Hawaii Employment Decisions March 20, 2016 to March 26, 2016 - Jeffrey S. Harris

U.S. Supreme Court

District court did not err by allowing FLSA overtime pay class representatives to use an expert's opinion about how long it took over 3,000 putative plaintiffs to don and doff safety gear at a Tyson pork factory.  The expert arrived at an average time the employees took to put on and take off the gear, based on analyzing videos showing how long one fourth of the employees spent to perform those tasks.  The employer did not keep records of the time the employees took.  It did not challenge the reliability of the expert's opinion.  The parties could determine which employees worked over 40 hours because of the added time when allocating the jury's damage award.  Tyson Foods v. Bouapahakeo, 2016 U.S. LEXIS 2134 (U.S. Sup. Ct. March 22, 2016).

U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

District court had jurisdiction over employee's statutory claim against an employer and fair representation claim against the union because the arbitration provision in the collective bargaining did not cover the claims and the company and union had no authority to settle them.  Pauley v. CF Entm't, 20165 U.S. App. LEXIS 5644 (9th Cir. March 25, 2016).

Ninety-day medical leave policy was not a reasonable accommodation as a matter of law.  Evidence supported jury's verdict employer failed to provide a reasonable accommodation under California law, by considering no accommodation other than the leave provided under the policy.  Before the employee's discharge, he repeatedly informed the employer of his progress and prospects for return.  The jury could reasonably find that it would have been reasonable for the employer to extend the leave for a short period when it appeared likely that the employee could return to his position in a matter of weeks.  Kranson v. Federal Express Corp., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 5516 (9th Cir. March 24, 2016).

District court did not err by granting summary judgment against age and race discrimination claims, because employer's reason for terminating employee (violation of safety policy by driving bus carrying crew up ramp he was advised to avoid) was not a pretext for discrimination.  Younger and different race employees were not similarly situated in all material respects, because they did not have similar jobs and display similar conduct.  Supervisor who made derogatory comments about employee's age and race did not sign the report recommending employee's termination or make the final termination decision.  Decker v. Barrick Goldstrike Mines, Inc., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 5417 (9th Cir. March 23, 2016).

District court did not err by granting summary judgment against national origin claims.  The tenured faculty members terminated due to state mandated budget cuts identified no individuals in similar positions with similar qualifications or any open positions for which they were qualified and could have filled.  The former faculty failed to show that the budget cuts were a pretext for discrimination.  Fernandez v. Board of Regents of Nevada Sys. of Higher Educ., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 5413 (9th Cir. March 23, 2016).

District court appropriately granted summary judgment against disability benefit claim, because claimant failed to exhaust the plan's remedial procedure before suing.  Claimant failed to show appealing plan's denial of her claim through the procedure would have been futile, because the procedure previously reversed denial of another claim and she did not comply with the plan's attempt to obtain additional information.  Claimant failed to show that the procedure violated ERISA, because the denial letter outlined the reasons for denial.  Leonard v. Metlife Ins. Co., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 5429 (9th Cir. March 23, 2016).

District court appropriately granted summary judgment against California disability discrimination claim, because employee's asymptomatic Hepatitis C was not a disability and he did not offer evidence his employer perceived him as limited in a major life activity.  District court appropriately granted summary judgment against California retaliation claim, because employee presented no evidence his generalized complaints about management expressed any opposition to disability or age based discrimination.  District court erroneously granted summary judgment against California age discrimination claim.  Employee over forty who offered evidence he was performing satisfactorily could show evidence of discriminatory motive even though he wasn't replaced.  Employee demonstrated material issue of fact by showing the company provided company trucks to younger employees sooner than to him, did not include ratings for certifications and licenses which would have improved his position, did not comply with the internal requirement two supervisors evaluate each employee, used subjective evaluation criteria, and artificially lowered his ratings.  Hawkins v. Simplexgrinnell, L.P., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 5452 (9th Cir. March 23, 2016).

The district court erred by granting summary judgment against long term disability claim, because claimant qualified for futility exception to requirement he exhaust plan's administrative remedies.  After the plan denied the claim for benefits, the plan responded to claimant's complaint to the California Dept. of Ins. by sending a letter saying it reviewed the documentation in claimant's file and could not approve his claim and by not suggesting any further appeal would be conducted by an outside body or a different body within the plan on the basis of the same basis the plan had already twice rejected.  A reasonable person in the claimant's position would have thought it would be futile to appeal again to the plan after it has twice denied the claim.  Carey v. United of Omaha Life Ins. Co., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 5149 (9th Cir. March 21, 2016).

Note: We analyze cases to learn rules the courts will follow or disappoint us if they don't. Rules that the courts follow allow us to behave and provide explanations they accept. But competent advocates may limit the rules to the facts of the case where they are discussed, or expand rules by showing that differences in other cases are irrelevant.