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

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Javitz accepted an “at-will” position as Luzerne County's Director of Human Resources. Javitz participated in meetings with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which resulted in ASFSCME filing an unfair labor practices suit. Javitz claimed that a document filed in that lawsuit was a transcript of the meetings. She suspected that a county employee had recorded the meeting without Javitz’s consent—a crime under Pennsylvania law. Javitz's supervisor agreed that the meeting may have been recorded; they met with the District Attorney, who indicated that she would refer the matter to the Office of the Attorney General due to a conflict of interest. Javitz claims that the County Manager intervened and instructed the District Attorney to drop the matter. Javitz followed up about the investigation. Javitz alleges that county employees retaliated against her. Within weeks Javitz was fired. The County maintains that Javitz was fired because of her conduct toward unions, her failure to follow directions, and her handling of employment applications. The district court rejected her claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Third Circuit affirmed that Javitz did not have a property interest in her employment; her termination did not violate her due process rights. The court reversed as to a First Amendment claim: Who Javitz spoke to, what she spoke about, and why she spoke fall outside the scope of her primary job duties. Javitz was a citizen speaking to a matter of public concern. View "Javitz v. County of Luzerne" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, part-time Worthington police officers, were paid hourly wages. The Borough terminated their employment without affording any process. Plaintiffs sued under 42 U.S.C., claiming that the state’s Borough Code or Tenure Act conferred a constitutionally-protected property interest in their continued employment and that the lack of any process violated their due process rights. The Third Circuit certified questions of state law to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. That court responded that the “civil service protections embodied in the Borough Code and the Tenure Act are ... intended to govern all borough police forces” and the Borough Code's “normal working hours” criterion should be employed to determine how many members a borough police force has for purposes of deciding whether the Tenure Act’s two-officer maximum or the Borough Code’s three-officer minimum is implicated. The Borough Code's exclusion for “extra police” does not apply to part-time officers who are not extra police. In this case, the plaintiffs were part-time officers, but not necessarily “extra police” so the exclusion was irrelevant. An hourly wage compensation that satisfies the Borough Code criteria of being officers “paid a salary or compensation." Part-time work “is not dispositive.” The Third Circuit concluded that the plaintiffs may have a property interest sufficient to support their procedural due process claims and remanded. View "Evan Townsend v. Borough of Worthington" on Justia Law

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The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1–16, places certain arbitration agreements on equal footing with all other contracts, requiring courts to enforce such agreements according to their terms. Section 2 provides that the FAA covers “a written provision in any maritime transaction or a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce,” but section 1 states that “nothing” in the FAA “shall apply to contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” Singh brought this putative class action on behalf of New Jersey Uber drivers, alleging that Uber misclassified them as independent contractors rather than employees, which resulted in their being deprived of overtime compensation and incurring business expenses for Uber's benefit. Singh opposed a motion to compel arbitration, arguing that, to the extent that he had an agreement with Uber, it fell within the “any other class of workers” portion of section 1. The court dismissed, concluding that clause only extends to transportation workers who transport goods. The Third Circuit disagreed, citing its “longstanding precedent,” to hold that the residual clause of section 1 may extend to a class of transportation workers who transport passengers if they are engaged in interstate commerce or in work so closely related thereto as to be in practical effect part of it. The court remanded for resolution of the engaged-in-interstate-commerce inquiry. View "Singh v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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A jury awarded more than $4.5 million to a class of dancers at the Penthouse Club, a Philadelphia “adult gentleman’s club,” owned and operated by 3001 Castor, for unpaid minimum wages and unjust enrichment under Pennsylvania law. The Third Circuit affirmed concluding that, as a matter of “economic reality,” the dancers were employees of Castor, not its independent contractors. The court rejected Castor’s “novel argument” that the federal Fair Labor Standards Act precluded the class’s claims for unjust enrichment. Castor is not entitled to any credit or offset against the jury award for payments already received by the dancers. View "Verma v. 3001 Castor Inc" on Justia Law

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The Federal Railway Safety Act (FRSA) provides that if railroad carriers retaliate against employees who report safety violations, the aggrieved employee may file a complaint with OSHA within 180 days after the alleged retaliation, 49 U.S.C. 20109(d)(2)(A)(ii). The Secretary of Labor then has 210 days to issue a final decision. If the Secretary takes too long, the employee may file suit. Guerra, a Conrail conductor and brakeman, alleged that Conrail urged him to ignore safety regulations. When he refused, Conrail threatened him and eliminated incidental perks of his job. Guerra reported this to Conrail’s compliance office. He says he was told that if he kept reporting safety issues, there would be “undesirable consequences.” Soon after Guerra filed complaints about allegedly defective braking systems, a train Guerra was operating failed to brake properly and ran through a railroad switch. On April 6, 2016, Conrail notified Guerra that he would be suspended. On May 10, Guerra’s attorney, Katz, allegedly filed a FRSA complaint. Receiving no response, on November 28, Katz followed up with OSHA by email. OSHA notified Guerra that his claim was dismissed as untimely because OSHA first received Guerra’s complaint 237 days after the retaliation. Guerra attempted to invoke the common-law mailbox rule’s presumption of delivery. The district court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The Third Circuit affirmed on other grounds. FRSA’s 180-day limitations period is a non-jurisdictional claim-processing rule. Guerra’s claim still fails because he has not produced enough reliable evidence to invoke the common-law mailbox rule. View "Guerra v. Consolidated Rail Corp" on Justia Law

