Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
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Canada, a Black man, worked for Grossi for 10 years. Canada suffered from back problems and claims that Grossi prevented him from accessing Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) forms and harassed him when he tried to use FMLA leave. Osorio, Grossi’s director of human resources, testified that she “let [Canada] take his FMLA” leave. Canada sued, alleging race discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 1981, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the FMLA.Canada was terminated a month later. Grossi based the termination on text messages found on Canada’s cell phone. Grossi claims that Canada was using a locker on the shop floor which was designated as a company tool locker. While Canada was on vacation, Grossi cut the padlock off of his locker because the lockers needed to be moved. Osorio testified that she believed that the phone might have been a company phone and guessed the phone’s password. Osorio found text messages from a year earlier in which Canada appeared to have solicited prostitutes “while at work and clocked in.”The district court granted Grossi summary judgment. The Third Circuit reversed, in part. An employer’s motivation for investigating an employee can be relevant to pretext. There is a “‘convincing mosaic’ of circumstantial evidence,” which, taken as a whole and viewed in a light favorable to Canada’s case, could convince a reasonable jury that Canada was the victim of unlawful retaliation. There is also evidence that Grossi treated other employees more favorably. View "Canada v. Samuel Grossi & Sons, Inc." on Justia Law

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Uronis’ former co-worker, Messenger, filed a putative Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action against Cabot and another company on behalf of himself and other employees similarly situated, alleging that the companies jointly employed the employees and failed to pay them required overtime pay. Uronis, as a similarly situated employee who had yet to file a consent to join the collective action, was a putative member of the Messenger action. Uronis applied for a position with Cabot’s subsidiary, GDS. Cabot and GDS were aware Uronis was a putative member of, and anticipated witness in, the Messenger action, and that he was about to file his consent to join. A GDS manager sent Uronis a text message stating that although Uronis was qualified for the position he applied for, Cabot declined to hire him or any other putative members of the Messenger action “because of” that lawsuit.The FLSA prohibits discrimination against an employee because the employee has engaged in protected activity 29 U.S.C. 215(a)(3), including having “testified” or being “about to testify” in any FLSA-related proceeding. The district court dismissed Uronis’ suit, reasoning that being “about to testify” requires being “scheduled” or subpoenaed to do so. The Third Circuit reversed. The FLSA “about to testify” language protects employees from discrimination because of an employer’s anticipation that the employee will soon file a consent to join a collective action. View "Uronis v. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp." on Justia Law

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Clemens, then an employee, provided ExecuPharm with sensitive information, including her address, social security number, bank, and financial account numbers, insurance, and tax information, passport, and information relating to her family. Clemens’s employment agreement provided that ExecuPharm would “take appropriate measures to protect the confidentiality and security” of this information. After Clemens left ExecuPharm, a hacking group (CLOP) accessed ExecuPharm’s servers, stealing sensitive information pertaining to current and former employees, including Clemens. CLOP posted the data on the Dark Web, making available for download 123,000 data files pertaining to ExecuPharm, including sensitive employee information. ExecuPharm notified current and former employees of the breach and encouraged precautionary measures. Clemens reviewed her financial records and credit reports for unauthorized activity; placed fraud alerts on her credit reports; transferred her bank account; enrolled in ExecuPharm’s complimentary one-year credit monitoring services; and purchased three-bureau additional credit monitoring services for herself and her family for $39.99 per month.Clemens's suit under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), was dismissed for lack of Article III standing. The court concluded that Clemens’s risk of future harm was not imminent, but “speculative.” Any money Clemens spent to mitigate the speculative risk was insufficient to confer standing; even if ExecuPharm breached the employment agreement, it would not automatically give Clemens standing to assert her breach of contract claim. The Third Circuit vacated. Clemens’s injury was sufficiently imminent to constitute an injury-in-fact for purposes of standing. View "Clemens v. Execupharm Inc" on Justia Law

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Crosbie was hired by Gateway to help Highmark, a health insurance company, investigate fraud. While auditing Highmark’s network of doctors, Crosbie claims he discovered that some doctors had prior convictions for selling opioid prescriptions; others lacked required Medicaid licenses. He reported his concerns to Gateway's managers. They investigated but did not take any action. Crosbie kept pressing the issue. More than a year after his report. Crosbie’s coworker lodged a complaint that Crosbie had called her “Miss Piggy” and “oinked” at her. Gateway’s human-resources team investigated. An eyewitness corroborated the complainant’s story. Other people described past issues between Crosbie and the complainant.Gateway fired Crosbie. Crosbie sued Gateway and Highmark under the False Claims Act for retaliation based on his fraud reports. The employers replied that the people who had decided to fire Crosbie knew nothing about his reports and that they had good reason to fire him. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the employers. Crosbie has not shown that the employers’ reason was a mere pretext for retaliation. View "Crosbie v. Highmark Inc" on Justia Law

