Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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This appeal stemmed from and action brought by three police officers against the Town, alleging claims related to the officers' termination. On appeal, the officers challenged the district court's post trial rulings. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court erred when it concluded that each plaintiff's claim arose out of the "same" wrongful act and, in the alternative, the meaning of "interrelated" was unambiguous, and that under that unambiguous meaning, plaintiffs' claims arose out of "interrelated" acts. Therefore, the Town waived its governmental immunity for up to $1 million per plaintiff for damages resulting from the three wrongful terminations of plaintiffs, subject to the $3 million Annual Aggregate Limit of the Town's insurance policy. The panel also held that although the police chief was not a final policymaker of the Town regarding plaintiffs' terminations, the town manager was a final policymaker. Therefore, Bralley's unconstitutional actions may fairly be characterized as actions of the Town such that the Town may be held liable to plaintiffs for damages under section 1983. The panel reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's First Amendment claims against the Town and remanded with instructions to enter judgment for plaintiffs. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding Plaintiff Medlin 1.75 years of front pay. View "Hunter v. Town of Mocksville" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The court held that plaintiff engaged in protected activity under Title VII when she complained about what she reasonably believed to be a hostile environment and that her engagement in protected activity caused the City to fire her. In this case, a reasonable jury could find that the City knew or should have known that plaintiff was complaining about a Title VII violation and that her complaints caused her termination. Therefore, plaintiff has established a prima facie case of retaliation, and the district court's grant of summary judgment was improper. View "Strothers v. City of Laurel, Maryland" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's defamation suit against her employer, Remedi, in an action alleging that a coworker engaged in crude, baseless, and ignorant speculation about the reasons for plaintiff's absence from work to undergo a medical procedure. The court held that the coworker's statement, while offensive and odious, would not support an action against Remedi under Virginia law because a company cannot be held liable for employee statements made outside the scope of employment. View "Garnett v. Remedi SeniorCare of Virginia" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to defendants, the town manager and its director of public safety, regarding plaintiffs' alleged due process violations after plaintiffs were terminated from their employment with the Department of Public Safety based on the content of private text messages. The court held that defendants deprived plaintiffs of constitutionally cognizable liberty interests under clearly established law, and plaintiffs were not afforded due process of law. The court held, however, that the district court erred in holding that defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity as to plaintiffs' First Amendment claims. In this case, plaintiffs' evidence did not establish beyond debate that their interest in speaking freely outweighed the Department's interest in maintaining order and discipline. Therefore, the court reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cannon v. Village of Bald Head Island" on Justia Law

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Airgas appealed the district court's preliminary injunction prohibiting the contemplated transfer of one of its facilities to another nonunionized facility pending arbitration, to ensure that the status quo ante could be restored were the Union to prevail on the merits of the contract dispute. While Airgas's appeal was pending, the arbitrator issued a final decision in favor of the Union, the arbitration concluded, and the preliminary injunction expired by its own terms. The Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal as moot because Airgas no longer had a legally cognizable interest in the validity of the preliminary injunction. View "International Brotherhood Local 639 v. Airgas, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Eden Park in an action alleging claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Specifically, plaintiff alleged that Eden Park failed to compensate her for all the time that she worked and failed to pay her overtime wages. The court held that the district court failed to make a finding as to whether Eden Park's in-kind compensation conformed to the requirements under 29 U.S.C. 203(m) and its implementing regulations. Furthermore, the district court failed to assess all the pertinent facts in determining the reasonableness of the employment agreement under 29 C.F.R. 785.23. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Balbed v. Eden Park Guest House, LLC" on Justia Law

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Voluntary retirement before the onset of a workplace injury's debilitating effects does not preclude the existence of a "disability" under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. 901, 902. In this case, a shipyard employee suffered a workplace injury but did not undergo surgery until after he retired. Plaintiff sought disability benefits for the two-month, post-surgery period during which he was not medically cleared for work. The Fourth Circuit held that the Benefits Review Board misinterpreted the act by denying plaintiff his disability claim. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded. View "Moody v. Huntington Ingalls Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against NIKA under the whistleblower-protection provisions of the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3730(h), and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Pub. L. No. 111-5, 123 Stat. 297–99 (2009). The Fourth Circuit held that the district court applied the wrong legal standard to the section 3730(h) claim. The district court's conclusion that section 3730(h) only protects whistleblowing activity directed at the whistleblower's employer was erroneous, because the plain language of section 3730(h) protects disclosures in furtherance of a viable FCA action against any person or company. Nonetheless, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment because plaintiff's disclosures were not protected under the correct legal standard. In this case, plaintiff's disclosures were not in furtherance of a viable FCA action. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's disposition of the ARRA claim, holding that the undisputed facts established by clear and convincing evidence that NIKA would have fired plaintiff absent any whistleblowing activity. View "O'Hara v. NIKA Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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A disinterested observer could not reasonably conclude that the Commission violated SEC Rule of Practice 900(a). Although Rule 900(a) sets timelines by which the Commission would ideally adjudicate cases, the permissive language of the text could not lead an employee to reasonably conclude that failing to meet such aspirational guidelines would amount to a "violation." Plaintiff petitioned for review of the Board's decision affirming the ALJ's determination that plaintiff was not entitled to relief under the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(8). After plaintiff was fired from his position at the SEC, plaintiff claimed that his supervisor terminated him in reprisal for raising concerns about his section's alleged chronic inefficiency. The Second Circuit held that the ALJ did not err in rejecting plaintiff's Rule 900(a) claim and that the ALJ more than adequately explained why an employee in plaintiff's position could not have reasonably concluded that Rule 900(a) was violated. Because the ALJ did not actually analyze plaintiff's claims that he made protected disclosures when he raised concerns that Adjudication violated Rule 900(b), the court remanded the issue to the ALJ. Finally, the court declined to address plaintiff's claims of evidentiary and discovery error. Accordingly, the court denied in part, granted in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Flynn v. SEC" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the Board's holding that Frontier-Kemper was responsible for the payment of benefits to a coal miner under the Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA), 30 U.S.C. 901 et seq. Frontier Constructors and Kemper Construction formed a partnership that worked on heavy construction projects. The Partnership later reorganized into a newly-formed corporation, Frontier-Kemper. The court agreed with the Board that Frontier-Kemper was a successor operator and that the miner's employment with both Frontier-Kemper and the Partnership could be combined in determining Frontier-Kemper's potential liability; there was no retroactive effect in applying the expanded definition of "operator" to the Partnership for the purpose of combining the miner's employment there with his later work at Frontier-Kemper; and the ALJ correctly found that the miner worked for Frontier-Kemper and the Partnership cumulatively for at least one year. View "Frontier-Kemper Constructors, Inc. v. DOWCP" on Justia Law