Sunday, November 06, 2011

Decisions of interest concerning Labor and Employment Law


Decisions of interest concerning Labor and Employment Law
Source: Justia November 5, 2011

Court: U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 09-4061
November 3, 2011
Judge: Sack
Areas of Law: Class Action, ERISA, Labor & Employment Law
This appeal and cross-appeal concerned the pension benefits owed to plaintiff, a retired carpenter, and members of a class he purported to represent. Plaintiff asserted that the pension fund was guilty of seven violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., and sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The court agreed with the district court that defendants' interpretations of certain plan language was arbitrary and capricious and therefore affirmed the district court's award of summary judgment to plaintiff on his individual claims for miscalculation of pension benefits. The court concluded, however, contrary to the district court, that the six-year statute of limitations applicable to plaintiff's and each other putative class member's ERISA claims began to run when each pensioner knew or should have known that defendants had miscalculated the amount of his pension benefits, and that he was being underpaid as a result. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's judgments certifying the plaintiff class, granting summary judgment to the class, and granting prejudgment interest to the class members. The court remanded for further factfinding with regard to when each putative class member became, or should have become, aware of his alleged injury so as to begin the running of the statute of limitations as applied to him.




Court: U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-1425
October 31, 2011
Judge: Chin
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Labor & Employment Law
Plaintiff, employed as a security officer by defendant, contended that he was sexually harassed by a co-worker and brought an action against defendant, asserting claims for constructive discharge, hostile environment sexual harassment, and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq. The court held that the district court properly granted defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law dismissing the retaliation claim because a reasonable employee in plaintiff's situation would not have been deterred from engaging in protected activities. The district court also correctly held that, even assuming the jury could have reasonably found plaintiff on his retaliation claim, defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the award of punitive damages because a reasonable jury could find that defendant sought to, and did, address defendant's claims in good faith. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.




Court: U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 11-55563
October 31, 2011
Judge: Reinhardt
Areas of Law: Labor & Employment Law
Petitioner sought injunctive relief in district court pursuant to section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. 160(j), alleging that CHHP was a successor employer to Karykeion and that a majority of CHHP's registered nurses had been members of the California Nurses Association under Karykeion. Petitioner therefore alleged that CHHP's continuing failure to bargain in good faith with the chosen representative of its employees violated sections 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(5) of the NLRA. The district court granted petitioner's petition and issued a preliminary injunction, applying the test established in Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction and affirmed the order.




Court: U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-16150
November 3, 2011
Judge: Tashima
Areas of Law: Class Action, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law
Plaintiffs, current or former "franchisee" shuttle van drivers for SuperShuttle in various parts of California, filed a putative class action alleging that plaintiffs were misclassified as "independent contractors" when, in truth, they were "employees" under California law. Plaintiffs alleged that they had consequently been deprived of the full protections provided to employees under the California Labor Code, including overtime and minimum wages, reimbursement of business expenses and deductions wrongfully taken from wages, and meal period pay. The district court granted SuperShuttle's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' state law claims holding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that the third prong in San Diego Gas & Electric Co. v. Superior Court (Covalt) was not satisfied, the California Public Utilities Code 1759 was not implicated, and the district court retained subject matter jurisdiction over the case. On remand, the district court could determine whether the SuperShuttle drivers were employees or independent contractors under California law without hindering or interfering with PUC decisions or policies.




Court: U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 11-3003
October 27, 2011
Judge: Baldock
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Labor & Employment Law, Public Benefits
Plaintiff Cynthia Anderson appealed a district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant Cato Corporation on her claim of discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. A month or two after Cato terminated her employment, Plaintiff asked for a letter stating the reasons for her termination so that she could apply for public health benefits. A Cato supervisor wrote that Plaintiff "was terminated due to pregnancy related illnesses. [Plaintiff] needed off three weeks for bed rest required by a doctor. However, according to Cato policy a part time sales associate has to be release[d] if she/he needs off for longer than seven days unless she/he has been employed for 365 days. [Plaintiff] did not apply to the guidelines; therefore she was forced to be terminated." The supervisor's undisputed testimony was that Plaintiff "told me that she needed me to put on [the letter] it was because of her pregnancy." After Plaintiff filed suit, Cato moved for summary judgment. The district court determined that the letter was not direct evidence of discrimination. The court considered it "significant" that Plaintiff asked for the letter and told her supervisors what the letter should state as reasons for her termination. The court concluded that Plaintiff could establish a prima facie case for discrimination but that the evidence did not raise a disputed issue of material fact. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the letter was indeed not direct evidence of discrimination, and agreed with the district court's reasoning that Plaintiff could make a prima facie case but that summary judgment was appropriate.