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Crozer owns healthcare companies that operate as wholly owned subsidiaries: Prospect, employs professionals working at hospitals; CCMC, is a hospital and hired Abdurahman as an emergency medical resident. Abdurahman signed new-hire paperwork, including an at-will employment agreement with Crozer and an arbitration agreement with Prospect. Several weeks later, Abdurahman signed a residency agreement with CCMC. Dr. Jacobs was an employee of Prospect, working as CCMC’s Director of Toxicology and supervised Abdurahman. Abdurahman alleged that Jacobs sexually harassed her; Jacobs claimed the opposite and informed CCMC Human Resources that Abdurahman had assaulted her. The dispute escalated until Abdurahman was fired.Abdurahman filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the EEOC, alleging defamation and discrimination under Title VII, Title IX, 42 U.S.C. 1981, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. She subsequently filed suit against CCMC and Jacobs. The district court denied a motion to compel arbitration. The Third Circuit affirmed. Abdurahman signed an arbitration agreement with Prospect, not CCMC. That agreement cannot stretch to govern Abdurahman’s employment with CCMC. The court noted that the corporations are sophisticated entities that drafted the forms. View "Abdurahman v. Prospect CCMC LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Thompson was accepted a position as the Education Unit Supervisor for the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families (DSCYF) with a one-year probationary period. Thompson’s predecessor, Porter, successfully contested her termination. In 2017, Thompson was informed that Porter would be reinstated as Education Supervisor and that Thompson would become the Transition Coordinator. DSCYF did not permit Thompson to pursue a grievance. Thompson worked as the Transition Coordinator for several weeks, then had emergency surgery in May 2017. Thompson’s probationary period was set to end in July 2017. Unbeknownst to Thompson, her probationary period was extended. Thompson returned to work in October 2017. DSCYF demoted Thompson to a teaching position. Thompson was not allowed to contest the demotion. Thompson lacked the necessary special education certifications for her new position. Porter recommended in April 2018 that Thompson be terminated for failure to obtain special education certifications. Thompson filed a grievance. Thompson was terminated from DSCYF on July 2, 2018.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Thompson’s claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violations of her due process rights. As a former probationary employee at DSCYF, Thompson did not have a protected property interest in her employment. Thompson’s claim under the Delaware Whistleblowers’ Protection Act was dismissed because the Eleventh Amendment precluded the claim. View "Thompson v. State of Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an emergency medical resident, began working for Crozer Chester Medical Center (“CCMC”). Plaintiff signed an at-will employment agreement with CMCC and an agreement to arbitrate with Prospect Health Access Network (“Prospect”), a company that employs professionals working at hospitals. After Plaintiff was involved in a dispute with a supervisor at CMCC, who also was an employee of Prospect, Plaintiff was terminated. Plaintiff filed a discrimination complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against CMCC. CMCC moved to compel arbitration.The district court denied CMCC's motion to compel arbitration and CMCC appealed.On appeal the Third Circuit affirmed, finding that Plaintiff's agreement to arbitrate any disputes between herself and Prospect did not extend to disputes involving CMCC. View "Dina Abdurahman v. Prospect CCMC LLC" on Justia Law

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Manivannan asserts he is one of the leading materials scientists in the United States. He was hired by the federal Department of Energy (DOE) in 2005 and assigned to the National Energy Technology Laboratory. “Conflict best defined Manivannan’s time at the DOE”. He resigned following allegations of disturbing actions taken against an intern, with whom Manivannan allegedly had a sexual relationship. The allegations prompted an internal investigation and a state criminal prosecution for stalking.Manivannan has since filed several lawsuits relating to those events, including this action under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a, and the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b) and 2671–80, based on the agency’s disclosure of records to state prosecutors, its alleged negligence in conducting the internal investigation, and its refusal to return his personal property. A Magistrate dismissed those claims as precluded by the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA), 5 U.S.C. 1101 because they arose in the context of Manivannan’s federal employment. The Third Circuit reversed in part; a narrower inquiry is required. Under this inquiry, much of the conduct challenged by Manivannan, such as the internal investigation, still falls within the CSRA’s broad purview, but some conduct, such as the refusal to return property and cooperation in the state prosecution, does not. View "Manivannan v. United States Department of Energy" on Justia Law

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Fischer, a Pennsylvania resident and former FedEx security specialist, brought a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Fischer alleged FedEx misclassified her and other security specialists as exempt from the FLSA’s overtime rule and underpaid them. Two former FedEx employees, Saunders, from Maryland, and Rakowsky, from New York, submitted notices of consent, seeking to join Fischer’s collective action. Saunders and Rakowsky both worked for FedEx in their home states but, other than FedEx’s allegedly uniform nationwide employment practices, have no connection to Pennsylvania related to their claims. The district court did not allow these opt-in plaintiffs to join the suit, reasoning that, as would be true for a state court, the district court lacked specific personal jurisdiction over FedEx with respect to their’ claims.On interlocutory appeal, the Third Circuit noted a division among the circuits and held that in an FLSA collective action in federal court where the court lacks general personal jurisdiction over the defendant, all opt-in plaintiffs must establish specific personal jurisdiction over the defendant with respect to their individual claims. In this way, the specific personal jurisdiction analysis for an FLSA collective action in federal court operates the same as it would for an FLSA collective action, or any other traditional in personam suit, in state court. The out-of-state opt-in plaintiffs here cannot demonstrate their claims arise out of or relate to FedEx’s contacts with Pennsylvania. View "Fischer v. Federal Express Corp" on Justia Law

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In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Port Authority, a municipal bus and light-rail operator, required its uniformed employees to wear face masks. Initially, Port Authority was unable to procure masks for all its employees, so they were required to provide their own. Some employees wore masks bearing political or social-protest messages. Port Authority has long prohibited its uniformed employees from wearing buttons “of a political or social protest nature.” Concerned that such masks would disrupt its workplace, Port Authority prohibited them in July 2020. When several employees wore masks expressing support for Black Lives Matter, Port Authority disciplined them. In September 2020, Port Authority imposed additional restrictions, confining employees to a narrow range of masks. The employees sued, alleging that Port Authority had violated their First Amendment rights.The district court entered a preliminary injunction rescinding discipline imposed under the July policy and preventing Port Authority from enforcing its policy against “Black Lives Matter” masks. The Third Circuit affirmed. The government may limit the speech of its employees more than it may limit the speech of the public, but those limits must still comport with the protections of the First Amendment. Port Authority bears the burden of showing that its policy is constitutional. It has not made that showing. View "Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 v. Port Authority of Allegheny County" on Justia Law