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

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), of plaintiff's EEO complaint challenging his removal from his job as a power-plant mechanic with the Army Corps of Engineers. 5 U.S.C. 7121(d), a provision of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA), provides that unionized federal employees seeking to bring discrimination claims may "raise the matter" through either (1) their union's negotiated procedure, or (2) their agency's EEO office, "but not both." In light of the wording and legislative history of 5 U.S.C. 7121(d), as well as the persuasive consensus among courts within and outside this circuit, the panel adopted the definition of the term "matter" as set forth in Bonner v. Merit Systems Protection Board, 781 F.2d 202 (Fed. Cir. 1986), and held that the term "matter" in section 7121(d) refers to the "underlying action" in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) grievance or the EEO complaint. In this case, plaintiff's EEO complaint raised the same matters as previously covered in plaintiff's union grievance. Furthermore, the panel would not impute a hostile-work-environment claim where no such allegation expressly appeared in the EEO complaint. The panel noted that, although plaintiff's EEO complaint was barred, there was a procedure available to him to raise his hostile-work-environment claim in the grievance process. View "Heimrich v. United States Department of the Army" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's damages award in a class action brought by long-haul truck drivers in California, alleging that Wal-Mart violated state meal and rest break laws. The panel held that Wal-Mart raised no reversible error. The panel rejected Wal-Mart's claim that the district court erred by failing to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, and held that the district court correctly concluded that this case presented an Article III case or controversy because two lead plaintiffs remained in the action after the stay was lifted. The panel rejected Wal-Mart's claims that plaintiffs should not have been awarded damages for layovers, rest breaks, and inspections. The panel held that the district court correctly concluded that, under California law, time drivers spent on layovers is compensable if Wal-Mart exercised control over the drivers during those breaks; a more comprehensive review of the Wal-Mart pay manual demonstrates that it unambiguously required drivers to obtain preapproval to take a layover at home; the district court correctly determined that Wal-Mart's written policies constituted control as a matter of California law; the district court properly instructed the jury because the initial instruction on layovers and the supplemental instruction in response to a jury question—when viewed as a whole—fairly and accurately covered the issues, correctly stated the law, and were not misleading or prejudicial; the jury's factual finding, that Wal-Mart exercised control over its drivers under California law, is supported by substantial evidence; and the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act does not preempt California meal and break laws. Finally, the panel affirmed the district court's judgment on damages for rest breaks and inspections; held that the district court did not err in certifying a class and allowing representative evidence as proof of classwide damages; and held that the district court did not err in finding that Wal-Mart acted in good faith and with a reasonable belief in the legality of its action. View "Ridgeway v. Walmart Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that CFS and two of its employees fired him from his position as a social services practitioner in retaliation for his whistleblowing activities, in violation of California Labor Code section 1102.5 and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The County's Civil Service Commission upheld the termination and denied plaintiff's appeal, and the district court dismissed the action. The Ninth Circuit held that the Commission's order did not preclude plaintiff's section 1102.5 claim for retaliation in light of Taswell v. Regents of Univ. of Cal., 232 Cal. Rptr. 3d 628, 643 (Ct. App. 2018). In Taswell, the California Court of Appeal applied a legislative-intent exception and held that administrative findings by a state agency do not preclude claims for retaliation brought under section 1102.5. However, the panel's conclusion regarding legislative intent did not extend to plaintiff's claim under section 1983, which was precluded by the Commission's order. In this case, plaintiff had a full opportunity to litigate the propriety of his termination before the administrative agency, as evidenced by the comprehensive evidentiary record and the availability of judicial review. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Bahra v. County of San Bernardino" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order withdrawing its opinion and substituting this opinion in its place, denied a petition for panel rehearing, and denied on behalf of the court a petition for rehearing en banc. The panel also amended the opinion affirming the district court's holding that the State of Nevada waived its Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity as to plaintiffs' Fair Labor Standards Act claims when the State removed the case from state court to federal court. The panel extended the holding of Embury v. King, 361 F.3d 562 (9th Cir. 2004), and held that a State that removes a case to federal court waives its immunity from suit on all federal-law claims in the case, including those federal-law claims that Congress failed to apply to the states through unequivocal and valid abrogation of their Eleventh Amendment immunity. Therefore, Nevada waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity in this case. View "Walden v. Nevada" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's approval of a settlement notice process and a class action settlement, negotiated without a certified class, in a case arising out of a dispute under federal and California labor law regarding whether exotic dancers working at various nightclubs in San Francisco were misclassified as independent contractors rather than being treated as employees. The panel held that the settlement notice did not meet Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23's "best notice that is practicable under the circumstances" standard. The panel also held that the district court abused its discretion in approving the settlement, because the district court applied an incorrect legal standard and failed to employ the heightened scrutiny required to meet the strict procedural burden the panel imposed for assessing class settlements negotiated prior to class certification. The panel also reversed the district court's award of attorneys' fees, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Murphy v. SFBSC Management" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted the Board's petition for enforcement of its order enjoining the union from committing violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The panel held that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's finding that the union violated Section 8(b)(4)(i)(B) of the NLRA by inducing or encouraging Commercial Metals Company's neutral employees to strike or stop work for the unlawful secondary purpose of furthering the union's primary labor dispute with Western Concrete Pumping. The panel declined to extend Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 135 S. Ct. 2218 (2015), to conclude that the Board's application of section Section 8(b)(4)(i)(B) violates the First Amendment. Addressing the union's alternative contention, the panel held that the Board reasonably rejected the union's claim that Section 8(c) of the NLRA protects its communications. Rather, the panel held that the Supreme Court has concluded that Section 8(c) does not immunize activities that violate Section 8(b)(4). Finally, the panel held that the Board properly rejected the union's challenges under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Thirteenth Amendment, and that the language of the Board's order adequately apprised the union of its notice obligations. View "NLRB v. International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit extended the holding in Embury v. King, 361 F.3d 562 (9th Cir. 2004), and held that a State that removes a case to federal court waives its immunity from suit on all federal-law claims in the case, including those federal-law claims that Congress failed to apply to the states through unequivocal and valid abrogation of their Eleventh Amendment immunity. Plaintiffs, a group of correctional officers, filed suit alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by Nevada. Nevada then removed the case to federal court, moving for judgment on the pleadings based on state sovereign immunity from suit. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's holding that Nevada waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity as to plaintiffs' FLSA claims when it removed this case to federal court. View "Walden v. Nevada" on Justia 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