Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Salvation Army, in an employment discrimination action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The panel held that the religious organization exemption (ROE) applied to the Salvation Army; the ROE reached claims for retaliation and hostile work environment; and the ROE barred plaintiff's claims because the ROE was nonjurisdictional and subject to procedural forfeiture, and may be first raised at summary judgment absent prejudice. Absent prejudice resulting from the failure to timely raise the defense, the panel held that the Salvation Army permissibly invoked the ROE at summary judgment and it foreclosed plaintiff's Title VII claims. The panel also held that plaintiff failed to make out a claim under the ADA because the Salvation Army was under no obligation to engage in an interactive process in the absence of a disability. In this case, after plaintiff's clearance for work, she failed to show that she was disabled. View "Garcia v. Salvation Army" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Board's decision upholding the ALJ's decision striking, as untimely, a petition for payment of a claimant's attorneys' fees under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. The panel held that the ALJ properly used the excusable neglect standard in evaluating the circumstances for the untimely fee petition, and applied the four-factor test in Pioneer Investment Services Co. v. Brunswick Associates Ltd. Partnership, 507 U.S. 378 (1993), to find that there was no excusable neglect in this case. View "Iopa v. Saltchuk-Young Brothers, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Bio-Rad and its CEO appealed a jury verdict in favor of the company's former general counsel finding that defendants violated the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), the Dodd-Frank Act, and California public policy by terminating general counsel's employment in retaliation. General counsel produced an internal report that he believed Bio-Rad had engaged in serious and prolonged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in China. The Ninth Circuit vacated in part and held that the district court erred by instructing the jury that statutory provisions of the FCPA constitute rules or regulations of the SEC for purposes of whether general counsel engaged in protected activity under section 806 of the SOX. However, the panel rejected Bio-Rad's argument that no properly instructed jury could return a SOX verdict in favor of general counsel. The panel held that the district court's SOX instructional error was harmless and affirmed as to the California public policy claim. The panel remanded for further consideration. View "Wadler v. Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc." on Justia Law

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The common-law agency test is the most appropriate test for determining whether an entity is a joint employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC brought an enforcement action under Title VII on behalf of Thai workers alleging discrimination charges against Green Acre Farms and Valley Fruit Orchards. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the EEOC's allegations regarding non-orchard-related matters, which in turn affected each of the other decisions under review. The panel held, under the common-law agency test, that the EEOC plausibly alleged that defendants were also joint employers with respect to non-orchard-related matters; the EEOC's allegations stated a plausible basis for holding Green Acre liable for discrimination relating to non-orchard-related matters; and the district court should have granted the EEOC leave to amend its complaint regarding Valley Fruit's liability with respect to such matters. View "EEOC v. Global Horizons, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment for BNSF in an action brought by a former employee under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). The district court instructed the jury that BNSF could not be liable if it terminated the employee due to an "honest belief" that he violated the company's safety rules. The panel held that the "honest belief" jury instruction was inconsistent with the FRSA's clear statutory mandate and the panel's prior caselaw. The panel held that, although the FRSA's prohibition on discriminating against an employee ultimately requires a showing of the employer's discriminatory or retaliatory intent, FRSA plaintiffs satisfied that burden by proving that their protected activity was a contributing factor to the adverse employment decision. Therefore, there was no requirement, at either the prima facie stage or the substantive stage, that a plaintiff make any additional showing of discriminatory intent. View "Frost v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former employee of Irwin, filed a putative class action alleging that the company denied him overtime pay, failed to give him meal and rest periods, and failed to pay him minimum wage for the 12 hours he was off duty. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff's claim for overtime pay was preempted under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), because California overtime law did not apply to an employee working under a qualifying collective bargaining agreement and he worked under such an agreement. The panel remanded plaintiff's remaining claims to the district court for it to address them in the first instance. View "Curtis v. Irwin Industries, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitions for review of compensation orders arising under the Defense Base Act should be filed in the circuit where the relevant district director is located. The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review challenging the Benefits Review Board's decision concluding that a linguist who supported the military in Iraq was entitled to workers' compensation under the Defense Base Act. The panel held that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's determination that claimant met both the medical and the economic aspect of disability as defined by the statute; the ALJ applied the correct legal standard when considering the evidence in this case; and the ALJ correctly concluded that claimant met his burden to show that he was disabled. View "Global Linguist Solutions, LLC v. Abdelmeged" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the California Supreme Court: Is operating engineers' offsite "mobilization work"—including the transportation to and from a public works site of roadwork grinding equipment—performed "in the execution of [a] contract for public work," Cal. Lab. Code 1772, such that it entitles workers to "not less than the general prevailing rate of per diem wages for work of a similar character in the locality in which the public work is performed" pursuant to section 1771 of the California Labor Code? View "Pena Mendoza v. Fonseca McElroy Grinding Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) against St. James after she was terminated from her teaching position when she told the school that she had breast cancer and would need to miss work to undergo chemotherapy. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the school, holding that, based on the totality of the circumstances test under Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. E.E.O.C., 565 U.S. 171 (2012), the First Amendment's ministerial exception did not foreclose plaintiff's claim. In this case, plaintiff did not have any credentials, training, or ministerial background; there was no religious component to her liberal studies degree or teaching credential; St. James had no religious requirements for her position; and St. James did not hold plaintiff out as a minister. View "Biel v. St. James School" on Justia Law

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The union petitioned the district court to vacate an arbitration award under section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, and Mirage filed a cross-petition seeking confirmation of the award. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision affirming the award, holding that the arbitrator's conclusion that the grievance was not arbitrable simply misunderstood the arbitrability inquiry. In this case, the arbitrator concluded that the union's exclusive remedy to recover the claimed benefits was against BB King's. Whatever the soundness of that conclusion, the panel reasoned that it plainly had nothing to do with substantive arbitrability, which, concerned only whether the dispute falls within the scope of the parties' arbitration agreement. Furthermore, the union's assent could not be inferred from its failure to call a halt to the arbitration proceedings and seek judicial resolution of the arbitrability. View "Local Joint Executive Board of Las Vegas v. Mirage Casino-Hotel, Inc." on Justia Law