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

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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The case involves plaintiffs Nancy Mator and Robert Mator, who are participants in the Wesco Distribution, Inc. Retirement Savings Plan. They sued Wesco Distribution, Inc., its fiduciaries, and the Plan, alleging that they violated fiduciary duties imposed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) by paying excessive recordkeeping fees and failing to monitor the Plan. The District Court dismissed the complaint with prejudice.The plaintiffs appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. They argued that the District Court erred in dismissing their complaint, which alleged that Wesco breached its fiduciary duties under ERISA by causing the Plan to pay excessive recordkeeping fees, offering retail-class shares of mutual funds, and failing to monitor those responsible for the Plan.The Court of Appeals agreed with the plaintiffs. It found that the plaintiffs' allegations were sufficient to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duty. The Court noted that the plaintiffs provided specific plan comparators and plausibly alleged that the services purchased were sufficiently similar to render the comparisons valid. The Court also found that the plaintiffs adequately alleged a fiduciary breach based on the Plan’s offerings of retail-class mutual fund shares.The Court of Appeals vacated the District Court's dismissal of the complaint and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Mator v. Wesco Distribution Inc" on Justia Law

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The case involves Qing Qin, a Chinese software architect who alleges that he was denied a promotion and wrongfully terminated from his position at Vertex, Inc. based on his race and national origin. He also claims that he was retaliated against for complaining about the alleged discrimination and that he was subjected to a hostile work environment. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Vertex on all claims.The case was reviewed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The court agreed with the District Court that Qin did not present evidence to demonstrate a sufficiently severe and pervasive hostile work environment. However, the court found that Qin presented evidence that would give rise to an inference of discrimination and presented comparator evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to determine Vertex’s reasons for denying promotion and termination were pretextual. The court also found that the evidence and timeline of his protected activity are sufficient to find causation on his retaliation claims under their precedent.Therefore, the court affirmed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Vertex on Qin’s hostile work environment claim but vacated the District Court’s order on his discrimination and retaliation claims. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion of the Court of Appeals. View "Qing Qin v. Vertex Inc" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reviewed a decision of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding unfair labor practices alleged against New Concepts for Living, Inc. New Concepts sought review of an NLRB order determining that it engaged in unfair labor practices by pushing to decertify its employees' union. The NLRB affirmed the administrative law judge's dismissal of three charges against New Concepts but reversed his dismissal of five others.New Concepts, a nonprofit corporation providing services for people with disabilities, had been in a stalemate with its employees' union after the most recent collective bargaining agreement expired. Due to the union's inactivity, many employees expressed dissatisfaction and began a decertification movement. During this period, New Concepts suspended bargaining and issued memorandums to its employees about their right to resign from the union and stop the deduction of union dues. The NLRB found that these actions, as well as New Concepts' conduct during collective bargaining negotiations and a poll to assess union support, constituted unfair labor practices.The Court of Appeals disagreed, concluding that the NLRB's determinations were not supported by substantial evidence. The court found that New Concepts had both contractual and extracontractual bases for distributing the memorandums, did not unlawfully track employee responses, and provided adequate assurances against reprisals. Additionally, the court determined that New Concepts did not engage in bad faith bargaining and that its poll and subsequent withdrawal of recognition from the union were lawful. The court thus granted New Concepts' petition for review and denied the NLRB's cross-application for enforcement. View "New Concepts for Living Inc v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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In a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, a group of former union members alleged that their First Amendment rights were violated when their respective unions continued to deduct membership dues from their paychecks after they had resigned from the unions. The appellants had previously signed union membership applications authorizing the deduction of dues from their paychecks, with the authorizations being irrevocable for a year, regardless of membership status, unless the member provided written notice of revocation within a specified annual window. The appellants resigned from their respective unions after their annual revocation windows had passed, and the unions continued to deduct dues until the next annual revocation window. The appellants argued that the Supreme Court's decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, which held that public-sector unions charging fees to nonmembers is a form of coerced speech that violates the First Amendment, should extend to their situation. The Third Circuit disagreed, holding that Janus was focused on preventing forced speech by nonmembers who never consented to join a union, not members who voluntarily join a union and later resign. The court further rejected the appellants' due process claims, finding that they had not been deprived of any constitutional rights. The court also dismissed the appellants' contract defenses, finding that they had not alleged that the terms of their original membership agreements entitled them to membership in perpetuity. The court affirmed the District Court's orders dismissing the appellants' claims. View "Fultz v. AFSCME" on Justia Law

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This case involves Bradley Barlow, Frances Biddiscombe, and others who were members of either the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 668 or the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 13. They all signed union membership agreements authorizing the deduction of membership dues from their paychecks. The authorizations were irrevocable, regardless of union membership status, unless they provided written notice of revocation within a specified annual window. After resigning from their respective unions, their membership dues continued to be deducted until the next annual revocation window. They sued, claiming that the continued collection of dues after their resignations constitutes compelled speech, violating their First Amendment rights. They relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, which held that public-sector unions charging fees to nonmembers is a form of coerced speech that violates the First Amendment. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the District Court's dismissal of their complaints, holding that Janus was focused on nonmembers who never elected to join a union, not members who voluntarily join a union and later resign. The court also rejected their due process claims for failure to provide procedures for notice and the ability to object to how their dues were spent, as these procedures were based on avoiding subjecting nonconsenting individuals from subsidizing a political agenda, which was not the case for these appellants. The court also rejected the appellants' contract defenses. View "Barlow v. Service Employees International Union" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Lutter began working for Essex County, in a bargaining unit represented by JNESO. Under Supreme Court precedent (Abood), a public-sector union could charge fees from non-union members whom the union represented. New Jersey law permitted public-sector unions to deduct an "agency fee." Lutter joined JNESO and authorized payroll deductions of her union dues.In 2018, New Jersey enacted the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act (WDEA): a union member could revoke authorization for payroll deductions only during the 10 days following the anniversary of his employment start date. Previously, union members could give notice of revocation at any time. A month later, the Supreme Court (Janus) held that the First Amendment prohibits public-sector unions from collecting agency fees from nonmembers without their clear and affirmative consent. Under WDEA Janus would have to wait nearly a year to revoke her payroll deduction authorization. In July 2018, she nonetheless requested that deductions of her union dues cease and resigned from JNESO. Essex County deducted Lutter's union dues for 10 months.Lutter filed suit, 42 U.S.C. 1983. JNESO sent her a check in the amount of the contested union dues plus interest. She did not cash or deposit that check. The district court dismissed the case. The Third Circuit affirmed in part. The check did not moot her damages claims against JNESO but Lutter, as a non-union member no longer subject to payroll deductions, lacks standing for her claims against the other parties and for her additional requests for relief against JNESO. View "Lutter v. Jneso" on Justia Law

