Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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In a dispute between Valley Hospital Medical Center and the National Labor Relations Board, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the Hospital's petition for review, granted the Board's cross-application for enforcement, and enforced the Board's order. The court previously remanded the case to the Board to better explain its decision that an employer may unilaterally cease union dues checkoff after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement. Upon remand, the Board reversed its prior decision, readopting its rule prohibiting employers from unilaterally ceasing dues checkoff after expiration of a collective bargaining agreement, and found that Valley Hospital engaged in an unfair labor practice. Valley Hospital contended that the Board exceeded its mandate from the court, which only authorized supplementing its reasoning, not changing its interpretation of the National Labor Relations Act. However, the Ninth Circuit held that its earlier mandate did not explicitly prohibit the Board from reconsidering its rule, so the Board was not bound by its prior decision. The court also found that the Board's new decision was rational and consistent with the Act. Thus, the Board's order was enforced. View "NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD V. VALLEY HOSPITAL MEDICAL CENTER, INC." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that employers cannot unilaterally stop deducting union dues from employee paychecks after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement. The case involved Valley Hospital Medical Center and Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center (collectively known as the "Hospitals") and the Service Employees International Union, Local 1107 ("the Union”). The Union and the Hospitals had entered into collective bargaining agreements that included checkoff provisions requiring the Hospitals to deduct union dues from participating employees’ paychecks and to remit those dues to the Union. After the agreements expired, the Hospitals ceased dues checkoff, arguing that the written assignments authorizing this did not include express language concerning revocability upon expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. They believed this omission violated the Labor Management Relations Act, also known as the Taft-Hartley Act. The Union filed unfair labor practice charges, and the National Labor Relations Board determined that the Hospitals had committed an unfair labor practice by unilaterally ceasing dues checkoff. The court held that the Taft-Hartley Act did not require specific language in the written assignments, so the Hospitals could not rely on that statute to justify their unilateral action. Consequently, the court granted the Board’s application for enforcement, denied the Hospitals' petition for review, and enforced the Board’s order in full. View "NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD V. VALLEY HEALTH SYSTEM, LLC DBA DESERT SPRINGS HOSPITAL MEDICAL CENT" on Justia Law

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In this putative class action lawsuit, Maria Johnson, a former employee of Lowe's Home Centers, LLC, brought claims on behalf of herself and other Lowe's employees under California's Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) for alleged violations of the California Labor Code. Johnson had signed a pre-dispute employment contract that included an arbitration clause.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to compel arbitration of Johnson's individual PAGA claim, as a valid arbitration agreement existed and the dispute fell within its scope. However, the district court's dismissal of Johnson's non-individual PAGA claims was vacated. The lower court had based its decision on the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of PAGA in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, which was subsequently corrected by the California Supreme Court in Adolph v. Uber Techs., Inc. The state court held that a PAGA plaintiff could arbitrate their individual PAGA claim while also maintaining their non-individual PAGA claims in court. The case was remanded to the district court to apply this interpretation of California law. The Ninth Circuit rejected Lowe's argument that Adolph was inconsistent with Viking River. View "JOHNSON V. LOWE'S HOME CENTERS, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves a whistleblower-retaliation action brought by Tayo Daramola, a Canadian citizen, under the Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank Acts. Daramola was employed by Oracle Canada, a subsidiary of Oracle America, and worked remotely from Canada. He alleged that Oracle America and its employees retaliated against him for reporting suspected fraud related to one of Oracle's software products.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Daramola's action. The court held that the whistleblower anti-retaliation provisions in the Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank Acts do not apply outside the United States. The court applied a presumption against extraterritoriality and concluded that the presumption was not overcome because Congress did not affirmatively and unmistakably instruct that the provisions should apply to foreign conduct.The court further held that this case did not involve a permissible domestic application of the statutes, given that Daramaola was a Canadian working out of Canada for a Canadian subsidiary of a U.S. parent company. The court agreed with other circuits that the focus of the Sarbanes-Oxley anti-retaliation provision is on protecting employees from employment-related retaliation, and the locus of Daramola's employment relationship was in Canada. The court also concluded that Daramola did not allege sufficient domestic conduct in the United States in connection with his Dodd-Frank claim. The same reasoning disposed of Daramola’s California state law claims. View "DARAMOLA V. ORACLE AMERICA, INC." on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an ERISA action brought by South Coast Specialty Surgery Center, Inc. against Blue Cross of California, d/b/a Anthem Blue Cross.South Coast, a healthcare provider, sought reimbursement from Blue Cross for the costs of medical services provided to its patients. South Coast argued that although it was not a plan participant or a beneficiary under ERISA, it had the right to enforce ERISA's protections directly because its patients had assigned it the right to sue for the non-payment of plan benefits via an "Assignment of Benefits" form. The district court disagreed and dismissed South Coast's suit, concluding that the form only conveyed the right to receive direct payment from Anthem, and not the right to sue for non-payment of plan benefits.The Ninth Circuit held that a healthcare provider can enforce ERISA's protections if it has received a valid assignment of rights. The court determined that South Coast's patients had effectuated a valid assignment through the "Assignment of Benefits" form. Therefore, South Coast had the right to seek payment of benefits and to sue for non-payment. The court reversed the lower court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "SOUTH COAST SPECIALTY SURGERY CENTER, INC. V. BLUE CROSS OF CALIFORNIA" on Justia Law

