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

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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This appeal involves a years-long intra-union dispute over the right to perform certain maintenance and repair (M&R) work for Kinder Morgan Terminals (Kinder Morgan) at its Bulk Terminal facility in Vancouver, Washington.The Ninth Circuit granted the petitions for review, denied the cross-petition for enforcement, vacated the Board's order, and remanded for further proceedings. First, the panel reaffirmed the well-settled rule that Section 10(k) of the National Labor Relations Act decisions are not res judicata in subsequent unfair labor practices (ULP) proceedings. Therefore, the panel held that the Board erred in deeming its 10(k) decision "dispositive" of the Longshoremen's work preservation defense. Second, the panel rejected the Board's construction of the work preservation defense, noting that the Supreme Court has twice disallowed such a narrow focus on past performance of the precise work in dispute as ill-suited to the holistic, circumstantial inquiry that is indispensable where, as here, parties strike agreements aimed at preserving union jobs in the face of technological threats to traditional union work. The panel held that the Board erred by disregarding this binding precedent and instead making past performance of the specific work at issue the beginning and end of its analysis. Third, the panel held that the 2008 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) encompasses the disputed work which both unions claim. In this case, the Board erred by using extrinsic evidence to inject ambiguity into the CBA's unambiguous terms and, by extension, assessing the Longshoremen's work preservation defense based on that erroneous construction. View "International Longshore and Warehouse Union v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order on a motion to compel arbitration of a grievance in which the union asserted that the Hospital placed certain types of patients with nurses who did not have the appropriate training for those patients and that the Hospital was violating nurse-to-patient ratios established by state law. At issue in this appeal is whether the arbitrability of an issue is itself arbitrable, where the relevant agreement includes a broad arbitration clause but is otherwise silent on the question.In First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938 (1995), the Supreme Court established that a court, not the arbitrator, must make the determination whether the arbitrability of an issue is itself arbitrable when the relevant agreement is silent on that question. In United Bhd. Of Carpenters & Joiners of Am., Local No. 1780 v. Desert Palace, Inc., 94 F.3d 1308 (9th Cir. 1996), this court stated that labor cases are different, and in those cases, an arbitrator should decide arbitrability as long as the agreement includes a broad arbitration clause.The panel held that the rationale in Desert Palace is clearly irreconcilable with the reasoning or theory of intervening higher authority in Granite Rock Co. v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 561 U.S. 287, 300–01 (2010), where the Supreme Court expressly rejected the notion that labor arbitration disputes should be analyzed differently than commercial arbitration disputes. Therefore, the panel was not bound by Desert Palace and remanded to the district court to consider whether the union's grievance is arbitrable. View "SEIU Local 121RN v. Los Robles Regional Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a putative class action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that deduction of union dues from plaintiffs' paychecks violated the First Amendment. The Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018), held that compelling nonmembers to subsidize union speech is offensive to the First Amendment.The panel held that plaintiffs' claims against the union fails under section 1983 for lack of state action, a threshold requirement. The panel also held that plaintiffs' First Amendment claim for prospective relief against Washington state also fails because employees affirmatively consented to deduction of union dues. The panel stated that Janus did not extend a First Amendment right to avoid paying union dues, and in no way created a new First Amendment waiver requirement for union members before dues are deducted pursuant to a voluntary agreement. The panel further held that neither state law nor the collective bargaining agreement compels involuntary dues deduction and neither violates the First Amendment. Therefore, in the face of their voluntary agreement to pay union dues and in the absence of any legitimate claim of compulsion, the district court appropriately dismissed the First Amendment claim against Washington. View "Belgau v. Inslee" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a putative class action against Quality, alleging that Quality failed to provide truck drivers with meal breaks, rest periods, overtime wages, minimum wages, and reimbursement for necessary expenditures as required by California law. After Quality removed to federal court, the district court granted plaintiff's motion to remand to state court.The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's remand order and held that plaintiff challenged the form, not the substance, of Quality's showing, and the form of that showing was sufficient under the panel's case law. In this case, because the amount in controversy was not clear from plaintiff's complaint, Quality submitted a declaration to show that more than $5 million was in controversy. The panel explained that Quality only needed to include a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold. Therefore, the district court erred in treating plaintiff's attack on Quality's presentation as a factual, rather than facial, challenge. View "Salter v. Quality Carriers, Inc." on Justia Law

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Employees brought a wage-and-hour class action under California law for time spent waiting for and undergoing exit searches. In 2017, the Ninth Circuit certified a question to the Supreme Court of California, which concluded that time spent on the employer’s premises waiting for, and undergoing, required exit searches of packages, bags, or personal technology devices voluntarily brought to work purely for personal convenience by employees is compensable as “hours worked” within the meaning of California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order 7. The Ninth Circuit then reversed summary judgment in favor of the employer and directed the district court to enter judgment for the employees and determine the remedy to be afforded to individual class members. View "Frlekin v. Apple, Inc." on Justia Law

