Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Crosby, a tenured professor at the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health, brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law, claiming that his removal as Department Chair amounted to a deprivation of his protected property and liberty interests without due process of law. He claimed that the defendants were not protected by qualified immunity and were liable under contract law for monetary damages. Before his removal, Crosby had been investigated for being “[v]olatile,” “explosive,” “disrespectful,” “very condescending,” and “out of control.” The report included an allegation that Crosby stated that the Associate Dean for Research had been appointed “because she is a woman, genitalia” and contained claims that the Department’s performance was suffering as a result of Crosby’s temper and hostility toward other departments. The University declined Crosby’s request to handle his appeal under a proposed Governing Regulation and stated that existing regulations would apply. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of his claims.Crosby identified no statute, formal contract, or contract implied from the circumstances that supports his claim to a protected property interest in his position as Chair; “the unlawfulness” of the defendants’ actions was not apparent “in the light of pre-existing law,” so they were entitled to qualified immunity. View "Crosby v. University of Kentucky" on Justia Law

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The Unions represents the pilots of merged airlines Flight Options and Flexjet. Flight Options and its pilots have had a collective bargaining agreement since 2010, while Flexjet’s pilots are newly unionized and are not yet party to a CBA. The parties dispute whether the integration of the pilot groups’ seniority lists (ISL) is solely a Union matter, so that the airlines must accept the Union's list or whether the airlines should have been allowed to participate in negotiating the list. The 2010 CBA governs the creation of the ISL when Flight Options acquires another carrier. The district court, acting under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 152, entered a preliminary injunction ordering the airlines to accept the Union’s ISL. On appeal, the airlines argued that the dispute was “minor” and subject to exclusive arbitral jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part. The 2010 CBA does not arguably justify the airlines' assertion that they have a right to participate in the ISL process; the dispute is major. The district court properly enjoined the airlines to honor the express terms of the CBA, but those terms provide that if the airlines refuse to accept the Union’s proffered ISL, the Union may invoke an expedited grievance-arbitration process, which uniquely applies to such disputes. The court ordered modification of the injunction accordingly. View "Flight Options v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Williamson, an Army veteran and U.S. postal worker, began experiencing pain in his right foot. He usually worked a walking route, walking up to eight miles per day on the job. He was also doing other physical activity, including running and CrossFit, which could have contributed to his injury. He eventually received benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA): $79,379.66 in temporary total disability net compensation from March 20, 2010 through October 25, 2012; $27,801.27 for medical expenses; and $19,974.19 as a lump-sum “schedule award.” Williamson then sought damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for medical malpractice by the Department of Veterans Affairs in the treatment of his injuries, which included two unsuccessful surgeries. The district court denied the government’s motion for summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Liability under FECA is “exclusive” of “all other liability of the United States” to the employee “under a Federal tort liability statute,” 5 U.S.C. 8116(c) (2012). Because this exclusion applies broadly even when a work-related injury has been negligently treated by an entirely non-work-related federal hospital, Williamson may not recover under the FTCA. View "Williamson v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act against their employer, FTS, a cable-television business for which the plaintiffs work or worked as cable technicians. The district court certified the case as an FLSA collective action. FTS Technicians are paid pursuant to a piece-rate compensation plan; each assigned job is worth a set amount of pay, regardless of the amount of time it takes. FTS Technicians are paid by applying a .5 multiplier to their regular rate for overtime hours. They allege that FTS implemented a time-shaving policy that required its employees to systematically underreport overtime hours. A jury returned verdicts in favor of the class, which the district court upheld. The Sixth Circuit affirmed certification of the case as a collective action and a finding that sufficient evidence supports the verdicts, but reversed the calculation of damages. Following a remand by the Supreme Court, for further consideration in light of Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo (2016), the Sixth Circuit held that Tyson does not compel a different resolution; the court again affirmed certification of the case as a collective action and that sufficient evidence supports the jury’s verdicts, and again for recalculation of damages. View "Monroe v. FTS USA, LLC" on Justia Law

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Matovski, a UPS operations manager who has a disability, filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge, claiming that UPS discriminated and retaliated against him in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12112(d). Matovski claims that UPS published confidential medical information about him and other employees on its intranet page. The EEOC investigation resulted in a subpoena that requested information about how UPS stored and disclosed employee medical information. UPS opposed the subpoena, claiming that the requested information was irrelevant to Matovski’s charge. The district court granted an application to enforce the subpoena. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The information that the EEOC requested “relates to unlawful employment practices” covered by the ADA. UPS has not shown that the subpoena is burdensome in any material way. View "Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. United Parcel Service,Inc." on Justia Law

