Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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The EEOC filed suit on behalf of a Consol Energy employee, alleging that Consol violated Title VII by constructively discharging the employee instead of accommodating his religious beliefs. In this case, the employee was forced to resign because his religious beliefs prevented him from using a biometric hand scanner. Consol provided an alternative to employees who could not use the hand scanner for non-religious reasons, but refused to accommodate the employee here for his religious objection. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the EEOC. The district court subsequently denied Consol's post-verdict motions. The Fourth Circuit held that Consol was not entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law where the evidence presented at trial allowed the jury to conclude that Consol failed to make available to a sincere religious objector the same reasonable accommodation it offered other employees, in clear violation of Title VII. Furthermore, the court found no error in the numerous evidentiary challenges raised by Consol nor in the district court's determinations regarding lost wages and punitive damages. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "EEOC v. Consol Energy, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Cava, alleging a Title VII retaliation claim for reporting alleged sexual harassment between employees. Plaintiff's supervisor concluded, after an investigation, that plaintiff made up the allegations. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff, holding that neither plaintiff nor amici have cited any case holding that the opposition clause protects employees' pretending to oppose Title VII violations by intentionally fabricating allegations, and the court was not aware of any; while the case law plaintiff and amici presented favor liberally interpreting the statute to further the goal of encouraging employees to come forward, they did not favor rewriting a statute that conditions liability on the existence of a retaliatory motive; and there was no genuine dispute of fact regarding the reasonableness of Cava's investigation into whether plaintiff fabricated her conversation with an employee. View "Villa v. Cavamezze Grill, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Sotera, alleging that the company violated the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601 et seq. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to Sotera, holding that the district court correctly rejected plaintiff's legal contention that Sotera interfered with plaintiff's FMLA rights by not restoring him to his pre-leave position; no reasonable factfinder could conclude that Sotera failed to place plaintiff in "an equivalent position" or that the differences between the two jobs at issue were more than merely de minimis; and plaintiff failed to create a genuine issue of material fact as to his termination-related claims. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that Sotera was entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's claim that Sotera interfered with his FMLA rights by reinstating him to a sham position and then firing him at the first opportunity. Finally, plaintiff failed to adduce sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact such that a reasonable factfinder could conclude that the adverse employment action was taken for an impermissible reason, such as retaliation. View "Waag v. Sotera Defense Solutions" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a class of retirees and their union, filed suit against Constellium after the company unilaterally altered its retiree health benefits program. The district court granted summary judgment to Constellium. The court interpreted Article 15 of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) using ordinary contract principles and concluded that the plain language of the CBA and summary plan description (SPD) clearly indicated that the retiree health benefits did not vest. The court rejected plaintiffs' assertion that the Cap Letters and other provisions of the CBA evince an intent to vest the retiree health benefits. The court also rejected plaintiffs' remaining claims and affirmed the judgment. View "Barton v. Constellium Rolled Products-Ravenwood, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former Battalion Chief, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the County and others, alleging that he was fired in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment free speech rights, and that the Department's social media policy was facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants on the First Amendment claim, and dismissed as moot the facial challenge to the social media policy. The court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment to defendants as to the First Amendment claim. In this case, at least some of plaintiff's Facebook activity prompting his termination implicated matters of public concern, and the Department's interest in workplace efficiency and preventing disruption outweighed the public interest commentary contained in plaintiff's Facebook activity. Because the court found that the district court properly granted defendants' motion for summary judgment against plaintiff, the court declined to review the as-applied challenge. The court concluded that the third-party facial challenge was properly dismissed as moot where defendants have adopted a new social media policy and revised code of conduct, as well as declared that the Department has no intent to reenact the offending policies. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Buker v. Howard County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, alleging that they forced her to provide labor in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), 18 U.S.C. 1589. Specifically, plaintiff alleged six claims of involuntary servitude and illegal trafficking stemming from her work as a live-in housemaid to defendants. