Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Plaintiff, an employee of 4T Construction, filed suit against McKenzie under both negligence-based and strict liability law principles after he was seriously injured while replacing a high voltage transmission line for a project. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for McKenzie, holding that the parties' contract clearly and unambiguously stated that 4T was retained as an independent contractor. In this case, the parties' contract stated that 4T was an independent contractor that performs its work without supervision by McKenzie. The court held that McKenzie did not retain control over 4T's and plaintiff's actions. Finally, the North Dakota Supreme Court has declined to hold a utility company strictly liable for injuries and damages from contact with high tension power lines, and McKenzie was not liable under a theory of strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities. View "Meyer v. McKenzie Electric Cooperative, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an assistant professor at Macalester College, filed suit against the college after she was terminated for violating the college's policies on student-teacher relationships. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims for discriminatory discharge based on disability under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). The court held that plaintiff's claim regarding the departing provost was raised for the first time on appeal and therefore could not be considered by the court; the district court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that plaintiff's motion to amend her complaint to add claims under the Family Medical Leave Act was untimely and futile; and, even if plaintiff made a prima face case of discrimination, the court concluded on de novo review that the college articulated a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating plaintiff based on her sexual relationship with a former student. Finally, the court held that plaintiff's claim for failure to accommodate her disability under section 504 failed as a matter of law. View "Naca v. Macalester College" on Justia Law

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The union appealed the district court's order denying the union's motion to compel arbitration of the grievances regarding early retirement benefits for employees terminated as the result of a plant closing. Applying de novo review, the Eighth Circuit held that the grievance, on its face, stated a claim that Trane violated a specific provision of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) by not providing a bargained-for benefit, a benefit Trane reconfirmed in the Memorandum of Agreement. The court held that this grievance involved the interpretation of the CBA and was therefore arbitrable. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment as to the bridge grievance. However, the court affirmed the order denying the union's motion to compel arbitration of the temporary pension supplement benefit grievance, holding that it was not arbitrable because it was governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, rather than the Labor Management Relations Act or the CBA. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "International Union v. Trane U.S. Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Wisconsin Central in an action brought by plaintiff for unlawful retaliation under the Federal Railroad Safety Act. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's request for the information defendant's expert acquired in preparation for trial under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(4). The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in blocking a deposition of Wisconsin Central's counsel about her conversations with other employees and whether plaintiff's employment record caused his termination; the information was privileged; and thus the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the protective order. The court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment to Wisconsin Central because plaintiff did not make a prima facie case of retaliation under the Act. In this case, plaintiff failed to raise an inference of intentional retaliation prompted by any of his three specified acts, and no reasonable factfinder could infer a retaliatory motive. View "Smith-Bunge v. Wisconsin Central, Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Anixter on plaintiff's claim that the company violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), by discriminating and retaliating against him on the basis of his prior service in the military and exercise of rights protected under the statute. The court held that plaintiff failed to show a genuine dispute of material fact that his military status was a motivating factor in Anixter's decision to fire him. The court noted that most of Anixter's actions that plaintiff claimed violated USERRA were not independently actionable under the statute. The court held that the order for plaintiff to perform some manual labor did not exceed his disability restriction and was therefore not materially adverse; Anixter's denial of plaintiff's request for a service dog was not sufficiently adverse; and defendant's discharge from Anixter four days after requesting PTSD accommodation did not create sufficient evidence of a genuine dispute of material fact regarding Anixter's unlawful motivation to fire plaintiff. Rather, the undisputed evidence indicated that plaintiff's temperament played a part in Anixter's decision to fire him, which was consistent with the company's explanation that it fired him due to this disagreement. View "McConnell v. Anixter, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the employer's motion for summary judgment in an action brought by plaintiff, a former employee, alleging gender-based discrimination. The court held that summary judgment was appropriate where, assuming his assertions were true, none of plaintiff's purported direct evidence established the required specific link between his termination and gender-based animus; plaintiff failed as a matter of law to provide sufficient evidence to give rise to a jury question on the issue of disparate treatment; and any error in declining to consider plaintiff's direct evidence argument was harmless. View "Rinchuso v. Brookshire Grocery Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an equity partner at the firm, filed suit alleging that the firm's mandatory requirement policy was in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The provision at issue in the law firm's partnership agreement required mandatory retirement at age 70. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of judgment on the pleadings in favor of the law firm, holding that plaintiff was not an employee of the firm and was therefore not covered by the ADEA. The court found that the undisputed record established that as an equity partner, plaintiff's compensation scheme -- which included sharing in the firm's profits and losses, his ability to vote on changes to the firm's policies or admission of new partners, the lack of supervision over his substantive work, the influence he had when requesting to lower his hourly rate for a client, and the limited ways in which he could be expelled from the firm -- simply did not bear a close relationship to that of an employee. View "Von Kaenel v. Armstrong Teasdale, LLP" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was terminated, she filed suit against the President of Henderson State University for employment discrimination. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendant, holding that plaintiff was an at-will employee at the time of her termination. In this case, passing a proposed budget including plaintiff's name, title, and salary, did not create an employment contract. Therefore, plaintiff had no property right in continued employment. In regard to plaintiff's claim that she has a protected liberty interest in her reputation, which entitled her to a name-clearing hearing, the court held that plaintiff presented no evidence of defendant directly accusing her of stealing or mismanagement. Furthermore, any claims that plaintiff was stigmatized by innuendo or defendant's commenting on any part of the audit report failed. Therefore, plaintiff failed to establish that she was deprived of a protected liberty interest in her reputation. View "Correia v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and others filed a class action against defendants, alleging claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Nebraska law, arising out of an eight-week student-driver training program operated by defendants and intended for new truck drivers. The Eighth Circuit agreed with defendants that the district court abused its discretion by granting plaintiffs' request to extend the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b) disclosure deadline, despite finding that good cause for the extension had not been shown, based on an erroneous application of Rule 37(c)(1). The court held that the error was not harmless because the jury clearly relied on the opinion of plaintiff's expert in reaching the damages award. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Petrone v. Werner Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Dollar General after the company denied her request for a leave of absence due to a medical condition, alleging claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and state law. The court reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's ADA claim and held that a reasonable jury could conclude that Dollar General was aware of her disability; that she requested an accommodation; and that Dollar General, had it engaged in the interactive process, could have reasonably accommodated her. However, plaintiff's remaining claims failed because she could not show defendants' actions amounted to retaliation and she failed to follow the steps Dollar General had established for requesting FMLA leave. View "Garrison v. Dolgencorp, LLC" on Justia Law