Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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Plaintiff, a South Asian-American woman, began working for Bloomberg’s Dubai news bureau as a Persian Gulf economy and government reporter. Plaintiff informed Bloomberg that she wished to transfer to its New York or Washington, D.C. bureaus because of her husband’s job location. Plaintiff ultimately obtained a position at Bloomberg L.P. (“Bloomberg”) in the Washington, D.C. bureau reporting on cybersecurity.   When Plaintiff subsequently asked why she had not been considered for the U.N. position, her team leader responded that Plaintiff had never said that she wanted to cover foreign policy; he also advised her that she had to advocate for herself if she wanted to advance at Bloomberg. On behalf of herself and other similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff – now a resident of California – filed a class-action lawsuit in New York state court against Bloomberg and several of its employees; shortly thereafter, she amended her complaint. Thereafter, Bloomberg moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). The district court dismissed all of Plaintiff’s claims against Bloomberg, including her NYCHRL and NYSHRL claims based on Bloomberg’s failure to promote her to positions in New York.   The Second Circuit concluded that the issue implicates a host of important state interests. Thus it reversed the district court’s decision and certified the following question: whether a nonresident plaintiff not yet employed in New York City or State satisfies the impact requirement of the New York City Human Rights Law (the “NYCHRL”) or the New York State Human Rights Law (the “NYSHRL”) if the plaintiff pleads and later proves that an employer deprived the plaintiff of a New York City- or State-based job opportunity on discriminatory grounds. View "Syeed v. Bloomberg L.P." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, formerly a tenured theology teacher at a Roman Catholic high school in Staten Island, appealed from the dismissal of his complaint against his labor union, the Federation of Catholic Teachers (the “FCT”), for allegedly breaching its duty of fair representation under the National Labor Relations Act (the “NLRA”) as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act (the “LMRA”), and for assorted violations under the New York State and New York City human rights laws. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s duty-of-fair representation claim with prejudice for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), reasoning that the NLRA and LMRA are inapplicable to disputes between parochial-school teachers and their labor unions under NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 440 U.S. 490 (1979).   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded, as a matter of first impression, that Catholic Bishop does preclude Plaintiff’s duty-of-fair-representation claim, but that dismissal was warranted under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted, rather than for lack of federal subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). The court also concluded that Plaintiff has abandoned any challenge to the dismissal of his state and municipal-law claims. View "Jusino v. Fed'n of Cath. Tchrs., Inc." on Justia Law

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International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO 20 (“Local Union 97”), a union primarily of electrical workers, executed a memorandum of agreement (“2003 MOA”) detailing a two-pronged approach to providing retiree life insurance benefits. Local Union 97 brought a complaint seeking to compel arbitration of a grievance they submitted alleging that NRG violated the terms of the CBAs by changing the life insurance benefit for the Pre-2019 Retirees to a lump sum of $10,000. The district court held that: 1) the grievance is not arbitrable under the 2019-2023 CBA, 2) the 2003 MOA is not arbitrable, and 3) the grievance is not arbitrable under any of the CBAs covering 2003-2019.   The Second Circuit reversed and remanded and held the grievance is arbitrable under the 2019-2023 CBA because the broad arbitration provision creates a presumption in favor of arbitrability that NRG failed to overcome. The court also held that the parties’ dispute was arbitrable under the Prior CBAs because the 2003 MOA was a supplemental agreement that arguably vested the life insurance benefit for life. View "Local Union 97 v. NRG Energy, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought an employment action claiming that his employer, Salisbury Bank and Trust Company (the "Bank") discharged him in violation of New York Labor Law Section 201-d because he chose to campaign for election to a seat in the New York State Assembly. The district court granted the Bank's motion for summary judgment, holding that Plaintiff voluntarily resigned and was not constructively discharged.   On appeal, Plaintiff made two principal arguments. First, he contends that the Bank unlawfully "forced" him to decide between "termination or his protected political activity" and that, as a result, his departure from the Bank was involuntary. Second, he argued that the Bank has only proffered as a reason for its actions his statutorily "protected political activities."   