees for the purpose of collective bargaining, and they are represented by Service Employees International Union 775 (“SEIU”). Plaintiff did not join the union, but on two occasions the State withheld dues from her paycheck.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of all of Plaintiff’s claims against Public Partnerships LLC (“PPL”) and Public Consulting Group, Inc. (“PCG”) (collectively “private defendants”), and the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Washington Governor Inslee and Secretary Strange of the Department of Social and Health Services (collectively “state defendants”), in Plaintiff’s action alleging that Defendants violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and engaged in the willful withholding of her wages in violation of state law.   The panel held that Plaintiff did not have standing to bring any claims for prospective relief. The panel further held that, although the district court erred in holding that PPL and PCG were not state actors, Plaintiff had not alleged facts sufficient to support a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim or a claim for violation of state law. Plaintiff alleged that PPL and PCG violated her Fourteenth Amendment rights because they deprived her of her liberty interest under the First Amendment without adequate procedural safeguards. The panel held that Plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to establish that PPL and PCG can be considered state actors for the purpose of her 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 action. Plaintiff met both parts of the two-prong test for determining whether state action exists. View "CINDY OCHOA V. PUBLIC CONSULTING GROUP, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Mobilize the Message provides political campaigns with doorknockers and signature gatherers, which it purports to hire as independent contractors. Plaintiff Moving Oxnard Forward is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making the government of Oxnard, California, more efficient and transparent and in the past have hired signature gatherers as independent contractors. Plaintiffs claimed that the California law violates the First Amendment because it discriminates against speech based on its content by classifying their doorknockers and signature gatherers as employees or independent contractors under the ABC test while classifying direct sales salespersons, newspaper distributors, and newspaper carriers under Borello.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction which sought to restrain the California Attorney General from applying California’s “ABC test,” codified in California Labor Code Section 2775(b)(1) to classify Plaintiffs’ doorknockers and signature gatherers as either employees or independent contractors. The panel accepted that classification of their doorknockers and signature gatherers as employees might impose greater costs on plaintiffs than if these individuals had been classified as independent contractors, and that as a result they might not retain as many doorknockers and signature gatherers. Such an indirect impact on speech, however, does not violate the First Amendment. Section 2783 does not target certain types of speech. Unless an occupational exemption exists, the ABC test applies across California’s economy. Thus, Plaintiffs were not unfairly burdened by application of the ABC test to their doorknockers and signature gatherers. View "MOBILIZE THE MESSAGE LLC, ET AL V. ROB BONTA" on Justia Law

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While he was consulting on an environmental project for the U.S. Army Reserve Command, Plaintiff believed he was required to prepare an environmental assessment in a manner that violated federal law. Plaintiff was terminated after reporting the suspected illegality to the client and his supervisor at SpecPro. Plaintiff brought statutory and common law claims of retaliation and wrongful termination in a California state court action that was removed to federal court. Plaintiff alleged his employment was terminated in violation of the California Whistleblower Protection Act, Cal. Labor Code Section 1102.5(b), (c).   The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff’s former employer, SpecPro Professional Services, LLC, on Plaintiff’s retaliation and wrongful termination claims. The panel first addressed the district court’s determination that Olaintiff’s disclosures to his supervisor were not actionable because the supervisor was not “a person with authority over the employee or another employee who has the authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance.” Second, the panel held that several state court appellate courts have held that disclosures to wrongdoers are protected under section 1102.5(b). The panel reversed the district court’s summary judgment order on section 1102.5(b) retaliation claim. Because his claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy was derivative of his retaliation claim, the panel also reversed the grant of summary judgment on that claim. View "AARON KILLGORE V. SPECPRO PROFESSIONAL SERVICES" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-Appellants Cariene Cadena and similarly situated employees (Appellants) are employed by Customer Connexx LLC (Connexx) to operate a call center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Appellants’ primary responsibilities are to provide customer service and scheduling to customers over a “softphone,” operated only through their employer-provided computers.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Defendant Customer Connexx LLC and remanded for further proceedings in a collective action brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act by call center workers. The panel concluded that the district court correctly identified the workers’ principal duties as answering customer phone calls and scheduling appliance pickups. Agreeing with the Tenth Circuit, the panel held that the workers’ duties could not be performed without turning on and booting up their work computers, and having a functioning computer was necessary before the workers could receive calls and schedule appointments. Accordingly, turning on the computers was integral and indispensable to the workers’ duties and was a principal activity under the FLSA. It, therefore, was compensable.   The panel reversed the district court’s summary judgment on the FLSA claim and remanded to the district court for consideration of whether time spent shutting down computers was compensable, whether the time spent booting up and down the computers was not compensable under the de minimis doctrine, and whether Connexx had no knowledge of the alleged overtime such that it was not in violation of the FLSA’s overtime requirements. View "CARIENE CADENA, ET AL V. CUSTOMER CONNEXX LLC, ET AL" on Justia Law

