Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Cephia Hayes, an employee of the New Jersey Department of Human Services (NJDHS) since 2004, alleged that her supervisor began sexually harassing her in 2016 and retaliated against her when she rebuffed his advances. In October 2019, Hayes filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC decided not to pursue her case and communicated this decision to Hayes's lawyer via email on March 11, 2020, stating that a right-to-sue letter would be issued. The EEOC also posted the right-to-sue letter to its online portal on the same day.The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey granted summary judgment in favor of NJDHS, ruling that Hayes's Title VII claims were time-barred. The court determined that the 90-day filing period began either when the EEOC emailed Hayes's lawyer or when the right-to-sue letter was posted to the EEOC's online portal. Consequently, the court found that Hayes's lawsuit, filed on November 24, 2020, was untimely.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reviewed the case and vacated the District Court's decision. The Third Circuit held that the March 11 email from the EEOC to Hayes's lawyer did not start the 90-day clock because it was not equivalent to a right-to-sue letter. The court also ruled that the posting of the right-to-sue letter to the EEOC's online portal did not suffice to start the 90-day period without direct communication to Hayes or her lawyer. The court found that Hayes had presented sufficient evidence to rebut the presumption that she received the right-to-sue letter three days after it was mailed, creating a genuine issue of material fact regarding the timeliness of her lawsuit. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Hayes v. New Jersey Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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A former transportation security officer (TSO) with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) alleged that his termination was an act of retaliation under Title VII. The TSA terminated his employment for failing to cooperate in an investigation into whether he received illegal compensation for serving as a personal representative during internal agency investigations. The plaintiff argued that this reason was a pretext for retaliation due to his prior complaints to the TSA’s Equal Employment Office (EEO) about a hostile work environment and denial of Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave.The United States District Court for the Central District of California granted summary judgment in favor of the Secretary of Homeland Security. The court found that the plaintiff had not provided sufficient evidence to show that the TSA’s stated reason for his termination was pretextual. The court noted that the temporal proximity between the plaintiff’s last EEO complaint and his termination (56 days) was not enough to establish pretext, especially given the concurrent timing of the plaintiff’s noncooperation with the investigation.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. The appellate court held that the 56-day gap between the plaintiff’s final EEO complaint and his termination was insufficient by itself to show pretext. The court also noted that the timing of the plaintiff’s noncooperation with the investigation supported the TSA’s stated reason for termination. Additionally, the court found that other circumstantial evidence presented by the plaintiff did not create a genuine issue of material fact regarding pretext. The court concluded that the TSA had a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for terminating the plaintiff’s employment and affirmed the summary judgment. View "KAMA V. MAYORKAS" on Justia Law

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Dean Dabbasi was terminated by his employer, Motiva Enterprises, in 2019. Dabbasi filed a lawsuit alleging age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA), as well as disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the TCHRA. He claimed that his termination was due to his age and a cardiac incident he experienced during a performance improvement plan (PIP) meeting. Motiva argued that Dabbasi was terminated for poor performance and attitude.The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted summary judgment in favor of Motiva. The court found that Dabbasi's claims related to his transition to a different role and the failure to place him in a promised position were time-barred or not actionable. The court also held that Dabbasi failed to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination because he was not replaced by someone younger in his final position. Additionally, the court concluded that Dabbasi was not disabled at the time of his termination, as he returned to work without restrictions after his medical leave.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reviewed the case. The court found that the district court erred in evaluating Dabbasi's age-discrimination claim in isolation rather than considering the totality of the evidence. The appellate court determined that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether Dabbasi was terminated because of his age. However, the court agreed with the district court that Dabbasi failed to establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination, as he was not disabled at the time of his termination.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Dabbasi's disability-discrimination claim but reversed the summary judgment on his age-discrimination claim, remanding it for further proceedings. View "Dabbasi v. Motiva Enterprises" on Justia Law