Court: U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 11-5107
November 1, 2011
Judge: Matheson
Areas of Law: Labor & Employment Law
Plaintiff James Williams appealed a district court's denial of his motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) to file a complaint and have it served. In June 2011, Mr. Williams filed a complaint against his former employer, Cherokee Nation Entertainment, LLC, alleging he was terminated in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993. Plaintiff petitioned the district court for leave to proceed IFP and provided an affidavit alleging he was unemployed and disabled, and thus unable to pay the cost to file his suit. Plaintiff reported average monthly income from unemployment benefits and education assistance totaling $2,200, and monthly expenses totaling $300. Additionally, Plaintiff listed assets of $1025 and debt for unpaid medical bills. The district court determined that Plaintiff was able to pay court fees and costs and therefore denied his petition. Finding no error in the district court's ruling, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. Plaintiff also petitioned for leave to proceed IFP on appeal. The Court granted that motion based upon an updated affidavit and financial declaration Plaintiff provided on appeal.




Court: U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-8112
November 3, 2011
Judge: Gilman
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, ERISA, Labor & Employment Law
Plaintiff Dennis Carter began working as a directional driller at Pathfinder Energy Services, Inc., in December 2004. Two years later, declining health had caused a reduction in Plaintiff's workload. Pathfinder fired Plaintiff for "gross misconduct" based primarily on an altercation that he had had with a coworker and his language and attitude during a conversation with his supervisor. Plaintiff sued Pathfinder in federal district court, alleging that Pathfinder had violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). He also alleged that Pathfinder had breached his implied-in-fact employment contract. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Pathfinder on all three claims. Upon careful review, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on Plaintiff's ADA claim, but affirmed the grant of summary judgment on the remaining claims. Specifically, the Tenth Court held that "[a] reasonable jury could conclude that [Plaintiff] has made out a prima facie case of discrimination and has established that Pathfinder’s asserted justification for his firing was pretextual. At this stage of the case, that is enough." The Court remanded the case for further proceedings on the ADA claim.




Court: U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 10-3193
November 1, 2011
Judge: per curiam
Areas of Law: Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law
The agency removed plaintiff from her position based on charges of rude, disruptive, aggressive, or intimidating behavior and misrepresentation. Plaintiff denied the charges and alleged retaliation for prior Equal Employment Opportunity claims of sex discrimination. The Administrative Judge and Merit Systems Protection Board affirmed the removal. Plaintiff petitioned the EEOC for review; that agency found that the evidence supported the conclusion that her removal was not motivated by retaliatory animus. The Federal Circuit dismissed an appeal, finding that it lacked jurisdiction to review the Board's decision on the "mixed case." The case involved both a specific type of action against an agency which may be appealed to the Board and an allegation in the nature of an affirmative defense that a basis for the action was discrimination within one of the categories” listed in 5 U.S.C. 7702(a)(1)(B). Affirmative defenses of retaliation for prior EEO activity are assertions of discrimination under Title VII and within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. 7702.




Court: Arkansas Supreme Court
Docket: 11-361
November 3, 2011
Judge: Gunter
Areas of Law: Class Action, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law
Petitioners, who were all employed by Respondent as public school bus drivers or dispatchers, claimed that Respondent failed to compensate them for regular and overtime wages in weeks in which they worked more than forty hours. Petitioners filed a class-action complaint in federal district court, alleging violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act (AMWA). Respondents opposed Petitioners' motion to amend their complaint, contending the amendment would be futile because Petitioners' AMWA claims were barred by the three-year statute of limitations set forth in Ark. Code Ann. 16-56-105. The Supreme Court accepted certification to answer what the appropriate statute of limitations was for a private cause of action pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. 11-4-218(e), which allows an employee to bring a private cause of action for relief against an employer for minimum wages, including overtime wages, but does not include a specific limitations provision. After acknowledging the Court's long history of applying section 16-56-105's three-year limitation period for statutorily created liabilities that do not contain an express limitations period, the Court answered that a three-year statute of limitations would apply to private causes of action brought pursuant to AMWA.




Court: Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
Docket: 37887
November 3, 2011
Judge: Burdick
Areas of Law: Labor & Employment Law, Public Benefits
Claimant-Appellant William Rigoli appealed an Industrial Commission's decision that found him ineligible for unemployment benefits because he was discharged for misconduct in connection with his employment. Claimant worked as a toy department manager for Respondent Wal-Mart, and was fired for using foul language and leaving before his assigned shift was completed. Initially, Claimant was determined by the Department of Labor to be eligible for unemployment benefits, but his employer appealed his eligibility. The Department ultimately concluded that Claimant was ineligible, and he appealed to the Industrial Commission. The Commission upheld the Department's conclusion and denied benefits. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that there was substantial and competent evidence the Commission relied upon to conclude that Claimant was discharged for employment-related misconduct, and, therefore, was ineligible for unemployment benefits.