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants. Drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiff, the court agreed with the district court's determination that plaintiff's evidence was insufficient to satisfy the requirements of the forced labor statute and that defendants were entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. In this case, plaintiff failed to develop sufficient evidence upon which a jury could reasonably conclude that defendants knowingly forced or coerced her to come to the United States, or to remain in their employ against her will, by means of serious psychological harm or abuse of law or legal process, when she otherwise would have left and returned to her home country of Kenya. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Muchira v. Al-Rawaf" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former assistant county attorney, was terminated from her employment after she was elected to the City Counsel. Plaintiff filed suit challenging the County Attorney's decision to terminate her employment, contending that the County Attorney's actions violated her rights under the federal and state constitution, as well as a county ordinance. The district court dismissed the complaint. The court explained that, although plaintiff claims her termination was in violation of the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has made clear that public employers may permissibly bar their employees from participating in a wide array of political activities, including running for elective office. In this case, the record reflects multiple potential points of conflict that could face plaintiff as a member of the City Council and an attorney in the Fairfax County Attorney’s Office. Therefore, the court rejected plaintiff's First Amendment arguments. Because plaintiff's termination did not violate the First Amendment, her section 1983 claim was also properly dismissed. Finally, the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiff's state law claim under Virginia Code 15.2-1512.2 and Fairfax County Ordinance 3-1-19. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Loftus v. Bobzien" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an Applications Developer for the CIA, was a covert employee who suffered from narcolepsy. Plaintiff first filed suit against the Agency, alleging discrimination and ultimately termination based on his disability, failure to accommodate, and retaliation. While the motion for summary judgment was pending on the first suit, plaintiff filed suit against the same defendants, alleging disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, and retaliation under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 791 et seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq. In this case, even if plaintiff establishes a prima facie case for his claims, the court found that its precedent nonetheless requires dismissal because any defense to these claims that the government could offer would undoubtedly rely on privileged information. Therefore, the district court correctly concluded that the information at issue is properly privileged and that litigation of the case would present an unjustifiable risk of disclosure of that information. The court affirmed the judgment. View "Abilt v. CIA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq.; the Maryland Wage and Hour Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. 3-401 et seq.; and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. 3-501 et seq. The district court granted summary judgment to Commercial because Commercial did not jointly employ plaintiffs where J.I. and Commercial entered into a traditionally recognized legitimate contractor-subcontractor relationship and did not intend to avoid compliance with the FLSA or Maryland law. The court concluded, however, that the legitimacy of a business relationship between putative joint employers and the putative joint employers’ good faith are not dispositive of whether entities constitute joint employers for purposes of the FLSA. The court held that joint employment exists when (1) two or more persons or entities share, agree to allocate responsibility for, or otherwise codetermine—formally or informally, directly or indirectly—the essential terms and conditions of a worker’s employment and (2) the two entities’ combined influence over the essential terms and conditions of the worker’s employment render the worker an employee as opposed to an independent contractor. Applying this test to this case, the court concluded that Commercial jointly employed plaintiffs for purposes of the FLSA and the analogous Maryland law. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment. View "Salinas v. Commercial Interiors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, two groups of satellite television technicians, filed suit alleging that defendants, through a web of agreements with various affiliated and unaffiliated service providers, are jointly and severally liable for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq. The district court dismissed the pleadings because plaintiffs failed to adequately allege that DIRECTV and DirectSat jointly employed plaintiffs. The court concluded that the district court relied on out-of-circuit authority that the court has since rejected as unduly restrictive in light of the broad reach of the FLSA. The court concluded that, under the appropriate legal standards, plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts to make out a plausible claim that defendants jointly employed them as DIRECTV technicians; defendants may be held jointly and severally liable in the event that plaintiffs performed uncompensated overtime work for defendants during plaintiffs’ respective periods of employment; and the court reversed the dismissal of plaintiffs' FLSA and Maryland state-law claims against defendants because they have sufficiently pleaded that DIRECTV jointly employed them as satellite technicians, and that they are owed some amount of unpaid compensation. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hall v. DIRECTV, LLC" on Justia Law