Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

by
Brendel Construction appealed a district court judgment affirming an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) decision to hold Brendel Construction liable for unpaid workers compensation premiums and penalties attributed to a subcontractor’s account, and determining Randy Brendel was personally liable for unpaid workers compensation premiums. North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI) cross-appealed the district court’s order dismissing WSI’s cross-appeal from the decision of the ALJ as untimely filed. WSI identified Brendel Construction as the general contractor for a roofing project in Bismarck where crew members were reported to be working without fall protection. WSI’s investigation of the report regarding the lack of fall protection expanded into an investigation of workers compensation coverage. WSI ultimately concluded that two of Brendel Construction’s subcontractors, Alfredo Frias and Daniel Alvidrez, were uninsured and not providing North Dakota workers compensation coverage for their employees. WSI requested, but did not receive, information from Brendel Construction regarding the subcontractors’ income. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the imposition of liability against Brendel Construction for unpaid workers compensation premiums and penalties, and affirmed the imposition of liability against Randy Brendel. The Court reversed and remanded the dismissal of WSI’s cross-appeal as untimely filed. View "Brendel Construction v. WSI" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) against KLLM over a minimum wage labor dispute. The district court granted plaintiffs' certification request, applying the widely used Lusardi test, a two-step method for certifying a collective.The Fifth Circuit declined to delineate the district court's notice-sending discretion under the Lusardi test, rejecting Lusardi's two-step certification rubric. The court explained that Lusardi has no anchor in the FLSA's text or in Supreme Court precedent interpreting it. The court noted that the word "certification," much less "conditional certification," appears nowhere in the FLSA. Instead, the court embraced interpretive first principles: (1) the FLSA's text, specifically section 216(b), which declares (but does not define) that only those "similarly situated" may proceed as a collective; and (2) the Supreme Court's admonition that while a district court may "facilitat[e] notice to potential plaintiffs" for case-management purposes, it cannot signal approval of the merits or otherwise stir up litigation. The court concluded that these are the only binding commands on district courts. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's grant of conditional certification and remanded for further proceedings. View "Swales v. KLLM Transport Services, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Pelcha began working as a bank teller in 2005. A new supervisor, Sonderman, began overseeing Pelcha in 2016 and required her direct reports to submit written requests for any time out of the office by the middle of the month before the month of the requested time off. In July 2016, Pelcha planned to take time off from work but did not use the written request form. She told Sonderman that she was “not filling [the request out] because [she didn’t] have to.” Pelcha nonetheless completed the form, placing it in Sonderman’s office on the day before her time off. The next day, Sonderman spoke with CEO Niesen, at a regularly scheduled management meeting, about Pelcha’s failure to submit the form, Pelcha's negative attitude, and failure to timely complete tasks. Niesen stated that he had no tolerance for insubordination and told everyone he intended to fire Pelcha. He asked Sonderman to memorialize the chain of events in a memo. Days later, Niesen terminated Pelcha’s employment and informed her that it was because of her insubordination.Pelcha, then 47 years old, sued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 623(a)(1). The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her claims. Nielsen’s comments about another employee were irrelevant to Pelcha’s termination. Pelcha’s insubordination was a legitimate reason for the termination and was not pretextual. Pelcha failed to establish disparate treatment. View "Pelcha v. MW Bancorp, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's order finding that the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by firing an employee for engaging in activities protected under the Act.The court held that the Board is entitled to summary enforcement of its order remedying the employer's Section 8(a)(1) violation with respect to the no-solicitation rule. The court also held that the employer waived issues related to the employee's engagement in protected activities and the Board's finding that management had knowledge of the employee's protected conduct. The court concluded that substantial evidence supports the Board's finding of animus, and substantial evidence supports the Board's finding that the employer's purported reasons for firing the employee were pretextual. Therefore, the employer has failed to establish that it would have fired the employee absent his engagement in protected conduct. Finally, the court upheld the Board's order directing the employer to offer the employee full reinstatement and backpay. View "Cordua Restaurants, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the circuit court's order affirming the final decision of the Employees' Retirement System (ERS) Board and dismissing Appellant's appeal, holding that Appellant was entitled to present argument on his exceptions to the ERS Board and to have the Board consider the merits of his exceptions.The ERS denied Appellant's application for service-connected disability retirement benefits after suffering a back injury. ERS subsequently received a document filed by Appellant entitled "Petitioner's Proposed Decision." The ERS Board later issued a final decision concluding that Appellant's filing did not constitute exceptions and confirmed its denial of his application. On appeal, Appellant argued that the ERS Board's proposed decision did not automatically become a final decision because he had timely filed exceptions. The circuit court and ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court remanded this case to the ERS Board for further proceedings, holding that Appellant's "Petitioner's Proposed Decision" filing satisfied the standard for exceptions and that Appellant was entitled to present argument on his exceptions. View "Watanabe v. Employees’ Retirement System" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court on remand appointing an employee's "Form 50" physician and clarifying that it was not ordering a review of the employee's treatment regimen, holding that the order complied with this Court's mandate.Employee injured her back in the course and scope of her employment. As part of a settlement between Employee and her employer and its insurer (collectively, Employer), Employee completed a Form 50 anticipating that Employer would pay for treatment of Employee's injuries by her Form 50 physician. Employee chose a Nebraska doctor to serve as her Form 50 physician, but when she moved to Florida, she informed Employer that she had chosen a Florida doctor as her new Form 50 physician. Employer subsequently stopped paying for Employee's treatment. The compensation court ordered Employer to pay Employee's medical bills. The Supreme Court reversed, ruling that Employer was not required to pay for Employee's Florida medical treatment because Employee had not followed the statutory procedures to change her Form 50 physician. On remand, the compensation court appointed the Florida doctor as Employee's Form 50 physician. