Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's award of summary judgment in favor of Aetna, plaintiff's employer. The court held that, when interpreting the scope of a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exemption, courts must give the exemption a fair reading and shall not construe it narrowly against the employer seeking to assert the exemption. The court also held that the first prong of the professional exemption's primary duty test requires courts to: (A) identify what qualities or skills are characteristic of the work of the profession at issue; and (B) determine if the employee's primary duty reflects those qualities or skills; central to the profession of registered nursing is the ability to act independently, or under limited supervision, on the basis of collected clinical data; and the district court did not err in concluding that plaintiff's job satisfied the first prong. In this case, plaintiff's primary duty as an appeals nurse consultant—to conduct utilization review and approve insurance coverage for medically necessary services under minimal supervision—reflects the discretion and requires the judgment characteristic of other registered nurses. Therefore, plaintiff's job as an appeals nurse consultant required the use of advanced nursing knowledge. The court also held that, in cases where, as here, the employer requires the possession of an advanced academic degree, the third prong of the primary duty test for the professional exemption of the FLSA requires courts to: (A) identify the job's primary duty which requires the use of advanced knowledge; and (B) determine if that duty is consistent with the employer's minimum academic qualifications. The court held that the district court did not err in concluding that plaintiff's job satisfied the third prong. Accordingly, the undisputed facts demonstrated that plaintiff was properly classified as exempt under the FLSA's overtime-pay requirements. View "Isett v. Aetna Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff filed suit against her employer for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime provisions, the employer made an offer of judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68(a) and plaintiff accepted. Before the judgment was entered, the district court sua sponte ordered the parties to submit the settlement agreement to the court for a fairness review and judicial approval, which the district court believed was required under the Second Circuit's decision in Cheeks v. Freeport Pancake House, Inc., 796 F.3d 199 (2d Cir. 2015). The court held, however, that judicial approval was not required of Rule 68(a) offers of judgment settling FLSA claims. The court considered amici's other arguments and found them to be without merit. Accordingly, the court reversed and vacated the district court's order, remanding with instructions. View "Mei Xing Yu v. Hasaki Restaurant, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Court clarified that, to establish a prima facie pay discrimination claim under Title VII, a plaintiff need not first establish an Equal Pay Act violation—that is, that she performed equal work but received unequal pay. Rather, all Title VII requires a plaintiff to prove is that her employer discriminated against her with respect to her compensation because of her sex. The court adopted the framework applicable to Sarbanes‐Oxley Act of 2002 whistleblower retaliation claims to Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act whistleblower retaliation claims. In this case, plaintiff filed suit alleging that defendants paid her less than they would have if she were a man, retaliated against her when she raised concerns about her disparate pay and possible Consumer Product Safety Act violations, and fired her because she was pregnant. The district court held that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case for each of her claims. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case for plaintiff's Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Title VII claims, but insufficient evidence to support her Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act whistleblower retaliation claim. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Lenzi v. Systemax, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment compelling arbitration of grievances raised by airlines in a dispute with the collective bargaining representatives of their pilots. The court held that the district court properly granted the employers' motion for summary judgment and to compel arbitration. The court held that the management grievances did not involve a major dispute; rejected the Union's argument that the case raised issues of representation that would fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Mediation Board; and held that the district court did not err in exercising jurisdiction over the dispute. The court also held that Atlas's motion to compel arbitration of its management grievance was timely. Finally, the court rejected the Union's three arguments with respect to the arbitrability of the employers' management grievances. In this case, Southern was entitled to file a management grievance with the Southern Board regarding the interpretation of Section 1.B.3 of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA); the district court correctly determined that it lacked authority to decide whether the merger provisions of the Atlas CBA were prompted by the announced operational merger of Atlas and Southern; and nothing in the process of interpreting the provisions of the two collective bargaining agreements purports to bind Atlas or Southern pilots to the terms of another existing CBA. View "Atlas Air, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters" on Justia Law

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After the Authority implemented a reduction in force (RIF), plaintiffs filed suit against the Authority and others under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and New York law, alleging that the termination of union-represented employees violated the employees' First Amendment right to associate. At issue was whether State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition v. Rowland, 718 F.3d 126, 134 (2d Cir. 2013), which held that union activity is protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of association and that heightened scrutiny applies to employment decisions that target an employee "based on union membership," extends to agency fee payors (AFPs), who are not union members, based solely on the fact that AFPs are represented by a union during collective bargaining. The Second Circuit held that the First Amendment protections apply to union members but do not extend to AFPs based on union representation alone. The court held that AFPs did not have a First Amendment right to freedom of association merely because they were represented by a union during collective bargaining. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for the district court to determine whether the layoffs of the thirteen AFPs were justified under rational basis review. View "Donohue v. Milan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of current and former retail sales employees of Sterling Jewelers, filed suit alleging that they were paid less than their male counterparts, on account of their gender, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act. After an arbitrator certified a class of Sterling Jewelers employees that included employees who did not affirmatively opt in to the arbitration proceeding, the district court held that the arbitrator exceeded her authority in purporting to bind those absent class members to class arbitration. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that the arbitrator was within her authority in purporting to bind the absent class members to class proceedings because, by signing the operative arbitration agreement, the absent class members, no less than the parties, bargained for the arbitrator's construction of their agreement with respect to class arbitrability. The court remanded to the district court to consider, in the first instance, the issue of whether the arbitrator exceeded her authority in certifying an opt-out class. View "Jock v. Sterling Jewelers Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Atterbury and Hauschild filed suit alleging that they were improperly discharged as Court Security Officers (CSOs). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the USMC. The Second Circuit held that a discharged public employee, like plaintiffs here, working for a federal government contractor has a property interest in continued employment. The court also held that plaintiffs' discharges did not comply with the requirements of procedural due process. In this case, although plaintiffs were informed of the initial misconduct allegations that gave rise to the relevant investigations, USMS provided no explanation of the reasons for its decisions that they be removed from the CSO program. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded in Atterbury's case, and affirmed and remanded in Hauschild's case. View "Atterbury v. United States Marshals Service" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint, alleging associational discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court held that plaintiff has stated a claim for association discrimination under the ADA, because the complaint supports an inference that plaintiff was qualified for his position and that he was fired because his supervisor assumed he would be distracted by his daughter's disability. In this case, plaintiff's allegations provide all that was needed to raise a minimal inference that plaintiff's employer thought plaintiff's daughter was a distraction, and concern over distraction was a determining factor in plaintiff's termination. View "Kelleher v. Fred A. Cook, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Citigroup, alleging gender discrimination and whistleblower retaliation claims under several local, state, and federal statutes, including the Dodd‐Frank and Sarbanes‐Oxley Acts. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that the district court appropriately compelled arbitration of all but plaintiffʹs Sarbanes‐Oxley claim, including her Dodd‐Frank whistleblower retaliation claim, because her claims fall within the scope of her employment arbitration agreement and because she failed to establish that they are precluded by law from arbitration. The court also held that plaintiff's Sarbanes‐Oxley claim was properly dismissed because the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over it inasmuch as plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under the statute. View "Daly v. Citigroup Inc." on Justia Law

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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