Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of their national origin discrimination claims under Title VII against the University. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' disparate treatment claims, holding that plaintiffs alleged sufficient facts to state a plausible claim that the University's various actions taken against them were motivated by anti-Italian bias. In this case, the district court erred by holding plaintiffs to a heightened pleading standard. The court affirmed as to the district court's disparate impact and hostile work environment claims and remanded in part for further proceedings. View "Cicalese v. University of Texas Medical Branch" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint against her former employers, alleging that she was fired because of her sexual orientation (heterosexual) and Defendant Huber's reaction to plaintiff's pro-heterosexual speech. Plaintiff, the manager of PNP's human resources department, made a Facebook post criticizing a man wearing a dress and noting his ability to use the women's bathroom and/or dressing room. The court held that plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claim failed because Title VII does not protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and, even if it did, the district court did not err in finding that plaintiff could not have reasonably believed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was a prohibited practice. The court also held that the district court correctly dismissed the state claim because none of defendants were state actors and were therefore not covered by the the restrictions of Article 1, section 7 of the Louisiana constitution. View "O'Daniel v. Industrial Service Solutions" on Justia Law

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Petitioner filed a whistleblower complaint against his former employer, HMS, alleging that he was terminated because of disclosures he made regarding HMS's billing practices. The OIG found that, although petitioner had made protected disclosures, they were not a contributing factor to HMS's decision to fire petitioner and that HMS would have fired him absent the disclosures. HHS adopted the OIG's report and denied petitioner's claim. The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of HHS's decision, holding that the four years that passed between petitioner's 2009 disclosures and his 2013 firing, as well as a "lack of other evidence" supporting a finding of retaliation, bolstered HHS's conclusion that petitioner's disclosures were not contributing factors in HMS's decision to fire him, and was enough to satisfy the "highly deferential" arbitrary and capricious standard. In this case, the OIG's summary of its interviews with petitioner's supervisors and several other HMS employees sufficiently supported HHS's conclusion that HMS fired petitioner because of his poor performance or as part of a reduction-in-force. View "Frey v. HHS" on Justia Law

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After a jury found in plaintiff's favor in an action alleging that she was fired because of her race and sex, it awarded her just $1. The district court then denied plaintiff both reinstatement and front pay, leaving her with no remedy. The court held that the district court should not have considered two of the four factors it relied on in denying reinstatement, and thus the court could not review its conclusion that plaintiff's reinstatement would not further the remedial goals of Title VII. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings without suggesting how the district court should exercise its discretion based on the two factors that remain or other permissible considerations that the district court may find relevant. View "Bogan v. MTD Consumer Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was fired from her tenured professorship by the Board of LSU, she filed suit against defendants alleging that they violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment right to free speech and academic freedom, and her Fourteenth Amendment procedural and substantive due process rights. Plaintiff also alleged a facial challenge to LSU's sexual harassment policies. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's as-applied challenge and held that the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff's speech was not protected by the First Amendment. In this case, plaintiff's speech was not a matter of public concern, because the use of profanity and discussion of professors' and students' sex lives were clearly not related to the training of Pre-K–Third grade teachers. The court vacated plaintiff's facial challenge and held that she failed to sue the proper party, the Board of Supervisors, which is responsible for the creation and enforcement of the policies at issue. Although the court need not address the district court's holding on qualified immunity because plaintiff's claims failed, the court nevertheless affirmed that all defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on her damages claims. View "Buchanan v. Alexander" on Justia Law

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The insurer of a Louisiana sugarcane farm raised several arguments that the farm was entitled to statutory immunity under Louisiana workers' compensation law from an action brought by two injured cane planters. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of plaintiffs, holding that plaintiffs were neither employees of the farm nor its independent contractors. Rather, plaintiffs were employees of the farm's independent contractor. Therefore, the farm was not entitled to statutory immunity from suit. View "Jorge-Chavelas v. Louisiana Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's summary judgment award to plaintiffs in an action alleging that Premier misclassified them as independent contractors and failed to compensate them for overtime pay pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Plaintiffs are directional driller consultants (DD) and Premier is a company that specializes in directional drilling for oil. The district court determined that plaintiffs were employees, not independent contractors (IC). However, the court applied the factors in United States v. Silk, 331 U.S. 704 (1947), and held that the degree of control factor favored IC status; plaintiffs had enough control over their profits and losses to have this factor support IC status; the skill and initiative required in performing the job favored IC status; and the permanency of the relationship weighed in favor of IC status. The court evaluated three additional relevant factors and reached the same conclusions as the district court. View "Parrish v. Premier Directional Drilling, L.P." on Justia Law

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Chase petitioned for writ of mandamus after the district court conditionally certified a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action and directed that approximately 42,000 current and former Chase employees receive notice of the litigation. Chase claimed that arbitration agreements waived most of the employees' right to proceed collectively against Chase and that those agreements were enforceable under their terms. The Fifth Circuit denied the petition and held that, although Chase has shown that the issue presented was irremediable on ordinary appeal and that the writ of mandamus was appropriate under the circumstances, Chase has not shown a clear and indisputable right to the writ. The court held, however, that the district court erred by ordering that notice be sent to employees who signed arbitration agreements and by requiring Chase to provide personal contact information for the Arbitration Employees. Therefore, the court continued the stay of the district court's December 10, 2018, order for thirty days to give the court full opportunity to reconsider that order. View "In Re: JPMorgan Chase & Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, alleging a claim under the anti-retaliation provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The district court concluded that the employer's decision to fire plaintiff was not prohibited retaliation and that plaintiff did not have an objectively reasonable belief that a violation of reporting requirements had occurred. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the employer, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that paragraph 22 of the declaration of plaintiff's witness was impermissible expert testimony. Therefore, there was no genuine issue of material act as to whether plaintiff's purported belief that his employer was misreporting its revenue was objectively reasonable in light of the undisputed facts. View "Wallace v. Andeavor Corp." on Justia Law

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The panel opinion, special concurrence, and dissent previously issued in this case were withdrawn, and the following opinions were substituted in their place. Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, BNSF, for disability discrimination and retaliation after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and later placed on medical leave. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to BNSF on plaintiff's disability discrimination claim because there was a fact issue as to whether BNSF discriminated against plaintiff. However, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the retaliation claim and held that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of an unlawful retaliation. View "Nall v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law