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

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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McDonald's employees filed a class action alleging that they were denied overtime premiums, meal and rest breaks, and other benefits in violation of the California Labor Code. Plaintiff class members worked at franchises in the Bay Area operated by the Haynes Family Limited Partnership. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to McDonald's, holding that there was no evidence that McDonald's, as the franchisor, was a joint employer. The panel held that the district court properly determined that McDonald's was not an employer under the "control" definition, which requires control over the wages, hours, or working conditions. The panel also held that the district court correctly concluded that McDonald's did not meet the "suffer or permit" definition of employer. Finally, the panel held that the district court correctly concluded that McDonald's was not an employer under the common law definition of "employer." Furthermore, the panel held that McDonald's could not be held liable under an ostensible-agency theory; plaintiffs met neither the damages nor the duty elements to prove negligence; and the panel declined to address the merits of the remaining claims. View "Salazar v. McDonald's Corp." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted the Secretary's petition for review of the Commission's decision interpreting a provision of the Respiratory Protection Standard promulgated under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The panel adopted the Secretary's interpretation of section 1910.134(d)(1)(iii) of the Act to require covered employers to evaluate the respiratory hazards at their workplaces whenever there is the "potential" for overexposure of employees to contaminants, in order to determine whether respirators are "necessary to protect the health" of employees. The panel explained that the text, structure, purpose, and regulatory history of the Standard all point in the same direction as the Secretary's interpretation. View "Secretary of Labor v. Seward Ship's Drydock, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the county's motion to dismiss a putative class action under the Fair Labor Standards Act based on Eleventh Amendment immunity grounds. The panel weighed the factors set out in Mitchell v. Los Angeles Community College District, 861 F.2d 198 (9th Cir. 1988), and held that the county was not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity because it is not an arm of the state when it administers the In-Home Supportive Services program. The panel also held that the Supreme Court has not overruled or undermined Mitchell in Hess v. Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation, 513 U.S. 30 (1994). Furthermore, the effective date of the rule is January 1, 2015; this date is not impermissibly retroactive; and the DOL's decision not to enforce a new rule does not obviate private rights of action. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ray v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for the Mayo Clinic in an action alleging employment discrimination under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In light of Supreme Court precedent, the panel held that its decision in Head v. Glacier Northwest, Inc., 413 F.3d 1053 (9th Cir. 2005), holding ADA discrimination claims are evaluated under a motivating factor causation standard, is no longer good law. The panel held that Head was irreconcilable with the Supreme Court's decisions in Gross v. FBL Fin. Servs., Inc., 557 U.S. 167 (2009), and Univ. of Texas Southwestern Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 570 U.S. 338 (2013). The panel agreed with its sister circuits and held that an ADA discrimination plaintiff bringing a claim under 42 U.S.C. 2112 must show that the adverse employment action would not have occurred but for the disability. Therefore, the district court correctly instructed the jury to apply a but for causation standard, rather than a motivating factor standard. View "Murray v. Mayo Clinic" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Medtronic in an employment discrimination action brought by plaintiff under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plaintiff alleged that he was terminated based on his morbid obesity, but the district court held that morbid obesity was not a physical impairment under the relevant EEOC regulations and interpretive guidance. The panel held that it need not determine whether morbid obesity itself is an impairment under the ADA, and affirmed the district court's judgment for Medtronic on alternative grounds. The panel held that, even assuming that morbid obesity were an impairment, or plaintiff suffered from a disabling knee condition that the district court could have considered, he would have to show some causal relationship between these impairments and his termination. In this case, there was no basis for concluding that he was terminated for any reason other than Medtronic's stated ground that he falsified records to show he had completed work assignments. View "Valtierra v. Medtronic Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by a group of exotic dancers against their employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Arizona state law. The panel held that the district court erred in concluding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because plaintiffs failed to prove at the outset of the case that they were employees rather than independent contractors; plaintiffs' employment status is a merits-based determination, not an antecedent jurisdictional issue; and plaintiffs' federal law allegations were not so patently without merit as to justify dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Tijerino v. Stetson Desert Project, LLC" on Justia Law

