Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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The Passaic County Sheriff’s Office hired Tundo and Gilgorri as corrections officers on a trial basis. They were often absent and were frequently reprimanded for insubordination and incompetence. They were fired as part of a mass layoff before they had completed their 12-month trial period. Months later, Passaic County needed more employees. The Civil Service Commission created lists of former officers whom it might rehire, including Tundo and Gilgorri. Passaic County tried to remove the two from the lists based on their work history. The Commission blocked this attempt, restored them to the eligible list, and ordered Passaic County to place them in “a new 12-month working test period.” Passaic County then offered to rehire the two and asked them to complete a re-employment application, which asked them to agree not to sue Passaic County. They refused to complete the application. The Commission then removed them from the list. The Third Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of their 42 U.S.C. 1983 due process claims. The Commission has many ways to take anyone off its lists and did not promise that the two would stay on the lists nor constrain its discretion to remove them. Because there was no mutually explicit understanding that they would stay on the lists, the men had no protected property interest in doing so. View "Tundo v. County of Passaic" on Justia Law

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ADP sells technology products and services and imposes restrictive covenants on its sales employees. At hiring, all employees sign a Sales Representative Agreement (SRA) and a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) that prohibit ADP employees from soliciting any ADP “clients, bona fide prospective clients or marketing partners of businesses of [ADP] with which the Employee was involved or exposed” for one year after termination. ADP employees who meet their sales targets are eligible to participate in a stock-option award program, only if they agree to an additional Restrictive Covenant Agreement (RCA), which prohibits employees, for one year following their termination, from soliciting any ADP clients to whom ADP “provides,” “has provided” or “reasonably expects” to provide business within the two-year period following the termination; for one year following their termination, RCA employees will not “participate in any manner with a Competing Business anywhere in the Territory where doing so will require [them] to [either] provide the same or substantially similar services to a Competing Business as those which [they] provided to ADP while employed,” or “use or disclose ADP’s Confidential Information or trade secrets.” Former ADP employees, shortly after leaving ADP, began working for ADP's direct competitor. Each had signed the SRA and NDA and each accepted stock awards under the RCA. ADP sought enforcement of the SRA, NDA, and RCA. The Third Circuit held that the covenants are not unenforceable in their entirety because they serve a legitimate business interest, but they may place an undue hardship on employees because they are overbroad. The court remanded for consideration of whether and to what extent it is necessary to curtail their scope, the approach prescribed by the New Jersey Supreme Court. View "ADP LLC v. Rafferty" on Justia Law

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Hildebrand was hired by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office in 2005, after 15 years as an undercover Pittsburgh detective. He performed satisfactorily and without incident for four years. In 2009, he was assigned a new supervisor. From that time until his 2011 termination, Hildebrand alleges he was subject to several forms of age-based discrimination. In 2013, Hildebrand sued the DA’s Office for age discrimination under 29 U.S.C. 621 and constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that the office had an established practice of targeting older detectives to force them out of their jobs. After appeals, Hildebrand’s remaining claim stagnated for three years until 2018, after the death of Hildebrand’s former supervisor, a key witness. The delay was caused by clerical error. The district court then dismissed for failure to prosecute (FRCP 41(b)). The Third Circuit vacated and remanded, finding that the district court failed to properly consider the “Poulis” factors. There was no evidence that Hildebrand was personally responsible for the delay; Hildebrand’s conduct was not delinquent at any other point. There is no evidence that the delay was part of any bad-faith tactic. While prejudice to the DA’s Office bears substantial weight in favor of dismissal, it is not dispositive of the appropriateness of imposing the harshest sanction; evidentiary or other sanctions may have been sufficient. View "Hildebrand v. Allegheny" on Justia Law

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Robinson was told by her manager that “you either don’t know what you’re doing, or you have a disability, or [you’re] dyslexic.” Taking those words seriously, Robinson was tested for dyslexia. She submitted an evaluation that concluded that Robinson had symptoms consistent with dyslexia and requested accommodations. She was told that any diagnosis would not excuse her from performing her work in a satisfactory matter; she was advised to focus on improving her performance. Weeks later, she was fired. During the litigation, Robinson acknowledged that she could not prove she was dyslexic. She proceeded on a theory that she was perceived or regarded as dyslexic by her employer and was entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Third Circuit affirmed a judgment in favor of Robinson on her reasonable accommodation claim, finding that her employer had waived its argument under the 2008 ADA amendments. The Act now provides that employers “need not provide a reasonable accommodation . . . to an individual who meets the definition of disability in” 42 U.S.C. 12102(1)(C), which includes individuals who are “regarded as having” a physical or mental impairment. Despite the amendment, both parties proceeded under the “regarded as” case theory throughout the litigation. View "Robinson v. First State Community Action Agency" on Justia Law

