Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries
Crenshaw v. Erskine College
William Crenshaw, a tenured professor of English at Erskine College, filed suit claiming he was wrongfully fired. A jury found in favor of Dr. Crenshaw and awarded him $600,000. However, after review of the College's appeal, the South Carolina Supreme Court determined the trial court properly granted Erskine's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict because, as a matter of law, Erskine did not breach its contract with Dr. Crenshaw. View "Crenshaw v. Erskine College" on Justia Law
Salter v. Quality Carriers, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a putative class action against Quality, alleging that Quality failed to provide truck drivers with meal breaks, rest periods, overtime wages, minimum wages, and reimbursement for necessary expenditures as required by California law. After Quality removed to federal court, the district court granted plaintiff's motion to remand to state court.The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's remand order and held that plaintiff challenged the form, not the substance, of Quality's showing, and the form of that showing was sufficient under the panel's case law. In this case, because the amount in controversy was not clear from plaintiff's complaint, Quality submitted a declaration to show that more than $5 million was in controversy. The panel explained that Quality only needed to include a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold. Therefore, the district court erred in treating plaintiff's attack on Quality's presentation as a factual, rather than facial, challenge. View "Salter v. Quality Carriers, Inc." on Justia Law
Kirilenko-Ison v. Board of Education of Danville Independent Schools
Two nurses, employed by the Board of Education, claim that the School Board retaliated against them for advocating for the rights of students who are disabled within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701; and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act; and that the Board violated the Kentucky Whistleblower Act by retaliating against them for reporting a parent’s suspected child neglect to a state agency. One plaintiff also claimed that the School Board failed to accommodate her disability and constructively discharged her, in violation of the ADA and the KCRA. The district court granted the Board summary judgment.The Sixth Circuit reversed as to the retaliation claims under the ADA, Section 504, and the KCRA. A jury could “reasonably doubt” the Board’s explanation for its actions and find that it acted, at least in part, because of the protected advocacy. The court affirmed as to the whistleblower claims; the plaintiffs only allege that they reported a mother of possible neglect and do not allege that they reported any violation of law by their employer to a state agency. The court affirmed as to the individual claim for failure to accommodate disabilities. The nurse failed to provide any documentation about her disability diagnosis during the interactive process. View "Kirilenko-Ison v. Board of Education of Danville Independent Schools" on Justia Law
Anthony et al. v. Datcher, et al.
Cynthia Anthony, former interim president of Shelton State Community College; William Ashley, then-president of Shelton State; and Jimmy Baker, chancellor of the Alabama Community College System ("the ACCS") (collectively, "the college defendants"), appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of Khristy Large and Robert Pressley, current instructors at Shelton State, and Scheree Datcher, a former instructor at Shelton State (collectively, "the instructor plaintiffs"). Large and Pressley were instructors in the Office Administration Department ("OAD") at Shelton State; Datcher was an OAD instructor, now retired. Under college policy, an instructor was placed into one of three groups based on the instructor's "teaching area": Group A, Group B, or Group C. After an instructor was placed into a group, the instructor was ranked within the group for salary purposes according to criteria listed in the policy. The primary issue in this case was whether the instructor plaintiffs should be placed in Group A or Group B. In 2013, Joan Davis, then-interim president of Shelton State, concluded that Datcher and Pressley should have been reclassified from Group A to Group B, contrary to their credentialing document. Datcher and Pressley received higher salaries by being reclassified to Group B. When Large was hired to be an OAD instructor in 2013, she was also placed in Group B. In 2016, Chancellor Heinrich directed Anthony, then interim president, to review instructors' classifications to make sure they were properly classified. Anthony determined the instructor plaintiffs should have been classified as Group A, in accordance with the credentialing document. Thus, she reclassified the instructor plaintiffs to Group A, which resulted in decreased salaries. The trial court entered a judgment in favor of the instructor plaintiffs, concluding that they are properly classified in Group B under the policy and ordering that the instructor plaintiffs be placed in Group B. The trial court also awarded the instructor plaintiffs backpay for the period following Anthony's reclassification, during which they were classified as Group A instead of Group B. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the placement of OAD instructors in Group A was "plainly incorrect." Because the college defendants lacked discretion to classify the instructor plaintiffs as Group A, the claims for backpay against them in their official capacities were not barred by the doctrine of State immunity. When Anthony left her position as interim president, her successor was automatically substituted for her with respect to the official-capacity claims alleged against her; judgment should not have been entered against her. Therefore, judgment was reversed insofar as it was entered against Anthony. The judgment was affirmed in all other respects. View "Anthony et al. v. Datcher, et al." on Justia Law
Marshall v. Indiana Department of Corrections
Marshall worked at the Indiana Department of Corrections for over 20 years. He received good reviews and promotions. He identified as homosexual. He reached the rank of Internal Affairs Investigator. In 2015, he was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Warden Brown issued a written reprimand. In 2016, he attended a law enforcement conference in Indianapolis. A sheriff from another county complained that Marshall became intoxicated at the conference and behaved inappropriately. Marshall denies the allegations. Later that month, Marshall and others confronted Storm—a subordinate directly under Marshall’s supervision—about Storm’s unethical disclosure of confidential investigation materials. The next day, Storm accused Marshall of sexually harassing him twice outside of work. Regional Director Osburn decided to terminate Marshall. At a meeting before the termination, someone said they should be prepared for Marshall to file a complaint with the EEOC. Osburn terminated Marshall and demoted Storm.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of Marshall’s claims of discrimination based on sexual-orientation discrimination and retaliation. Marshall’s case falters for lack of a similarly situated comparator; there were legitimate issues about whether he was meeting expectations. Marshall’s exposure of Storm’s breach of confidentiality is not protected by Title VII; retaliation for the exposure cannot be Title VII retaliation. View "Marshall v. Indiana Department of Corrections" on Justia Law
