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

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Petitioner, an office services and facilities management company, refused to bargain with a labor union based on its position that the union was not a "properly certified representative of its employees." In turn, the union filed a claim with the NLRB, claiming that Petitioner violated the NLRA by refusing to bargain in good faith. The NLRB found in the union's favor.The Fifth Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review, rejecting Petitioner's argument that the prosecution was ultra vires. Petitioner claimed that President Biden's removal of the NLRB General Counsel was unlawful and that his replacement lacked authority to bring the complaint against Petitioner. The Fifth Circuit disagreed, finding that no provision of the NLRA protects the General Counsel of the NLRB from removal.The Fifth Circuit then rejected the merits of Petitioner's claim, finding that there was substantial evidence in the record supporting the NLRB's decision. Thus, the court granted NLRB's cross-petition for enforcement. View "Exela Enterprise Solutions v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) against the Administrators of the Tulane Education Fund (“Administrators”), alleging gender discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant and Plaintiff appealed arguing that the district court’s ruling was erroneous.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Administrators. Plaintiff argued that the district court improperly required her to demonstrate that her proffered comparators were strictly identical. The court found that Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case because she did not present evidence that any male physician shared characteristics that would render them similarly situated. Further, even if Plaintiff established a prima facie case, her claim would not succeed because she did not rebut Defendant’s non-discriminatory reasons for declining to renew her contract.   The court further affirmed summary judgment in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff’s retaliation claim. The court concluded that a reasonable jury could not establish that her protected conduct was the “but for” reason for the alleged adverse employment action.   Finally, the court affirmed summary judgment in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim. The court found that although Plaintiff endured severe treatment by her supervisor, she did not establish that the treatment was based on her gender. View "Saketkoo v. Admin Tulane Educ" on Justia Law

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Defendant, Union Pacific, is a national rail carrier. Plaintiff, The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen ("BLET"), is a labor union representing Union Pacific engineers. Division 192 is the exclusive representative for Union Pacific employees around the area. An issue arose when an off-duty fistfight broke out during a union meeting between local division officers and an engineer. About two months after the fight, the engineer filed a complaint with Union Pacific, alleging that was threatened and assaulted by local division representatives in retaliation for taking extra shifts. The suspension of six union members effectively barred all of Division 192’s leadership from Union Pacific’s premises.BLET sued Union Pacific in federal court, alleging Union Pacific retaliated against the union for its shove policy. BLET argued the retaliation violated the section of the Railway Labor Act (“RLA”) prohibiting carrier interference with union activity.The court first found that federal courts have jurisdiction over post-certification disputes alleging that railroad conduct motivated by antiunion animus is interfering with the employees’ “choice of representatives.” Next, the court found that the facts support the determination that the union was likely to succeed in showing that the discipline was motivated by a desire to weaken the local division. Thus, the court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the union is likely to prevail in showing that Union Pacific’s suspension of effectively all the division’s elected representatives amounted to the prohibited interference under the RLA. View "BLET v. Union Pacific Railroad" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a temporary employee on a construction job suffered a diabetic attack at work. Six days later, the plaintiff was terminated along with several others. After exhausting her administrative remedies, the plaintiff sued her employer in the Eastern District of Texas, bringing claims for damages under the ADA, alleging she had been discriminated against due to her diabetes.The circuit court found that the evidence was that plaintiff was terminated immediately after an event that highlighted her ADA-protected disability. The court reasoned proximity of her diabetic episode on the job and her termination was sufficient to constitute a prima facie case that she was included in the group to be terminated for ADA violative reasons. The court further found that plaintiff has presented evidence sufficient to rebut the defendant’s nondiscriminatory reason for termination and show that a fact question exists as to whether that explanation is pretextual. Thus, the plaintiff established the elements of her prima facie case and she has also presented “substantial evidence” that the defendant’s nondiscriminatory rationale for her inclusion in the reduction in force was pretextual. An issue of material fact remains regarding whether the defendant discriminated against the plaintiff on the basis of her disability by including her in the reduction of force. View "Gosby v. Apache Industrial" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in this civil rights action brought by plaintiff against his prior employer with one exception: the court reversed as to the hostile work environment claim. The court concluded that, under the totality of the circumstances, a single incident of harassment, if sufficiently severe, can give rise to a viable Title VII claim. In this case, the incident plaintiff has pleaded, that his supervisor directly called him a racial epithet containing the n-word in front of his fellow employees, states an actionable claim of hostile work environment. The court remanded for further consideration. View "Woods v. Cantrell" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims for sexual harassment and retaliation against the City of Houston. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from the repeated viewing of a private, intimate video of plaintiff by two senior firefighters. While the court agreed that there is no genuine dispute of material fact as to plaintiff's retaliation claim, the court disagreed with the district court's conclusion that no genuine issue exists as to her sexual harassment claim and that summary judgment for the City was appropriate.In this case, it is undisputed that plaintiff, a woman, is a member of a protected class and that she experienced unwelcome harassment; the harassment was based on sex and thus based on plaintiff's status as a member of a protected class; plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the harassment was severe or pervasive enough to create an abusive and hostile work environment; and the conduct was objectively offensive to plaintiff and affected a term or condition of her employment. The court also concluded that plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute as to whether the City knew or should have known about the harassment, and thus can be held liable. View "Abbt v. City of Houston" on Justia Law