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Stouffer was terminated at age 41 after working eight years for the Railroad. He sued, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated (Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621), claiming that the Railroad targeted senior employees with sham workplace violations, forcing them to sign last-chance agreements that waived formal disciplinary proceedings. Stouffer called a superior a “jagoff” under his breath. In a meeting with management and his union representative, Stouffer was told he could either sign a last-chance agreement or go to a hearing and be fired. Stouffer signed a three-year last-chance agreement. Stouffer alleges that he was subsequently subject to micromanagement, surreptitious surveillance, denials of meal periods and headlamp batteries, and improperly-staffed shifts, while younger employees were not similarly treated. In 2018, Stouffer was working on a train driven by a younger driver when it ran through a switch. Stouffer was immediately terminated. The younger driver was not terminated.The district court held that Stouffer had failed to allege facts supporting the existence of a scheme that could constitute a policy hiding age-based discrimination and that Stouffer had not alleged any facts showing that the policy disparately impacted workers over the age of 40. The Third Circuit affirmed, first holding that its review was not precluded by the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. 151, because it did not require interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement. Stouffer’s complaint lacks the necessary factual allegations as to statistical disparities. View "Stouffer v. Union Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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The Post-Gazette began moving to an all-digital format, which led to the termination of two paperhandlers represented by the Union. The layoffs took place during negotiations for a successor to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which, by its terms, had ended on March 31, 2017; 24 Post-Gazette employees were covered by a provision of the expired CBA that had guaranteed those employees five shifts per week “for the balance of the Agreement, ending March 31, 2017[.]” The Union filed a charge of unfair labor practices.The parties cited Supreme Court precedent interpreting the National Labor Relations Act and holding that an employer commits an unfair labor practice if, after the expiration of a CBA, the employer alters the post-expiration status quo during negotiations for a successor CBA without first negotiating with its employees to an overall impasse and that employers are privileged to make non-bargainable entrepreneurial decisions about the scope and direction of their business without bargaining with the union--the employer need only bargain about the “effects” of the decision once made. The Third Circuit remanded. The court applied “ordinary contract principles” to the expired CBA and held that the five-shift guarantee did not become part of the post-expiration status quo. That provision makes plain the guarantee was to end when the CBA expired. Under its own theory of the case, the Post-Gazette was still precluded from implementing the layoffs unless it engaged in adequate effects bargaining. View "PG Publishing Co Inc v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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A project labor agreement (PLA) is a collective-bargaining agreement between a project owner, contractors, and unions, setting the terms and conditions of employment for a particular construction project. The terms can include recognizing a union as the workers’ exclusive bargaining representative and paying the workers union wages—even if they are not union members. The plaintiffs claim the project labor agreements violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Sherman Act.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims, citing lack of standing. Concreteness and particularity are two Article III standing requirements but those concrete injuries must also be actual or imminent. The contractor-plaintiffs declared they never have and never will bid on PLA-covered projects, admitting they never experienced and never will experience a compelled association or economic harm. To the extent the contractors’ declarations are a proxy for determining the actuality or imminence of harm to their employees, the contractors indicate they have not and will not bid on PLA-covered projects. The employees did not plead that they did or plan to work on PLA-covered public projects. The mere fact that the contractors claim they are “able and ready” to bid or work on PLA-covered public projects does not cure their failure to bid in the past and admitted refusal to bid. View "Associated Builders & Contractors of Western Pennsylvania v. Community College of Allegheny County" on Justia Law

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Following workplace-safety regulations, Precision requires its rig hands to wear flame-retardant coveralls, steel-toed boots, hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, and earplugs. The rig hands, wanting to be paid for the time they spend changing into and out of protective gear and for the time spent walking from the rigs’ changing house to safety-meeting locations, sued Precision under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 206, 207.Under the Portal-to-Portal Act, employers need not pay workers for traveling to and from the actual place where they perform the principal activities for which they are employed or for “activities which are preliminary to or post-liminary to said principal" activities, section 254(a). A “principal activity” is “the productive work that the employee is employed to perform” and all activities that are an "integral and indispensable part of the principal activities.” To be integral, a task must be “intrinsic” to the principal activity; it is indispensable when a worker cannot dispense with doing it “if he is to perform his principal activities.”The district court ruled that the oil-rig hands need not be paid for changing gear. The Third Circuit vacated. To determine whether changing is integral and intrinsic, the district court should consider whether workers have the option to change at home, whether changing is required by law, what kind of gear is required, and whether it is reasonably necessary for doing the work safely and well. View "Tyger v. Precision Drilling Corp." on Justia Law