Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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Pittington worked for Lumberjack for five months before he was fired for supporting his wife (a Lumberjack employee) in her sexual harassment complaint. Before being fired, Pittington was demoted, had his hours reduced, and was made to work in an unheated shack without a chair previously provided for Pittington's medical condition. Pittington sued, alleging that Lumberjack's actions were based on his disability and involvement in his wife’s complaint. Pittington presented evidence of his earnings and of his subsequent employment history and sought $40,632.50 in back pay. The jury found violations of Title VII and the Tennessee Human Rights Act; the court directed a verdict in favor of Lumberjack on Pittington’s ADA claim. The jury declined to award compensatory or punitive damages and awarded $10,000 in back pay. The court declined to award front pay, increase the award, or hold a new trial on damages. Concluding that the 10% interest rate that Pittington requested would create an undue windfall, the court awarded compound prejudgment interest at the rate set forth in 28 U.S.C. 1961(a), 0.66%. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Plaintiffs who prove that they were fired in violation of Title VII are presumptively entitled to back pay for the amount they would have earned had they not been unlawfully terminated and an award of prejudgment interest is nearly always appropriate. A court must grant a new trial on damages when a jury awards a Title VII plaintiff back pay substantially less than the damages to which he is indisputably entitled. View "Pittington v. Great Smoky Mountain Lumberjack Feud, LLC" on Justia Law

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Pittington worked for Lumberjack for five months before he was fired for supporting his wife (a Lumberjack employee) in her sexual harassment complaint. Before being fired, Pittington was demoted, had his hours reduced, and was made to work in an unheated shack without a chair previously provided for Pittington's medical condition. Pittington sued, alleging that Lumberjack's actions were based on his disability and involvement in his wife’s complaint. Pittington presented evidence of his earnings and of his subsequent employment history and sought $40,632.50 in back pay. The jury found violations of Title VII and the Tennessee Human Rights Act; the court directed a verdict in favor of Lumberjack on Pittington’s ADA claim. The jury declined to award compensatory or punitive damages and awarded $10,000 in back pay. The court declined to award front pay, increase the award, or hold a new trial on damages. Concluding that the 10% interest rate that Pittington requested would create an undue windfall, the court awarded compound prejudgment interest at the rate set forth in 28 U.S.C. 1961(a), 0.66%. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Plaintiffs who prove that they were fired in violation of Title VII are presumptively entitled to back pay for the amount they would have earned had they not been unlawfully terminated and an award of prejudgment interest is nearly always appropriate. A court must grant a new trial on damages when a jury awards a Title VII plaintiff back pay substantially less than the damages to which he is indisputably entitled. View "Pittington v. Great Smoky Mountain Lumberjack Feud, LLC" on Justia Law

