Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
New York Party Shuttle, LLC v. National Labor Relations Board
After the Board concluded that NYPS committed an unfair labor practice and ordered NYPS to reinstate an employee and make him whole, NYPS appealed the Board’s liability finding but failed to file an opening brief. The Fifth Circuit entered a default judgment and the Board held a compliance proceeding to determine damages. At the proceeding, an ALJ awarded some $91,000 in backpay to the employee.The Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court's findings support the Board's conclusion that petitioners constitute a single employer. In this case, substantial evidence supports the Board's finding that there is common ownership and financial control among petitioners; substantial evidence supports the Board's finding of an interrelation of operations between all five petitioners; the record supports the Board's finding that a common cast of characters, who operate on a "readily fungible" team, manage the companies; and substantial evidence once supports the Board's findings that there is centralized control over critical policy matters.The court rejected petitioners' contention that the underlying 2013 merits order is void ab initio because of the Supreme Court's holding in NLRB v. Noel Canning, 573 U.S. 513, 519 (2014). The court affirmed the Board's order to pay the employee backpay except for the portion of that order awarding backpay for the period of October 2014 to 2018. As to that part of the order, the court reversed and remanded. Finally, the court rejected petitioners' evidentiary arguments. View "New York Party Shuttle, LLC v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
BST Holdings, LLC v. Occupational Safety and Health Administration
This case concerns OSHA's November 5, 2021 Emergency Temporary Standard requiring employees of covered employers to undergo COVID-19 vaccination or take weekly COVID-19 tests and wear a mask.The Fifth Circuit granted petitioners' motion for a stay pending review, holding that the Nken factors favored a stay. The court concluded that petitioners' challenges to the Mandate are likely to succeed on the merits. The court stated that, on the dubious assumption that the Mandate does pass constitutional muster, it is nonetheless fatally flawed on its own terms. The court wrote that the Mandate's strained prescriptions combine to make it the rare government pronouncement that is both overinclusive (applying to employers and employees in virtually all industries and workplaces in America, with little attempt to account for the obvious differences between the risks facing, say, a security guard on a lonely night shift, and a meatpacker working shoulder to shoulder in a cramped warehouse) and underinclusive (purporting to save employees with 99 or more coworkers from a "grave danger" in the workplace, while making no attempt to shield employees with 98 or fewer coworkers from the very same. The court found that promulgation of the Mandate grossly exceeds OSHA's statutory authority and found arguments to the contrary unavailing.The court also concluded that it is clear that denial of petitioners' proposed stay would do them irreparable harm where the Mandate threatens to substantially burden the liberty interests of reluctant individuals, companies, and the States. In contrast, the court stated that a stay will do OSHA no harm whatsoever. Finally, the court concluded that a stay is firmly in the public interest. View "BST Holdings, LLC v. Occupational Safety and Health Administration" on Justia Law
Houston v. Texas Department of Agriculture
Houston began working for TDA in 2012. Houston’s responsibilities required on-site inspections to confirm compliance with state and federal regulations. Houston suffers from lupus, anemia, and other illnesses, requiring her to be absent from work and sometimes take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In 2016, Houston returned to her position after a long-term medical leave and submitted a request for accommodations permitting her to telework and to work a compressed workweek. TDA allowed Houston to work four 10-hour days but denied the telework request because Houston’s duties could not be performed solely from home and Houston needed training to improve performance.Later in 2016, Houston received warnings for “failure to meet expectations,” excessive absenteeism and tardiness, inadequate job performance, insubordination, leaving work early, accruing overtime without approval, late arrivals to sites being audited, failure to submit accurate and timely administrative reviews, and failure to follow TDA’s travel policy. An April 2017 warning notified Houston that she was on a 90-day probation period. When the probationary period ended, TDA discharged Houston because of her failure to correct her performance deficiencies, excessive absenteeism and tardiness unrelated to protected FMLA leave, and insubordination. The Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment, rejecting Houston’s FMLA retaliation claim, 29 U.S.C. 2601, and her Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701, discrimination claim.TDA established legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for Houston’s termination; Houston failed to raise a disputed material fact showing that those reasons were pretextual. View "Houston v. Texas Department of Agriculture" on Justia Law
Scott v. U.S. Bank National Ass’n
Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, the Bank, alleging that the Bank violated 42 U.S.C. 1981 by taking retaliatory employment actions against him because he opposed racial discrimination occurring within his department.The Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court did not err in denying defendant leave to amend his complaint where he failed to offer any grounds as to why his leave should be granted or how deficiencies in his complaint could be corrected. However, the court concluded that the district court erred in finding that plaintiff failed to state a claim under section 1981 when it concluded that he did not engage in a protected activity. Construing the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the court concluded that plaintiff has successfully pleaded facts that could support a reasonable belief. In this case, plaintiff alleged that he overheard a supervisor state that "he intended to terminate four (4) African American employees." The court explained that a supervisor's considering of the race of an employee when deciding to terminate that employee is an unlawful employment practice. Furthermore, after plaintiff gave a statement to a human resources investigator, he alleges that the company began to retaliate against him by denying his loans, giving him multiple warnings, sending him to unnecessary training, and ultimately terminating him. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Scott v. U.S. Bank National Ass'n" on Justia Law
Gezu v. Charter Communications
Gezu worked for Charter, 2017-2019. In October 2017, Charter sent an email to all active, non-union employees announcing a new employment-based legal dispute resolution program. The email instructed employees about their right to opt out. The arbitration agreement, which was available in full on Charter’s intranet, required arbitration of all disputes, claims, and controversies that could be asserted in court or before an administrative agency.During his employment, Gezu allegedly suffered discrimination based on his race and national origin and Charter did not take any action to address the discrimination despite being made aware of it. Charter terminated Gezu in May 2019, based on what Gezu alleges were pretextual reasons. Gezu, acting pro se, asserted claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. 1981. The Fifth Circuit affirmed an order granting Charter’s motion to compel arbitration and to dismiss. There was a valid modification to Gezu’s employment contract, consisting of notice and acceptance. View "Gezu v. Charter Communications" on Justia Law
Hewitt v. Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc.
