Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

by
After plaintiff was terminated from his position as a substitute teacher, he filed suit against defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging in relevant part procedural due process and stigma‐plus claims related to the termination of his employment. Plaintiff was terminated from his position after defendants instituted an investigation into sexual misconduct claims, but ultimately concluded that there were no grounds for an investigation. The Second Circuit held, with respect to plaintiff's due process claim, that he failed to establish a clearly established right to the meaningful opportunity to utilize his teaching license. The court also held that plaintiff failed to demonstrate that defendantsʹ conduct was sufficiently stigmatizing under clearly established law so as to give rise to a "stigma‐plusʺ claim. Therefore, the court held that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and the district court erred by denying summary judgment as to both claims. The court remanded with instruction. View "Mudge v. Zugalla" on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's award of summary judgment to defendants on plaintiff's state law claims of sex discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment. The court held that summary judgment was correctly entered in favor of AutoZone on plaintiff's Connecticut claims of discriminatory discharge based on sex, retaliatory discharge for reporting sexual harassment, and a sex hostile work environment because plaintiff failed to adduce sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could resolve any of these claims in her favor; the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff's own deposition testimony could not raise a genuine issue of fact as to AutoZone's having notice of plaintiff's sexual harassment by a co‐worker before August 2014 because that testimony was unequivocally contradicted by her own earlier sworn and written statements, and she failed plausibly to explain the numerous contradictions; and the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff failed to raise a genuine issue of fact as to the harassing co‐worker being a supervisor, which was required for AutoZone to be strictly vicariously liable for any ensuing hostile work environment. View "Bentley v. AutoZoners, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Defendants, athletics officials at Binghampton, appealed the district court's denial in part of their motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The Second Circuit held that the district court erroneously conflated the distinct Title VII and 42 U.S.C. 1983 standards for both vicarious liability and causation. The court clarified the differences between discrimination claims brought under Title VII and those brought under section 1983. The court held that section 1983 claims for discrimination in public employment require plaintiffs to establish that the defendant's discriminatory intent was a "but‐for" cause of the adverse employment action; section 1983 claims for discrimination in public employment cannot be based on a respondeat superior or "cat's paw" theory to establish a defendant's liability; and defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because, even when interpreted in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the record cannot support the conclusion that they violated her "clearly established" constitutional rights. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's order in regard to the section 1983 claims against defendants, entered judgment for defendants, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Naumovski v. Norris" on Justia Law

by
Where a collective bargaining agreement contains unambiguous language vesting welfare benefits, the agreement's general durational clause does not prevent those benefits from vesting. The Second Circuit held that the effects bargaining agreement (EBA) unambiguously vested medical coverage for retirees who retired prior to the expiration of the EBA. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of union retirees who retired prior to the expiration of the EBA and their surviving spouses, and its order permanently enjoining Honeywell from terminating medical coverage for those union retirees and their surviving spouses. The court held that the EBA was ambiguous as to whether medical coverage for union retirees who retired after the EBA expired and their surviving spouses vested. Nonetheless, the court held that the Post‐Expiration Plaintiffs have presented a sufficiently serious question as to the merits and satisfied the remaining requirements for a preliminary injunction to issue. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order preliminarily enjoining Honeywell from terminating the Post‐Expiration Plaintiffs' medical benefits and remanded for further proceedings View "Kelly v. Honeywell International, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of Attending's motion to compel arbitration in an action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Law (NYLL). The court held that the arbitration clause mandated arbitration of the relevant claims and did not deny due process to Attending's employees. In this case, the union agreed to mandatory arbitration in the collective bargaining agreement on behalf of its members and the arbitration agreement here clearly and unmistakably encompassed the FLSA and NYLL claims. Furthermore, the challenged portion of the arbitration clause, which simply specified with whom arbitration will be conducted in accordance with established Supreme Court precedent, did not violate due process. View "Abdullayeva v. Attending Homecare Services, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In an action alleging that her employer and union engaged in disability-based discrimination under New York state law, plaintiff appealed the district court's judgment denying her motion to remand to state court. The Second Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly denied plaintiff's motion for remand because all of her claims were preempted by section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. Section 301 governs claims founded directly on rights created by collective bargaining agreements, and also claims substantially dependent on analysis of a collective bargaining agreement. In this case, plaintiff's claims against the hospital defendants and the union were preempted because they were substantially dependent upon analysis of the collective bargaining agreement. The court considered plaintiff's remaining arguments and concluded that they were meritless. Accordingly, the court dismissed the complaint. View "Whitehurst v. United Healthcare Workers East" on Justia Law

by
Employer petitioned for review of the Board's holdings that it engaged in unfair labor practices in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. The Second Circuit granted the petition to the extent it challenged the Board's rulings and orders with regard to "interrogation" and the discharge of an employee for insubordination, and the order that the Board's remedial notice be read aloud at a meeting of employees. The court denied the petition for review in all other respects and granted the cross-petition for enforcement in part, denying in part. View "Bozzuto's Inc. v. NLRB" on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in an action alleging violations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as well as state and city law. Plaintiff claimed that he experienced several adverse employment actions while he was employed at the DOI, because of his hearing disability. The district court held, among other things, that no reasonable jury could conclude that plaintiff had experienced any adverse employment action "solely by reason of" his disability. The court affirmed on different grounds and held that a plaintiff alleging an employment discrimination claim under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act must show that the plaintiff's disability was a but‐for cause of the employer's action, not the sole cause. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiff failed to provide sufficient support for his claim that he was retaliated against for making complaints, he was demoted in retaliation for appealing a negative performance review, and that the DOI subjected him to a slew of retaliatory actions. View "Natofsky v. City of New York" on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants in an action alleging claims of retaliation and hostile work environment discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. The court held that the district court erred in refusing to consider evidence of events that, though they preceded the actionable time period if viewed as discrete events, remain actionable as part of a hostile work environment and relevant as background for a claim of retaliation; that in assessing the claims of retaliation, the district court erroneously applied the standard applicable to claims of discrimination rather than claims of retaliation; and that the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, sufficed to present triable issues of material fact as to the claims of hostile work environment and retaliation. View "Davis-Garett v. Urban Outfitters, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against the university and others, alleging in part that defendants violated his procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment when they placed him on involuntary leave and later terminated his employment. The Second Circuit held that the district court erred in denying summary judgment to the then-President of the University, John Schwaller, on the ground of qualified immunity. The court held that failure to comply with a state procedural requirement—such as the New York Civil Service Law—does not necessarily defeat a claim for qualified immunity under federal law. Because the district court based its holding almost exclusively on Schwaller's failure to comply with the New York State Civil Service Law, it legally erred by not accessing whether his conduct violated the procedural guarantees of the federal Due Process Clause. The court held that plaintiff's placement on involuntary leave was not a deprivation of a property interest sufficient to trigger due process requirements. Therefore, Schwaller's conduct did not violate clearly established federal law and he was entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded with instructions to dismiss the due process claim against Schwaller. View "Tooly v. Schwaller" on Justia Law