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The case concerned a lawsuit brought by Ariana Miles against her former employer, Kirkland's Stores Inc., alleging that two of the company's employee policies violated California law. The first policy required employees to take rest breaks on store property, while the second necessitated employees to undergo bag checks when they finished their shifts. Miles sought class certification for subclasses of employees affected by these two policies from May 2014 to the present. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of class certification for subclasses related to the Rest Break Claim due to the inaccuracy of the district court's finding that the rest break policy was inconsistently applied. The court held that overwhelming record evidence indicated that the company consistently enforced its rest break policy across all employees. However, the court upheld the district court's denial of class certification for the Bag Check Claim, as the evidence suggested that the bag check policy was sporadically enforced, which would require individualized inquiries. The case was thus remanded for further proceedings concerning the Rest Break Claim. View "MILES V. KIRKLAND'S STORES, INC." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the decision of the District Court, which denied attorneys' fees and nontaxable costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) to the defendants-appellants, Brian Bowers, Dexter Kubota, and Bowers + Kubota Consulting, Inc. The Department of Labor had alleged that the defendants sold their company to an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) at an inflated value. The government's case relied on a single valuation expert, whose opinion was ultimately rejected by the District Court, resulting in the government losing the case. Nonetheless, the District Court found that the government's litigation position was "substantially justified." On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the government's position at trial was substantially justified, and thus, in denying attorneys' fees and nontaxable costs under EAJA. The Court also held that the District Court abused its discretion in reducing the award of taxable costs, as it was based on a clearly erroneous finding of fact. Therefore, the case was remanded for reconsideration of the award of taxable costs. View "SU V. BOWERS" on Justia Law

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In this case, the plaintiff, Lorenzo Dominguez, who was a former employee of Better Mortgage Corporation, alleged that the company violated federal and state wage-and-hour laws, primarily by failing to pay overtime to him and other mortgage underwriters. Upon being sued, Better Mortgage attempted to reduce the size of the potential class and collective action by persuading employees to agree not to join any collective or class action and to settle their claims individually. The district court found that Better Mortgage's communications were misleading and coercive. As such, the court nullified the new employment agreements, release agreements, and ordered the company to communicate with current and former employees about wage-and-hour issues only in writing and with prior approval.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order imposing a communication restriction on Better Mortgage, considering the company's appeal timely due to a motion to reconsider the restriction, thus tolling the time to file the notice of appeal. The appellate court held that it had jurisdiction to review the communication restriction and found it both justified and tailored to the situation created by the employer’s misleading and coercive communications. However, the appellate court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction the employer’s appeal from the district court’s order nullifying agreements between the employer and current and former employees. The appellate court found that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the merits of the nullification order because the issue was raised in an interlocutory appeal and did not fit any exception that would allow for review. View "DOMINGUEZ V. BETTER MORTGAGE CORPORATION" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff employees who opted out of their union and employer-sponsored health plans received a monetary credit, part of which was deducted as a fee that was then used to fund the plans from which plaintiffs had opted out. Plaintiffs argue that this opt-out fee should be treated as part of their “regular rate” of pay for calculating overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The panel held that the opt-out fees were not part of the employees’ “regular rate” of pay, but rather were exempted as “contributions irrevocably made by an employer to a trustee or third person pursuant to a bona fide plan for providing” health insurance under 29 U.S.C. Section 207(e)(4). View "ANTHONY SANDERS, ET AL V. COUNTY OF VENTURA" on Justia Law

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The U.S. Department of Labor brought the underlying lawsuit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, alleging that Appellants Brian Bowers and Dexter Kubota sold their company to an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) at an allegedly inflated value. The government’s case hinged on a single valuation expert, who opined that the plan overpaid for that company. The district court rejected the opinion, and the government lost a bench trial. The district court denied Appellants’ request for attorneys’ fees and nontaxable costs under EAJA, finding that the government’s litigation position was “substantially justified” and that it did not act in bad faith.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of attorneys’ fees and nontaxable costs. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the government’s position at trial was substantially justified, and in denying attorneys’ fees and nontaxable costs under EAJA. The panel noted that the government could not rely on red flags alone, such as the “suspicious” circumstances of the ESOP transaction, to defend its litigation position as “substantially justified.” The panel held that the district court abused its discretion in reducing the award of taxable costs because it relied on a clearly erroneous finding of fact in reducing the magistrate judge’s recommended award of taxable costs. View "JULIE SU V. BRIAN BOWERS, ET AL" on Justia Law