Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
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Plaintiff-appellant Aaron Jensen sued defendant-appellees West Jordan City and Robert Shober for Title VII retaliation, First Amendment retaliation, malicious prosecution, and breach of contract. At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Jensen on all his claims and awarded $2.77 million in damages. The trial court discovered the jury did not properly fill out the verdict form, so the court instructed the jury to correct its error. When the jury returned the corrected verdict, it had apportioned most of the damages to Jensen’s Title VII claim. Because the district court concluded that Title VII’s statutory damages cap applied, the court reduced the total amount of the award to $344,000. Both parties appealed. They raised nine issues on appeal, but the Tenth Circuit concluded none of them warranted reversal and affirmed. View "Jensen v. West Jordan City" on Justia Law

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In January 2011, plaintiff-appellant Virgin Bunn was hired for a one-year probationary period as a human resources assistant at the United States Forest Service’s (“USFS”) Albuquerque Service Center. Ten months into the job, Bunn's supervisor became concerned about Bunn's job performance. After his supervisor asked a colleague to oversee Bunn’s work, Bunn complained to his supervisor about the colleague’s comments to him. Bunn later contacted USFS’s Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) Counselor Office about these comments. On January 6, 2012, Bunn was fired. Bunn thereafter filed an EEO complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging harassment, a hostile work environment, and retaliation. An administrative law judge dismissed the suit, granting summary judgment to the agency on all claims. The USDA’s Office of Adjudication issued a final order implementing the EEOC’s decision. Bunn appealed. The Office of Federal Operations affirmed the USDA’s final decision. After its review of the matter, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found: Bunn's appeal of the summary judgment order was untimely; and (2) there was no reversible error in the district court's order striking Bunn's motion to vacate. View "Bunn v. Perdue" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged defendant Affinity Gaming Black Hawk, LLC (“Affinity”) terminated them on the basis of age and sex. They brought disparate impact and disparate treatment claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”). The district court dismissed (1) the Title VII disparate impact claim, (2) the Title VII disparate treatment claim, and (3) the ADEA disparate impact claim. It granted summary judgment in favor of Affinity on the ADEA disparate treatment claim. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the Title VII disparate treatment claim. With respect to the other claims, the Court reversed and remanded to the district court, finding that when the evidence was construed in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, it sufficed to create a genuine issue of material facts with respect to the other allegations. View "Frappied v. Affinity Gaming Black Hawk" on Justia Law

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Defendants-Appellants Paragon Contractors Corporation and Brian Jessop (Paragon) appealed a district court’s order, findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding the calculation of back wages. Plaintiff-Appellee United States Secretary of Labor (Secretary) sought to compel Paragon to replenish a fund established to compensate children employed without pay in violation of both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and an injunction. Paragon had previously been held in contempt for violating the injunction. On appeal, Paragon contended the district court failed to adhere to the elements of a back wage reconstruction case under Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680 (1946). Specifically, Paragon argued the district court erred in: (1) concluding that the Secretary established a prima facie case; (2) imposing an improperly high burden for rebutting the inferences arising from that case and holding that Paragon failed to rebut certain inferences; and (3) declining to apply a statutory exemption. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Scalia v. Paragon Contractors" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-Appellants United Government Security Officers of America International Union and its local, United Government Security Officers of America, Local 320 (collectively, the Unions) sued American Eagle Protective Services Corporation and Paragon Systems, Inc. (collectively, the Employers) under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), seeking declaratory relief under the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and to compel arbitration of a terminated employee’s grievance. The Employers terminated Michael Reid, a Salt Lake City union member. The Unions grieved the termination, alleging the member was terminated without just cause. The Employers denied the grievance, alleging the member was terminated with just cause, thus not subject to arbitration under the exceptions listed in the CBA. The member was terminated in 2014; the Unions filed this action in 2018, seeking to compel arbitration of the grievance of the alleged wrongful discharge. The district court granted summary judgment to the Employers, ruling that the action was time-barred. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United Government Security v. American Eagle Protective" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Steven Kientz spent many years as a "dual status" technician with the Kansas Army National Guard, where he worked as a mechanic on electronic measurement equipment. Plaintiff’s position required him to simultaneously serve as a member of the National Guard, a second job with separate pay and separate responsibilities. In retirement, Plaintiff receives a monthly pension payment under the Civil Service Retirement System based on his service as a dual status technician. Plaintiff also receives Social Security retirement benefits based on contributions he made to the Social Security system from his separate pay as a National Guard member. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on whether a dual status service technician’s civil service pension was “based wholly on service as a member of a uniformed service” under 42 U.S.C. 415(a)(7)(A). After review, the Court concluded Plaintiff's civil service pension is not “wholly” based on service as a member of a uniformed service, and his pension payments were therefore subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision ("WEP"). Plaintiff’s dual status technician work was at least partially distinct from the performance of his military duties. And Plaintiff received separate compensation and separate pensions for his performance of those distinct roles. The Court concurred with the district court and Social Security Administration that Plaintiff's Social Security retirement benefits were subject to the WEP. View "Kientz v. Commissioner, SSA" on Justia Law