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OSHA investigated DRTG, a Houston construction company, following a worksite fatality. DRTG employees provided DRTG’s business address, which is also the home address of DRTG’s sole owner. On September 13, OSHA issued a citation and a notice of a proposed penalty to DRTG, mailed to the provided address by USPS certified mail. After an unsuccessful delivery attempt was made on September 16, USPS left a standard delivery slip saying that the certified mailing would be held at the Post Office for pick-up; DRTG never retrieved the mailing. OSHA sent the citation by UPS Next Day Air on September 23. According to UPS tracking, the citation was successfully delivered to DRTG’s doorstep on September 24. DRTG had 15 working days to file a notice of contest, which OSHA calculated from the date of the UPS delivery as October 16. DRTG did not file the notice by the deadline. The citation became a final order on October 16, 29 U.S.C. 659(a). The next day, an OSHA representative spoke with Padron regarding documentation required by the citation. A "next of kin letter" sent by OSHA to a DRTG employee who was the deceased employee’s cousin, was received on October 18, was immediately forwarded to DRTG’s counsel.On November 5, OSHA received DRTG’s notice of contest, which was ultimately rejected as untimely. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. DRTG was properly served with notice. View "D.R.T.G. Builders, L.L.C. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to defendants in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action for conspiracy to commit retaliatory employment termination. The court concluded that plaintiff plausibly averred that defendants deprived him of his First Amendment rights, and that defendants had fair warning that using their respective government positions to violate plaintiff's First Amendment rights would be objectively unreasonable in light of clearly established law at the time. The court also concluded that plaintiff has also stated a claim for conspiracy under section 1983. View "Bevill v. Fletcher" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's rulings in an action brought by plaintiff against Wal-Mart Stores under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Texas law. Plaintiff, a pharmacist and black man from Cameroon, West Africa, alleged that Wal-Mart intentionally subjected and/or allowed him to be subjected to discrimination based on race, color, and national origin, illegal harassment, and a hostile work environment. Plaintiff also alleged that Wal-Mart retaliated against him for complaining about discrimination and asserting his rights.The court concluded that the district court did not reversibly err in granting summary judgment in favor of Wal-Mart on plaintiff's hostile work environment claim where it is not evident that a triable dispute exists relative to whether Wal-Mart remained aware that plaintiff suffered continued harassment and failed to take prompt remedial action. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in instructing the jury and in refusing to provide the specific Cat's Paw instructions that plaintiff requested. The court also concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's verdict on the retaliation claim under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. 1981; the court rejected challenges to the jury verdict form; and the court rejected claims challenging the punitive damages award and claims of evidentiary errors. View "Wantou v. Wal-Mart Stores Texas, LLC" on Justia Law

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After petitioner was injured on the job while employed by Ameri-Force, he successfully obtained a workers' compensation award after filing a claim with the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs of the U.S. Department of Labor. The Fifth Circuit concluded that petitioner is entitled to attorney's fees under the plain text of 33 U.S.C. 928(b) and reversed the decision of the Benefits Review Board, remanding for further proceedings. In this case, all the criteria of an award of attorney's fees under section 928(b) are satisfied as to the claims examiner's August 24, 2016 recommendation. View "Rivera v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs" on Justia Law