Court: Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
Docket: 37622
November 1, 2011
Judge: Horton
Areas of Law: Labor & Employment Law, Public Benefits
Petitioner Shanna Locker appealed the Industrial Commission’s (Commission) finding that she was insubordinate when she failed to provide a medical release at the request of her employer, Logan’s Foodtown. The Commission found that this constituted employment-related misconduct which rendered Petitioner ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits. Upon review of the record before the Commission, the Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's decision.




Court: Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
Docket: 38096-2010
November 2, 2011
Judge: Eismann
Areas of Law: Injury Law, Insurance Law, Labor & Employment Law, Public Benefits
Claimant David Tarbet worked for Employer J.R. Simplot Company for thirty-six years until an accident in 2007 left him totally and permanently disabled. The issue before the Industrial Commission (Commission) was whether Employer was liable for all or only a part of Claimant’s income benefits. If Claimant’s total disability resulted solely from the last accident, Employer would be liable for all of the income benefits. If his total disability resulted from the combined effects of both that injury and impairments that pre-existed that injury, then Employer was liable only for that portion of the income benefits for the disability caused by the accident, and the Industrial Special Indemnity Fund (ISIF) would be liable for the remainder. The Industrial Commission found that the April 2007 accident was Claimant’s final industrial accident, that he was totally and permanently disabled as a result of the final accident, and that the impairments that existed prior to that accident did not contribute to his total disability. It found that ISIF was not liable for Claimant’s benefits and dismissed the complaint against it. Employer then appealed. Upon review of the Commission's record, the Supreme Court affirmed the Industrial Commission's order.




Court: Kentucky Supreme Court
Docket: 2010-SC-000264-DG
October 27, 2011
Judge: Schroder
Areas of Law: Injury Law, Insurance Law, Labor & Employment Law
Charles Rawlings suffered injuries as he was rolling straps beside his tractor-trailer while it was being unloaded. Thirteen months after the accident, Rawlings filed an action against Defendants, his employer and the companies involved in loading and unloading the trailer. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissed the action based on the one-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Ky. Rev. Stat. 413.140(1)(a). The court of appeals reversed, applying the two-year statute of limitations in the Motor Vehicle Reparations Act. At issue on appeal was whether Rawlings was in fact unloading his truck at the time of the accident, which would determine whether the one- or two-year statute of limitations applied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Rawlings's activity in releasing the straps and rolling them qualified him as a participant in the unloading process; and (2) therefore, the trial court correctly applied the one-year personal injury statute of limitations found in section 413.140(1)(a). Remanded.




Court: Maryland Court of Appeals
Docket: 120/10
October 27, 2011
Judge: Barbera
Areas of Law: Injury Law, Labor & Employment Law
Employee received two knee injuries while working as a firefighter for Employer. Employee filed claims with the Worker's Compensation Commission, requesting disability compensation for the loss of income stemming from each injury. The Commission ordered that Employee should receive temporary partial disability compensation for the period in which he worked light duty after both injuries. Employer sought judicial review. At issue before the circuit court was whether a loss of Employee's ability to work overtime, and its associated loss in overtime compensation, qualified as a lessening of Employee's wage earning capacity for the purposes of Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl. 9-615(a). The circuit court affirmed the Commission's order, ruling that the term "wage earning capacity" could fairly include overtime compensation. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the term "wage," as used in the phrase "wage earning capacity" in section 9-615(a), includes compensation paid for overtime hours worked prior to temporary partial disability; and (2) the Commission correctly determined that Employee's wage earning capacity was "less," under section 9-615(a), entitling him to compensation payment in accordance with the calculation scheme set forth in that section.




Court: Ohio Supreme Court
Docket: 2011-0922
October 27, 2011
Judge: Per Curiam
Areas of Law: Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law
For several years, Appellant Paul Lane worked for the City. Later, the interim city manager terminated Lane's employment for disciplinary reasons. Lane subsequently submitted to the City's personnel director a request for a hearing from the City Personnel Appeals Board regarding his termination. Via letter, the City declined Lane's request. Lane filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus to compel Appellees, the City and Board, to conduct a hearing and issue a determination on the merits of his appeal, reinstate him to his position of employment, and award back pay and corresponding employment benefits. The court of appeals denied the writ, determining that Lane had an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law by administrative appeal from the Board's decision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that in the absence of a final, appealable order by the Board on Lane's request for a hearing, he did not have an adequate remedy by way of administrative appeal to raise his claims. Remanded.

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