Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the summary judgment entered by the superior court in favor of the University of Maine System on Plaintiff's claim of negligence based on an injury he sustained from an industrial kitchen mixer, holding that the University was immune from suit.The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the University, concluding that the University was immune under the Maine Tort Claims Act (MTCA), 14 Me. Rev. Stat. 8104-A(1)(G), because the alleged negligent act did not fall within the MTCA's exception for negligence set forth in Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 8104-A(1)(G). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the mixer did not fall within the "[o]ther machinery or equipment" exception to immunity under the MTCA. View "Badler v. University of Maine System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court concluding that the Home Improvement Act (Act), Conn. Gen. Stat. 20-418 et seq., did not apply to work performed by Defendant on Plaintiff's property, holding that Plaintiff's claim under the Act was unavailing.The trial court found in favor of Plaintiff on his claims alleging breach of contract, violations of the Act, and violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a et seq. The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiff. The appellate court affirmed with respect to the breach of contract count but reversed with respect to the remaining claims, ruling that the work performed by Defendant fell within the new home exception of the Act, and therefore, Plaintiff failed to state a claim under both the Act and CUTPA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the work performed by Defendant fell within the new home exception. View "Winakor v. Savalle" on Justia Law

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The University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP) is a defined benefit plan. In 1999, the University’s President addressed the recruitment and retention impacts of federal tax law: for employees hired after a certain date, a “maximum compensation amount that can be used for retirement calculations”—then, $160,000—such that employees earning more than the maximum “cannot receive benefits based on the full compensation that UCRP would otherwise use for benefit calculations.” The President recommended that the University take advantage of recent amendments to the Internal Revenue Code making it possible for public institutions to “mitigate” the limitations. The Regents adopted the 1999 Resolution, establishing restoration plans. The President’s Office drafted a Plan amendment, Appendix E, to implement the Resolution. Appendix E provided for Regents’ unlimited right to amend or terminate Appendix E,. In 2007, following a moratorium, the IRS approved Appendix E. The University did not implement Appendix E.Retired employees sued on behalf of themselves and similarly situated Plan members who retired between January 1, 2000, and March 29, 2012, alleging impairment of contract, promissory estoppel, equitable estoppel, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and breach of the covenant of good faith. The court of appeal affirmed the rejection of those claims. The 1999 Resolution expressly contemplated further review and action before any employee benefit was provided, and did not clearly evince an intent to create contractual rights. View "Broome v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was an engineer for the City of Pharr, Texas. When his supervisors asked him to sign a document he did not believe was true, Plaintiff refused. Ultimately, he was terminated and filed this case against the city and two of Plaintiff's supervisors.Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming he was entitled to qualified immunity. The district court held a hearing and denied Defendant's motion. Two days later, the court entered a minute order; however, no written order was attached. Exactly 412 days later, Defendant appealed the denial of his motion for summary judgment, claiming that the court's oral ruling was not appealable and that he is technically appealing the court's refusal to rile on his motion.The Fifth Circuit rejected Defendant's reasoning. A bench ruling can be effective without a written order and triggers appeal deadlines if it is final. Here, the court's order was final. While the district court's ruling did not comply with Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 58, an alternate interpretation would give Defendant infinite time to appeal. View "Ueckert v. Guerra" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs worked as property damage investigators for OSP Prevention Group. After their employment with OSP ended, Plaintiffs brought Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) claims against the company and its owner (collectively, “OSP”) for unpaid overtime wages. The district court granted summary judgment in OSP’s favor after concluding that Plaintiff fit within an FLSA exemption covering “administrative” employees. They both contend that they weren’t administrative employees but instead were “production” employees who performed the core service that OSP sold to its clients: investigating damage to property.   The Eleventh Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court finding that OSP has failed to show that the FLSA’s administrative exemption applies to Plaintiffs. The court explained that Plaintiffs engaged in OSP’s core function of damage investigations. Given the nature of their employer’s business, their investigative factfinding duties amounted to production work. Those duties did not involve “work directly related to [OSP’s] management or general business operations.” 29 C.F.R. Section 541.200(a)(2). The court wrote it need not address whether their work met the additional administrative exemption requirement of “includ[ing] the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.” Section  541.200(a)(3). Both requirements must be met for the exemption to apply. View "Philip Fowler, et al v. OSP Prevention Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division denying coverage for Claimant's thoracic spine treatment, holding that the Medical Commission's decision was supported by the hearing evidence.After the Division denied Claimant's compensation coverage for his thoracic spine treatment Claimant appealed. The Compensation Commission upheld the denial of coverage following a contested pain hearing, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the record contained substantial evidence to support the Commission's findings that Claimant's thoracic spine injury was unrelated to his work-related accident; and (2) Claimant failed to meet his burden of proving that his thoracic spine evaluation and treatment were compensable under the "rule out" doctrine. View "Hart v. State of Wyoming, ex rel. Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division" on Justia Law