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Stone sued Troy Construction, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, alleging a willful violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). She claims that Troy paid local employees per diem compensation that should have been classified as wages and included in the regular rate of pay, which would have affected the calculation of overtime pay. The district court granted Troy summary judgment, holding that there had been no willful violation of the FLSA. Whether a violation is willful determines the length of the applicable statute of limitations; the court applied a two-year statute of limitations and concluded that Stone’s claims were time-barred. The Third Circuit vacated. The district court required a showing of conduct worse than recklessness while recognizing that Troy “appear[ed] to agree that excluding per diem[s] when calculating overtime rates for [out-of-state] employees is acceptable under the statute.” Troy therefore knew that per diems for non-local employees were implicated and permissible under the FLSA, but Troy’s professed ignorance about the implications of the same per diems paid to local employees did not meet the court’s standard. That analysis did not give Stone the benefit of a fair inference that Troy did recognize the implication of the per diems paid to local employees. View "Stone v. Troy Construction LLC" on Justia Law

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Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 207, employers must pay employees one-and-a-half times their “regular rate” of pay for all hours worked above a 40-hour work week. “[R]egular rate” includes “all remuneration for employment paid to, or on behalf of, the employee,” subject to eight enumerated exemptions but “remuneration for employment” is not defined in the overtime provisions or elsewhere in the Act. The Department of Labor asserted that employers are bound to include bonuses from third parties in the regular rate of pay when calculating overtime pay, regardless of what the employer and employee may have agreed. The district court, agreeing with the Department, concluded that the incentive bonuses at issue must be included in the regular rate of pay because they are remuneration for employment and do not qualify for any of the statutory exemptions. The Third Circuit vacated in part. Incentive bonuses provided by third parties are not necessarily “remuneration for employment” under the Act, depending on the understanding of the employer and employee. In this case, the factual record did not support a finding that all of the incentive bonuses were necessarily remuneration for employment. View "Secretary United States Department of Labor v. Bristol Excavating, Inc." on Justia Law

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Jaludi began working for Citigroup in 1985 and rose steadily through the ranks. Jaludi was laid off and terminated in 2013 after reporting certain improprieties in Citigroup’s internal complaint monitoring system. Jaludi, believing Citigroup had fired him in retaliation for his reporting, sued under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962 (RICO), and the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, 18 U.S.C. 1514A. Citigroup moved to compel arbitration, relying on two Employee Handbooks. The 2009 Employee Handbook, contained an arbitration agreement requiring arbitration of all claims arising out of employment—including Sarbanes–Oxley claims. In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which amended Sarbanes–Oxley to prohibit pre-dispute agreements to arbitrate whistleblower claims, 18 U.S.C. 1514A(e)). In 2011, Citigroup and Jaludi agreed to the 2011 Employee Handbook; the arbitration agreement appended to that Handbook excluded “disputes which by statute are not arbitrable” and deleted Sarbanes–Oxley from the list of arbitrable claims. Nonetheless, the district court held that arbitration was required for all of Jaludi’s claims. The Third Circuit reversed in part. Although Jaludi’s RICO claim falls within the scope of either Handbook’s arbitration provision, the operative 2011 arbitration agreement supersedes the 2009 arbitration agreement and prohibits the arbitration of Sarbanes–Oxley claims. View "Jaludi v. Citigroup" on Justia Law

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Bergamatto began working as a longshoreman in 2000 and stopped working in 2010. In 2013, he applied for retirement benefits under his pension plan, which is covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001. The 2010 plan said that “[t]he provisions … in effect during the Participant’s last year of credited service shall be applied to determine the Participant’s right to benefits and the amount thereof.” The 2010 plan originally precluded longshoremen hired between October 1996 and September 2004 from accruing benefits for work performed before October 2004. A 2013 amendment to the 2010 plan provided that, “[e]ffective October 1, 2012, Participants hired on or after October 1, 1996 shall receive pension benefit accruals for years of credited service earned from 1996 through 2004[.]” A 2015 plan eliminated the language preventing employees hired between October 1996 and September 2004 from accruing benefits for work prior to October 2004. Bergamatto’s application for pension benefits was approved based on only the years of credited service starting in October 2004 on the basis that the 2010 plan required that benefit determinations be made based on the plan provisions in force during the participant’s last year of credited service. The fund’s Board of Trustees agreed. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding the Board of Trustees’ interpretation of the 2015 and 2010 plans “reasonably consistent” with the plans’ unambiguous language. View "Bergamatto v. Board of Trustees of NYSA-ILA Pension Fund" on Justia Law

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This appeal involved one type of partial withdraw under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act (MPPAA): "bargaining out," which occurs when an employer permanently ceases to have an obligation to contribute under one or more but fewer than all collective bargaining agreements under which the employer has been obligated to contribute but continues to perform work of the type for which contributions were previously required. The Third Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that, under 29 U.S.C. 1385(b)(2)(A)(i), "work . . . of the type for which contributions were previously required" does not include work of the type for which contributions are still required. In this case, because CEC continues to contribute to its pension plan for engineering work at its remaining three casinos, it was not liable under section 1385(b)(2)(A)(i). View "Caesars Entertainment Corp. v. International Union of Operating Engineers Local 68 Pension Fund" on Justia Law