Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries
City of Johnstown v. WCAB (Sevanick)
Appellant, the City of Johnstown ("Johnstown"), contended that a party asserting a firefighter cancer claim had to satisfy the requirements of both Section 301(c)(2) and Section 301(f) of the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act to establish a viable claim. Michael Sevanick was a firefighter for Johnstown for twenty-nine years. After retirement, he worked a a car dealership. Nine years after he retired, Sevanick was diagnosed with kidney cancer. In 2016, he filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits, alleging that his cancer was caused by exposure to a carcinogen recognized as a Group 1 carcinogen by IARC during his time as a firefighter. The Workers' Compensation Judge found in Sevanick's favor, and Johnstown appealed. The Workers' Compensation Appeals Board found that Section 301(c)(2) did not apply, but rather that the limitations of Sevanick's claim were governed by Section 301(f). The Board reasoned that Section 301(f) created a new timeframe for cancer-related occupational disease claims made by firefighters. Because Sevanick raised his claim well within 600 weeks from his last date of employment as a firefighter, the Board concluded the claim was timely. The Commonwealth Court agreed with that determination. Johnstown petitioned for Allowance of Appeal for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to determine whether a firefighter making a claim under Section 108(r) of the Act had to comply with the timing requirements of Section 301(c)(2). The Supreme Court concluded that the time for filing a Section 108(r) firefighter cancer claim was governed by Section 301(f) alone. Therefore, the Commonwealth Court's ruling was affirmed. View "City of Johnstown v. WCAB (Sevanick)" on Justia Law
Mondelez Global LLC v. National Labor Relations Board
A union filed charges of unfair labor practices against Mondelez, a manufacturer of baked goods. An administrative law judge found that the company had unlawfully discharged union officials, 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1), (3); made unilateral changes to various conditions of employment, related to short-term disability leave, union access to new hires, and employee shift schedules, section 158(a)(1), (5); and failed to timely and completely provide relevant information the union requested, section 158(a)(1), (5). The Board agreed. The Seventh Circuit granted the Board’s application for enforcement. The Board reasonably concluded that Mondelez’s justification for discharging the officials was pretextual. Substantial evidence supported the findings concerning unilateral changes to conditions of employment. It was reasonable for the Board to conclude that Mondelez failed to provide a complete record of the new hires as requested. View "Mondelez Global LLC v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
Chatman v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago
Chatman, an African-American, worked as an instructor assistant, 1988-1996. From 1997-2009, she worked as a school library assistant. In 2009, the Board of Education informed her that it was eliminating her position. Chatman learned that the Board had replaced Chatman (age 62) with a younger, non-African American employee in the same role. Chatman filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the EEOC and then sued in Illinois state court. The Board settled. In addition to a monetary payment, the district was to arrange for interviews for open positions for which Chatman was qualified. Chatman began identifying available positions but did not receive any job offer. She filed a new charge with the EEOC and later filed suit, alleging violations of Title VII’s anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation provisions, and violation of the anti-discrimination provision of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Board, finding certain claims barred by the statute of limitations, and, regarding other positions, that Chatman could not establish that she was qualified for the positions, nor could she establish that the Board’s nondiscriminatory reasons for not offering her the positions were pretextual for discrimination. Chatman could not establish that she was denied a job because of her prior protected activity. View "Chatman v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law
Winns v. Postmates Inc.
Postmates’ website enables customers to arrange for deliveries from local businesses. Beginning in March 2017, prospective couriers seeking to offer their delivery services were presented with Postmates’ Fleet Agreement when logging on for the first time. The Agreement directs a prospective courier to review a mutual arbitration provision that applies to “any and all claims between the [p]arties,” including claims related to a courier’s classification as an independent contractor, delivery fees received by a courier, and state and local wage and hour laws. It includes a “Representative Action Waiver.” There is an opt-out provision: “Arbitration is not a mandatory condition of [the courier’s] contractual relationship with Postmates. ” Plaintiffs acknowledged the Fleet Agreement. Postmates did not receive opt-out forms for any of them. In December 2017, Plaintiffs filed a putative class and representative action, alleging Labor Code violations. The trial court denied Postmates’s petition to compel arbitration of Private Attorney General Act claims for civil penalties, citing the California Supreme Court’s 2017 “Iskanian” holding that representative action waivers were unenforceable. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Postmates’ arguments that Iskanian was abrogated by subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Iskanian expressly established that the Federal Arbitration Act does not preempt state law on the enforceability of PAGA waivers. View "Winns v. Postmates Inc." on Justia Law
Mauia v. Petrochem Insulation, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying Petrochem's motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims that Petrochem violated California's wage and hour laws. Plaintiff alleged that Petrochem failed to provide adequate meal and rest periods to workers on oil platforms off the coast of California.The panel held that, under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, all law on the Outer Continental Shelf is federal, and state law is adopted only to the extent it is applicable and not inconsistent with federal law. The panel explained that, pursuant to Parker Drilling Mgmt. Servs. v. Newton, 139 S. Ct. 1881 (2019), there must be a gap in federal law before state law will apply on the Outer Continental Shelf. In this case, the panel concluded that the Fair Labor Standards Act addresses meal and rest periods, and thus there was no gap in the applicable federal law. View "Mauia v. Petrochem Insulation, Inc." on Justia Law