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Jebari Craig, a black employee, worked for Wrought Washer Manufacturing, Inc. from 2010 until his termination in April 2019. Craig, who became the union president in 2018, filed a racial discrimination grievance against Wrought. He alleged that his termination was in retaliation for this grievance. The incident leading to his termination involved a disagreement with a supervisor and subsequent use of his cell phone on the shop floor, which violated company policy. Craig was suspended and later offered a "Last Chance Agreement" to return to work, which he refused to sign, leading to his termination.The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin granted summary judgment to Wrought on Craig's claim that his termination was retaliatory. The court found that Craig had not established a prima facie case of retaliation for his written warning and allowed his claim regarding his suspension to proceed. However, it granted summary judgment on the termination claim, crediting Wrought's explanation that the "Last Chance Agreement" did not require Craig to relinquish his discrimination claims, contrary to Craig's later assertions.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reviewed the case de novo. The court affirmed the district court's judgment, agreeing that Schaefer, Wrought's plant manager, was confused during his deposition about the terms of the "Last Chance Agreement" and the severance agreement. The court found that Craig's declaration, which contradicted his earlier statements, did not create a genuine issue of material fact. The court concluded that no reasonable litigant would have withheld the information Craig later provided, supporting the district court's decision to grant summary judgment to Wrought. View "Craig v. Wrought Washer Manufacturing, Inc." on Justia Law

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A labor dispute arose between the City of Cleveland and the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (the union representing dispatch supervisors) over overtime scheduling. The dispute was submitted to arbitration, where the arbitrator denied the union's grievance. The union then sought to vacate the arbitration award by filing an application in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, serving the city but not the attorneys who represented the city in the arbitration.The Common Pleas Court initially denied the city's motion to dismiss the union's application, but later reversed its decision after the Eighth District Court of Appeals ruled in a different case that failure to serve the adverse party's counsel deprived the court of jurisdiction. Consequently, the Common Pleas Court dismissed the union's application and confirmed the arbitration award in favor of the city. The Eighth District affirmed this decision, citing two defects: the union's application was in the form of a pleading rather than a motion, and it failed to serve the city's arbitration counsel.The Supreme Court of Ohio reviewed the case and held that under R.C. 2711.13, a party seeking to vacate an arbitration award must serve either the adverse party or its counsel, not necessarily both. However, the court also held that the union's application did not meet the statutory requirements because it was filed as a pleading (a complaint) rather than a motion. The court emphasized that a motion must state with particularity the grounds for the requested order, which the union's filing failed to do. Thus, the Supreme Court of Ohio reversed the Eighth District's decision regarding the service requirement but affirmed the decision that the union's application did not meet the statutory form requirements, leaving the arbitration award in favor of the city intact. View "Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Assn. v. Cleveland" on Justia Law

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Nycoca Hairston, an employee at the United States Army’s Pine Bluff Arsenal, alleged that her immediate supervisor sexually harassed her and that she was unlawfully terminated in retaliation for her complaints. Hairston sued the Secretary of the Army under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After a jury trial on her retaliation claim, the Army prevailed. Hairston appealed the district court’s denial of her post-trial motions and its decision to limit the testimony of one of her witnesses.The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas initially granted summary judgment in favor of the Army on both Hairston’s hostile work environment and retaliation claims. Hairston appealed, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment on the hostile work environment claim but reversed it on the retaliation claim, remanding it for trial. After the jury ruled in favor of the Army, Hairston filed a Motion for New Trial and a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment, which the district court denied. Hairston then filed an appeal.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reviewed the case. The court determined that it lacked jurisdiction over Hairston’s post-trial motions because she failed to file an amended notice of appeal after the district court ruled on those motions. However, the court did have jurisdiction to address Hairston’s challenge to the district court’s decision to limit the testimony of one of her witnesses. The Eighth Circuit found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the testimony, as it was deemed irrelevant and more prejudicial than probative. Consequently, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Hairston v. Wormuth" on Justia Law

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A trial court found that Yakima HMA LLC wrongfully withheld nearly $1.5 million in wages from its nurses over five years. In 2015, the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA) filed a claim on behalf of 28 nurses, including Daniel Campeau. The trial court ruled in favor of WSNA, but years later, the Supreme Court of Washington reversed this decision, stating that WSNA lacked associational standing. Before the mandate was issued, Campeau filed a class action suit to recover the unpaid wages.The trial court agreed with Campeau, allowing the case to proceed under the doctrine of equitable tolling, reasoning that Campeau had diligently pursued his claims through the WSNA action and reasonably relied on the union to protect his rights. Yakima HMA appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's decision, concluding that American Pipe tolling was not applicable in Washington and that equitable tolling was not warranted without evidence of bad faith or misconduct by Yakima HMA.The Supreme Court of Washington reviewed the case de novo. The court held that equitable tolling could be appropriate even without bad faith by the defendant when associational standing fails, and a member promptly files a follow-on class action. The court found that equitable tolling was consistent with the purposes of the underlying labor laws and statutes of limitations, and it would prevent an unjust windfall to Yakima HMA. Therefore, the court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Campeau v. Yakima HMA, LLC" on Justia Law

