October 03, 2014

Posted by Justia: Weekly Opinion Summaries – Labor and Employment Law

Posted by Justia: Weekly Opinion Summaries – Labor and Employment Law
Weekly Summaries Distributed October 3, 2010

Court: U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 13-1685

Judge: Selya

At issue in this case was a popular restaurant in Puerto Rico owned by Lorraine Enterprises, Inc. The corporation was owned by Defendant Lorraine Lago and her husband. The Secretary of Labor sued the restaurant, Lago, and the restaurant’s general manager, alleging that Defendants were liable for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping requirements. Specifically, the Secretary alleged that the restaurant took advantage of the reduced federal minimum wage established by the FLSA for the restaurant industry without complying with the concomitant requirements. The district court granted summary judgment for the Secretary and, thereafter, denied Defendants’ motion to alter or amend the judgment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in determining that no infringement of Defendants’ due process rights had occurred; (2) did not err in granting summary judgment on the minimum wage claim; and (3) did not abuse its discretion in refusing to vacate the judgment as to the individual defendants.

Court: U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 13-2307

Judge: Lynch

The “B Prong” of the Massachusetts Independent Contractor Statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148B(a)(2), requires that workers perform a service outside the usual course of the employer’s business to be classified as independent contractors. The Massachusetts Delivery Association (MDA) filed an action for a declaration that the B Prong is preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Act (FAAAA), and for an injunction barring the Attorney General from enforcing section 148B(a)(2) against the MDA’s members. The FAAAA preempts state laws that “relate to” the prices, routes, or services of a motor carrier “with respect to the transportation of property.” The district court held that the FAAAA does not preempt section 148B(a)(2). The First Circuit reversed, holding that the district court incorrectly interpreted the preemption test under the FAAAA and incorrectly applied the test to section 148B(a)(2). Remanded.

Court: U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 13-2705

Judge: Livingston

The EEOC filed suit against the Port Authority under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), 29 U.S.C. 206(d), alleging that the Port Authority paid its female nonsupervisory attorneys at a lesser rate than their male counterparts for "equal work." The district court granted the Port Authority's motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c). The court affirmed, concluding that the complaint failed to state a plausible claim for relief where the EEOC failed to allege any facts concerning the attorneys' actual job duties and, therefore, the court had no basis from which to draw a reasonable inference that the attorneys performed "equal work."

Court: U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 13-2592
Judge: Loken

Plaintiff, a pathologist, filed suit against Avera, alleging that Avera violated federal and state laws for terminating a Services Agreement. Plaintiff filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621 et seq.; the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2617 et seq.; and the South Dakota Human Relations Act (SDHRA), S.D. Codified Laws 20-13-1 et seq. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing all of plaintiff's claims because plaintiff was an independent contractor of St. Luke's Hospital under his Services Agreement and not an employee.

Court: U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Docket: 12-17780

Judge: Fletcher

Peabody mines coal on the Hopi and Navajo reservations in Arizona under leases with the tribes. The EEOC filed suit alleging, among other things, that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-8(c), prohibits the tribal hiring preference contained in the Peabody leases. The district court granted summary judgment against the EEOC on the merits. The court affirmed, concluding that the Navajo hiring preference in the leases at issue is a political classification, rather than a classification based on national origin, and therefore does not violate Title VII. Further, the EEOC waived on appeal its record-keeping claim and the district court acted within its discretion in denying the EEOC's motion to supplement the record.