Bernstein v. Virgin America, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit filed an order amending its opinion, denying petitions for panel rehearing, and denying on behalf of the court petitions for rehearing en banc; and an amended opinion in which the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated the district court's judgment in a putative class action, brought by a plaintiff class of California-based flight attendants who were employed by Virgin, alleging that Virgin violated California labor laws.As a preliminary matter, the panel held that the dormant Commerce Clause does not bar applying California law. The panel reversed the district court's summary judgment to plaintiffs on their claims for minimum wage and payment for all hours worked. The panel explained that Virgin's compensation scheme based on block time did not violate California law. The panel also held that Virgin was subject to the overtime requirements of Labor Code section 510. The panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment to plaintiffs on their rest and meal break claims, rejecting Virgin's contention that federal law preempted California's meal and rest break requirement in the aviation context because federal law occupied the field. Contrary to Virgin's characterization, the panel explained that the relevant regulations defined safety duties for a minimum number of flight attendants. The panel agreed with the district court, which held that airlines could comply with both the Federal Aviation Administration safety rules and California's meal and rest break requirements by staffing longer flights with additional flight attendants in order to allow for duty-free breaks.The panel also held that the meal and rest break requirements were not preempted under the Airline Deregulation Act. Applying Ward v. United Airlines, Inc., 466 P.3d 309, 321 (Cal. 2020), the panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment to plaintiffs on their wage statement claim. The panel also affirmed the district court's summary judgment to plaintiffs on their waiting time penalties claim; affirmed the district court's decision on class certification; reversed the district court's holding that Virgin was subject to heightened penalties for subsequent violations under California's Private Attorney General Act; vacated the attorneys' fees and costs award; and remanded. View "Bernstein v. Virgin America, Inc." on Justia Law
Dondero v. Lower Milford Township
Dondero served as the Lower Milford Township Chief of Police from 2006-2016. Dondero’s relationship with the Township Supervisors was rocky. While on duty in 2015, Dondero, then the only active member of the police department, suffered temporary “serious and debilitating injuries” from entering a burning building. While incapacitated, Dondero received disability benefits under Pennsylvania’s Heart and Lung Act (HLA). He went more than two months without contacting his boss, Koplin. In 2016, Koplin requested updated medical documents to verify his continued qualification for HLA benefits. Weeks later, citing financial concerns, the Supervisors passed a resolution to disband the Township police department. From the date of Dondero’s injury through the elimination of the police department (more than nine months) the Pennsylvania State Police provided Township residents full-time police coverage at no extra cost to the Township taxpayers.Dondero filed suit, alleging First Amendment retaliation, violations of substantive and procedural due process, unlawful conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1985, municipal liability based on discriminatory Township policies, and a violation of the Pennsylvania state constitution. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the Township on all counts. No pre-termination hearing was required when the Township eliminated its police department and Dondero’s other claims lack merit. View "Dondero v. Lower Milford Township" on Justia Law
Waite v. Moto One KTM, LLC
Douglas Waite appealed an Idaho Industrial Commission (“Commission”) decision requiring him to repay unemployment benefits he received, along with interest and penalties. Waite claimed the Commission’s determination that he willfully misstated a material fact for the purpose of obtaining unemployment benefits was not supported by substantial and competent evidence and was incorrect as a matter of law. Additionally, Waite argued the Commission erred when it concluded that Idaho Code section 72-1366(12) required him to repay the unemployment benefits he received. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s decision and order. View "Waite v. Moto One KTM, LLC" on Justia Law
Western Bagel Co., Inc. v. Superior Court
The Court of Appeal exercised its discretion to construe Western Bagel's appeal as a petition for writ of mandate and granted the petition, directing the trial court to enter a new order compelling the parties to arbitrate their dispute via binding arbitration in accordance with the terms of their arbitration agreement.In this case, the trial court found that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) governs the parties' arbitration agreement, concluded that the inconsistency between the Spanish and English severability clauses creates an ambiguity regarding whether the parties consented to binding or nonbinding arbitration, resolved this ambiguity against Western Bagel pursuant to the constructive canon of contra proferentem, and ordered the parties to arbitrate their dispute on a nonbinding basis.Upon reaching the merits of Western Bagel's writ petition, the court concluded that the FAA preempted the trial court's use of contra proferentem. Assuming arguendo there is an ambiguity regarding whether the parties consented to binding or nonbinding arbitration, the court employed the FAA's default rule that any ambiguities about the scope of an arbitration agreement must be resolved in favor of arbitration as envisioned by the FAA, a fundamental attribute of which is a binding arbitral proceeding. View "Western Bagel Co., Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
Smith v. Professional Transportation,Inc.
Smith worked for PTI, a company that transports railroad crews to and from their workplaces. Believing that her position was misclassified under the Fair Labor Standards Act and that she was not receiving proper overtime wages, she filed a collective action 29 U.S.C. 216(b). Unlike a class action under FRCP 23(b)(3), an FLSA collective action requires group members to affirmatively opt-in to participate. Her suit was within the two-year limitation period. The district court’s docket sheet shows numerous putative group members consenting to opt-in.PTI noted that Smith had not filed anything except her complaint indicating that she herself wished to participate in the group action. The court held that Smith’s group action could not “commence” until such consent was filed, 29 U.S.C. 256, but the limitations periods had run. The court concluded that Smith’s complaint also failed to allege timely individual claims, and dismissed the case. Smith’s appeal concerned only her individual action. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The court erred by refusing to allow Smith to proceed on her individual claims. Read in the light most favorable to Smith, the complaint contained sufficient factual allegations related to her individual claims to put PTI on notice that she intended to sue it both in an individual and a representative capacity. She explicitly stated as much in the caption. View "Smith v. Professional Transportation,Inc." on Justia Law