Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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Clemons worked as a coal miner for 10 years and smoked two packs per day for 30 years. Clemons suffered and died from COPD. His claims for federal black-lung benefits (30 U.S.C. 901) were denied. An ALJ awarded Mrs. Clemons survivor’s benefits after considering three medical opinions. Dr. Sikder diagnosed Clemons with legal pneumoconiosis in the form of COPD that resulted from both cigarette smoking and from coal-mine dust exposure. Doctros Habre and Broudy attributed Clemons’s COPD solely to his cigarette smoking. The ALJ credited Sikder’s opinion as well-documented, well-reasoned, and supported by substantial evidence, irrespective of the length of coal mine employment she considered, so that opinion was accorded “probative weight” while the other opinions did not sufficiently explain why Clemons’s coal-mine dust exposure did not contribute “at least in part” to his COPD. The Benefits Review Board affirmed, concluding that the evidence was sufficient to establish the presence of legal pneumoconiosis.The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review, finding that the ALJ took the coal mine employment discrepancy into account when he weighed Dr. Sikder’s opinion, and acted within his discretion in explaining that the discrepancy was not so great as to detract from the opinion’s probative value. View "Huscoal, Inc. v. Director, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, United States Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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A physician group fired Post, a nurse-anesthesist, months after she suffered an accident. The group’s subsequent bankruptcy impeded Post’s efforts to hold it liable for employment discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She instead sued the hospital at which she worked. Although the hospital did not employ her, Post argued that two statutes allow her to enforce the ADA’s employment protections against non-employers.The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the hospital. The ADA “interference” provision makes it “unlawful to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any individual in the exercise or enjoyment of” an ADA-protected right. 42 U.S.C. 12203(b) does not allow plaintiffs with disabilities to sue entities that are not their employers. A nearby subsection clarifies that the provision incorporates remedies that permit suits only against employers. The civil-conspiracy provision in the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. 1985(3) authorizes a damages suit when two or more parties “conspire” to “depriv[e]” “any person or class of persons” of “the equal protection of the laws” or the “equal privileges and immunities under the laws” but does permit a plaintiff to assert a conspiracy claim against an entity that is not the plaintiff’s employer for the deprivation of an ADAprotected employment right. View "Post v. Trinity Health-Michigan" on Justia Law

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The 2008 financial crisis caused GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy. In Europe, Fiat faced similar troubles. Fiat CEO Marchionne forged a relationship with the United Auto Workers (UAW). Fiat negotiated a partial purchase of Chrysler. Chrysler and the UAW agreed to Marchionne’s request to jettison certain traditional union protections. The companies emerged from bankruptcy with the UAW large percentages of their equity.GM alleges that Marchionne subsequently implemented a bribery scheme to revive Chrysler and harm GM. Fiat acquired the UAW’s stake in Chrysler. The new entity, “FCA,” allegedly “began a long-running intentional scheme of improper payments" to UAW officials … to influence the collective bargaining process, providing Chrysler with labor peace and competitive advantages. GM rejected Marchionne's proposal for a merger in 2015; although bribed UAW executives pressed GM to agree. During subsequent collective bargaining, the UAW and FCA allegedly conspired “to force enormous costs on GM.”In 2017, the Justice Department criminally charged numerous FCA executives and UAW officials. Several entered guilty pleas. FCA pleaded guilty and agreed to a $30 million fine. The UAW agreed to a consent decree, requiring federal monitoring.GM sued FCA, Fiat, and individuals, asserting RICO claims, 18 U.S.C. 1962(b), (c), and (d). The district court dismissed. Assuming that FCA committed RICO violations, they were either indirect or too remote to have proximately caused GM’s alleged injuries. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, first rejecting an argument that the NLRB had exclusive jurisdiction. The court noted the existence of a more “immediate victim,” the FCA workers, “better situated to sue.” GM has not alleged that it would have received the same benefits as FCA absent the corruption. View "General Motors, LLC v. FCA US, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing this ERISA action for lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that no contract bound the parties, holding that the presence of a live contract goes to the merits of this action, not the district court's jurisdiction to hear it.A group of employee benefits funds sued Defendant in a federal district court alleging breach of contract for late contributions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Defendant responded that no contract existed and that the presence of a live contract was a jurisdictional prerequisite to Plaintiffs' ERISA suit, meaning that the claim should have been brought under the National Labor Relations Act and that the National Labor Relations Board had exclusive jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs' grievances. The district court dismissed the suit without prejudice, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs' claim. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the presence of a live contract is not an essential jurisdictional fact in an action brought under section 515 of ERISA. Rather, the presence of a live contract goes to the merits of Plaintiffs' ERISA claim. View "Operating Engineers' Local 324 Fringe Benefits Funds v. Rieth-Riley Construction Co." on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court vacating an arbitration award to the extent that it applied to Greenhouse Holdings, LLC (Greenhouse), holding that it was disputed whether Greenhouse consented to arbitrate, and therefore, the evidence should be weighed by the district court in the first instance.At issue was whether an arbitrator has the authority to bind someone who hasn't signed the underlying arbitration agreement to an arbitration award. A Union filed a grievance against "Clearview Glass," alleging that it violated the parties' collective bargaining agreement. An arbitrator concluded that Greenhouse was bound by an in violation of the CBA. The district court vacated the award to the extent it applied to Greenhouse because it was unclear whether Greenhouse ever assented to the CBA. The Sixth Circuit vacated the judgment, holding that remand was required for the district court to first decide whether Greenhouse consented to arbitrate the threshold arbitrability question. View "Greenhouse Holdings, LLC v. International Union of Painters" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court upholding the decision of an administrative law judge (ALJ) finding that Todd Moats's condition prevented him from returning to his previous job but nonetheless denying his application for benefits, holding that substantial evidence supported that determination.Moats's peripheral neuropathy caused him to leave his job as a forklift operator and apply for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income through the Social Security Administration. The ALJ denied benefits, determining that, although Moats suffered from impairments that prevented him from returning to his forklift position, he could still perform a number of jobs available throughout the national economy. The district court affirmed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding (1) substantial evidence supported the ALJ's decision; and (2) the ALJ satisfied his duty to investigate and develop the relevant facts. View "Moats v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit reversed the order of the district court granting summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff's complaint that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) discriminated against him based on his age and disability in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Rehabilitation Act, holding that summary judgment was improperly granted.A committee overseeing a training center at which Plaintiff taught voted to demote Plaintiff from his instructor position, citing ethical concerns that arose when Plaintiff's son was accepted to the training program. Plaintiff brought this complaint, alleging violations of the ADEA and Rehabilitation Act. The district court granted summary judgment for TVA. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding (1) where a jury could infer that Plaintiff's supervisor used the ethical concern as a pretext to convince the other members of the committee to demote him, summary judgment on Plaintiff's ADEA and Rehabilitation Act claims was unwarranted; and (2) the district court incorrectly dismissed Plaintiff's retaliation claim. View "Bledsoe v. Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors" on Justia Law

