Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Minarski, the part-time secretary to Yadlosky, Director of Susquehanna County’s Department of Veterans Affairs, claims that Yadlosky made unwanted sexual advances toward her for years. The two worked separately from other employees. Minarski never reported this conduct because her young daughter had cancer and she depended on the income. Minarski later learned that on two prior occasions, the Chief County Clerk became aware of Yadlosky’s inappropriate behavior toward other women and reprimanded him. A County Commissioner was aware of one incident. After both incidents, there was no further action nor was any notation placed in Yadlosky’s personnel file. Minarsky also learned that other women had similar encounters with Yadlosky. The County terminated Yadlosky when the persistent nature of his behavior toward Minarsky was revealed. Minarsky sought to hold Yadlosky liable for sexual harassment, and her former employer, Susquehanna County, vicariously liable. The County raised the Faragher-Ellerth affirmative defense. In granting the County summary judgment, the district court held that the elements of this defense had been proven as a matter of law. The Third Circuit vacated, holding that, in this case, the availability of the defense regarding both elements--whether the County took reasonable care to detect and eliminate the harassment and whether Minarsky acted reasonably in not availing herself of the County’s anti-harassment safeguards--should be decided by a jury. View "Minarsky v. Susquehanna County" on Justia Law

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Gillispie, an RN, worked for the Medical Center, addressing possible medical errors. In October 2012, a pregnant patient, “E.R.,” went to the Center’s emergency room complaining of pain and vaginal bleeding. After examining E.R., Center personnel discharged her, telling her to “[g]o directly to Uniontown Hospital” to see a gynecologist. The Center had no gynecologist on staff. Center personnel did not transport E.R. Two days later, Cowie, the Center’s CEO, held a meeting to investigate whether E.R.’s discharge violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), 42 U.S.C. 1395dd, or triggered reporting requirements. Gillispie contends that she insisted at two meetings that EMTALA required a report, but Cowie instructed the attendees not to report. Pennsylvania Department of Health representatives subsequently investigated a complaint regarding another patient, L.S.; Gillispie stated that Cowie had falsely told L.S.’s family that nurses had been disciplined for L.S.’s treatment. Cowie terminated Gillispie’s employment. Gillispie later reported the Center’s discharge of E.R., then filed suit under EMTALA’s whistleblower protection provision. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Gillispie did not give anyone at the Center any information about E.R.’s discharge that they were not already aware of, so she did not make a report and did not engage in activity protected by EMTALA’s whistleblower provision. Gillispie’s complaint with respect to L.S. have a statutory remedy, so she may not also allege a public policy-based wrongful discharge claim. View "Gillispie v. Regionalcare Hospital Partners, Inc." on Justia Law

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DiFiore, working for CSL since 2008, became concerned about CSL marketing drugs for off-label uses not approved by the FDA and including off-label use in sales forecasts. DiFiore expressed her concerns to her supervisors and alleges that as a consequence of that protected conduct, she suffered adverse employment actions: a warning letter, after which CSL hired an employment coach to help DiFiore develop her leadership skills; a mid-year performance review with “needing improvement” evaluations in several areas; a second warning letter regarding her nonpayment of her company credit card; her deteriorating relationships with supervisors and management; and her removal from a committee and certain meetings. In May 2012, DiFiore was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan, requiring improvement within 45 days. Within a week, DiFiore resigned. DiFiore sued, claiming unlawful discharge under Pennsylvania law and retaliation in violation of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3730(h). The district court granted summary judgment on the wrongful discharge claim and held that DiFiore could not rely upon constructive discharge as an adverse action in her FCA claim. The judge instructed the jury that the FCA retaliation provision required that protected activity be the “but-for” cause of adverse actions. The jury found in favor of CSL. The Third Circuit affirmed. An employee’s protected activity must be the “but for” cause of adverse actions to support a claim of retaliation under the FCA. View "DiFiore v. CSL Behring LLC" on Justia Law

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Fallon was terminated by his employer, Mercy Catholic Medical Center, because he refused to be inoculated against flu. He opposed the vaccine because he believed that it might do more harm than good. Mercy required its employees to receive the vaccine unless they qualified for a medical or religious exemption. Fallon sought the exemption on religious grounds. Mercy ruled that he did not qualify and terminated him when he continued to refuse the vaccine. Fallon sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, arguing that his termination constituted religious discrimination. The district court dismissed his case with prejudice because his beliefs, while sincere and strongly held, were not religious in nature. The court considered the full text of an essay that was partially quoted in Fallon’s complaint but not submitted in full until Mercy attached it to a reply brief with its motion to dismiss. The Third Circuit affirmed. Fallon’s beliefs do not occupy a place in his life similar to that occupied by a more traditional faith. His objection to vaccination is therefore not religious and not protected by Title VII. The court rejected Fallon’s argument that only the portions of the essay, which were quoted in the complaint, should have been considered. View "Fallon v. Mercy Catholic Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Joyce, a member of the Seafarers Union, agreed to serve as a bosun aboard the MAERSK OHIO for three months in 2012. The Union and Maersk had a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that was incorporated by reference into the Agreement. Joyce fell ill onboard, was declared unfit for duty, and repatriated to the U.S. The CBA provided that, if a seafarer was medically discharged before the conclusion of his contract, he was entitled to unearned wages for the remaining contract period. Overtime was not included in the definition of unearned wages. Joyce received only base pay for the time left on his contract after his discharge. Joyce alleged that the CBA provisions governing unearned wages violated general maritime law. The district court granted Maersk summary judgment, distinguishing the Third Circuit’s 1990 “Barnes” holding that the specifics of what is covered by a seafarer’s right to “maintenance” (traditionally, food and lodging expenses) could be modified by a court, even if those specifics were established in a CBA. The Third Circuit affirmed, overruling the Barnes decision and joining other circuits, holding that a union contract freely entered by a seafarer that includes rates of maintenance, cure, and unearned wages will not be reviewed piecemeal by courts unless there is evidence of unfairness in the collective bargaining process. View "Joyce v. Maersk Line Ltd" on Justia Law

