Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs filed suit against their former employer, Petroplex, alleging claims for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Plaintiffs were former pipe welders for Petroplex and they claimed that they worked more than forty hours per week for the company without overtime pay. At issue on appeal was whether plaintiffs were considered employees or independent contractors. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of plaintiffs, holding that plaintiffs were employees instead of independent contractors. The court held that the district court did not clearly err by determining that the control, investment, opportunity for profit and loss, and permanency Silk factors all weighed in favor of employee status. View "Hobbs v. Petroplex Pipe and Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, six Travis County Sheriff's Office detectives, filed suit alleging that they were entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The county argued that plaintiffs were exempt as both executive and highly-compensated employees. The district court granted judgment for plaintiffs. Then the district court later ruled as a matter of law that plaintiffs were paid a salary, vacated the jury's finding on the first requirement of the exemptions, and granted plaintiffs' request for a new trial. Plaintiffs sought reconsideration, contending that they had conditionally asked for a new trial on the management issue, an element of the executive exemption and first-responder exception, not on the office-work issue, which is part of the highly-compensated-employee exemption. Plaintiffs then moved for reentry of judgment in their favor. Because plaintiffs did not want a new trial, the district court entered a final judgment. Rejecting the parties' jurisdictional challenges, the Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that it had appellate jurisdiction. The court also held that plaintiffs' failure to challenge the timeliness of the Rule 50(b) motion in the district court means that they have forfeited that objection, and the district court had jurisdiction to decide the motion for judgment as a matter of law. The court explained that a new trial was needed to answer the additional questions about whether plaintiffs were exempt and, by prevailing on a Rule 50(b) motion, the county did not somehow lose its right to assert its defenses. On the merits, the court held that the district court properly held as a matter of law that the county paid plaintiffs on a salary basis. Although the ruling did not fully resolve whether plaintiffs were entitled to overtime pay, the court stated that years of litigation never answered that ultimate question. View "Escribano v. Travis County" on Justia Law

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The union appealed the district court's order denying the union's motion to compel arbitration of the grievances regarding early retirement benefits for employees terminated as the result of a plant closing. Applying de novo review, the Eighth Circuit held that the grievance, on its face, stated a claim that Trane violated a specific provision of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) by not providing a bargained-for benefit, a benefit Trane reconfirmed in the Memorandum of Agreement. The court held that this grievance involved the interpretation of the CBA and was therefore arbitrable. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment as to the bridge grievance. However, the court affirmed the order denying the union's motion to compel arbitration of the temporary pension supplement benefit grievance, holding that it was not arbitrable because it was governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, rather than the Labor Management Relations Act or the CBA. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "International Union v. Trane U.S. Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the fire chief and the city after he was terminated from his position as a driver/pump operator at the fire department because he objected to having TDAP vaccinations based on religious grounds. Plaintiff was given a choice between two accommodations: transfer to a code enforcement job that did not require a vaccination, or wear a respirator mask during his shifts, keep a log of his temperature, and submit to additional medical testing. When plaintiff did not accept either accommodation, he was fired by the fire chief for insubordination. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants on all of plaintiff's claims. In regard to plaintiff's claim of retaliation in violation of Title VII and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA), the court held that the city provided a reasonable accommodation by offering to transfer plaintiff to the code enforcement position in the department. In regard to plaintiff's Title VII and TCHRA retaliation claims, the court held that the city had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for plaintiff's termination: plaintiff's defiance of a direct order by failing to select an accommodation to the TDAP vaccine policy. In regard to plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims that defendants violated his First Amendment Free Exercise rights, the court held that plaintiff's right to freely exercise his religious beliefs was not burdened by the respirator requirement. View "Horvath v. City of Leander" on Justia Law

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An employee of the city struck and killed a pedestrian while the employee, driving his own car, was driving to work. On the day of the accident, the employee was driving to his workplace at the Hyperion Treatment Plant, a job that did not require him to be in the field or use his personal automobile for his employment. The city moved for summary judgment, arguing that the coming and going rule insulated it from liability. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to the city, holding that plaintiffs failed to adduce sufficient facts upon which they could establish a triable issue of fact on their claim that the employee's accident was a foreseeable event arising from or relating to his employment for the city at its water plant laboratory. In this case, nothing about the enterprise for which the city employed the employee made his hitting a pedestrian while commuting a foreseeable risk of this enterprise. Therefore, the going and coming rule was created for this type of situation and was applicable in this case, precluding plaintiffs' claim of vicarious liability against the city. View "Bingener v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court's order granting a motion to dismiss filed by the Arkansas Governor and Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission Deputy Director and dismissing Plaintiff's claims pursuant to the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act, Ark. Code Ann. 21-1-601 et seq., as well as the state and federal constitutions, holding that sovereign immunity barred Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their official capacities but was no defense to Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their individual capacities. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he was terminated because he refused to violate state policy. The circuit court dismissed all claims against Defendants solely on the basis of sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) sovereign immunity precluded Plaintiff's official capacity claims; but (2) the circuit court erred when it found that sovereign immunity barred Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their individual capacities. View "Harris v. Hutchison" on Justia Law

