Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Anwar, a U.S. citizen, was hired to work for MEG International in Dubai. Anwar alleges that, following her promotion, her supervisor, Ramachandran, began harassing her about working when she had young children; openly made comments about not needing highly-paid female employees; and expressed his disapproval of Anwar’s divorce, going so far as to meet with her husband. Anwar alleges that this culminated in her termination, one day after she initiated her divorce. Anwar sued in a Dubai court and obtained severance pay. She argues that Dubai’s courts could not provide a sufficient remedy for sex and marital status discrimination. Anwar filed a complaint in Michigan, alleging that she was impermissibly terminated because of her gender, religion, national origin, and marital status, citing Title VII; the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act; and breach contract. The district court dismissed claims against Ramachandran for lack of personal jurisdiction and opened discovery for limited purposes: Investigating Anwar’s allegations that MEG International does business as MEG America and that the MEGlobal subsidiaries act as a single entity and Anwar’s allegation that Ramachandran and other MEG managers are employed by Dow. Dow obtained a protective order to prohibit depositions. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of all claims. Anwar did not allege facts, aside from those demonstrating possible macromanagement, that MEG International is the alter ego of MEG Americas. Under Michigan law, the separate entities will be respected unless “a contrary determination would be inequitable.” View "Anwar v. Dow Chemical Co." on Justia Law

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Randstad recruits temporary workers for clients. Plaintiffs, in-house Randstad employees (not temporary workers), engaged in marketing Randstad’s services; recruiting, evaluating, and placing workers; and administrative and clerical tasks. Randstad tracked Plaintiffs’ performance using a points-based system. Plaintiffs were required to accrue 100 points each week, across certain categories, such as sales and recruiting. Randstad maintained a progressive discipline system for employees who did not meet the weekly quota, with penalties including termination. Randstad also held periodic “contests,” which required employees to perform tasks beyond the employee’s regular duties. According to Plaintiffs, the quotas were impossible to meet working only 40 hours per week, so Plaintiffs regularly worked more than 40 hours per week, and Randstad managers were aware they did so. In Plaintiffs’ Fair Labour Standards Act action, the district court granted Randstad summary judgment, finding that certain named Plaintiffs exercised discretion and independent judgment and were covered by the administrative exemption and that Randstad was insulated from liability because it relied, reasonably and in good faith, on a Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) opinion letter. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part, finding that two named plaintiffs were not covered by the exemption and that, a minimum, there is a factual question whether Randstad reasonably relied on the WHD Letter to classify Plaintiffs as FLSA-exempt without reviewing their individual duties, or at least the duties of employees in the Troy, Michigan office or the region. View "Perry v. Randstad General Partner LLC" on Justia Law

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Williams has a history of anxiety and depression, predating his employment with Grand Trunk Railroad, where Williams worked as an engineer beginning in 1995. In 2006, Williams consulted Dr. Bernick for hypertension, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Dr. Bernick prescribed Xanax for Williams as a “stop-gap” measure it for his anxiety and depression, referred Williams to a psychiatrist, and advised Williams that he “shouldn’t work” during an anxiety episode if he would not feel safe. In December 2011, Williams missed eight days of work because of anxiety and depression. Grand Trunk deemed six days to be “unexcused absences” and terminated Williams in January 2012 for excessive absenteeism. Williams filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for wrongful retaliation and termination. OSHA dismissed because Williams’s absences for a “non-work-related illness” did not constitute qualifying “protected activity.” An ALJ held that Williams had engaged in protected activity because he was following his physician's treatment plan and the protected activity was a factor in the decision to terminate Williams’s employment. The Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board affirmed, declining to apply Third Circuit precedent that the Federal Railroad Safety Act’s “Prompt medical attention” clause, 49 U.S.C. 20109(c) only applies to treatment plans for on-duty injuries. The Sixth Circuit disagreed. Subsection (c)(2), like subsection (c)(1), applies only to on-duty injuries. View "Grand Trunk Western Railroad Co. v. United States Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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In 2013, OHL reassigned Smith, an eight-year employee, who regularly discussed Union business with co-workers, distributed Union materials, tried to convince her co-workers to sign Union cards, and wore pro-Union apparel to work. Jones, an OHL janitor, was less outspoken about the Union but talked with his pro-Union colleagues and, at least once, raised issues about the Union in a meeting with OHL management. Jones was involved in an altercation between management and a pro-Union employee. Before being fired in 2013, Jones had received a final written warning for safety violations; he was fired after another incident. During 2013, 10 employees requested their Union cards back and interest in Union meetings dropped. The regional NLRB filed an administrative complaint against OHL, claiming that it had committed unfair labor practices in an attempt to stifle Union support and obtained a temporary injunction under the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 160(j), returning Smith to her old position and reinstating Jones. An ALJ subsequently rejected the unfair labor practice complaints because Smith was receiving the same pay and benefits and her new job was not more onerous. OHL employees unionized in 2013. In 2016, a federal court ordered OHL to begin the collective bargaining process. The Sixth Circuit upheld the injunction with respect to Smith and vacated with respect to Jones. View "McKinney v. Ozburn-Hessey Logistics, LLC" on Justia Law