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Progressive publishes and sells business publications, using sales representatives who are paid an hourly wage plus bonuses based on the number of sales per hour while they are logged onto their workstation computers. Progressive previously gave employees two 15-minute paid breaks per day. In 2009, Progressive eliminated paid breaks but allowed employees to log off of their computers at any time, for any duration. Progressive does not pay them for time they are logged off of their computers, including bathroom breaks and time used to prepare for the next call. Sales representatives estimate the total number of hours that they expect to work during the upcoming pay period. They are subject to discipline for failing to work that number of hours. Progressive sends representatives home for the day if their sales are not high enough and sets fixed schedules for representatives when that is deemed necessary. The Department of Labor alleged that this policy violated the Fair Labor Standards Act “by failing to compensate . . . sales representative employees for break[s] of twenty minutes or less . . . .” The district court agreed that that 29 C.F.R. 785.18 created a bright-line rule. The Third Circuit affirmed that the Act requires employers to compensate employees for all rest breaks of 20 minutes or less. View "Secretary United States Department of Labor v. American Future Systems Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were among a class of individuals working in two separate part-time capacities for Lackawanna County. The County apparently tracked and paid these employees for each of their individual jobs, but in 2011 became aware that it had failed to aggregate the hours in both jobs, resulting in a failure to pay the overtime rate for hours beyond 40 hours per pay period. Lackawanna County conceded basic overtime violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 207(a)(1). At trial, the plaintiffs presented inadequate evidence on “willfulness,” so that the court entered a directed verdict on that issue. A finding of willfulness expands the limitations period for claims under the Act, in effect permitting a plaintiff to receive a larger award. The Third Circuit affirmed. The evidence did not suggest the County was subjectively aware of the FLSA problem at the time of the violations, at least with respect to the plaintiffs. A lack of evidence going to good faith is not the same as evidence in support of intentionality. The court also affirmed an award of attorneys’ fees at an hourly rate of $250. View "Souryavong v. County of Lackawanna" on Justia Law

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Zuber, employed by Boscov’s at Fairgrounds Farmers’ Market in Reading, Pennsylvania, suffered an injury at work, immediately filed a workers’ compensation claim, and received work leave. About two weeks after Zuber returned to work, Boscov’s fired Zuber, Months later, Boscov’s and Zuber signed a Compromise and Release Agreement before the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Workers’ Compensation Office. Zuber later sued under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. 2617, and common law, claiming that Boscov’s failed to notify him of his FMLA rights and to designate his leave as FMLA protected; retaliated against him for exercising his FMLA rights; and retaliated against him for filing a workers’ compensation claim. The district court dismissed, based on a release provision in the Agreement. The Third Circuit reversed, based on the Agreement’s references to “benefits” and “monies of any kind,” “in connection with the alleged 8/12/2015 [sic] work injury claim as well as any other work injury claim(s).” Zuber seeks benefits and monies from FMLA and common law claims, not from matters related to the injury. View "Zuber v. Boscov's, Inc." on Justia Law

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Moody, a substitute custodian, sued the Atlantic City Board of Education for sexual harassment and retaliation under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(a)(1), 3(a), and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The district court rejected the claims on summary judgment, finding that the alleged harasser, Marshall, was not Moody’s supervisor. Marshall was the custodial foreman at one of the district schools and had authority to select which substitute custodians worked at the school. Moody was not guaranteed work and worked only when selected by a foreman; Marshall controlled 70% of her hours. The Third Circuit vacated. Marshall was empowered to determine whether Moody worked at a particular school, which had a direct impact on her pay, and the evidence indicated that no one else provided supervision at that school. In addition, there were disputed facts concerning whether Moody sustained a tangible employment action. View "Moody v. Atlantic City Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Fund, a multi-employer benefit plan established under Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 186(c)(5). The Act broadly prohibits employers from providing payments of money or other items of value to employee representatives, with an exception for employee benefit trust funds that comply with statutory requirements, including mandatory administration by a board of trustees composed of an equal number of employee and employer representatives. The Fund is overseen by five union-designated trustees and five employer-designated trustees. The Act requires such funds to install a mechanism allowing a federal district court to appoint a neutral party to resolve any impasse; the Fund’s Agreement specifies that “[i]n the event of a deadlock,” the Trustees “may agree upon an impartial umpire to break such deadlock.” If they cannot agree with a reasonable time, they may petition the District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to appoint an impartial umpire. The Trustees deadlocked on a motion seeking to approve payment of compensation to eligible Trustees for attendance at Fund meetings and another seeking to clarify and confirm the eligibility requirements for Employer Trustees. In each case, one-half of the board petitioned the court to appoint an arbitrator to settle the dispute, and the opposing half sought to prevent the requested appointment. The court declined to send either conflict to arbitration. The Third Circuit remanded, finding that both disputes were within the purview of the parties’ agreement to arbitrate. View "Employer Trustees of Western Pennsylvania Teamsters v. Union Trustees of Western Pennsylvania Teamsters" on Justia Law