Justia U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Capps was hired in 1989, to operate a mixing machine.Capps suffers with Avascular Necrosis: A “loss of blood flow, severely limiting oxygen and nutrient delivery to the bone and tissues, essentially suffocating and causing death of those cells.” Capps developed arthritis in both hips which necessitated bilateral hip replacement in 2003. He experiences severe pain, sometimes lasting for days or weeks at a time. Capps was continuously recertified for intermittent Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601, leave until his employment was terminated in 2014, for violation of a policy concerning dishonesty. Capps purportedly tried to use FMLA leave for DUI court dates. The Third CIrcuit affirmed summary judgment, rejecting Capps’ claims of interference with and retaliation for exercise of his FMLA rights and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101. An employer’s honest belief that its employee was misusing FMLA leave can defeat an FMLA retaliation claim. While, under certain circumstances, a request for intermittent FMLA leave may also constitute a request for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, in this case, even if such a request was made, there is no evidence that the employer failed to provide any requested accommodation. View "Capps v. Mondelez Global LLC" on Justia Law

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Beginning in 2008, PGW, which manufactures auto glass, engaged in reductions in force (RIFs). Individual directors had broad discretion in selecting whom to terminate. PGW did not: train directors, employ written guidelines, conduct disparate-impact analysis, nor document why any particular employee was terminated. Plaintiffs, terminated in a March 2009 RIF, were each over 50 years old. After filing charges with the EEOC, plaintiffs brought an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) collective action, asserting disparate treatment, disparate impact, and retaliation. The district court ruled that ADEA subgroups are cognizable, and conditionally certified a collective action of terminated employees who were at least 50 years old. After the case was transferred, another district judge concluded that the action should be decertified because the opt-in plaintiffs’ claims were factually dissimilar from those of the named plaintiffs. The court also excluded: statistical evidence in favor of plaintiffs’ disparate-impact claim; an expert opinion on “reasonable” human-resources RIF practices; and testimony concerning age-related implicit-bias studies. The court granted held that the 50-and-older disparate-impact claim was not cognizable under the ADEA and granted summary judgment as to plaintiffs’ disparate-treatment claims. The Third Circuit vacated in part. The ADEA prohibits disparate impacts based on age, not 40-and-older identity. A rule that disallowed subgroups would ignore genuine statistical disparities that could otherwise be actionable under the plain text of the statute. The court vacated the exclusion of testimony by plaintiffs’ statistics expert and remanded for Daubert proceedings. View "Karlo v. Pittsburgh Glass Works LLC" on Justia Law

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Carroll was hired by the Delaware River Port Authority in 1989 as a police officer. From 1989-2009, he served six years as a Navy corpsman and 10 years in the Pennsylvania National Guard. When not on active military duty, Carroll maintained his Port Authority employment, achieving the rank of corporal in 2004. Carroll was deployed to Iraq in 2009, where he sustained injuries leading to cervical spondylosis, degenerative disk disease, bilateral torn rotator cuffs, brain injury, and high-frequency hearing loss. Carroll was in rehabilitation until his 2013 honorable discharge. Carroll has not worked for the Port Authority since his deployment. In 2010 and 2012, while on active duty but in rehabilitation, Carroll unsuccessfully applied for a promotion. Carroll sued under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301, alleging discrimination based on military service. After discovery, the court certified an interlocutory appeal on the question of whether Carroll must plead and prove that he was objectively qualified for promotion to sergeant in order to sustain his discrimination suit. The Third Circuit stated that plaintiffs need not plead or prove that they are objectively qualified in order to meet their initial burden under USERRA; instead, employers may raise a plaintiff’s lack of qualifications as a nondiscriminatory justification for declining to promote the plaintiff, notwithstanding military service. View "Carroll v. Delaware River Port Authority" on Justia Law

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In 2009, two groups of Pennsylvania hospital employees claimed they were not properly compensated for work performed during meal breaks. They sought to bring a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 216(b). The actions were conditionally certified and “opt-in” notices were sent to potential plaintiffs. More than 3,000 individuals joined one collective action and more than 800 opted in to the other. The parties conducted collective action related discovery for nearly two years. Both judges subsequently decertified the collective actions, reasoning that the opt-in plaintiffs were not similarly situated to the named plaintiffs. Their job duties varied significantly; those duties were “highly relevant in terms of how, why and whether the employees were compensated properly for missed or interrupted meal breaks.” More than 300 different individuals supervised the plaintiffs and had individual authority to implement policies. The named plaintiffs successfully moved to voluntarily dismiss their claims with prejudice (FRCP 41(a)). The Third Circuit rejected an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The same law firm then filed new claims against the same defendants, with new named plaintiffs, which were dismissed based on issue preclusion. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that only plaintiffs who had accepted an offer of judgment had been dismissed with prejudice. When the other opt-in plaintiffs were dismissed without prejudice, they did not suffer an adverse judgment on the merits of any claim. View "Halle v. West Penn Allegheny Health System, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2008, Camden implemented a “directed patrols” policy, requiring police officers to engage with city residents even though the residents are not suspected of any wrongdoing. The program consisted of “a structured 15-20 minute deployment into a targeted area to accomplish a specific patrol or crime reduction function.” Officers are to obtain personal information from the individuals they interact with, if the individuals agree to provide it. During these encounters, officers should “approach community members" and "inquire about criminal activity or quality of life issues.” According to the city, directed patrols in Camden were not new. “[T]he difference ... was that directed patrols would be tracked and recorded. The Fraternal Order of Police sued, claiming Camden had imposed an unlawful quota on arrests or citations because officers on supplemental patrol were expected to conduct a minimum of 27 directed patrols per shift and officers on regular patrol were expected to perform a minimum of 18; failure to comply is cause for disciplinary action, in violation of N.J.S.A. 40A:14-181.2. Individual officers alleged retaliation. The court granted defendants summary judgment, finding the anti-quota statute inapplicable to the policy. The Third Circuit affirmed with respect to the anti-quota law and First Amendment retaliation, but reversed as to whistleblower-retaliation. View "Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1 v. City of Camden" on Justia Law