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The National Labor Relations Board sought enforcement of its Order finding that AEI violated the National Labor Relations Act by barring employees from pursuing class-action litigation or collective arbitration of work-related claims and by forbidding an AEI technician from discussing a proposed compensation change with his coworkers and by firing that technician for discussing the proposed change and complaining to management about it. AEI employees sign an agreement that “Disputes … relating to your employment” must, at the election of the employee or the company, be resolved “exclusively through binding arbitration” and that “you and AEI also agree that a claim may not be arbitrated as a class action, also called ‘representative’ or ‘collective’ actions, and that a claim may not otherwise be consolidated or joined with the claims of others.” AEI’s employee handbook prohibits “[u]nauthorized disclosure of business secrets or confidential business or customer information, including any compensation or employee salary information.” The Sixth Circuit enforced the order. An arbitration provision requiring employees covered by the Act individually to arbitrate all employment-related claims is not enforceable. The evidence was adequate to support the ALJ’s factual findings and conclusion that DeCommer was fired for engaging in protected, concerted activity View "National Labor Relations Board v. Alternative Entertainment, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ridgeway was employed as a Stryker sales representative from 2001-2013. Stryker’s faxed employment offer stated Ridgeway’s employment was contingent on his signing and returning an offer letter, a form non-compete agreement, and a code of conduct. From 2000-2005, Stryker used the same form non-compete agreement with all employees, which included a one-year non-compete clause, a customer non-solicit clause, an employee non-solicit clause, and a Michigan choice-of-law clause and a Michigan forum-selection clause. Ridgeway signed and returned the documents. Despite becoming one of Stryker’s top performers, in 2013, Ridgeway considered working for Stryker’s competitor, Biomet. Ridgeway claims that Stryker indicated that he was not covered under a non-compete agreement. Stryker terminated his employment and Ridgeway began working for Biomet within his former Stryker Louisiana-based sales territories. Stryker filed suit. The district court denied Ridgeway’s motion to dismiss based on the forum-selection clause in the non-compete agreement. Biomet terminated Ridgeway for fear of liability. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Stryker on its breach-of-contract, breach-of-fiduciary-duty, and misappropriation-of-trade-secrets claims and awarded damages in the amount of $745,195. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Ridgeway’s challenges to the authenticity of the agreement and to the choice of law provision. View "Stone Surgical LLC v. Stryker Corp." on Justia Law

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Reporting regulatory violations “up the chain” to supervisory governmental employees can constitute speech on a matter of public concern, for purposes of First Amendment retaliation claim. Mayhew, a long-time employee of Smyrna’s wastewater-treatment plant, reported violations of state and federal requirements and voiced concerns about the hiring of a manager’s nephew without advertising the position. His reports went up the chain of command to government employees. Mayhew was terminated, allegedly because the plant manager no longer felt that he could work with him. The district court rejected his claim of First Amendment retaliation on summary judgment, reasoning that Mayhew’s speech did not involve matters of public concern. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part, stating that “constitutional protection for speech on matters of public concern is not premised on the communication of that speech to the public.” Nor must courts limit reports of wrongdoing to illegal acts; a public concern includes “any matter of political, social, or other concern to the community.” View "Mayhew v. Town of Smyrna" on Justia Law

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Member of Naval Reserve, terminated by private employer, established a prima facie case under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Savage worked as an aviation mechanic for FedEx, 2001-2012, simultaneously serving as a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve. He was terminated by FedEx for violating its reduced-rate shipping policy and acceptable conduct policy. He had never been disciplined before his termination; he claims he was unaware of a change in policy that prohibited use of an employee discount for shipping items sold on eBay. FedEx had accommodated his military duties and employs other members of the military. Savage had complained, to a third-party administrator, about a miscalculation in his pension benefits. Savage claimed discrimination, retaliation, and improper benefit calculations under USERRA, 38 U.S.C. 431. The district court granted FedEx summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part, finding that Savage provided evidence of a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether FedEx correctly calculated his pension contributions under section 4318. Savage also provided evidence of disparate treatment, motivated by his protected status, with respect to misuse of the shipping discount, sufficient to survive summary judgment. The court concluded that Savage had not been targeted for investigation. View "Savage v. Federal Express Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, CNH employees who retired between 1994 and 2004, filed suit in 2004, seeking a declaration that they were entitled to lifetime healthcare benefits without paying premiums, based on collective-bargaining agreements (CBAs), negotiated by UAW beginning in 1971. The case was remanded to the district court twice. While the second remand was pending, the Supreme Court (Tackett, 2015) abrogated Sixth Circuit precedent creating an inference in favor of employees in collective-bargaining cases. Initially, the district court ruled in favor of CNH, noting that it was “[c]onstrained by the Supreme Court’s decision” in Tackett. On reconsideration, the district court found not only that plaintiffs’ rights were vested even after Tackett, but also that CNH’s proposed changes were unreasonable. The Sixth Circuit affirmed as to vesting, noting that the CBA is ambiguous and extrinsic evidence indicated that parties intended for the healthcare benefits to vest for life. The court remanded because the court failed to properly weigh the costs and the benefits of the proposed plan, as previously instructed. “To find ambiguity in this case, partially from the silence as to the parties’ intentions, does not offend the Supreme Court’s mandate from Tackett that we not infer vesting from silence.” View "Reese v. CNH Industrial, N.V." on Justia Law