Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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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

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The contracts between the Drivers and Joseph Cory, a motor carrier business, purported to establish that the Drivers would work as independent contractors. The Drivers claim the realities of the relationship made them employees under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA), 820 ILCS 115/1–115/15. The contracts expressly permitted Joseph Cory to take “chargebacks” for any expense or liability that the Drivers had agreed to bear, including costs for “insurance, any related insurance claims, truck rentals, . . . uniforms,” and “damaged goods,” from the Drivers’ paychecks without obtaining contemporaneous consent. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of Joseph Cory’s motion to dismiss the Drivers’ suit. The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA), 49 U.S.C. 14501–06, does not preempt the IWPCA. Wage laws like the IWPCA are traditional state regulations and part of the backdrop that all business owners must face. IWPCA does not single out trucking firms and its impact is too tenuous, remote, and peripheral to fall within the scope of the FAAAA preemption clause. IWPCA’s limited regulation of ministerial aspects of the manner in which employees are paid does not have a significant impact on carrier rates, routes, or services of a motor carrier and does not frustrate the FAAAA’s deregulatory objectives. View "Lupian v. Joseph Cory Holdings LLC" on Justia Law

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Judge had been principal of Oaklyn Elementary School for about three years when she was stopped by a Pennsylvania State Trooper for failing to signal. After acknowledging she had been drinking, Judge asked the trooper to release her because she was concerned about her job. The trooper took Judge to the barracks, where she was given a test, which showed that Judge’s blood alcohol content was .332, more than four times the legal limit. Three weeks later, Judge encountered Superintendent Kelley, who had been advised by school board members about the traffic stop. Kelley wrote: If you do choose to resign then I will offer a neutral reference in the future . . . . [I]n the alternative, if you decide not to resign and DUI charges are filed against you then I will be forced to issue a written statement of charges for dismissal. Judge did not contact a lawyer, although she had retained counsel after her arrest. The next day, Judge presented a letter of resignation, while stating she “was not even charged with DUI yet.” Kelley then handed Judge court documents indicating that she had been charged. Judge sued, asserting deprivations of procedural and substantive due process, violation of equal protection, and breach of contract, based on "constructive discharge." The Third Circuit affirmed the rejection of all her claims: Judge was presented with a reasonable alternative to immediate resignation and resigned voluntarily. View "Judge v. Shikellamy School District" on Justia Law

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Palardy, a Millburn police officer, was involved in union leadership, participating in contract negotiations and disciplinary hearings for fellow officers. Gordon was responsible for Millburn's personnel matters. Palardy testified that other officers told him Gordon repeatedly disparaged Palardy’s union activity. In 2010, when Millburn was without a chief, Palardy was the department’s senior lieutenant, next in line to become a captain. During Gordon’s tenure, Millburn always selected its chief from among its captains. Palardy believed that he could be promoted to captain for a short time and then promoted to chief. Gordon stated that he did not believe any of the lieutenants had enough experience to become chief. Captain Weber became chief in 2011. Palardy stepped down as union president because he “knew" Gordon "had a problem with [his] union affiliation.” Gordon retained a consultant to study the department’s structure and vacancies and promoted Palardy to captain in 2012. Weber was scheduled to retire in 2015. In 2013, Palardy was offered a part-time position with the Board of Education. He says he believed that he would never become chief, so he retired and accepted that job offer. Palardy then sued the Township and Gordon. The district court rejected all claims. The Third Circuit reversed in part. The court should have analyzed Palardy’s speech and association claims separately; his union association deserves constitutional protection. Palardy’s speech claim must fail; he claims that Gordon retaliated against him because of his union membership, not because of his advocacy on any particular issue. View "Palardy v. Township of Millburn" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, convicted of drug offenses between 1997 and 2007, applied to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) for jobs that involved operating vehicles. Each filled out a form disclosing his criminal history and authorizing SEPTA to obtain a background check. SEPTA denied them employment. SEPTA did not send Plaintiffs copies of their background checks before it decided not to hire them, nor did it send them notices of their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which required SEPTA to send both before it denied them employment, 15 U.S.C. 1681b(b)(3). Plaintiffs filed a putative class action, which the district court dismissed for lack of standing, reasoning there was only a “bare procedural violation,” not a concrete injury in fact because Plaintiffs alleged that SEPTA denied them jobs based on their criminal history, which Plaintiffs disclosed before the background checks. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claim based on failure to provide notice of FCRA rights. Plaintiffs became aware of their FCRA rights and were able to file this lawsuit within the prescribed limitations period, so they were not injured. The court reversed the dismissal of the claim based on failure to provide copies of the consumer reports. That right exists whether the report is accurate or not; FCRA clearly expresses Congress’s “intent to make [the] injury redressable.” View "Long v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority" on Justia Law