Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1981 race discrimination claim. The court held that the employer articulated a legitimate, non-discriminatory basis for its hiring selection and plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the stated reason was a pretext for discrimination. In this case, the employer's regional executive selected another individual for a promotion, rather than plaintiff, because the individual scored the highest during the interviews and her duties were more directly relevant to the position. View "Nelson v. USAble Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit alleging that CenturyLink and CenturyLink's operations director terminated him in retaliation for a prior Fair Labor Standards Act suit he had participated in. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants on his FLSA retaliation claim, holding that there were no genuine issues of material fact as to defendants' motives for terminating him. In this case, defendants provided a legitimate, non-retaliatory ground for terminating plaintiff, his low productivity. The court also held that the district court did not err by determining that plaintiff was an independent contractor and lacked standing to bring his claim under the Minnesota Whistleblower's Act. Finally, plaintiff's claim for tortious interference was properly dismissed because neither CenturyLink nor the operations director violated federal or state law, and their interference was not independently tortious. View "Engelhardt v. Qwest Corp." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging that defendant was grossly negligent and that this negligence caused plaintiff substantial harm. Both parties were electrical linesman. Plaintiff was injured at a worksite when a wire defendant's team disconnected from a downed pole snapped free and struck plaintiff in the face. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendant and held that the district court did not err in concluding that Iowa's Workers' Compensation Act provided the exclusive remedy for plaintiff's injury because he could not establish that defendant was grossly negligent. The court held that plaintiff failed to present evidence creating a factual dispute with regard to defendant's awareness that injury was probable. In this case, defendant's crew members agreed with him that the jerry-rigged setup would be the best way to secure the wire. While plaintiff's injuries suggested that the setup may have been negligent, mere negligence did not satisfy Iowa's stringent requirements for allowing co-employee liability. View "Van Dorn v. Hunter" on Justia Law

by
Former employees of Honeywell, who retired before age 65 during the terms of Honeywell's 2007 and 2010 collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), filed a class action alleging that Honeywell's announced plan to terminate early retiree healthcare benefits at the end of 2017 breached the CBAs and violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), because those healthcare benefits vested when each class member retired. The Eighth Circuit agreed with the Sixth Circuit and held that the Supreme Court's decision in CNH Indus. N.V. v. Reese, 138 S. Ct. 761 (2018), was controlling in this case. Under Reese, the court held that plaintiffs' retiree healthcare benefits were not vested as a matter of law. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Pacheco v. Honeywell International Inc." on Justia Law

by
Where a jury awarded plaintiff nominal compensatory damages and punitive damages for his claim of hostile work environment against his former employer, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's post-trial motions and grant of attorney's fees to plaintiff. The court held that the $250,000 award of punitive damages was supported by the record where plaintiff repeatedly complained to supervisors that his manager was using racial slurs and the company did not take action; plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1981 claim was timely under the applicable four year statue of limitations where the workplace abuse continued into the limitations period; the punitive damages amount was constitutionally sound in light of the degree of reprehensibility of defendant's misconduct; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney's fees and accepting the attorney's hourly rate as reasonable. View "Bryant v. Jeffrey Sand Co." on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of summary judgment to the acting county sheriff and the county in an action brought by plaintiff alleging violation of her First Amendment right to intimate association. Plaintiff contended that the sheriff had terminated her based on her marriage to her husband, who had been terminated shortly before plaintiff. The court held that the sheriff's termination of plaintiff did not amount to a constitutional violation, because the fact that the marriage was a motivating factor in the decision to terminate plaintiff did not mean that the sheriff directly and substantially interfered with their marriage. In this case, the husband was terminated for sexually harassing other employees. Plaintiff was placed on administrative leave before the sheriff determined that her return would create a hostile work environment due to her loyalty to her husband. The court also held that, because the sheriff did not commit an unconstitutional act, no municipal liability attached to the county. View "Muir v. Decatur County, Iowa" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, Boeing, for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. Plaintiff was an at-will employee with Special Action Program (SAP) clearances and access for his classified work. After his SAP status was terminated, plaintiff refused Boeing's requests to debrief. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Boeing's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and grant of dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court held that the district court correctly concluded it had subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's wrongful termination claim where the claim did not challenge the merits of the security clearance decision. The court also held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim. In this case, plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because the manuals he cites did not clearly prohibit him from being debriefed in a SAP facility. View "Dubuque v. The Boeing Co." on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Continental in a personal injury action. In this case, plaintiff was an employee of Great Western, and Continental had hired Great Western as an independent contractor to gauge wastewater levels in holding tanks at its well sites in North Dakota. The court held that the master service contract between Continental and Great Western did not provide that Continental would supervise, inspect, or direct Great Western's work, and plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Continental directly supervised his work or instructed him on the use of the well site equipment. Therefore, because Continental did not control plaintiff's work nor instruct him on the use of the equipment, it was not liable for negligence because it did not owe plaintiff a duty. The court also held that the district court did not err in finding that Continental's failure to answer plaintiff's amended complaint, which was filed after the parties briefed summary judgment, did not constitute an admission. Finally, to the extent plaintiff made a premises liability argument on appeal, the court would not consider the claim because it was not raised before the district court. View "Vandewarker v. Continental Resources, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Housing Authority and plaintiff's supervisor in an action alleging various discrimination, retaliation, and constitutional claims. Plaintiff resigned from his job after he failed a drug test and his employer sought documentation of the prescription medications plaintiff was using, as well as a clearance letter from plaintiff's healthcare professionals addressing the issue. The court held that, by not including in his EEOC charge the adverse acts which he maintained forced him to resign, plaintiff failed to administratively exhaust his constructive discharge allegation; plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination; plaintiff failed to show that he suffered an adverse employment action because he was suspended before his employer had any reason to suspect that he might be disabled; and plaintiff failed to show that he possessed a property interest in his employment under Arkansas law in order to prevail on his procedural due process claim. View "Voss v. Housing Authority of the City of Magnolia" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of JBS in an action under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA), and the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Law (IWPCL). Plaintiff alleged a failure to accommodate claim and a termination claim, as well as a claim that JBS intentionally failed to pay plaintiff a portion of his earned wages. The court held that, even if plaintiff was disabled, he was not qualified to perform the essential functions of his job, and his claims failed on that basis. The court explained that lifting was an essential function of the maintenance mechanic position that could not be reasonably accommodated, and plaintiff failed to show that accommodations JBS offered were unreasonable. The court held that plaintiff was not a qualified individual under the ADA and thus his termination claim also failed. Finally, because mere allegations were insufficient to rebut a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the district court properly granted summary judgment as to the IWPCL claim. In this case, JBS's payroll records reflected that plaintiff was correctly paid and any errors were quickly remedied. View "Gardea v. JBS USA, LLC" on Justia Law