Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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The contracts between the Drivers and Joseph Cory, a motor carrier business, purported to establish that the Drivers would work as independent contractors. The Drivers claim the realities of the relationship made them employees under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA), 820 ILCS 115/1–115/15. The contracts expressly permitted Joseph Cory to take “chargebacks” for any expense or liability that the Drivers had agreed to bear, including costs for “insurance, any related insurance claims, truck rentals, . . . uniforms,” and “damaged goods,” from the Drivers’ paychecks without obtaining contemporaneous consent. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of Joseph Cory’s motion to dismiss the Drivers’ suit. The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA), 49 U.S.C. 14501–06, does not preempt the IWPCA. Wage laws like the IWPCA are traditional state regulations and part of the backdrop that all business owners must face. IWPCA does not single out trucking firms and its impact is too tenuous, remote, and peripheral to fall within the scope of the FAAAA preemption clause. IWPCA’s limited regulation of ministerial aspects of the manner in which employees are paid does not have a significant impact on carrier rates, routes, or services of a motor carrier and does not frustrate the FAAAA’s deregulatory objectives. View "Lupian v. Joseph Cory Holdings LLC" on Justia Law

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Judge had been principal of Oaklyn Elementary School for about three years when she was stopped by a Pennsylvania State Trooper for failing to signal. After acknowledging she had been drinking, Judge asked the trooper to release her because she was concerned about her job. The trooper took Judge to the barracks, where she was given a test, which showed that Judge’s blood alcohol content was .332, more than four times the legal limit. Three weeks later, Judge encountered Superintendent Kelley, who had been advised by school board members about the traffic stop. Kelley wrote: If you do choose to resign then I will offer a neutral reference in the future . . . . [I]n the alternative, if you decide not to resign and DUI charges are filed against you then I will be forced to issue a written statement of charges for dismissal. Judge did not contact a lawyer, although she had retained counsel after her arrest. The next day, Judge presented a letter of resignation, while stating she “was not even charged with DUI yet.” Kelley then handed Judge court documents indicating that she had been charged. Judge sued, asserting deprivations of procedural and substantive due process, violation of equal protection, and breach of contract, based on "constructive discharge." The Third Circuit affirmed the rejection of all her claims: Judge was presented with a reasonable alternative to immediate resignation and resigned voluntarily. View "Judge v. Shikellamy School District" on Justia Law

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Palardy, a Millburn police officer, was involved in union leadership, participating in contract negotiations and disciplinary hearings for fellow officers. Gordon was responsible for Millburn's personnel matters. Palardy testified that other officers told him Gordon repeatedly disparaged Palardy’s union activity. In 2010, when Millburn was without a chief, Palardy was the department’s senior lieutenant, next in line to become a captain. During Gordon’s tenure, Millburn always selected its chief from among its captains. Palardy believed that he could be promoted to captain for a short time and then promoted to chief. Gordon stated that he did not believe any of the lieutenants had enough experience to become chief. Captain Weber became chief in 2011. Palardy stepped down as union president because he “knew" Gordon "had a problem with [his] union affiliation.” Gordon retained a consultant to study the department’s structure and vacancies and promoted Palardy to captain in 2012. Weber was scheduled to retire in 2015. In 2013, Palardy was offered a part-time position with the Board of Education. He says he believed that he would never become chief, so he retired and accepted that job offer. Palardy then sued the Township and Gordon. The district court rejected all claims. The Third Circuit reversed in part. The court should have analyzed Palardy’s speech and association claims separately; his union association deserves constitutional protection. Palardy’s speech claim must fail; he claims that Gordon retaliated against him because of his union membership, not because of his advocacy on any particular issue. View "Palardy v. Township of Millburn" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, convicted of drug offenses between 1997 and 2007, applied to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) for jobs that involved operating vehicles. Each filled out a form disclosing his criminal history and authorizing SEPTA to obtain a background check. SEPTA denied them employment. SEPTA did not send Plaintiffs copies of their background checks before it decided not to hire them, nor did it send them notices of their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which required SEPTA to send both before it denied them employment, 15 U.S.C. 1681b(b)(3). Plaintiffs filed a putative class action, which the district court dismissed for lack of standing, reasoning there was only a “bare procedural violation,” not a concrete injury in fact because Plaintiffs alleged that SEPTA denied them jobs based on their criminal history, which Plaintiffs disclosed before the background checks. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claim based on failure to provide notice of FCRA rights. Plaintiffs became aware of their FCRA rights and were able to file this lawsuit within the prescribed limitations period, so they were not injured. The court reversed the dismissal of the claim based on failure to provide copies of the consumer reports. That right exists whether the report is accurate or not; FCRA clearly expresses Congress’s “intent to make [the] injury redressable.” View "Long v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority" on Justia Law

