Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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After plaintiff was terminated by his employers, he filed suit against them, alleging violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants. The court held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for defendants on the ADA claim because plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the reasons defendants gave for terminating him - a reduction in force - were pretextual. Because the pretext arguments plaintiff raised with respect to the ADA apply equally to the FMLA, the court held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the FMLA claim. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Caldwell v. KHOU-TV" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, alleging that the antiretaliation provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., was violated when she was terminated after raising concerns about whether a coworker's pay complied with the FLSA. The court concluded that there was a factual dispute about whether plaintiff was stepping outside her ordinary role as Risk Manager and giving fair notice to Daybreak that she was asserting rights adverse to it; plaintiff had established the causal link required to establish a prima facie case; and there was sufficient evidence from which a jury could conclude that Daybreak's reasons for firing plaintiff was a pretext for retaliation. The court also concluded that the district court erred by dismissing plaintiff's request for emotional damages. Finally, the court agreed with the district court that the state statute does not provide protection to employees reporting FLSA violations. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Starnes v. Wallace" on Justia Law

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The Companies petitioned for review of the Board's determination that they constitute a single employer and that the single-employer doctrine can be used to hold them liable under Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. 158. The court held that the Board correctly determined that Alcoa and TRACO constitute a single employer because there was substantial evidence showing common control over labor relations as well as interrelation of operations and common ownership. The court summarily enforced the Board's order with respect to liability under Section 8(a)(1) on the issues related to the exclusion of Alcoa employees from the TRACO facility and surveillance of handbilling, because the Companies do not dispute that substantial evidence supports the Board's findings. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review and granted the Board's cross-application for enforcement. View "Alcoa v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Lufkin, his former employer, alleging, inter alia, that the employer violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that he was discharged in retaliation for complaining that his direct supervisor racially harassed him. The district court dismissed and refused to grant plaintiff an extension of time to file additional objections to the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation, which the district court adopted. The court concluded that plaintiff is entitled to relief because he has demonstrated that his supervisors, motivated by retaliatory animus, took acts intended to cause an adverse employment action, and those acts were a but-for cause of his termination. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. The court dismissed Lufkin's cross-appeal. View "Fisher v. Lufkin Industries" on Justia Law

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Remington, a hotel management company, seeks review of the Board's order finding that it violated Sections 8(a)(1) and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1), (3). The court concluded that the Board's finding that the 2012 Hospitality Staffing Services contract violated the NRLA is supported by substantial evidence. The court rejected Remington's argument that the district court, without finding that an employee was not engaged in a protected activity when she was terminated, cannot hold that the employee's discharge violated section 8(a)(1). The court agreed with the Board's findings that Remington's decision to discharge the employee violated section 8(a)(1). Accordingly, the court denied Remington's petition for partial review and enforced the order. View "Remington Lodging v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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Delek petitions for review of OSHA citations for violations of its process safety management rules, which govern an employer’s responsibility to inspect, and to develop inspection and recording regimes for, machinery that handles large volumes of hazardous chemicals. Item 4 alleges a failure to resolve open findings and recommendations identified during process hazard analyses that occurred in 1994, 1998, 1999, 2004, and 2005—prior to Delek purchasing and taking possession of the refinery. Item 8 alleges an inadequate monitoring and inspection regime for certain equipment involved in process safety management. Item 12 alleges that Delek failed to determine and document a response to the findings of a 2005 compliance audit in a timely manner. Item 12 was also conducted before Delek took possession of the refinery. The court concluded that citations for Items 4 and 12 are barred by the six-month statute of limitations in 29 U.S.C. 658(c). Accordingly, the court vacated those items. The court also concluded that the regulations relevant to the citation for Item 8 are ambiguous and the Secretary's interpretation is reasonable. The court affirmed the citation for Item 8. View "Delek Refining, Ltd. v. OSHC" on Justia Law

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UNF seeks review of the Board's decision and order finding that UNF engaged in unfair labor practices. The court agreed with the ALJ that UNF committed unfair labor practices by interrogating employees about their union activities, threatening employees with futility regarding their rights to organize and bargain collectively, and threatening employees with reduction of wages. The court rejected UNF's remaining objections and denied the petition for review. The court granted the Board's cross-application for enforcement. View "UNF West, Inc. v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against JTCH alleging retaliation claims based on JTCH's demand of back rent after the filing of plaintiff's initial suit seeking unpaid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq. The jury found for plaintiff on both his overtime wage claim and his retaliation claim, awarding him $1,426.50 on the former and $3,775.50 on the latter. In post-trial rulings, the district court awarded plaintiff liquidated damages of $1,426.50 and awarded his counsel $76,732.88 in attorney’s fees, which was a 25% reduction from the amount requested. Both parties appealed. The court joined other circuits in deciding that the FLSA’s broad authorization of “legal and equitable relief” encompasses compensation for emotional injuries suffered by an employee on account of employer retaliation. In this case, a question asking whether plaintiff had proven any damages for emotional distress should have been submitted to the jury. The court also concluded that the district court correctly dismissed the wife's retaliation claim because the FLSA only prohibits discharging or discriminating against an “employee.” Because the court held that damages for emotional distress are available in an FLSA retaliation suit, and the district court’s ruling to the contrary was made prior to instructing the jury rather than after the verdict was rendered, the court remanded for a determination of whether defendant has proven such harm. View "Pineda v. JTCH Apartments, LLC" on Justia Law

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The issue in this interlocutory appeal arose out of a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Susan Vaughan, a nurse supervisor, against Anderson Regional Medical Center. Vaughan alleged the Medical Center discharged her in retaliation for raising age-discrimination complaints. Vaughan’s claims invoked the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and she sought, among other things, damages for pain and suffering and punitive damages. The district court dismissed Vaughan’s claims for pain and suffering damages and punitive damages because Fifth Circuit precedent barred such recoveries under the ADEA. The Fifth Circuit agreed with the dismissal and affirmed. View "Vaughan v. Anderson Regional Medical Ctr" on Justia Law

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Relator-appellee Jeffrey Simoneaux brought a qui tam action against his former employer, E.I. duPont de Nemours & Company ("duPont"), under the False Claims Act ("FCA"). He contended that duPont had violated the reverse-false-claims provision by concealing an obligation to pay the United States a penalty arising from alleged violations of the Toxic Sub-stances Control Act ("TSCA"). He also averred that duPont had retaliated against him in violation of the FCA. DuPont unsuccessfully moved for summary judgment on both claims, and the Fifth Circuit permitted an interlocutory appeal. Because duPont had no “obligation” to pay the United States, the Court reversed and remanded the denial of summary judgment on the reverse false claim. With respect to the retaliation claim, the Court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Simoneaux v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co." on Justia Law