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The Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 imposes liability on employers who withdraw—partially or completely—from multiemployer pension funds. After a complete withdrawal, GCIU-Employer Retirement Fund’s (GCIU) actuary calculated MNG Enterprise’s (MNG) withdrawal liability using an interest rate published by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. On MNG’s challenge, an arbitrator found (1) that MNG could not be assessed partial withdrawal liability following a complete withdrawal, (2) that it had shown the interest rate used was not the best estimate of the plan’s experience, and (3) that GCIU properly included the newspapers’ contribution histories. The district court affirmed the arbitrator’s award, vacating and correcting only a typographical error on the interest rate.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court’s order affirming, except for a typographical error, an arbitrator’s award regarding the withdrawal liability. The panel held that the MPPAA directs the plan actuary to determine withdrawal liability based on “actuarial assumptions and methods which, in the aggregate, are reasonable (taking into account the experience of the plan and reasonable expectations) and which, in combination, offer the actuary’s best estimate of anticipated experience under the plan.” The panel held that the GCIU actuary’s use of the PBGC rate, without considering the “experience of the plan and reasonable expectations,” did not satisfy the “best estimate” standard. View "GCIU-EMPLOYER RETIREMENT FUND, ET AL V. MNG ENTERPRISES, INC." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Carroll College, alleging that it refused to renew its contract as a golf coach after he complained about gender inequity at the college’s athletic department. The district court ruled that Plaintiff failed to make the prima facie case that the nonrenewal of the contract was an adverse employment action.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Defendant. The panel held that the refusal to renew a contract may be an adverse employment action for a Title IX retaliation claim because it could deter a reasonable employee from reporting discrimination. The panel remanded the case to the district court to consider Carroll College’s alternative bases for summary judgment. View "BENNETT MACINTYRE V. CARROLL COLLEGE" on Justia Law

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In March 2018, the officers were involved in the fatal shooting of a homeless man. The Oakland Police Department investigated the incident, concluding that the officers’ use of force was reasonable and complied with Police Department policy. The Chief of Police agreed. Separately, the Community Police Review Agency (CPRA), the investigative body of the City’s civilian oversight Police Commission, investigated the incident and determined that the use of force was objectively reasonable. The Compliance Director disagreed with the Chief of Police and the CPRA, instead recommending termination of the officers for unreasonable use of force. After their termination, the officers sought a writ of mandate and declaratory relief in state court.The Ninth Circuit vacated, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the district court’s judgment on the pleadings in favor of Defendants and remanded with instructions to remand this case to state court. The panel held that this was a case arising under state law that properly belonged in the state courts. Recognizing that under Section 1331, a case can “arise under” federal law in two ways, the panel determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction under both branches of federal question jurisdiction. First, the panel lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the federal cause of action branch because federal law did not create the causes of action asserted. The panel next held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the substantial federal question branch. View "FRANCISCO NEGRETE V. CITY OF OAKLAND" on Justia Law