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

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
by
Plaintiff sued Carroll College, alleging that it refused to renew its contract as a golf coach after he complained about gender inequity at the college’s athletic department. The district court ruled that Plaintiff failed to make the prima facie case that the nonrenewal of the contract was an adverse employment action.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Defendant. The panel held that the refusal to renew a contract may be an adverse employment action for a Title IX retaliation claim because it could deter a reasonable employee from reporting discrimination. The panel remanded the case to the district court to consider Carroll College’s alternative bases for summary judgment. View "BENNETT MACINTYRE V. CARROLL COLLEGE" on Justia Law

by
In March 2018, the officers were involved in the fatal shooting of a homeless man. The Oakland Police Department investigated the incident, concluding that the officers’ use of force was reasonable and complied with Police Department policy. The Chief of Police agreed. Separately, the Community Police Review Agency (CPRA), the investigative body of the City’s civilian oversight Police Commission, investigated the incident and determined that the use of force was objectively reasonable. The Compliance Director disagreed with the Chief of Police and the CPRA, instead recommending termination of the officers for unreasonable use of force. After their termination, the officers sought a writ of mandate and declaratory relief in state court.The Ninth Circuit vacated, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the district court’s judgment on the pleadings in favor of Defendants and remanded with instructions to remand this case to state court. The panel held that this was a case arising under state law that properly belonged in the state courts. Recognizing that under Section 1331, a case can “arise under” federal law in two ways, the panel determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction under both branches of federal question jurisdiction. First, the panel lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the federal cause of action branch because federal law did not create the causes of action asserted. The panel next held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the substantial federal question branch. View "FRANCISCO NEGRETE V. CITY OF OAKLAND" on Justia Law

by
This appeal presents the question of whether the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) may order an employer to reimburse a union for legal fees incurred during the contract bargaining process. The Ninth Circuit held that it may, and granted the NLRB’s petition for enforcement of its compliance order.The Board found that the employer engaged in unusually aggravated misconduct sufficient to warrant more than a traditional remedy, and ordered the employer to reimburse the union for the costs and expenses the union incurred during collective bargaining sessions. On appeal, the D.C. Circuit upheld the Board’s findings and enforced its orders in full. The parties could not reach an agreement on the total amount the employer should be required to pay in remedies, and in July 2018, the Regional Director for NLRB Region 27 issued a compliance specification detailing how much the employer owed.The court rejected the employer’s argument that D.C. Circuit precedent established that the Board lacked the power to order the reimbursement of legal fees. The court held that the D.C. Circuit’s opinions were specifically limited to the context of litigation, and they did not bar the award at issue here. The National Labor Relations Act grants the Board broad discretion to impose remedies for unfair labor practices. The court held that the award of legal fees, in this case, was exactly the sort of remedy that courts have upheld as within the Board’s statutory remedial authority. View "NLRB V. AMPERSAND PUBLISHING, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Affirming the district court’s summary judgment in favor of National Railroad Passenger Corporation and other railroad companies, the Ninth Circuit held that, as to railroad employees, the federal Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act preempts California’s Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act, which requires employers to provide employees with paid sick leave that they may use for specified purposes.   RUIA provides unemployment and sickness benefits to railroad employees, and it contains an express preemption provision disallowing railroad employees from having any right to “sickness benefits under a sickness law of any State.” Looking at the plain meaning of the statutory text, the court concluded that the preemption provision broadly refers to compensation or other assistance provided to employees in connection with physical or mental well-being. The court concluded that RUIA’s statutory framework and stated purposes confirm the breadth of its preemptive effect.   The court found unpersuasive an argument by the California Labor Commissioner and union-intervenors that RUIA does not preempt the California Act as to railroad employees because the benefits the Act offers are different in kind than RUIA’s benefits. The court also found unpersuasive (1) an argument that RUIA should be interpreted as preempting only the kinds of state laws that existed at the time RUIA was amended to provide for sickness benefits; and (2) various textual arguments in support of a narrower interpretation of the preemption provision. View "NAT'L RAILROAD PASSENGER CORP. V. JULIE SU" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit certified to the Supreme Court of California the following three questions of state law: (1) Is time spent on an employer’s premises in a personal vehicle and waiting to scan an identification badge, have security guards peer into the vehicle, and then exit a Security Gate compensable as “hours worked” within the meaning of California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order No. 16? (2) Is time spent on the employer’s premises in a personal vehicle, driving between the Security Gate and the employee parking lots, while subject to certain rules from the employer, compensable as “hours worked” or as “employer-mandated travel” within the meaning of California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order No. 16? (3) Is time spent on the employer’s premises, when workers are prohibited from leaving but not required to engage in employer-mandated activities, compensable as “hours worked” within the meaning of California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order No. 16, or under California Labor Code Section 1194 when that time was designated as an unpaid “meal period” under a qualifying collective bargaining agreement? View "GEORGE HUERTA V. CSI ELEC. CONTRACTORS, INC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff brought five claims arising under the California Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”), all concerning alleged wage and hour violations, against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Wal-Mart Associates, Inc. (collectively, “Walmart”). The district court dismissed some of Plaintiff’s PAGA claims on the ground that they were unmanageable and dismissed her remaining PAGA claims as a discovery sanction.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal. The court explained California’s Labor Code allows employees to sue an employer for violating provisions designed to protect the health, safety, and compensation of workers. Following the enactment of PAGA in 2004, employees may stand in the shoes of the Labor Commissioner and recover civil penalties for Labor Code violations. Sections 2699 9(a) and 2699.3 of PAGA contain requirements for such actions.   The court held that the recently decided Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, — S. Ct. —, 2022 WL 2135491, at *3 (2022), case expressly foreclosed Walmart’s argument that Plaintiff was barred from pursuing her PAGA claims because she did not seek class certification under Rule 23. In addition, given their differing coverage, PAGA and Rule 23 are fully compatible and do not conflict for purposes of the first step of an Erie analysis. The court also rejected Walmart’s argument that the district court correctly rejected some of Plaintiff's PAGA claims as unmanageable under its inherent authority. The court held that Rule 26(a) applied to claims for damages. Plaintiff's PAGA claims seek civil penalties, not damages, so Rule 26(a) does not apply to her PAGA claims. View "CHELSEA HAMILTON V. WAL-MART STORES, INC." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff brought the action against her former employer Brookdale Senior Living Communities, Inc. (“Brookdale”), pursuant to California’s Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) Cal. Lab. Code sections 2698-2699.5, allow aggrieved employees to recover civil penalties for Labor Code violations on behalf of themselves, the state, or other employees. Plaintiff and Brookdale agreed to a settlement. Appellant who was a plaintiff in an overlapping PAGA case against Brookdale, filed a motion to intervene in Plaintiff’s action to object to the PAGA settlement.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to intervene, and dismissed her appeal of the district court’s approval of the PAGA settlement between Plaintiff and Brookdale. The court held that Appellant was not a party to Plaintiff’s case and could not appeal the approval of the PAGA settlement.   The court first considered whether Appellant was entitled to intervene in Plaintiff’s case as a matter of right under Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2). The court held that Appellant’s motion for intervention as a matter of right failed at the fourth and final prong of the Wilderness Society v. U.S. Forest Serv., 630 F.3d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir. 2011), test, which requires that an applicant’s interest must be inadequately represented by the parties to the action. Appellant needed to make a compelling showing to demonstrate inadequate representation. The court concluded she failed to make this required showing. As a non-party to this action, Appellant had no right to appeal the district court’s approval of the PAGA settlement. View "CAROLYN CALLAHAN V. BROOKDALE SENIOR LIVING CMTY." on Justia Law