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Dr. Dennis Rivero appealed the grant of summary judgment awarded in favor of the University of New Mexico Board of Regents (Defendant). Dr. Rivero was employed full-time by the University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) from 1992 until early 2007, when he voluntarily decreased his workload to one day per month while he worked full-time in Oklahoma. After several months on this schedule, Rivero asked the chair of the UNMH orthopedics department, Dr. Robert Schenck, if he could return to full-time or three-quarter-time employment. For several years nothing came of this request, and Rivero continued to work in Oklahoma while spending only one day per month performing surgeries at UNMH. In December 2010, Schenck and Rivero agreed that Rivero could gradually reach a three-quarter-time position if he complied with certain conditions, namely that Rivero “attend four counseling sessions” before his workload would be increased. UNMH sent Rivero an addendum to his employment contract (the Addendum) to formalize the terms of the agreement. Rivero was “shocked by the requirements of the Addendum” and sought access to his personnel files. The University refused to turn over his files and withdrew the Addendum about two weeks later. Rivero continued to work one day a month at UNMH. After UNMH refused to let his see his personnel files, Rivero petitioned for a writ of mandamus in New Mexico state court seeking an order that UNMH provide him access to the files. The court ordered production of the files, and by January 2014 Rivero had received his complete files. He resigned from his position with UNMH a few months later, and pursued relief with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After receiving a right-to-sue letter from the Agency, Rivero filed the underlying suit, alleging UNMH violated the Rehabilitation Act by requiring psychiatric evaluations and constructively discharging him on the basis of a perceived disability. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded summary judgment was appropriate: (1) Rivero’s claim relating to the Rehabilitation Act was untimely; and (2) his claim that he was constructively discharged was not supported by the evidence presented. View "Rivero v. Univ. N.M. Board of Regents" on Justia Law

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Under Colorado law, employers must pay all employees time-and-a-half wages for overtime hours, with certain exemptions. Employers need not pay overtime wages to “companions, casual babysitters, and domestic employees employed by households or family members to perform duties in private residences.” The question this case presented for the Tenth Circuit’s review was whether “companions” working for third-party employers (rather than for households or family members) fell within the companionship exemption. The Court determined they do. Accordingly, it reversed the district court’s judgment concluding otherwise. View "Jordan v. Maxim Healthcare Services" on Justia Law

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A group of 122 detention officers who work or worked at Otero County Prison near Chaparral, New Mexico, alleged that their employer, Management & Training Corporation (MTC), failed to pay them for certain activities that they engaged in before they arrived at, when they arrived at, and after they left their posts within the prison. According to the officers, these activities constituted compensable work, so MTC’s failure to pay violated both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, and the New Mexico Minimum Wage Act. The Tenth Circuit concurred that in the context presented, the officers' activities constituted compensable work. The Court rejected MTC's arguments that : (1) the time the officers devoted to these activities was de minimis; and (2) it need not pay the officers for these activities because it did not know the officers were engaging in them. Additionally, the Court concluded that the officers’ rounding claim survived summary judgment. As such, the district court's order awarding summary judgment to MTC, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Aguilar v. Management & Training" on Justia Law

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Katherine Morgan, as wrongful death representative of her husband, David Morgan, brought direct negligence liability claims against Baker Hughes Incorporated (“Baker Hughes”) for the acts of its subsidiary, Baker Petrolite Incorporated (“Baker Petrolite”). In 2012, David Morgan was crushed to death by a heavy chemical tote while operating a forklift at his place of employment, a warehouse in Casper, Wyoming. There have been two trials in this case. At the close of Morgan’s evidence in the first trial, Baker Hughes moved for judgment as a matter of law. The district court granted Baker Hughes’ motion. We reversed on appeal, holding that Morgan had presented sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that Baker Hughes was liable for David Morgan’s death In so doing, we interpreted Wyoming law on the liability of parent corporations for the acts of their subsidiaries. After the second trial, Morgan moved for judgment as a matter of law. The district court denied the motion, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Baker Hughes. However, before submitting the case to the jury, the court rejected Morgan’s proposed jury instructions and overruled her objections to the court’s instructions. Morgan timely appealed these decisions and moved to certify the controlling question to the Wyoming Supreme Court. The Tenth Circuit concluded that Wyoming law on this issue was consistent with the Restatement (Second) of Torts section 414 and its commentary. Accordingly, the Court held that the district court correctly instructed the jury with respect to the relevant legal standard and did not err in making various decisions Morgan challenges on appeal. View "Morgan v. Baker Hughes" on Justia Law