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The Delaware Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline (the “Board”) reprimanded Dr. Bruce Grossinger, for violating various regulations governing the use of controlled substances for the treatment of pain. Specifically, the Board adopted the detailed report and recommendation of a Division of Professional Regulation hearing officer, who had found that Dr. Grossinger, in his care of a heroin-addicted patient (“Michael”), had not complied with the Board’s rules and regulations. The Board found that Dr. Grossinger failed to, among other things, document Michael’s history of substance abuse, discuss with Michael the risks and benefits of treatment with controlled substances, order urine samples or require pill counts, and keep accurate and complete treatment records. After a hearing, the hearing officer recommended that the Board find Dr. Grossinger guilty of unprofessional conduct and discipline him by placing his medical license on probation for six months and requiring him to complete additional medical education and pay a fine. Board adopted the hearing officer’s findings but reduced Dr. Grossinger’s discipline from probation to a letter of reprimand. Dr. Grossinger appealed the Board’s decision to the Superior Court, which reversed on all but one of the five findings. The Superior Court’s reversal of the Board rested on several legal conclusions, including that some of the regulations that Dr. Grossinger was said to have violated were unconstitutionally vague as applied to him, that expert testimony was required to establish the standard of care under the regulations, and that Dr. Grossinger’s due process rights were violated because the Board relied on evidence - its own expertise - outside the record. The parties cross- appealed: the Board appealed the Superior Court’s reversal of all but one of the findings; and Dr. Bruce Grossinger appealed the Superior Court’s failure to reverse the final finding. The Delaware Supreme Court disagreed with the Superior Court’s reversal of the Board’s decision and, therefore, reversed. View "Delaware Bd. of Med. Licensure & Discipline v. Grossinger" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the trial court's judgment in an action brought by former Shipcom employees, alleging overtime claims under the Federal Labor Standards Act. After plaintiffs were awarded both actual and liquidated damages for unpaid overtime, Shipcom appealed. The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Shipcom's motion to open and close. In this case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by deciding that the jury should hear the beginning of the story first, even though the legal effect of the beginning was not in dispute. The court affirmed the district court's admission of evidence related to the internal audit and reclassification. Furthermore, even if the district court abused its discretion in admitting evidence of the internal audit and reclassification, Shipcom has failed to demonstrate that the admission of this evidence affected its substantial rights. View "Novick v. Shipcom Wireless, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1982, Miles began working with SCHRA, a Tennessee public nonprofit organization that provides services to low-income individuals. After promotions and reassignments, Miles became Community Services Director in 2012, reporting directly to the Executive Director and responsible for overseeing six programs. Each of these programs, except for DUI school, has its own Director. In 2011, the Tennessee Comptroller, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General investigated SCHRA and discovered several deficiencies, including some within programs directly supervised by Miles. The Executive Director resigned. Two employees admitted to wrongdoing and were terminated. The new Executive Director, Rosson, subsequently terminated Miles, “at-will,” “without notice and without reason.” Miles sent emails to Rosson and other SCHRA employees saying that she believed SCHRA fired her because of the nefarious efforts of her subordinates and that she intended vindictively to sue SCHRA to impose legal defense costs on the agency and the individuals. Miles filed a charge of age discrimination with the EEOC. SCHRA then provided Miles with reasons for her termination: her implication in misconduct by the Comptroller’s report and her toxic relationship with her subordinates. Miles sued. During discovery, SCHRA reaffirmed those reasons. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act only prevents employers from terminating an employee because of such individual’s age, 29 U.S.C. 623(a)(1). Miles failed to establish a genuine dispute as to pretext. View "Miles v. South Central Human Resource Agency, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lett worked as an investigator for Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability. In 2016, Lett was investigating police involvement in a particular civilian shooting. The Chief Administrator, Fairley, directed Lett to include in the report a finding that police officers had planted a gun on the shooting victim. Lett refused because he did not believe that the evidence supported that finding. Lett raised his concerns with Fairley’s deputy, who spoke with Fairley. Soon after, Lett was removed from his investigative team, then removed from investigative work, and ultimately assigned to janitorial duties. Fairley opened an internal investigation that concluded that Lett had violated the office’s confidentiality policy. Fairley ordered that Lett be fired. Lett initiated a grievance through his union. The arbitrator ordered the office to reinstate Lett with back pay and to expunge his record. Fairley immediately placed Lett on administrative leave with pay. Lett was assigned on paper to the Police Department’s FOIA office but was not allowed to return to work. Lett sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging First Amendment retaliation for his refusal to write a false report and Monell liability for the city and Fairley in her official capacity. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims. Lett spoke pursuant to his official duties and not as a private citizen when he refused to alter the report; the First Amendment does not apply. View "Lett v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law