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

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
Southern Bakeries appealed the Board's determination that it violated Sections 8(a)(1) and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by relying on a prior unlawful discipline in disciplining and terminating an employee (Briggs) and designating her "not for hire," and by violating Section 8(a)(1) by directing a second employee (Muldew) not to discuss her discipline with other employees and then telling her she was being discharged in part for doing so. The Eighth Circuit held that the Board erred in concluding that the prior final written warning, standing alone, satisfied the General Counsel's burden to prove a prima facie case of discriminatory discipline. Therefore, the court granted Southern Bakeries' petition for review in part. The court also held that the ALJ's credibility findings were based on careful review of the testimony, supported by the Muldew discharge document. Furthermore, the findings were far from conscience-shocking, and no extraordinary circumstance warrants reversing the Board's order to cease and desist from telling employees not to discuss their discipline with other employees, or that they are being disciplined for doing so. Accordingly, the court denied in part Southern Bakeries' petition for review and enforced in part the Board's order. View "Southern Bakeries, LLC v. NLRB" on Justia Law

by
Where a plaintiff seeks damages based on alleged illegal actions of a municipal official, there is no authority to award damages against the municipality when the jury concludes that the official committed no wrong. Plaintiff filed suit against the city and the mayor under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendants discriminated against him based on race in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1981. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the mayor but against the city. The Eighth Circuit reversed and held that, because there was no race discrimination violation of section 1981, the city could not be held liable for damages under section 1983. In this case, plaintiff did not challenge the jury's finding that the mayor did not discriminate against him based on race and there was insufficient evidence that any other city official, or combination of the mayor or other municipal officers or employees, discriminated against plaintiff based on race. View "Ridgell v. City of Pine Bluff" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Union Pacific in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging claims of discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (NFEPA). In regard to plaintiff's discrimination claim, the court held that plaintiff was not qualified for a dispatcher position as a matter of law because she was unable to work mandatory overtime and Union Pacific's earlier willingness to accommodate a two-month restriction did not create a genuine issue of fact about whether availability for overtime was an essential function of the position. In regard to the sex and pregnancy discrimination claims, the court held that plaintiff suffered no adverse action when her supervisor denied her requested training or commented on the length of her breast pumping breaks, and the evidence did not give rise to an inference of discrimination in any event. In regard to the race discrimination claim, the court held that plaintiff's proffered comparators were not similarly situated because they were able to work overtime. View "McNeil v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff appealed an adverse jury verdict on his retaliation claims under the Federal Railroad Safety Act, challenging the jury instructions. The Eighth Circuit agreed with plaintiff that the jury instructions misstated the "honestly held belief" defense in the context of the Act's contributing-factor standard, and misallocated and misstated the burden of proof. The court explained that the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that intentional retaliation in response to protected conduct served as a contributing factor in an adverse employment action, and the defendant then bears the burden of proving an affirmative defense. In this case, the "honestly held belief" instruction failed to reference the contributing-factor standard and the instructions as a whole expressly incorporated this defense into plaintiff's case. Therefore, this failure to allocate the burden of proof to BNSF and to identify that burden of proof as clear and convincing evidence constituted prejudicial error. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Blackorby v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Warren Unilube's motion for summary judgment in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging a race-based claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Under the McDonnell Douglass framework, the court held that plaintiff made a prima facie case of discrimination because he was a member of a protected group and was terminated. Furthermore, he was qualified for his position. However, the court held that the employer articulated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for plaintiff's discharge based on plaintiff's performance related deficiencies. Finally, the court held that plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Warren's reasons for his termination were pretextual. View "Beasley v. Warren Unilube, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against the City, the police chief, and the city administrator, alleging that plaintiff was terminated without due process and in retaliation for his exercise of First Amendment free speech rights. The district court denied defendants' motion for qualified immunity. The Eighth Circuit held that, even if plaintiff were terminated in retaliation for his speech, defendants did not violate a clearly established statutory or constitutional right of which a reasonable person would have known. Furthermore, the disputed facts did not preclude summary judgment because the dispute did not affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. In this case, defendants could reasonably conclude that plaintiff was speaking solely as an aggrieved police officer and without constitutional protection. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to establish a deprivation of a liberty interest, because he did not show that he was stigmatized by the stated reasons for his discharge and that the statements were made public. Therefore, plaintiff failed to demonstrate a constitutional violation, and the police chief and administrator were entitled to summary judgment. Finally, because plaintiff failed to demonstrate a deprivation of a property or liberty interest, his claims against the City also failed. However, this ruling did not necessarily resolve the city's liability in the retaliation claim. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded. View "Mogard v. City of Milbank" on Justia Law