Under 29 C.F.R. 541.601, a highly compensated employee must be paid on a "salary basis" in order to avoid overtime. Under section 541.604(b), an employee whose pay is "computed on a daily basis" must meet certain conditions in order to satisfy the salary-basis test. A daily-rate worker can be exempt from overtime—but only "if" two conditions are met: the minimum weekly guarantee condition and the reasonable relationship condition.In this case, Helix claims that plaintiff is exempt from overtime as a highly compensated executive employee under section 541.601. The parties agree that Hewitt meets both the duties requirements and income thresholds of both exemptions. However, Hewitt admits that plaintiff's pay is computed on a daily basis, rather than on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis.The court concluded that Helix does not comply with either prong of section 541.604(b) where it pays plaintiff a daily rate without offering a minimum weekly required amount paid and Helix does not comply with the reasonable-relationship test. The court also concluded that there is no principled basis for applying or ignoring section 541.604(b) based on how much the employee is paid; the salary-basis test does not conflict with precedent; and the court rejected Helix's contention that extending overtime to highly-paid employees like plaintiff defies the purpose of the Fair Labor Standards Act. View "Hewitt v. Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc." on Justia Law
Jennings v. Towers Watson
Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer, WTW, alleging civil conspiracy under Texas law, a hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), disability discrimination under the ADA, racial discrimination, and wrongful termination.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of WTW's motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that, while plaintiff did exhaust her disability discrimination and failure-to-accommodate claims, she failed to exhaust her claims of race discrimination and a hostile work environment. The court also concluded that plaintiff has not raised a genuine issue of material fact as to her failure-to-accommodate and disability discrimination claims, and WTW is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court further concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's motion to alter or amend the judgment and plaintiff has not shown that the district court abused its discretion in taxing costs against her. View "Jennings v. Towers Watson" on Justia Law
Hester v. Bell-Textron, Inc.
Hester, employed by Bell-Textron since 1997, suffers from epilepsy and glaucoma. Hester also assists his wife, who has stage-four cancer. In 2017, Hester began reporting to Cribb, who was aware of Hester’s medical history. In 2018, Cribb issued Hester's first poor performance review. Months later, Cribb issued Hester a final warning related to a part that broke during testing. Hester protested and was escorted off-premises. Cribb told him to apply for an employee assistance program. Hester was granted short-term disability coverage and leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) based on his epilepsy and glaucoma. A human resources employee fired Hester by telephone weeks later, citing Hester’s “poor mid-year performance review.” Hester was informed that he still had several weeks of FMLA leave remaining. Hester then filed suit, alleging discriminatory termination during the pendency of his FMLA leave and interference with his right of reinstatement at the end of his FMLA leave.The Fifth Circuit reversed the dismissal of his complaint. The alleged timeline of events indicates that BellTextron’s termination decision was not “completely unrelated” to the exercise of his FMLA rights. The allegation that Bell-Textron directed Hester to an employee assistance program and guided him through the FMLA application process—rather than simply firing him outright on the basis of poor workplace performance—indicates that Hester’s right to restored employment was still intact when he secured FMLA leave. View "Hester v. Bell-Textron, Inc." on Justia Law
Maxim Crane Works, LP v. Zurich American Insurance Co.
In this insurance coverage dispute, at issue is who counts as an "employee" under the Texas Anti-Indemnity Act (TAIA). The Fifth Circuit certified the following question to Supreme Court of Texas: Whether the employee exception to the TAIA, Texas Insurance Code 151.103, allows additional insured coverage when an injured worker brings a personal injury claim against the additional insured (indemnitee), and the worker and the indemnitee are deemed "co-employees" of the indemnitor for purposes of the TWCA. View "Maxim Crane Works, LP v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Campos v. Steves & Sons, Inc.
Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer on his state-law disability-discrimination and retaliation claims, as well as his claims for retaliation and interference under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Plaintiff's claim stemmed from his termination after taking time off of work for open-heart surgery.The court concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's disability discrimination claim under Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code where there simply is no medical evidence in the record except for plaintiff's own statements that he was qualified to return to work at any point, let alone before his FMLA leave expired; plaintiff failed to establish that he was qualified for either of two positions at work; and there was no other request for accommodations outside of the ability to attend dialysis treatments nor any reasonable explanation to account for the contradictory statements about plaintiff's physical capabilities made in the application for social security benefits. The court also concluded that plaintiff failed to support that he engaged in any protected activity under state law that led to retaliation by his employer.In regard to plaintiff's FMLA claims, the court concluded that the district court correctly determined that plaintiff did not show the prejudice necessary to prevail on an FMLA interference claim. However, in regard to plaintiff's FMLA retaliation claim, the adverse employment action occurred approximately one month after plaintiff's FMLA leave expired. The court concluded that a month is close enough in time to create a causal connection. Therefore, the burden shifts to the employer to offer legitimate, nonretaliatory reasons for the adverse reaction. Although the employer offered three reasons, the court concluded that they have been adequately rebutted for purposes of summary judgment. Accordingly, the court affirmed on all claims except for the FMLA retaliation claim, which it reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Campos v. Steves & Sons, Inc." on Justia Law