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Younge, an African-American man, was fired by WPHL, a Tribune television station. Younge claims WPHL subjected him to a hostile work environment because it scheduled him to train under a white co-worker who used racial epithets and that he was wrongfully terminated because of his race and/or color. Younge filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Commission on Human Relations but chose to litigate in Bankruptcy Court after Tribune filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. That court disallowed his claims. In the district court, Younge challenged, for the first time, the Bankruptcy Court’s jurisdiction. The district court held he impliedly consented to jurisdiction and that the court correctly disallowed his claims. The Third Circuit affirmed. Younge voluntarily submitted to the Bankruptcy Court's jurisdiction: he filed a proof of claim, a response to Tribune’s objection, and a supplemental response, and appeared at a hearing. The Bankruptcy Court’s proceedings did not abridge his right to procedural due process, his right to a jury trial, or his right to counsel. The court rejected Younge’s Commerce Clause argument that the Bankruptcy Court’s local-counsel requirement inures to the disadvantage of out-of-state litigants. The lower courts correctly decided Younge’s hostile work environment claim. Younge did not prove respondeat superior liability. The record did not touch on WPHL’s knowledge of racial animus—a key facet of Younge’s claim-- and WPHL offered a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for his termination. Younge failed to demonstrate pretext. View "Tribune Media Co. v. Younge" on Justia Law

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The Church’s Deacons recommended Lee as pastor under a 20-year agreement, subject to for-cause early termination. If the Church removed Lee without cause, it would be required to pay Lee salary and benefits for the unexpired term. The agreement specified that Lee could be terminated for cause if he “commits any serious moral or criminal offense” or if he became incapacitated; it allowed either party to terminate upon “material breach.” During a 2013 congregation meeting, Lee stated that “just cause” would occur if the Church was "not growing ... stagnant, ... not a better place,” and that “if [he did not] perform [his] duties well, [he would be] out.” Based on these statements, the congregation approved the agreement. In December 2014, Church leaders recommended voiding the employment contract, reporting that from 2013-14, there was a 39% decline in offerings, a 32% drop in Sunday worship attendance, a 61% decrease in registered members, a doubling of expenditures, and a decline in the quality of community outreach. Lee had scheduled but cancelled several meetings to discuss these issues. The congregation voted to terminate Lee’s employment. Lee sued, alleging breach of contract due to termination without cause, seeking $2,643,996.40 in damages. The Third Circuit affirmed rejection of the suit on summary judgment. Adjudication of Lee’s claim would impermissibly entangle the court in religious doctrine in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. View "Lee v. Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church of Pittsburgh" on Justia Law

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Employees at Akers's manufacturing facility were union members, represented by USW under collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). In 2016, Akers was acquired by Ampco. Former Akers employees who had retired but were under age 65 (not eligible for Medicare) then paid $195 per month for their healthcare. Ampco planned to eliminate that benefit for those who had retired before March 2015. The new plan would require retirees to purchase health insurance on the private market and then be reimbursed up to $500 per month for individuals ($700 for families), for five years. Retirees cited a February 2015 memorandum of agreement (MOA), providing that “[c]urrent retirees will remain on their existing Plan ($195.00 monthly premium).” USW filed a grievance. Ampco rejected the grievance, claiming that the Union no longer represented the retirees. USW and Cup, who retired from the plant in 2014, on behalf of a class, filed a non-substantive claim compelling arbitration under the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185; a claim to enforce the CBA; and, alternatively, a claim under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a). Having ruled in the Union’s favor on the arbitration count, the court dismissed the substantive counts. The Third Circuit stayed enforcement of the arbitration order, then concluded that the dispute is not subject to arbitration under the CBA because retiree health benefits are not covered by the CBA. Retiree health benefits are discussed in the MOA, which was never incorporated into the CBA; whether the omission was was intentional or inadvertent, the contracts must be enforced as written. View "Cup v. Ampco Pittsburgh Corp" on Justia 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