Court: Alabama Supreme Court
Docket: 1111554

Judge: Murdock

The State Comptroller, Thomas L. White, Jr., appealed a preliminary injunction entered in response to an action for declaratory and injunctive relief brought by Karen John, the Alabama Education Association ("the AEA"), Randy Hebson, and the Alabama State Employees Association ("the ASEA"). This was the third time a case involving the question of deductions by the comptroller from a State employee's salary for payment of contributions and dues has come before the Supreme Court in recent months. The comptroller executed payroll deductions for dues from State employees who were members of the AEA and the ASEA. On June 29, 2012, the comptroller issued a "memorandum" to "Affected Organizations" regarding "Act 2010-761 Guidelines (State Comptroller Payroll Deductions, Revised June 2012)." The memorandum also contained a sample "Act 2010-761 Certification Form for Organizations:" if the organization wanted to receive salary deductions from State employees, the form required an individual from the organization to provide a notarized signature and to certify under penalty of being barred from receiving deductions that the organization would "not use any portion of the membership dues collected by payroll deduction from the pay of its members who are State employees for political activity as that term is defined in [the Act]" and that the organization would "provide to the State Comptroller a detailed breakdown of the expenditure of those membership dues not later than the deadline, and using the forms, prescribed by the Comptroller from time to time." The comptroller sent copies of the memorandum to the AEA, the ASEA, and other organizations that were receiving dues from State-employee members via salary deductions. The ASEA submitted its certification to the comptroller, along with a letter from its counsel, stating, in part, that the organization submitted the certification "under protest and without waiving any of its rights as they relate to any ongoing litigation concerning [the Act], or related to the rules and regulations promulgated in your 'Memorandum to Affected Organizations.'" The AEA declined to submit a certification form and thus was deemed ineligible to receive dues via payroll deductions. On August 17, 2012, the AEA, AEA member and State employee Karen John, the ASEA, and ASEA president Randy Hebson sued White in his official capacity as comptroller and the "Office of the State Comptroller" seeking a judgment declaring that the guidelines were void because they had been promulgated without following the procedures required in the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act. The Supreme Court reversed: plaintiffs' action was "due to be dismissed"insofar as it purported to name "the Office of the State Comptroller" as a defendant, and the circuit court was instructed to dismiss the action in that regard. Furthermore, the Court found the circuit court erred in issuing the injunction as plaintiffs did not meet their burden for injunctive relief. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

Court: Alabama Supreme Court
Docket: 1121301

Judge: Murdock

Madeline Nelson and 25 other individuals formerly employed as nontenured teachers or probationary classified employees in the Mobile County Public School System appealed the dismissal of their action against the members of the Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County -- Ken Megginson, Judy P. Stout, Reginald A. Crenshaw, Levon C. Manzie, and William Foster -- and against the superintendent of the school system, Martha Peek. In 2009, the plaintiffs filed an action against the Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County which was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice three years later in light of the Supreme Court's decision in "Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County v. Weaver," (99 So. 3d 1210 (Ala. 2012)). In 2012, the plaintiffs refiled their action , alleging that their employment was terminated "pursuant to a reduction-in-force implemented by Defendants in response to alleged financial constraints." The plaintiffs further alleged that the failure to rehire them by the conclusion of the following school year was a violation of a written policy of the school system. The circuit court granted defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint: "[t]his action was brought more than three (3) years from the date of accrual. All of the Plaintiffs' claims for mandamus, declaratory or injunctive relief would be barred by the two (2) year statute of limitations set out in 6-2-38(l). Finally, any of the Plaintiffs' claims for backpay or other monetary relief would be barred by the same two (2) [year] statute of limitations under 6-2-38(m)." On appeal to the Supreme Court, plaintiffs primarily contended that the circuit court erred in concluding that their claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations because they stated a breach-of-contract claim, which had a six-year statute of limitations. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the plaintiffs stated a claim of breach of contract and that therefore their claim was subject to a six-year, rather than a two-year, statute of limitations. Accordingly, the circuit court's dismissal was reversed, and the case remanded for further proceedings.

Court: Arkansas Supreme Court
Docket: CV-13-962

Judge: Hart

Anita Cooper, who was employed as principal of the Oark, Arkansas schools, was removed from her duties as principal. The Superintendent of the Jasper School District No. 1 of Newton County listed nine reasons as bases for the termination. The District’s Board of Directors then terminated Cooper’s employment. The circuit court reversed the Board’s decision, reinstated Cooper to her position, and awarded Cooper $64,998 in damages. The Superintendent and District appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in finding that Defendants failed to comply with the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act; (2) the circuit court did not err in concluding that the contract in the case at bar created a property right in Cooper’s position as principal of the Oark schools; and (3) the circuit court’s award to Cooper was neither excessive nor amounted to an award of “double retirement.”

Court: Mississippi Supreme Court
Docket: 2013-CA-00369-SCT

Judge: Dickinson

Lacie Smith worked for Express Check Advance of Mississippi, LLC. A condition in her employment papers was that she agreed to submit “any employment-related dispute” to arbitration. Later, in response to her termination, Smith sued Express Check in circuit court. The trial judge compelled arbitration and Smith appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed.

