Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Plaintiff, a county correctional officer, filed suit alleging that the county sheriff created a sexually hostile work environment, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov't Code 12900 et seq. Plaintiff alleged, among other things, that defendant greeted her with unwelcome hugs on more than one hundred occasions, and a kiss at least once, during a 12-year period. The district court granted summary judgment for the sheriff and the county. The court concluded that a reasonable juror could conclude that the differences in hugging of men and women were not, as defendants argue, just "genuine but innocuous differences in the ways men and women routinely interact with members of the same sex and of the opposite sex." The court also held that the district court's contrary conclusion may have been influenced by application of incorrect legal standards. In this case, the district court had not properly considered the totality of the circumstances where the district court failed to consider whether a reasonable juror would find that hugs, in the kind, number, frequency, and persistence described by plaintiff, created a hostile work environment. The court concluded that plaintiff submitted evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that, even if the sheriff also hugged men on occasion, there were "qualitative and quantitative differences" in the hugging conduct toward the two genders. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Zetwick v. County of Yolo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the county and certain county officials after she was terminated as a litigation attorney for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office (MCAO). Before her termination, county officials requested that she not be assigned further cases in which the county was a party and which involved risk management. A jury returned a verdict for plaintiff, finding that she was terminated in retaliation for her exercise of First Amendment rights in speaking to a newspaper reporter, and against certain county officials for state-law based tortious interference with her employment contract. The court concluded that no reasonable jury could conclude that the county's risk management office was not the client. Therefore, the court reversed the tortious interference with contract judgment because Defendants Wilson and Armfield's conduct was not improper. With the legally defined scope of an attorney's duties in mind, the court explained that it becomes obvious that plaintiff's comments to the newspaper could not constitute constitutionally protected citizen speech under the principles from Dahlia v. Rodriguez. Accordingly, the court reversed the First Amendment retaliation verdict. The court remanded for the district court to enter judgment for defendants and vacated the fee award. View "Brandon v. Maricopa County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was fired for theft and dishonesty from WinCo after twelve years of employment because she took a stale cake from the store bakery to the break room to share with fellow employees and told a loss prevention investigator that management had given her permission to do so. WinCo also determined that plaintiff's behavior rose to the level of gross misconduct under the store's personnel policies, denied plaintiff and her minor children benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), 29 U.S.C. 1161(a), 1163(2), and denied plaintiff credit for accrued vacation days. Plaintiff filed suit for gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., a claim under COBRA; and wage claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., as well as corresponding state law claims. The district court granted summary judgment for WinCo. The court concluded that the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's discrimination claims where ample circumstantial evidence, as well as powerful direct evidence of a supervisor's discriminatory comments, raise a material dispute regarding pretext; if WinCo fired plaintiff for discriminatory reasons, she may be entitled to COBRA benefits and thus the district court erred in dismissing that claim; and, likewise, the district court erred in dismissing the wage claims. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Mayes v. WinCo Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Roseburg, alleging hostile work environment, disparate treatment, and retaliation in violation of state and federal civil rights laws. The district court granted Roseburg’s motion for summary judgment. In regard to the hostile work environment claim, the court held that Roseburg employee Timothy Branaugh's conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment, and Roseburg knew about Branaugh’s misconduct and failed to take effective remedial action. In regard to the disparate treatment claim, the court held that plaintiff demonstrated the necessary prima facie case to survive summary judgment based on Roseburg terminating plaintiff's employment and breaking into plaintiff's locker. The court held that there is a genuine dispute of fact as to Roseburg’s discriminatory intent regarding those challenged actions. Finally, in regard to the retaliatory termination claim, the court held that a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that Roseburg’s proffered reason for terminating plaintiff was pretextual. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded the claims of hostile work environment, disparate treatment, and retaliation. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's other claims. View "Reynaga v. Roseburg Forest Products" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a dispute between a flight attendant and the airline about her sick leave. Plaintiff claimed an entitlement to use her December vacation leave for her child’s illness without being charged points, under the Washington Family Care Act, Wash. Rev. Code 49.12.270(1). The Department determined that plaintiff was entitled to use her December vacation leave to care for her child in May, and the airline was fined $200 for violating the statute. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment against the airline’s preemption claim under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 151-188. The court concluded that the state law right and the collective bargaining agreement are inextricably intertwined. Minor disputes are preempted by the RLA and must be dealt with first through a carrier’s internal dispute resolution process, and then a System Adjustment Board comprised of workers and management. In this case, the court concluded that the question whether plaintiff could use her vacation leave in advance of her scheduled time for this purpose is to be determined by the dispute resolution process in the collective bargaining agreement, not by the state claim resolution process. Because the district court erred by rejecting preemption, the court reversed and remanded. View "Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Schurke" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her employer, UPS, alleging a state law gender-based hostile work environment claim. A jury returned a verdict for plaintiff on that claim, but the district court granted UPS's motion for a new trial on the ground that the claim was preempted under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. 185(a). The jury in the second trial found for UPS. The court concluded that the district court erred in holding plaintiff's claim preempted. The court fashioned a two-part test to determine whether a state law claim is preempted under section 301. At the first step, the court asks “whether a particular right inheres in state law or, instead, is grounded in a CBA.” Only if the claim is “founded directly on rights created by collective-bargaining agreements” is preemption warranted at this step. At step two, “to determine whether a state law right is ‘substantially dependent’ on the terms of a CBA,” the court asks “whether the claim can be resolved by ‘look[ing] to’ versus interpreting the CBA.” In this case, the jury did not have to decide what any provision of the CBA requires. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's conclusion that plaintiff's claims were preempted to the extent they relied on her allegations regarding UPS’s extra work assignments, and reinstated the jury verdict from the first trial. The court also reversed the district court’s conclusion that the jury’s damages award was “grossly excessive” and remanded for reconsideration. View "Matson v. United Parcel Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, three former baristas, filed a class action against Starbucks, challenging the legality of Starbucks’ practice of withholding state and federal taxes from baristas’ paychecks based on the cash tips they receive. As a general practice, the baristas do not report to Starbucks how much they receive in tips. Instead, for tax withholding purposes, the company simply imputes 50 cents per hour in estimated tip income to each barista and withholds state and federal taxes from the baristas’ paychecks based on that amount. The district court granted Starbucks' motion to dismiss. The court concluded that, under the Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. 1341, and the Anti-Injunction Act, 26 U.S.C. 7421(a), the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ claims for declaratory and injunctive relief. The court also concluded that the federal-state comity doctrine bars the district court from awarding statutory damages on the state-tax component of plaintiffs’ claims, from which the federal-tax component cannot be severed. Because all of the claims are jurisdictionally barred or foreclosed by the comity doctrine, the court concluded that the entire action must be remanded to state court. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Fredrickson v. Starbucks Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the Hospital and the Union under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185, alleging that the Hospital’s failure to allow her to “bump” back to her prior Ward Clerk position violated a 2007 Seniority Agreement and a 2008 collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Plaintiff also alleged that the Union breached its duty of fair representation by failing to pursue her grievance on this issue. Plaintiff settled her suit against the hospital and the district court granted summary judgment to the Union. The court rejected the Union's argument that the Seniority Agreement is inadmissible under the parol evidence rule or was superseded by the 2008 CBA. The court concluded that plaintiff has shown a violation of the Security Agreement and the CBA. The court also concluded that, if plaintiff's evidence is believed, she has shown a violation of the Union’s duty of fair representation. In this case, there is ample evidence showing that the Union acted improperly by failing to put plaintiff's claims through the Union's own formal mechanisms for reviewing the merits of grievances, by including plaintiff in a class action grievance that did not raise her specific claim, and by providing weak or invalid justifications for rejecting her claim. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Rollins v. Community Hospital of San Bernardino" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, alleging violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301-4334. Plaintiff claimed that he was fired from his job after providing notice of his deployment to Afghanistan in the United States Navy Reserve. The court joined its sister circuits and held that the plain text of USERRA does not preclude the compelled arbitration of disputes arising under its provisions. Furthermore, plaintiff has failed to establish that the legislative history evinces Congress’s intent to prevent the enforcement of the arbitration agreement he signed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration and dismissing the complaint. View "Ziober v. BLB Resources" on Justia Law

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The Union filed suit against Aviation Safeguards for violations of the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 151–165. The district court granted Aviation Safeguards’s motion for summary judgment and denied the Union’s cross-motion for summary judgment. The court held that equitable tolling principles apply to the Union’s unlawful interference and coercion claim; remanded and directed the district court to grant summary judgment for the Union on its claim for unlawful interference and coercion under RLA 152, Third and Fourth; held that the district court erred in finding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the Union’s status quo claim under RLA 152, Seventh, 155, and 156; remanded this claim for the limited purpose of determining whether this claim is timely and, if the claim is timely, the court directed the district court to grant summary judgment in favor of the Union on its status quo claim; held that Aviation Safeguards unlawfully refused to mediate; and remanded and directed the district court to grant summary judgment in favor of the Union on its failure to mediate claim under RLA 152. View "Herrera v. Command Security" on Justia Law