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In 2011, in response to a severe budget crisis, the Government of the Virgin Islands enacted the Virgin Islands Economic Stability Act (VIESA), which reduced most government employees’ salaries by 8%. Many government employees were covered by collective bargaining agreements that set forth detailed salary and benefit schedules. Their unions sued, alleging that the VIESA salary reductions constituted an impermissible impairment of the collective bargaining agreements, in violation of the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution. The district court, after a bench trial, held that VIESA did not violate the Contract Clause. The Third Circuit reversed, first holding that the issue is not moot, although VIESA has expired. The court’s determination will have a preclusive effect in pending arbitration between the unions and the government, concerning wages not paid in the interim. VIESA’s substantial impairment of the collective bargaining agreements was not reasonable in light of the fact that the government knew of its precarious financial condition when it agreed to the contracts. View "United Steel Paper and Forestry Rubber Manufacturing Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union AFL- CIO- CLC v. Government of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs worked 12-hour shifts at DuPont’s Towanda, Pennsylvania manufacturing plant and had to be onsite before and after their shifts to “don and doff” uniforms and protective gear. They were required to participate in “shift relief,” which involved employees from the outgoing shift sharing information about the status of work with incoming shift employees. The time spent donning, doffing, and providing shift relief ranged from 30-60 minutes a day. DuPont compensated plaintiffs for 30-minute meal breaks and two other non-consecutive 30-minute breaks during their twelve-hour shifts, although there was no legal requirement to do so. The paid break time always exceeded the amount of time plaintiffs spent donning and doffing and providing shift relief. The district court rejected, on summary judgment, plaintiffs’ claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201, and Pennsylvania’s Wage Payment and Collection Law, seeking overtime compensation for time they spent donning and doffing and performing “shift relief” on behalf of a purported class. The Third Circuit reversed, finding that the FLSA and applicable regulations, as its 2005 precedent in Wheeler v. Hampton Twp., limiting offsetting to “extra compensation” not included in the regular rate, compel the opposite result. View "Smiley v. EI DuPont de Nemours & Co." on Justia Law

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Jani-King, the world’s largest commercial cleaning franchisor, classifies its franchisees as independent contractors. Its cleaning contracts are between Jani-King and the customer; the franchisee is not a party, but may elect to provide or not provide services under a contract. Jani-King exercises a significant amount of control over how franchisees operate and controls billing and accounting. Two Jani-King franchisees assert that they are misclassified and should be treated as employees. On behalf of a class of Jani-King franchisees in the Philadelphia area (approximately 300 franchisees), they sought unpaid wages under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL), 43 Pa. Stat. 260.1–260.12. The Third Circuit affirmed certification of the class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f). The misclassification claim can be made on a class-wide basis through common evidence, primarily the franchise agreement and manuals. Under Pennsylvania law, no special treatment is accorded to the franchise relationship. A franchisee may be an employee or an independent contractor depending on the nature of the franchise system controls. View "Williams v. Jani-King of Philadelphia Inc" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are trust funds and employee benefit plans for construction industry employees. MRS constructs commercial buildings. In 1997, MRS signed “me-too agreements” binding it to collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) bestowing rights on Plaintiffs. Under the agreement, MRS agreed to be bound by the 1997-2001 CBA in force between a multiemployer association and the union. According to Plaintiffs, MRS also agreed to be bound by later CBAs because the 1997 agreement contains an “evergreen clause” and MRS never gave the notice required to terminate the clause. MRS conceded that it never gave notice, but denied that the letter continuously granted bargaining rights. Under each CBA, employers had to make specified contributions to various Plaintiff funds and permit audits of records relevant to those obligations. Plaintiffs sent MRS requests for audits, believing that MRS had failed to make contributions required by the 2012-2015 CBA. When MRS did not comply, Plaintiffs sought post-audit relief under 29 U.S.C. 1145 for unpaid ERISA contributions and injunctive relief compelling MRS to comply with the 2012-2015 and subsequent CBAs. The Third Circuit reversed dismissal, rejecting an argument that all me-too agreements must satisfy two criteria in order to bind non-signatories to future CBAs. Absent that requirement, the plausibility of the complaint should be assessed under contract law principles and states a plausible claim for relief. View "Carpenters Health & Welfare Fund v. Mgmt. Res. Sys., Inc." on Justia Law

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To stimulate economic development, Jersey City, New Jersey offers tax exemptions and abatements to private developers of projects in certain designated areas. Those tax benefits are conditioned on the developers’ entry into agreements with labor unions that bind the developers to specified labor practices. Employers and a trade group challenged that law, alleging that it is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and barred by the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that Jersey City acts as a market participant, not a regulator, when it enforces the law, so that NLRA, ERISA, and dormant Commerce Clause claims were not cognizable. The Third Circuit reversed, holding that Jersey City was acting as a regulator in this context. The city lacks a proprietary interest in Tax Abated Projects. The Supreme Court has recognized a government’s proprietary interest in a project when it “owns and manages property” subject to the project or it hires, pays, and directs contractors to complete the project; when it provides funding for the project; or when it purchases or sells goods or services. This case fits none of these categories. View "Assoc. Builders & Contractors, Inc. v. City of Jersey City" on Justia Law