Court: New Hampshire Supreme Court
Docket: 2013-062

Judge: Dalianis

Petitioner Scott Anderson appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment to respondents, the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Retirement System (NHRS) and the State, and denying summary judgment to Anderson and three other petitioners. Anderson was a retired Plaistow police officer who was a member of the NHRS, and the only petitioner who appealed. After retiring, he worked part-time as a police officer in Plaistow, Atkinson, and Hampstead. When he retired, RSA 100-A:1, XXXIV provided that "[p]art-time," for the purposes of employing a NHRS retiree meant, "employment by an [NHRS] employer" of no more than "32 hours in a normal calendar week," or if the work hours in some weeks exceeded thirty-two hours, then no more than "1,300 hours in a calendar year." Anderson understood that provision "to mean [he] could work potentially up to 32 hours per week for Plaistow, up to 32 hours per week for Atkinson, and up to 32 hours per week for Hampstead." In 2012, the legislature amended RSA 100-A:1, XXXIV to provide that "[p]art-time," for the purposes of employing a NHRS retiree, "means employment during a calendar year by one or more employers of the retired member which shall not exceed 32 hours in each normal calendar week," or if the work hours in some weeks exceed thirty-two hours, then no more than 1,300 hours in a calendar year. In August 2012, Anderson and three other NHRS retirees petitioned for declaratory and injunctive relief. Anderson contended that to apply the 2012 amendment to him violated Part I, Article 23 of the New Hampshire Constitution. Specifically, he asserted that, as a result of the 2012 amendment, he would be "restored to service" under RSA 100-A:7 (2013) and, thus, lose his retirement benefits if he worked more than "[p]art-time" as defined in RSA 100-A:1, XXXIV. Under RSA 100-A:7, when a retiree is "restored to service," his "retirement allowance shall cease," and he "shall again become a member of the [NHRS] and . . . shall contribute" to that system. Anderson contended that the 2012 amendment substantially impaired his vested right because its effect is to restore him to service if he works more than thirty-two hours per week or 1,300 hours per year for any combination of NHRS employers, even if he did not work full-time hours for any single NHRS employer. Thereafter, the petitioners moved for summary judgment, and the State cross-moved for summary judgment. The trial court ruled in the State's favor, and Anderson's appeal followed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed.

Court: New Hampshire Supreme Court
Docket: 2013-076

Judge: Dalianis

The New Hampshire Department of Administrative Services appealed a superior court order granting the cross-motion for summary judgment filed by petitioner William Bovaird, and denying the Department's motion. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) employed petitioner as an Operations Officer I, Labor Grade 20, until it laid him off in 2009. The Department then placed petitioner on its statewide reduction in force list (RIF List). At the time, Chapter 144:65, Laws 2009 (the 2009 Law) governed the rehiring of laid-off state employees. The Department used the RIF List to place qualified laid-off employees into state positions as they became vacant. After petitioner was laid off, a Supervisor III, Labor Grade 23 position became available. According to the Department, no laid-off employees on the RIF List were eligible for the Supervisor III position; therefore, the Department released the position back to DHHS to be filled by an open-recruitment process. Petitioner applied for, and was eventually hired to fill, the Supervisor III position. In August 2012, petitioner requested that the Department restore his previously accumulated and unused sick leave, his prior seniority date, and his leave accrual rates, and that it reinstate his longevity pay. The Department denied the request. Petitioner then filed a petition for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief to require the Department to recognize him as a "recalled employee," rather than as a new hire, and to award him his benefits. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. On appeal, the parties disagreed about whether the petitioner was "recalled" or "rehired" into the Supervisor III position. Petitioner argued that, because he "returned to work performing his prior duties with the same employer," there was "no rational reason to find that he was not" recalled and, thus, entitled to the benefits of a recalled employee. The Department argued that petitioner was not recalled because there are "no facts in the record regarding recalling" the petitioner and because he was not hired into the same classification. The parties also disputed the trial court's interpretation of the 2009 Law. The Supreme Court agreed with the Department that petitioner was rehired and not recalled. To be recalled, petitioner would have had to return to a position in the same classification as the position he held prior to his lay off: Operations Officer I, Labor Grade 20, instead of Supervisor III, Labor Grade 23. With such differences, petitioner did not return to the same classification, and, therefore, he was not recalled. With regard to the 2009 Law, the Supreme Court surmised that if the legislature had disagreed with the Department's longstanding interpretation, it could have altered the language of the 2009 Law. Such a change did not occur. Therefore, under the 2009 Law, the Department was not required to rehire laid-off employees from the RIF List into promotions, even if the employees meet the minimum qualifications for the position. Petitioner contended the legislative history of the 2009 Law mandated the opposite conclusion. Because the Supreme Court determined that the 2009 Law did not require the Department to rehire laid-off employees into promotions, it also conclude that the trial court erred in determining that petitioner was entitled to his previously accumulated and unused sick leave, an adjustment of his seniority date, and the other aforementioned benefits.