by
Several public-sector employees filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 seeking to recover any agency fees taken from their paychecks by the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association and Santa Clara County. Specifically, Plaintiffs sought a refund for fees paid before the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Janus v. Am. Fed’n of State, Cnty., & Mun. Emps., Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018) (prohibiting public-sector unions from collecting compulsory agency fees).In the district court, Defendants successfully moved for summary judgment, claiming they were entitled to a good-faith defense because their actions were expressly authorized by then-applicable United States Supreme Court law and state law. Plaintiffs appealed.On appeal, Plaintiffs acknowledge that Danielson v. Inslee, 945 F.3d 1096 (9th Cir. 2019) precludes their claim against the Union. The Ninth Circuit held that the rule announced in Danielson also applies to municipalities because "precedent recognizes that municipalities are generally liable in the same way as private corporations in sec. 1983 actions." Thus, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' claim against both the Union and the County. View "SEAN ALLEN V. SANTA CLARA CNTY CORR. POA" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, employees of WinCo Foods, LLC alleged violations of the California Labor Code relating to the payment of wages and business-related expenses and the California Business & Professions Code Sections. Plaintiffs' claimed compensation as an employee for the time and expense of taking a drug test as a successful applicant for employment. Plaintiffs argued that because the tests were administered under the control of the employer, Plaintiffs must be regarded as employees.The district court granted Plaintiff’s motion for class certification and both sides then moved for summary judgment. The district court held that Plaintiff and class members were not employees of WinCo Foods when they underwent drug testing and the court granted WinCo’s motion for summary judgment. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of WinCo Foods. The court rejected Plaintiffs’ contentions because control over a drug test as part of the job application process is not control over the performance of the job. In this case, the class members were not performing work for an employer when they took the pre-employment drug test; they were instead applying for the job, and they were not yet employees. Plaintiffs also contended under California law that class members were employees under a “contract theory,” and that the drug test should be regarded as a “condition subsequent” to their hiring as employees pursuant to Cal. Civil Code Section 143. The court held that there was no condition subsequent because here there was no written contract, and the drug test was a condition precedent. View "ALFRED JOHNSON V. WINCO FOODS, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The California Insurance Commissioner filed an ex parte conservation application to place the California Insurance Company (“CIC I”) in a conservatorship after CIC I’s president attempted to consummate a purchase transaction with Berkshire Hathaway without the Commissioner’s approval, and then attempted to bypass the California insurance regulatory scheme by merging CIC I with the California Insurance Company (“CIC II”), a New Mexico-domesticated shell company formed by the president. The Superior Court granted the Commissioner’s conservatorship application and appointed the Commissioner as Conservator of CIC I. Applied Underwriters, of which the president is the Chief Executive Officer, and CIC II filed separate actions in federal court asserting causes of actions under Section 1983.   The district court dismissed both actions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). The Ninth Circuit held that because important considerations of federalism were at stake, the district court’s reliance on Younger abstention as a ground for dismissal was in error. The court held that an insurance conservatorship is not sufficiently akin to criminal prosecution to bring it within the purview of what constitutes a similar, Younger-eligible “civil enforcement proceeding.”   The court held that dismissal of Appellants’ claims was warranted on account of the prior exclusive jurisdiction rule. Further, Appellants’ interests were well represented in the conservatorship action; they had an adequate opportunity to raise constitutional challenges; they failed to sufficiently allege that the conservatorship action was brought in bad faith; they failed to demonstrate irreparable injury arising from extraordinary circumstances which might justify an exception to the prior exclusive jurisdiction rule. View "APPLIED UNDERWRITERS, INC. V. RICARDO LARA" on Justia Law