The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment. The court explained that even though the Bank claims that it had not decided to discharge Plaintiff when it learned of his "Decision," on this record a reasonable jury could find that the Bank had already concluded that Plaintiff would be discharged if he did not give up his campaign. For these reasons, a reasonable jury could find that Plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action by being forced to choose between his campaign and his job in violation of New York Labor Law. Further, a reasonable jury could find that the Bank's actions violated New York Labor Law Section 201-d because the bank failed to demonstrate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action it took against Plaintiff. View "Truitt v. Salisbury Bank and Trust Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court’s dismissal of his Title VII discrete act and hostile work environment claims against the Federal Aviation Administration. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that Plaintiff’s claims were properly dismissed. The court first concluded that Plaintiff’s failure-to-train claim is time-barred by the applicable statute of limitations, which requires that a claimant initiate an administrative review of his employment discrimination claim within 45 days of the allegedly discriminatory conduct. Further Plaintiff failed to point to any particular discrete and actionable unlawful employment practice that occurred in the 45 days before he initiated an administrative review of his claims. The continuing violation doctrine does not allow Plaintiff to pursue alleged incidents of unlawful practices that occurred before the 45-day period, as the doctrine is inapplicable to discrete act claims. Second, as to Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim, Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case that his employer’s alleged failure to train him or the other alleged incidents of hostile behavior in the workplace was motivated by hostility to his race, color, or national origin. View "Tassy v. Buttigieg" on Justia Law

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Workers at Amazon’s JFK8 fulfillment center and members of their households (together, “Plaintiffs”) challenge workplace COVID-19 policies, practices, and procedures at JFK8. Their suit against Amazon.com, Inc. and Amazon.com Services LLC (together, “Amazon”) asserted causes of action under New York law for public nuisance, breach of the duty to protect the health and safety of employees under New York Labor Law (“NYLL”) Section 200, violation of NYLL Section 191 for failure to pay, on time and in full, COVID-19 sick leave under New York’s COVID-19 sick leave law, and injunctive relief against future violations of NYLL Section 191.   The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ public nuisance and NYLL Section 200 claims without prejudice under the primary jurisdiction doctrine dismissed with prejudice Plaintiffs’ NYLL Section 191 claims, concluding that COVID-19 leave payments are not “wages” as defined by Section 191.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ public nuisance and NYLL Section 191 claims; and vacated the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ NYLL Section 200 claim and remanded to the district court for further proceedings on that claim. The court rejected Amazon’s contention that the court should partially dismiss the appeal. The court agreed with Plaintiffs that the district court wrongly applied the primary jurisdiction doctrine to their public nuisance and NYLL Section 200 claims. Ultimately, however, only their Section 200 claim survives. The court held Plaintiffs failed to state a claim for public nuisance under New York law because they do not allege a special injury and Section 11 of the New York Workers’ Compensation Law does not preclude injunctive relief under NYLL Section 200. View "Palmer v. Amazon" on Justia Law

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The Department of Labor brought a petition seeking review of a final order issued on December 31, 2020 by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The Commission found the phrase “stored in tiers” in the second sentence of 29 C.F.R. Section 1910.176(b) did not apply to pallets of merchandise located in a Walmart Distribution Center in Johnstown, New York.   The Secretary argued that the Commission erred in finding Section 11 1910.176(b) inapplicable to Walmart’s tiered storage system because it unambiguously includes material placed or arranged one above another in tiered storage racks, such as the system used at the Distribution Center. Alternatively, the Secretary also argued that if the Court found the regulation ambiguous, the Court should defer to the Secretary’s reasonable interpretation.   