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In 2003-2008, Komis filed more than 60 Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints while employed by OSHA. Allegedly in retaliation for those and other EEO complaints filed a decade earlier, Komis contends her employer created a hostile work environment in that her supervisors: denied her the ability to work regularly from home; shifted her job duties to include more clerical work; reassigned her; and failed to promote her to Assistant Regional Administrator, instead selecting attorney Russo, who improperly disciplined her in retaliation for making additional discrimination claims. In 2008, Komis received notice of OSHA’s decision to terminate her employment. Komis left OSHA and filed another EEO complaint, alleging constructive discharge. Komis sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-16(a), citing retaliation and retaliatory hostile work environment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed judgments in favor of the agency. The court held that federal employees may bring retaliation claims under Title VII but declined to consider whether the same standard governs federal- and private- sector retaliation claims, and what standard applies to a federal retaliatory hostile work environment claim, given the Supreme Court’s 2006 decision, Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway. Komis cannot prevail under any potentially applicable standard, so any error in the jury instructions was harmless. View "Komis v. Secretary United States Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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The 2011 Virgin Islands Economic Stability Act (VIESA) sought to reduce government spending by reducing payroll while continuing to provide necessary public services. VIESA offered some of the government’s most expensive employees (with at least 30 years of credited service) $10,000 to chose to retire within three months. Those declining to retire had to contribute an additional 3% of their salary to the Government Employees Retirement System starting at the end of those three months. Two members of the System with over 30 years of credited service who chose not to retire claimed that the 3% charge violated federal and territorial laws protecting workers over the age of 40 from discrimination based on their age. The Third Circuit found the provision valid because it did not target employees because of their age under the Supreme Court’s 1993 decision in Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggin; its focus on credited years of service entitles the government to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)’s reasonable-factor-other-than-age defense. The Third Circuit concluded that the Virgin Islands Supreme Court would deem the provision consistent with existing territorial anti-discrimination statutes. View "Bryan v. Government of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law

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When McKinney was granted tenure in 1974, his employment was governed by University Policies that provide that tenured faculty can be terminated only “for cause” and provide yearly salary raises for faculty who perform satisfactorily or meritoriously. Any salary increase for “maintenance” or merit becomes part of the base contract salary. No explicit provisions govern salary decreases; the Policy provides procedures to address complaints about salary decisions and requires that a faculty member “judged unsatisfactory” be informed of specific reasons related to teaching ability, achievements in research and scholarship, and service. In McKinney’s 2010 and 2011 reviews, Dean Keeler expressed concern about declining enrollment in McKinney’s classes, poor student evaluations, and a stagnant research agenda, but granted standard 2.0% and 1.5% maintenance increases. In 2012, McKinney ranked last among the Grad School faculty and was rated “less than satisfactory.” McKinney’s salary was increased by 0.5%. He was told that if his performance did not improve, he could receive a salary reduction. McKinney again ranked last in the 2013 review. Dean Keeler reduced his salary by 20%. McKinney sued, alleging that the University unconstitutionally deprived him of his property interest in his base salary. Reversing the district court, the Third Circuit concluded that he had no such property interest. The Policy language is not sufficient to give McKinney a “legitimate expectation” in the continuance of his base salary. The appeal provisions and the three-tiered rating structure indicate that salaries are subject to “possible annual adjustments,” and that McKinney had no more than a “unilateral expectation of receiving [his] full salary,” View "McKinney v. University of Pittsburgh" on Justia Law

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Delivery drivers filed a putative class action, alleging that AEX misclassified them as independent contractors when they are actually employees under the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law (NJWHL), and the New Jersey Wage Payment Law (NJWPL). AEX argued that the Drivers’ claims are preempted by the Federal Aviation Authorization Administration Act of 1994 (FAAAA), 49 U.S.C. 14501- 06. The district court denied AEX’s motion and certified the order for interlocutory appeal. The Third Circuit affirmed. The FAAAA does not preempt the New Jersey law for determining employment status for the purposes of NJWHL and NJWPL. AEX has not shown that New Jersey’s "ABC classification" test has a “significant impact” on Congress’ deregulatory efforts with respect to motor carrier businesses, nor are the NJWHL and NJWPL—typical state wage and hour laws—the kinds of preexisting state regulations with which Congress was concerned when it passed the FAAAA. New Jersey’s ABC classification test has neither a direct, nor an indirect, nor a significant effect on carrier prices, routes, or services. View "Bedoya v. American Eagle Express, Inc" on Justia Law

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The district court certified a class of Citizens Bank mortgage loan officers from 10 different states who alleged that they were unlawfully denied overtime pay. In an interlocutory appeal, the Third Circuit reversed the class certification decision. The district court failed to “define the class or class claims” as mandated by Rule 23(c)(1)(B). The district court’s analysis did not support a definitive determination as to whether the plaintiffs’ representative evidence satisfied Rule 23’s commonality and preponderance requirements; nor did it support a conclusion regarding either the existence of a company-wide policy or Citizens’ knowledge of it. While the appellate court acknowledged its jurisdiction over class certification under Rule 23, it concluded that Rule 23 certification and collective action certification under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 216(b), are not sufficiently similar or otherwise “inextricably intertwined” to justify the exercise of pendent appellate jurisdiction. The court declined to consider the merits of the decision to certify a collective action under FLSA section 216(b). View "Reinig v. RBS Citizens NA" on Justia Law

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The NLRB determined that ImageFIRST Uniform Rental violated the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 157, by prohibiting union representatives from distributing pro-union literature in the public right-of-way adjacent to ImageFirst’s facility and by attempting to remove the union representatives from the public right-of-way. The Third Circuit granted the application for enforcement of the NLRB's order on that basis. The court did not uphold the NLRB finding that ImageFirst violated Section 8(a)(1) by threatening to summon and summoning the police when the union representatives refused to leave from the public right-of-way. Substantial evidence did not indicate that ImageFirst’s threat and call to the police were motivated solely by a desire to remove the union representatives. Based on the evidence, no reasonable finder of fact could have failed to find that ImageFirst’s conduct was motivated by a broader—and reasonable—concern over its property interests based on the union representatives’ repeated and ongoing forays onto its private property. View "National Labor Relations Board v. ImageFIRST Uniform Rental Service, Inc." on Justia Law