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the compensation court did not err in its order on remand. View "Rogers v. Jack's Supper Club" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Omni, alleging (1) pay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Texas Labor Code, and the Equal Pay Act; (2) promotional discrimination under Title VII and the Texas Labor Code; and (3) retaliation for filing a charge with the EEOC and for taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Title VII, the Texas Labor Code, and the Equal Pay Act. The district court granted summary judgment to Omni.In regard to the pay discrimination claims as it pertains to the three men who previously held the same position as plaintiff yet were paid more, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court erred in concluding that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case. Rather, plaintiff showed that she held the same position as two other employees did, at the same hotel, just a few years after they did, and that she was paid less than they were. The court also concluded that Omni failed to set forth a non-discriminatory reason for that pay disparity. Therefore, the court reversed in part and remanded. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiff's Equal Pay Act claim insofar as it relies on other unnamed male food and beverage directors from different Omni hotels, but remanded for a determination of whether plaintiff can establish a prima facie case with respect to those comparators under Title VII and the Texas Labor Code.In regard to the promotional discrimination claims, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Omni because plaintiff withdrew her name from consideration and understood that she would have been given the offer if she reconsidered. In this case, plaintiff was not rejected by Omni. Rather, she rejected the opportunity from Omni. In regard to the retaliation claims, plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation because she could not demonstrate an adverse employment action. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to establish adverse employment action in response to her requesting and taking FMLA leave; plaintiff puts forth no evidence that the deletion of the computer files was in any way motivated by retaliation; and plaintiff's constructive discharge claim failed. View "Lindsley v. TRT Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this workers compensation case, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-510e(a)(2)(B) was unconstitutional on its face, holding that the statute is constitutional.Appellant was injured during his employment and filed for workers compensation benefits. A doctor rated Appellant's permanent partial impairment using the Sixth Edition of the American Medical Association Guides, as adopted by the Kansas Workers Compensation Act. See section 44-510e(a)(2)(B). The court of appeals reversed, holding that the statute's use of the Sixth Edition was unconstitutional on its face because it changed the essential legal standard for determining functional impairment. The Supreme Court reversed after construing the ambiguous statutory language to avoid the constitutional question, holding that the language of section 44-510e(a)(2)(B) referencing the Sixth Edition can reasonably be interpreted as a guideline rather than a mandate. View "Johnson v. U.S. Food Service" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that a claim for wrongful termination of employment could not be asserted under the Teacher Tenure Act, Tenn. Code Ann. 49-5-501 to -515, by classifying a tenured teacher's resignation as a constructive discharge rather than a voluntary quit.After Plaintiff, a tenured teacher, quit her teaching position she sued for wrongful termination under the Teacher Tenure Act, alleging that she was constructively discharged. The amended complaint also asserted other claims. The trial court granted summary judgment against Plaintiff. The appellate court reversed the trial court's dismissal of Plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim under the Act, concluding that the doctrine of constructive discharge could give rise to a wrongful termination claim under the Act. The court of appeals otherwise affirmed the trial court. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) constructive discharge is not applicable to wrongful termination claims under the Act; and (2) the lower courts properly dismissed Plaintiff's remaining claims. View "Lemon v. Williamson County Schools" on Justia Law

by
Kubala worked for Trumbull County as a “fiduciary” employee; he was not under civil-service rules and could participate in partisan political activities. Kubala reported to Smith, who holds an elected position. Kubala claims that Smith sexually harassed him and created a hostile work environment related to Kubala’s supposed homosexuality. Kubala told Laukart, the office manager, about Smith’s comments. Laukart replied that Smith could not be controlled. Kubala claims that Kubala running for political office against Smith’s wife and his attendance at certain political functions triggered an adverse employment action. Smith allegedly told Kubala not to attend certain political functions. Kubala testified that Smith’s attorney asked Kubala if he wanted to change his job status to “classified” because he would be “protected.” Kubala interpreted it as a threat of retaliation because the change would end his involvement in local politics. Kubala’s resignation letter stated he was resigning because the work environment was harming his physical and mental health. Kubala was under the care of a physician and a therapist to cope with the harassment and high blood pressure, which Kubala attributed to his harassment.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Kubala’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims. Kubala failed to show that Smith violated his First Amendment rights because the alleged threat is too ambiguous. The district court lacked supplemental jurisdiction over Kubala’s state sexual-harassment claim, which shares no common nucleus of operative fact with his constitutional claim. View "Kubala v. Smith" on Justia Law