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Working at Ford’s Twin Cities Plant in 2001, Saunders’s right arm got caught in a machine, causing him to lose almost all use of that arm. Saunders received workers’ compensation. He returned to work with restrictions that prohibited heavy lifting, engaging in repetitive motions, or using his right arm. Ford assigned him to temporary jobs, then to an airbag-installation job, but placed him on “no-work-available” (NWA) status when he developed carpal-tunnel syndrome. Ford assigned Saunders to a torque-inspector job, where Saunders worked for eight years. Ford transferred Saunders to Louisville in 2012, after Twin Cities closed. The Plant, in flux as dozens of Ford plants closed, allowed Saunders to continue working as an inspector for another year, although he lacked the seniority for the position there. After the Plant integrated its new workers, it reopened jobs to the normal bid process. A senior worker displaced Saunders, who was placed in short-term jobs, had periods of medical leave, and was on NWA status. Saunders got a permanent assignment in 2014, which he retains. Before that placement, Saunders filed grievances, then filed suit (Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185), alleging that Ford breached its collective bargaining unit by placing him on NWA status, retaliated after he reopened his workers’ compensation claim, and that his union failed to fully pursue his grievances. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Ford. Ford had a legitimate, nonretaliatory reason for placing Saunders on NWA status that no reasonable juror could conclude was pretextual. Breach of the duty of fair representation is not established merely by proof that the underlying grievance was meritorious. View "Saunders v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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Cincinnati ordinances provide guidelines for selecting the “lowest and best bidder” on Department of Sewers projects to “ensure efficient use of taxpayer dollars, minimize waste, and promote worker safety and fair treatment of workers” and for bids for “Greater Cincinnati Water Works and the stormwater management utility division,” to employ skilled contractors, committed to the city’s “safety, quality, time, and budgetary concerns.” Allied alleged that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) preempted: a requirement that the bidder certify whether it contributes to a health care plan for employees working on the project as part of the employee’s regular compensation; a requirement that the bidder similarly certify whether it contributes to an employee pension or retirement program; and imposition of an apprenticeship standard. Allied asserts that the only apprenticeship program that meets that requirement is the Union’s apprenticeship program, which is not available to non-Union contractors. The ordinances also require the winning contractor to pay $.10 per hour per worker into a city-managed pre-apprenticeship training fund, not to be taken from fringe benefits. The district court granted Allied summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Where a state or municipality acts as a proprietor rather than a regulator, it is not subject to ERISA preemption. The city was a market participant here: the benefit-certification requirements and the apprenticeship requirements reflect its interests in the efficient procurement of goods and services. View "Allied Construction Industries v. City of Cincinnati" on Justia Law

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Hall and Thompson built a significant client base as brokers of equipment rental insurance. They brought some of their clients to a specialty division they formed at Hylant. USI paid a substantial sum for Hylant’s assets and to keep Hall and Thompson on as employees to continue building their client base; Hall and Thompson gave up any ownership interest in their clients and promised that if they were terminated, they would refrain from soliciting those clients for two years. They agreed that USI could assign their employment contracts to a subsequent purchaser. Edgewood bought out USI’s entire equipment rental insurance business. Hall and Thompson could not work out an arrangement with Edgewood, so USI terminated them. They began contacting their old clients and sought a declaratory judgment permitting them to do so. Edgewood obtained a preliminary injunction barring Hall and Thompson from breaching their non-solicitation agreements. The Sixth Circuit remanded for factual findings as to which of Thompson’s clients he recruited and developed solely on his own accord, and which clients Hylant and USI expended their resources in recruiting and developing, with respect to which Edgewood is likely to succeed on the merits. Edgewood has no legitimate interest in barring Thompson from soliciting clients who came to Hylant and USI solely to avail themselves of Thompson’s services and only as a result of his own independent recruitment efforts. View "Hall v. Edgewood Partners Insurance Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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Welding inspectors for Gulf Interstate Field Services, who served on an Ohio pipeline-construction project in 2013-2014 and were paid on a “day-rate” basis, brought suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 207, and the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act (OMFWSA), asserting that they were entitled to overtime pay for weeks in which they worked more than 40 hours. The district court held, on summary judgment, that the employees were exempt from the overtime requirements because they qualified as highly compensated employees under the governing regulations. The Sixth Circuit reversed. While the employees concede that they were paid in a manner and at a rate consistent with being exempt, it matters whether their salaries were guaranteed, and in turn, whether a rational trier of fact could have concluded that there was no such guarantee. The employees’ salary was calculated on a daily basis and there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether they were guaranteed a weekly salary. View "Hughes v. Gulf Interstate Field Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Michigan National Guard terminated two “dual-status” technicians, who are military employees that must be members of the National Guard, hold a military grade, and wear an appropriate military uniform while performing military duties, 32 U.S.C. 709(b), but are also “Federal civilian employee[s]” who are “assigned to a civilian position,” 10 U.S.C. 10216(a). Dual-status technicians are “afforded the benefits and rights generally provided for federal employees in the civil service,” including rights under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS), 5 U.S.C. 7101–7135. The technicians appealed through the Guard’s internal administrative process, represented by their union. The Guard sent a letter to the union that could be read as temporarily forbidding all private communication between union representatives and Guard employees. The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) found that this letter violated the FSLMRS. The Sixth Circuit enforced the order as modified. “Accepting the FLRA’s arguable but somewhat implausible interpretation of the letter under deferential substantial-evidence review, the letter did violate the FSLMRS and was within the purview of the FLRA." View "Federal Labor Relations Authority v. Michigan Army National Guard" on Justia Law