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Manoucheka Francois, a train conductor for Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company, was injured in a car crash while being transported by a taxi hired by her employer. The taxi driver, Michael Cellante, had consumed four to five shots of alcohol before picking her up. As a result, the taxi crashed, and Francois sustained injuries.Francois sued Metro-North under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), alleging both direct liability for negligently hiring the impaired taxi driver and vicarious liability for the driver’s negligence. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted summary judgment in favor of Metro-North on both theories. The court found no evidence that Metro-North could have foreseen the driver’s intoxication, thus negating direct liability. It also concluded that the driver’s act of drinking removed him from the scope of his agency, precluding vicarious liability.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reviewed the case. The court affirmed the district court’s decision regarding direct liability, agreeing that Metro-North had no reason to foresee the driver’s intoxication. However, the court vacated the summary judgment on vicarious liability. It held that whether the driver acted within the scope of his agency while driving Francois, despite being impaired, presented a triable issue of fact. The court emphasized that in FELA cases, plaintiffs enjoy a relaxed burden of proof, and issues of agency and foreseeability should generally be decided by a jury.The Second Circuit thus affirmed the district court’s ruling on direct liability, vacated the ruling on vicarious liability, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Francois v. Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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Henry Beverly, a financial analyst at Abbott Laboratories, took a personal leave of absence during which he began working for Cook County without informing Abbott. His leave was extended twice, but when he requested a third extension, Abbott had already filled his position and terminated his employment. Beverly sued Abbott, alleging racial discrimination and defamation, among other claims.The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment in favor of Abbott on some of Beverly’s claims, including those related to his termination, while allowing others to proceed to trial. The jury found in favor of Abbott on the remaining claims. Beverly appealed, challenging several pretrial, trial, and post-trial rulings.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reviewed the case and affirmed the district court’s decisions. The appellate court held that the reduction in Beverly’s job duties did not amount to a constructive discharge and that Abbott’s reason for terminating Beverly’s employment was not pretextual. The court also upheld the district court’s mid-trial judgment as a matter of law on Beverly’s defamation claim, finding that the statement in question was a non-actionable opinion. Additionally, the appellate court found no abuse of discretion in the district court’s trial rulings, including those related to impeachment attempts and the exclusion of certain evidence. The court concluded that Beverly’s arguments did not warrant a new trial and affirmed the district court’s judgment in full. View "Beverly v. Abbott Laboratories" on Justia Law

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The case involves Lion Elastomers, a synthetic rubber manufacturer, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Lion Elastomers had been found guilty of unfair labor practices by the NLRB for threatening, disciplining, and discharging an employee, Joseph Colone, for engaging in protected activities. The NLRB applied the Atlantic Steel standard to assess whether Colone's behavior lost its protected status. However, before the appeal of the Board’s decision had been briefed, the NLRB issued a new interpretation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in a case called General Motors, which overruled Atlantic Steel. The NLRB then sought a remand to apply this new interpretation to the Lion Elastomers case.The case was remanded to the NLRB by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, instead of applying the new interpretation from General Motors as expected, the NLRB used the remand proceeding to overrule General Motors and return to the Atlantic Steel standard. Lion Elastomers argued that the NLRB exceeded the scope of the remand and violated its due-process rights during the remand proceeding.The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Lion Elastomers. The court found that the NLRB had exceeded the scope of the remand by not applying the General Motors standard as expected. The court also found that the NLRB had violated Lion Elastomers's due-process rights by not giving the company an opportunity to be heard before deciding to overturn General Motors. The court vacated the NLRB's decision and remanded the case back to the NLRB, instructing it to apply the General Motors standard to this case. View "Lion Elastomers v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law