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Gatlin, an employee of Hopkins County Coal (HCC), was terminated from his job after refusing to perform a pre-shift examination that he believed entitled him to extra pay. Gatlin filed a discrimination complaint with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). After forwarding the complaint to HCC and making an initial request to interview HCC managerial employees, the MSHA sent a letter requesting to review documents that it claimed were necessary to properly evaluate Gatlin’s claim. Following a series of letters and a site visit, HCC refused to produce Gatlin’s personnel file and the personnel files of other employees at the mine who faced discipline during the previous five years for engaging in the conduct that led to Gatlin’s termination. An MSHA investigator issued citations and an order to HCC under sections 104(a) and (b)1 of the Mine Safety and Health Act, 30 U.S.C. 814. An ALJ with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission upheld the citations and order. The Commission and the Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting HCC’s claims that the MSHA exceeded its authority under the Mine Act by demanding company personnel documents without first identifying any basis for a discrimination claim and the MSHA’s demands to inspect the records violated HCC’s Fourth Amendment rights. View "Hopkins County Coal v. Mine Safety and Health Administration" on Justia Law

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For almost 40 years, Honeywell (or its predecessors) operated a manufacturing plant in Fostoria, Ohio. Many union workers, including Watkins and Ulicny, spent most of their working years at the plant. They retired at a time when Honeywell promised in a collective-bargaining agreement that it would pay for their health insurance. When the final agreement expired in 2011, Honeywell did not renew it. It sold the plant and, later, stopped paying for its retirees’ healthcare. Those retirees filed suit. The district court found that Honeywell’s promise to pay for healthcare ended when the agreement expired and dismissed the suit. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The agreement promises healthcare “for the duration of this Agreement,” and “this promise means exactly that: Honeywell’s obligation to pay for its Fostoria retirees’ healthcare ended when the agreement expired.” View "Watkins v. Honeywell International, Inc." on Justia Law

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Flight Options announced that it would merge with Flexjet. The Teamsters Union already represented Options' pilots. Flexjet pilots elected the Teamsters to represent them. The existing Options collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) requires the parties to modify the agreement “to permit the integration” of new pilots within nine months; if they reach an impasse, they must submit to binding arbitration. However, the CBA became “amendable” under the Railway Labor Act after the merger, so that either party could propose broad changes affecting the pilots’ rates of pay and working conditions, 45 U.S.C. 156, by serving a “Section 6” notice. The union served a Section 6 notice before the parties began their CBA negotiations. The airlines maintain that they must resolve their CBA negotiations before turning to the Section 6 proposals. The union argues that both negotiations should happen simultaneously. The union obtained a preliminary injunction ordering the airlines to bargain the Section 6 proposals in good faith. The Sixth Circuit vacated. The district court incorrectly assumed the parties’ dispute over the order of negotiations was “major” under the Act, and, therefore, required good-faith bargaining. Given that the airlines’ claim is consistent with the CBA and the union has failed to identify any contradictory language, the dispute is minor; Whether the terms of the CBA allow the airlines to delay Section 6 negotiations must be determined in arbitration. View "Flight Options, LLC v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 1108" on Justia Law

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Gregg has a compensation policy whereby its retail and sales employees, who are paid solely on the basis of commission, are advanced a “draw” to meet the minimum-wage requirements whenever their commissions fall below minimum wage. The amount of the draw is then deducted from future earnings in weeks when the employees’ commissions exceed the minimum-wage requirements. Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and other former and current Gregg employees, brought suit claiming violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state law. The district court found that defendants’ compensation policy was legal and dismissed all of plaintiffs’ federal claims. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The district court incorrectly applied the retail or service establishment exemption, which relieves employers from only their overtime obligations, 29 U.S.C. 207(i). Department of Labor regulations state that when an employee earns less in commissions than he was advanced through a draw, “a deduction of the excess amount from commission earnings for a subsequent period, if otherwise lawful, may or may not be customary under the employment arrangement,” 29 C.F.R. 779.416. Plaintiffs alleged sufficient facts to indicate that Gregg violated the FLSA by policies and practices that encouraged employees to work “off the clock” without compensation View "Stein v. hhgregg Inc." on Justia Law

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Mullendore served as the Belding, Michigan City Manager, beginning in April 2013. During her tenure, she was involved in political disputes and a newly-elected city council member advocated termination of her at-will employment. On January 6 2015, she gave notice that she would be taking time off due to a surgery, scheduled for January 15, indicating that she would be able to work remotely while recovering. The city purchased a laptop for her use in working from home. Mullendore stated that she would not seek medical leave and declined to complete the city’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA, 29 U.S.C. 2615(a)(1)) paperwork. While she was recovering, the city council voted to terminate her employment, citing her role in causing political strife in the community. She sued under the FMLA. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants, holding that Mullendore had not given sufficient notice that she would be taking FMLA leave and that the defendants also provided a non-discriminatory reason for the termination. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. An employee lawfully may be dismissed, preventing him from exercising his statutory rights to FMLA leave or reinstatement, if the dismissal would have occurred regardless of the employee’s request for or taking of FMLA leave. View "Mullendore v. City of Belding" on Justia Law

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The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed by the Jefferson County Board of Education (JCBE) and Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) provided that if an employee believed that they were discriminated against, that employee could file a grievance with JCBE; if the employee subsequently filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the grievance proceedings would be held in abeyance. Watford filed a grievance on the day she was terminated (October 13, 2010) and those proceedings are still in abeyance. Watford sued, alleging that JCBE and JCTA retaliated against her for filing an EEOC charge. The district court awarded the defendants summary judgment, The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding the judgment inconsistent with prior holdings that “an adverse action against [an] employee because the employee had pursued the statutorily protected activity of filing a charge with the EEOC” is “clearly” retaliation. The CBA is retaliatory on its face. View "Watford v. Jefferson County Public Schools" on Justia Law