Court: North Dakota Supreme Court
Docket: 20140021

Judge: Kapsner

Michael Crocker appealed the grant of summary judgment that dismissed his personal injury claim against Werner Enterprises, Inc. Crocker argued Werner was vicariously liable for Alexander Morales-Santana's negligent operation of a semi-tractor and trailer under the statutory employee doctrine and because Werner retained control over Morales-Santana's work. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed.

Court: Ohio Supreme Court
Docket: 2013-0608

Judge: Per Curiam

Claimant was terminated from her employment for violating the written attendance policy in her union contract after she was injured at work. Thereafter, Claimant filed for temporary-total-disability (TTD) compensation for her work-related injury. The Industrial Commission concluded that, per State ex rel. Louisiana-Pacific Corp. v. Indus. Comm., Claimant’s termination was a voluntary abandonment that barred payment of TTD compensation. Claimant then filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus. The court of appeals denied the writ, concluding that the evidence supported the Commission’s finding of voluntary abandonment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Claimant failed to establish that the Commission abused its discretion when it denied her request for TTD compensation.

Court: Washington Supreme Court
Docket: 89671-2

Judge: Yu

In 2009, Kristine Failla, a Washington resident and experienced salesperson, was looking for a job she could perform from her Gig Harbor home. She e-mailed Kenneth Schutz looking for such a position. Schutz was the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of FixtureOne Corporation, which sells fixtures, casework, and displays for use in retail stores. Both FixtureOne and Schutz are based in Pennsylvania, and at the time of Failla's email, FixtureOne had no physical presence or customers in Washington.
FixtureOne hired Failla as an account executive. In December 2010, Failla requested a promotion and a raise. Schutz agreed and promoted her to FixtureOne's vice president of sales, increased her yearly salary. Although there were outstanding commissions owed, Failla accepted the promotion and salary increase based on the assurances that the commissions would be paid. Schutz provided a draft employment agreement for Failla to sign in connection with the promotion. Among other things, the agreement contained a provision that it would be interpreted in accordance with Pennsylvania law. Failla proposed revisions to the agreement, but for reasons unknown neither Failla nor Schutz ever signed it. Failla continued working for FixtureOne from her Washington home until May 2011. She received regular paychecks, and the only issue in this case was the sales commissions owed to her that were not paid. In May 2011, Schutz emailed Failla to tell her that FixtureOne was "clos[ing] its doors" and ended her employment the following day. He assured Failla that FixtureOne would "pay your commissions and expenses asap in the next several weeks." For two months following her termination, Schutz returned Failla's requests for payment with various explanations as to why the commissions remained unpaid. Schutz eventually advised Failla that she would not receive a commission check and for the first time disputed whether such commissions were even owed. Failla filed suit against FixtureOne and Schutz for the wilfull withholding of wages, including an allegation that Schutz was individually liable under Washington's wage laws. Failla served Schutz in Pennsylvania but was unable to serve FixtureOne. Consequently the suit proceeded against Schutz alone. Failla and Schutz cross moved for summary judgment. Schutz argued that the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction because he did not have the requisite minimum contacts with the state, and even if Washington could exercise jurisdiction over him, there were genuine issues of material fact preventing the entry of summary judgment. The trial court concluded it had personal jurisdiction and denied Schutz's summary judgment motion. The court granted summary judgment to Failla, awarding double damages. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Washington's long-arm statute did not reach Schutz because the employment relationship between Failla and FixtureOne was inadequate to confer jurisdiction over Schutz. The Washington Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate court, and reversed.

Bd. of Educ. of Webster County v. Hanna 
Court: West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals 
Docket: 13-1086 Judge: Ketchum
Dawn Hanna worked for the Board of Education of Webster County as a teacher from 1989 until 2012. After fundraiser proceeds went missing, Hanna was informed that she would be charged with felony embezzlement but that she could avoid prosecution by resigning from her position and paying back the missing funds. Pursuant to this discussion, Hanna resigned from her position. Hanna subsequently applied for unemployment benefits. The Board of Review of WorkForce West Virginia concluded that Hanna was disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits because she voluntarily quit her job. The circuit court reversed, finding that Hanna acted under duress and that her decision to resign was not voluntary. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that WorkForce was not clearly wrong when it found that Hanna resigned voluntarily, and therefore, the circuit court erred in reversing WorkForce’s findings. 


Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.
New York Public Personnel Law Blog Editor Harvey Randall served as Principal Attorney, New York State Department of Civil Service; Director of Personnel, SUNY Central Administration; Director of Research, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and Staff Judge Advocate General, New York Guard. Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material posted to this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor NYPPL and, or, its staff and contributors are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is urged to seek such advice from a knowledgeable professional.
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