The Second Circuit vacated and remanded finding that the Secretary of Labor’s interpretation was reasonable. The court explained that the Commission’s cramped definition ignores other types of tiers, including seating arrangements at sporting events and music venues with layers of seats that are independently supported and placed one over the other with gaps between them. There is nothing inconsistent in the remaining language of the standard that militates against an interpretation that shelves can be tiers. Here, the pallets stored on the selective racking became unstable and merchandise on the pallets fell. Accordingly, the court concluded that the Secretary’s competing interpretation of the language of the standard is reasonable. View "Martin J. Walsh v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs deliver baked goods by truck to stores and restaurants in designated territories within Connecticut. They brought an action in district court on behalf of a putative class against Flowers Foods, Inc. and two of its subsidiaries, which manufacture the baked goods that the plaintiffs deliver. Plaintiffs allege unpaid or withheld wages, unpaid overtime wages, and unjust enrichment pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act and Connecticut wage laws. The district court granted Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the case.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s order compelling arbitration and dismissing the case. The court explained that it concludes that an individual works in a transportation industry if the industry in which the individual works pegs its charges chiefly to the movement of goods or passengers, and the industry’s predominant source of commercial revenue is generated by that movement. Here, because Plaintiffs do not work in the transportation industry, they are not excluded from the FAA, and the district court appropriately compelled arbitration under the Arbitration Agreement. View "Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a class action complaint against Cellular Sales of New York, LLC and Cellular Sales of Knoxville, Inc. (“Cellular”) for unfair wage deductions, unpaid compensable work, untimely commissions, unjust enrichment, and failure to pay minimum wage and overtime under the FLSA and New York Labor Law. Essentially, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants misclassified them as independent contractors instead of employees as defined by the FLSA and [New York Labor Law], thus depriving them of employee benefits required by law.   Cellular appealed the district court’s order granting attorney’s fees to Plaintiffs. Cellular argued that (1) the district court abused its discretion in finding that Plaintiffs’ successful minimum wage and overtime claims were sufficiently intertwined with their unsuccessful unfair wage deduction, unpaid compensable work, and untimely commissions claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law; and (2) regardless of whether the claims were intertwined, that the district court abused its discretion in reducing the attorney’s fees award by only 40 percent given Plaintiffs’ relative lack of success. 
 The Second Circuit affirmed. The could be explained that Plaintiffs brought wage-and-hour statutory claims that clearly arise from a common nucleus of operative fact regarding their time working for Cellular. Thus, the district court’s finding that the discovery involved in litigating the unpaid overtime wage claims is inseparable from the discovery involved in the unfair wage deductions, unpaid compensable work, or untimely commissions claims is well supported.  Further, the court affirmed the attorney’s fee awards explaining that fee awards are reviewed under a deferential abuse of discretion standard. View "Holick v. Cellular Sales" on Justia Law

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The case concerned the scope of the audit authority of a multi-employer employee benefit fund covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). The New York State Nurses Association Benefit Fund (the “Fund”) sought an audit of the Nyack Hospital’s (the “Hospital’s”) payroll and wage records. The Hospital objected, claiming that the Fund had the authority to inspect only the payroll records of employees the Hospital identified as members of the collective bargaining unit. The district court held that the Fund was entitled to the records of all persons the Hospital identified as registered nurses but not to the records of any other employees.   The Second Circuit reversed in part and affirmed in part. The court reversed to the extent the district court granted the Hospital’s cross-motion for summary judgment and denied the Fund’s motion for summary judgment. To the extent the district court granted the Fund’s motion for summary judgment and denied the Hospital’s cross-motion for summary judgment, the court affirmed. The court held that the audit sought by the Fund was authorized by the Trust Agreement and that the Hospital did not present evidence that the audit constituted a breach of the Fund’s fiduciary duty under ERISA. Accordingly, the audit was within the scope of the Fund trustees’ authority under the Supreme Court’s decision in Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund v. Central Transport, Inc., 472 U.S. 559 (1985). View "New York State Nurses Association Benefits Fund v. The Nyack Hospital" on Justia Law