Seals v. Pearl River Resort & Casino
The Mississippi Supreme Court accepted this case on certiorari review from the Court of Appeals. Shaun Seals worked for the Pearl River Resort; he alleged he was terminated for reasons relating to a work-related injury. Donna Brolick, Pearl River Resort’s director of employment compliance, was called as a witness at the hearing before an administrative judge (AJ). Brolick testified that she was previously vice president of human resources at Pearl River Resort at the time Seals’s position was phased out and he was let go in January of 2013. Brolick further testified that in 2012 the resort changed its management. Multiple upper-level positions were eliminated or consolidated. Seals’s position as director of transportation was one of several positions that were eliminated. The Workers' Compensation Commission reversed the AJ’s order. The Commission found that Seals had reached maximum medical improvement on November 13, 2015, but failed to prove any permanent disability or loss of wage-earning capacity for two reasons. The Commission found that Seals was let go for unrelated economic reasons, noting his receipt of severance pay and other benefits as well as the testimony and evidence adduced by the Resort. Seals appealed the Commission's decision to the Court of Appeals. The appellate court held the Commission was correct in its assessment of the date of maximum medical improvement but that the Commission erred by finding Seals failed to prove any loss of wage-earning capacity. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the decision of the Commission and directed the Commission to calculate Seals’s loss of wage-earning capacity and to award corresponding compensation. The Resort petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which was granted. The Supreme Court adopted "the well-reasoned analysis of the opinion concerning maximum medical improvement," but was "constrained to reverse the Court of Appeals’ majority regarding loss of wage-earning capacity. Sufficient evidence supported the Commission’s decision that Seals had not suffered loss of wage-earning capacity." The Commission's decision was reinstated in toto. View "Seals v. Pearl River Resort & Casino" on Justia Law
Burgess v. Lithia Motors, Inc.
Evette Burgess and Lithia Motors, Inc. entered into arbitration to resolve an employment dispute. During arbitration proceedings, Burgess filed a motion with the court to terminate arbitration, alleging that Lithia and the arbitrator breached the arbitration agreement. The superior court denied Burgess’s motion, citing a lack of jurisdiction, and certified the matter for direct review, which the Washington Supreme Court granted. Under the FAA, the Supreme Court determined judicial review was limited to deciding gateway disputes, which concern enforceability of the arbitration clause, and addressing the award after arbitration. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. View "Burgess v. Lithia Motors, Inc." on Justia Law
Perficient, Inc. v. Munley
In 2019, Perficient filed suit against its former employee and his new employer, Spaulding, alleging claims including breach of contract and violations of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, and the Missouri Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The district court ruled in favor of Perficient, concluding that the employee violated the covenant-not-to-compete provision in his employment contract. The district court then granted permanent injunctive relief of short duration. The employee and Spaulding timely filed this interlocutory appeal but did not seek a stay of the district court’s order pending appeal. The injunction expired in May 2020 on its own, with the appeal pending and further proceedings stayed in the district court. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court's injunction has become moot and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. Furthermore, none of the traditional exceptions to mootness apply. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal. View "Perficient, Inc. v. Munley" on Justia Law
American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund v. Neshoma Orchestra and Singers, Inc.
The Fund brought this action to collect $1.1 million in withdrawal liability under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). At issue was whether arbitration was properly initiated by Neshoma in response to the suit and whether Neshoma's third-party claim against its union was preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).The Second Circuit held that the parties were bound by the Fund rules, which required Neshoma to initiate arbitration with the AAA by filing a formal request before the statutory deadline, and Neshoma failed to do so. The court also held that the district court did not err in dismissing Neshoma's third-party complaint against the Union on the pleadings as preempted by the NLRA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "American Federation of Musicians and Employers' Pension Fund v. Neshoma Orchestra and Singers, Inc." on Justia Law
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. National Labor Relations Board
The Fifth Circuit denied the union's petition for review and held that Entergy's transmission and distribution dispatchers are "supervisors" and thus excluded from the National Labor Relations Act's collective bargaining protections. The court held that the union waived its argument about dispatchers' assignment power, barring the court's review of the issue. The court also held that substantial evidence supported the Board's determination that dispatchers are supervisors because they assign field employees to places using independent judgment. The court rejected the union's challenge to the Board's independent judgment conclusion and held that the Board's most recent decision demonstrates that its decision was based on the complete record, including the evidence that previously led it to the opposite conclusion on dispatchers' supervisory status; the evidence is sufficient to establish that the dispatchers' prioritization decisions involve independent judgment and meet the statutory definition; and the Board did not err when it failed to address the fact that dispatchers do not assess the skills of field employees. Accordingly, the court affirmed the Board's judgment. View "International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law