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Under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act, part of ERISA, a construction industry employer who withdraws from a multiemployer pension plan owes liability to that plan if the employer conducts work “in the jurisdiction of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) of the type for which contributions were previously required,” 29 U.S.C. 1383(b)(2)(B)(i). The Iron Workers Local 17 Pension Fund assessed pension liability against Stevens Engineers claiming that Stevens’s activities on a certain construction project involved such work within the jurisdiction of their previous CBA. An arbitrator, the district court, and the Sixth Circuit found that Stevens did not owe pension liability to the Fund because the work identified by Local 17 did not fall within the jurisdiction of the relevant CBA, and did not otherwise require contributions by Stevens. The CBA instead allowed Stevens to assign jobs like the ones at issue to other trade unions, and a job did not trigger pension liability to the Fund if, as here, it was properly assigned to a different union. View "Stevens Engineers & Constructors, Inc. v. Local 17 Iron Workers Pension Fund" on Justia Law

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Anwar, a U.S. citizen, was hired to work for MEG International in Dubai. Anwar alleges that, following her promotion, her supervisor, Ramachandran, began harassing her about working when she had young children; openly made comments about not needing highly-paid female employees; and expressed his disapproval of Anwar’s divorce, going so far as to meet with her husband. Anwar alleges that this culminated in her termination, one day after she initiated her divorce. Anwar sued in a Dubai court and obtained severance pay. She argues that Dubai’s courts could not provide a sufficient remedy for sex and marital status discrimination. Anwar filed a complaint in Michigan, alleging that she was impermissibly terminated because of her gender, religion, national origin, and marital status, citing Title VII; the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act; and breach contract. The district court dismissed claims against Ramachandran for lack of personal jurisdiction and opened discovery for limited purposes: Investigating Anwar’s allegations that MEG International does business as MEG America and that the MEGlobal subsidiaries act as a single entity and Anwar’s allegation that Ramachandran and other MEG managers are employed by Dow. Dow obtained a protective order to prohibit depositions. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of all claims. Anwar did not allege facts, aside from those demonstrating possible macromanagement, that MEG International is the alter ego of MEG Americas. Under Michigan law, the separate entities will be respected unless “a contrary determination would be inequitable.” View "Anwar v. Dow Chemical Co." on Justia Law

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Randstad recruits temporary workers for clients. Plaintiffs, in-house Randstad employees (not temporary workers), engaged in marketing Randstad’s services; recruiting, evaluating, and placing workers; and administrative and clerical tasks. Randstad tracked Plaintiffs’ performance using a points-based system. Plaintiffs were required to accrue 100 points each week, across certain categories, such as sales and recruiting. Randstad maintained a progressive discipline system for employees who did not meet the weekly quota, with penalties including termination. Randstad also held periodic “contests,” which required employees to perform tasks beyond the employee’s regular duties. According to Plaintiffs, the quotas were impossible to meet working only 40 hours per week, so Plaintiffs regularly worked more than 40 hours per week, and Randstad managers were aware they did so. In Plaintiffs’ Fair Labour Standards Act action, the district court granted Randstad summary judgment, finding that certain named Plaintiffs exercised discretion and independent judgment and were covered by the administrative exemption and that Randstad was insulated from liability because it relied, reasonably and in good faith, on a Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) opinion letter. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part, finding that two named plaintiffs were not covered by the exemption and that, a minimum, there is a factual question whether Randstad reasonably relied on the WHD Letter to classify Plaintiffs as FLSA-exempt without reviewing their individual duties, or at least the duties of employees in the Troy, Michigan office or the region. View "Perry v. Randstad General Partner LLC" on Justia Law