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Myers, a Centerville Police Department detective sergeant, Myers reported to then-Lieutenant Brown and then-Police Chief Robertson, that Lieutenant Lavigne possessed and “possibl[y] disseminat[ed]” sexually explicit photos of minors that he obtained while investigating a “sexting" complaint at Centerville High School. Myers continued to pursue that allegation to no avail. Three years later, Myers sought whistleblower protection and met with City Manager Davis to report new allegations against Robertson, and to repeat the allegation against Lavigne, then met with an outside attorney appointed by Davis. After learning of the investigation, Robertson retired. Myers was interviewed but not hired for the vacant chief post, which went to Brown; the hiring panel included Lavigne. Myers was also passed over for two lieutenant positions. He was admitted to the FBI National Academy but Quantico rescinded that offer after its background investigator spoke to Lavigne. Myers was disciplined for writing a “character letter” for another city employee; the letter was critical of the city. He was later terminated for recording a meeting.Myers sued. alleging First Amendment retaliation under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion claiming qualified immunity. The district court erred by failing to meaningfully analyze the assertions of immunity by Brown and Davis at the pleadings stage, but Myers plausibly alleged First Amendment retaliation, and the defendants are not yet entitled to qualified or statutory immunity. View "Myers v. City of Centerville, Ohio" on Justia Law

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While working at Dura-Bond’s Duquesne, Pennsylvania plant, Marshall stepped out of his truck, while others were loading metal pipes onto it. A worker accidentally ran a forklift into the pipes, causing one to roll off the truck and crash into Marshall. Doctors had to amputate both of Marshall’s legs, leaving him totally disabled.Russell Trucking had contracted with Express to use its license. Express would ensure that drivers met federal requirements, but Russell could otherwise retain the drivers they wanted. Marshall had completed an Express application, passed a background check, and completed training with Russell. Marshall leased a truck from Russell and drove it under Express’s license. Although he signed a contract stating that he was an independent contractor, Marshall believed that he was an employee of both Express and Russell.Marshall filed a workers’ compensation claim. Russell, Express, and Dura-Bond all disclaimed an employment relationship with Marshall. Marshall conceded that he had agreed to obtain his own workers’ compensation insurance and had failed to do so. An ALJ found that Russell was Marshall’s “immediate employer” and that Express and Dura-Bond were Marshall’s “statutory employers” under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation statute. Neither Express nor Russell had insurance for Marshall. The judge ordered Dura-Bond (which had insurance) to pay Marshall’s benefits and allowed it to seek indemnity. Express reimbursed Dura-Bond for the benefits.Marshall subsequently brought tort claims against Express and Russell. RLI, which had issued Express a commercial general liability policy, refused to reimburse for a $2.4 million settlement, citing policy exclusions for “[a]ny obligation” “under a workers’ compensation” “law” and for injuries to an “employee.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed a jury finding that Marshall was a “temporary worker,” leaving the tort-suit settlement covered by the policy. View "P.I. & I. Motor Express, Inc. v. RLI Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Delek uses third-party specialty inspectors to ensure that Delek’s projects comply with industry and regulatory requirements. Cypress employs and assigns these specialty inspectors to companies like Delek. Becker worked as an electrical inspector for Cypress, which set Becker’s compensation as a day rate and issued his paychecks. Cypress deemed Becker an administrative employee and considered him overtime-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201 (FLSA). Becker signed an employment agreement, acknowledging that he “underst[ood] that [his] employment is based on a specific project to be performed for a designated customer” and that any dispute related to this employment relationship would be arbitrated. Becker was assigned by Cypress to work at a Delek location.Becker filed an FLSA complaint against Delek, arguing that “Delek’s day-rate system violates the FLSA because [he] and those similarly situated workers did not receive any overtime pay for hours worked over 40 hours each week.” Becker claimed Delek was his employer because he worked 12-15 hours a day for six-seven days a week at Delek's location, reported to Delek, performed work essential to Delek’s core business, and had his pay and schedule directed by Delek. Cypress was allowed to intervene and moved to compel arbitration. The Sixth Circuit reversed the denial of the motion. Becker’s challenge is not “specific” to the arbitration agreement’s delegation provision, leaving the question of whether Delek can enforce the arbitration agreement for an arbitrator to decide. View "Becker v. Delek US Energy, Inc." on Justia Law