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Jordan worked for SSA as a longshoreman and operated a small landscaping business. In 2014, the truck Jordan was driving was dropped by a crane. He suffered extensive damage to his lower back. After treatment by medication and physical therapy, Jordan had spinal fusion surgery. Before the 2018 surgery. Jordan sought benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. 901–50. SSA agreed that Jordan was totally disabled immediately following the accident and again as he recovered from surgery. Surveillance videos, recorded in 2015-2016, showed Jordan engaging in physical activities and attending events where he apparently sat and stood for long periods without difficulty. Jordan testified, “There’s nothing I can’t do, but it all either is painful, elevates the pain, or I can’t do it for the amount of time that would be considered a job.” Jordan continued his landscaping but testified that his capacity was limited. Dr. Reynolds corroborated Jordan’s complaints of pain and opined that Jordan was totally disabled from work as a longshoreman.The Ninth Circuit remanded the denial of benefits. Credible complaints of severe, persistent, and prolonged pain, arising out of an injury, can establish a prima facie case of disability, even if the claimant can literally perform his past work. The claimant need not experience excruciating pain to be considered disabled. The ALJ apparently erroneously believed Jordan had to establish that it was literally impossible for him to do his past work. View "Jordan v. SSA Terminals, LLC" on Justia Law

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The United States filed suit against the State of Washington, claiming that HB 1723 impermissibly directly regulates and discriminates against the Federal Government and those with whom it deals in violation of the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity. HB 1723 amended Washington's workers' compensation scheme and established for workers at the Hanford site – a decommissioned federal nuclear production site – a presumption that certain conditions and cancers are occupational diseases that is rebuttable only by clear and convincing evidence.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Washington, holding that HB 1723 fell within the waiver of 40 U.S.C. 3172, which authorizes states to apply their workers' compensation laws to federal lands and projects in the states in the same way and to the same extent as if the premises were under the exclusive jurisdiction of the state. Therefore, HB 1723 did not violate the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity. Finally, the panel declined to resolve the remaining issues raised by the parties because they were not properly before the court. View "United States v. State of Washington" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Amazon's motion to compel arbitration of one of the named plaintiff's federal and state wage and hour claims. This plaintiff, unlike the other three named plaintiffs, agreed to all of Amazon's Terms of Service (TOS) when he signed up to work as a delivery provider for Amazon's app-based delivery program, Amazon Flex (AmFlex), including the arbitration provision at issue here.The panel held that AmFlex delivery providers in this case are transportation workers engaged in interstate commerce and are thus exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act's enforcement provisions pursuant to 9 U.S.C. 1 where they made "last mile" deliveries of goods in the stream of interstate commerce. The panel explained that the interstate transactions between Amazon and the customer do not conclude until the packages reach their intended destinations, and thus AmFlex drivers are engaged in the movement of interstate commerce, even if they did not themselves need to cross state lines. The panel noted that cases involving delivery services like Postmates or Doordash are distinguishable, because those cases recognize that local food delivery drivers are not "engaged in the interstate transport of goods" where the prepared meals from local restaurants are not a type of good that are "indisputably part of the stream of commerce." In this case, AmFlex workers complete the delivery of goods that Amazon ships across state lines and for which Amazon hires AmFlex workers to complete the delivery. Therefore, AmFlex workers form a part of the channels of interstate commerce and are engaged in interstate commerce.The panel also held that the TOS bars application of Washington state law to the arbitration provision. Therefore, there is no valid and enforceable arbitration agreement. View "Rittmann v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's adverse grant of summary judgment against plaintiff's Title VII lawsuit. The panel held that the undisputed facts clearly show that plaintiff was Castle's independent contractor and thus not entitled to Title VII protections. In this case, plaintiff was paid, taxed, and received benefits like an independent contractor; plaintiff's obligations to Castle were limited, providing him the freedom to run his own private practice; the contracts between Castle and plaintiff described him as an independent contractor. The panel stated that other factors also weighed in favor of plaintiff being an independent contractor. View "Henry v. Adventist Health Castle Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied Delta's petition for review challenging the Board's order ruling that it committed an unfair labor practice when it decreased its employees' hourly pension contribution rate to the Pacific Coast Shipyards Pension Fund without first notifying or bargaining with their union. The panel granted the Board's cross-application for enforcement of its order.The panel held that the Board properly ruled that the "written agreement" requirement, defining pension contributions, in Section 302(c)(5)(B) of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), was satisfied in this case. The panel explained that substantial evidence supported the Board's finding that Schedule A was incorporated into the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and that the CBA met Section 302's requirements. The panel also held that the Board properly ruled that Delta's failure to notify or bargain with its union over the pension contribution rate decrease was an unfair labor practice under Sections 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). View "Delta Sandblasting Co., Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law