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Current and former minor league baseball players brought claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the wage-and-hour laws of California, Arizona, and Florida against MLB defendants, alleging that defendants did not pay the players at all during spring training, extended spring training, or the instructional leagues. On appeal, the players challenged the district court's denial of class certification for the Arizona, Florida, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) classes, and defendants petitioned to appeal the certification of the California class. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not err in holding, under Sullivan v. Oracle Corp., that California law should apply to the 23(b)(3) California class. However, the district court erred in determining that choice-of-law considerations defeated predominance and adequacy for the proposed Arizona and Florida Rule 23(b)(3) classes. In this case, the district court fundamentally misunderstood the proper application of California's choice-of-law principles—which, when correctly applied, indicate that Arizona law should govern the Arizona class, and Florida law the Florida class. The panel also held that the district court erred in refusing to certify a Rule 23(b)(2) class for unpaid work at defendants' training facilities in Arizona and Florida on the sole basis that choice-of-law issues undermined "cohesiveness" and therefore made injunctive and declaratory relief inappropriate. Furthermore, the district court erred in imposing a "cohesiveness" requirement for the proposed Rule 23(b)(2) class. The panel held that the predominance requirement was met as to the Arizona and Florida classes, covering alleged minimum wage violations based on the lack of any pay for time spent participating in spring training, extended spring training, and instructional leagues. In regard to the California class -- covering overtime and minimum wage claims relating to work performed during the championship season -- the panel also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that defendant's uniform pay policy, the team schedules, and representative evidence established predominance. The panel rejected defendants' contention that the district court was required to rigorously analyze the Main Survey. The panel affirmed the district court's certification of the FLSA collective action. Applying Campbell v. City of L.A., which postdated the district court's ruling, the panel held that the district court's use of the ad hoc approach was harmless error. The panel also affirmed the district court's certification of the FLSA collective as to plaintiffs' overtime claims. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Senne v. Kansas City Royals Baseball" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an action brought by plaintiff, a Division 1 college football player, alleging that he was an employee of the NCAA and the PAC-12 Conference within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act and California labor law. The panel held that the district court properly concluded that Division I FBS Football Players are not employees of the NCAA or PAC-12 as a matter of federal law. In this case, the economic reality of the relationship between the NCAA/PAC-12 and student-athletes does not reflect an employment relationship. The panel held that, within the analytical framework established by the Supreme Court, the NCAA and PAC-12 are regulatory bodies, not employers of student-athletes under the FLSA. The panel also held that the district court correctly dismissed plaintiff's California law claims for failure to state a claim. Under California law, student-athletes are generally deemed not to be employees of their schools. Furthermore, there was no authority that supported an inference that, even though the student-athletes are not considered to be employees of their schools under California law, the NCAA and PAC-12 can nevertheless be held to be "joint employers" with the students' schools. View "Dawson v. National Collegiate Athletic Association" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following questions of state law to the California Supreme Court: 1) Does the absence of a formal policy regarding meal and rest breaks violate California law? 2) Does an employer's failure to keep records for meal and rest breaks taken by its employees create a rebuttable presumption that the meal and rest breaks were not provided? View "Cole v. CRST Van Expedited, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for the union in an action challenging the STA's decision not to run a proposed advertisement from the union on STA's buses. The panel held that the STA rejected the proposed ad in violation of the union's First Amendment rights, and declined to adopt the First and Sixth Circuit's approach of giving deference to a transit agency's application of its advertising policy. The panel designated a transit agency's advertising program to be limited public forums because the panel recognized the legitimate concerns with transportation services and safety. Applying the three-part test to review STA's decision to exclude the union's ad under "public issue" advertising, the panel held that the policy was reasonable in light of the forum; STA's standard lacked objective criteria to provide guideposts for determining what constitutes prohibited "public issue" advertising; and STA's application of its "public issue" advertising ban to exclude the union's proposed ad was unreasonable. Finally, the panel held that STA unreasonably applied its commercial and promotional advertising policy to reject ATU's ad. View "Amalgamated Transit Union v. Spokane Transit Authority" on Justia Law