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Iowa Northern Railway Company (“Iowa Northern”) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (the “Union”) are both parties to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) that is subject to the Railway Labor Act (“RLA”). In 2019, Iowa Northern offered to increase the pay of unionized Train and Engine employees to $300 to recruit additional employees. The Union members rejected the pay increase. Subsequently, Iowa Northern served a Section 6 notice on the Union, proposing changes to the CBA. When the Union failed to respond, Iowa Northern provide notice it intended to resort to self-help, and then increased the pay rate to $300 per day.The Union then filed this case, claiming that Iowa Northern violated the RLA by unlawfully resorting to self-help and seeking a preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo prior to the pay-rate changes. The district court denied the Union's request, finding that it did not meet its burden of establishing the likelihood of success on the merits. The Union appealed.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a Union's requested preliminary injunction, finding that the Defendant railway operator did not violate the Railway Labor Act when it resorted to self-help. The court explained the Union's "prolonged foot-dragging and refusal to respond on an issue of vital importance to Iowa Northern (and to the Union’s members) raise substantial doubt that the Union’s status quo claim will survive." View "Intl Assn of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail & Trans v. Iowa Northern Railway Company" on Justia Law

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St. Vincent Hospital adopted a COVID-19 vaccine requirement. Employees had until November 12, 2021 to get vaccinated unless they received a medical or religious exemption. In reviewing exemption requests, St. Vincent considered the employee’s position and amount of contact with others, the current health and safety risk posed by COVID, and the cost and effectiveness of other safety protocols. Dr. Halczenko treated gravely ill children, including those suffering from or at risk of organ failure.St. Vincent denied Halczenko’s request for religious accommodation on the ground that “providing an exemption to a Pediatric Intensivist working with acutely ill pediatric patients poses more than a de minim[i]s burden to the hospital because the vaccine provides an additional level of protection in mitigating the risk associated with COVID.” Halczenko and four other St. Vincent employees filed an EEOC complaint. The others—a nurse practitioner and three nurses, including two in the pediatric ICU—were granted religious accommodations. St. Vincent terminated Halczenko’s employment. Halczenko attributes his lack of success in finding new work to his non-compete agreement with St. Vincent, his preference not to move his family, and the limited demand for an unvaccinated physician in his specialty. In a purported class action, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of preliminary relief, concluding that Halczenko had shown neither irreparable harm nor an inadequate remedy at law. View "Halczenko v. Ascension Health, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA; Gov. Code 3500) requires public agencies to meet and confer (bargain) in good faith with recognized employee organizations regarding changes to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. The Associations filed unfair practice complaints alleging the County violated the MMBA when its board of supervisors placed Measure P on the November 2020 ballot. The measure, which the voters ultimately approved, amends the Sonoma County Code to enhance the investigative and oversight authority of the County’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO) over the Sonoma County Sheriff-Coroner's office.The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), which has jurisdiction over MMBA claims, agreed, finding that, before placing the measure on the ballot, the County was required to bargain with the Associations. The court of appeal reversed in part and remanded. PERB failed to consider whether the decision to place certain Measure P provisions on the ballot significantly and adversely affected the working conditions of the Associations’ members and exceeded its authority by issuing a remedial order declaring voter-approved Measure P provisions void and unenforceable. View "County of Sonoma v. Public Employment Relations Board" on Justia Law

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Several public-sector employees filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 seeking to recover any agency fees taken from their paychecks by the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association and Santa Clara County. Specifically, Plaintiffs sought a refund for fees paid before the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Janus v. Am. Fed’n of State, Cnty., & Mun. Emps., Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018) (prohibiting public-sector unions from collecting compulsory agency fees).In the district court, Defendants successfully moved for summary judgment, claiming they were entitled to a good-faith defense because their actions were expressly authorized by then-applicable United States Supreme Court law and state law. Plaintiffs appealed.On appeal, Plaintiffs acknowledge that Danielson v. Inslee, 945 F.3d 1096 (9th Cir. 2019) precludes their claim against the Union. The Ninth Circuit held that the rule announced in Danielson also applies to municipalities because "precedent recognizes that municipalities are generally liable in the same way as private corporations in sec. 1983 actions." Thus, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' claim against both the Union and the County. View "SEAN ALLEN V. SANTA CLARA CNTY CORR. POA" on Justia Law