Hawaii Employment Law Cases March 27, 2016 to April 2, 2016 – Jeffrey S. Harris

U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Second petition to remove case from state to federal court was timely, because defendants filed it within 30 days after federal court denied first petition and remanded case to state court; time did not start running when plaintiff filed first amended complaint in federal court.  Defendants could remove case based on first amended complaint within 30 days after remand to state court, because amended pleading presented new and different grounds for the second removal petition.  Post removal amendments could not affect whether first petition failed, because propriety of removal depends on pleadings filed in state court.  Allegations in first amended complaint placed more than $75,000 needed for federal diversity jurisdiction in controversy, because a possible statute of limitations defense did not reduce the amount.  Perez v. Alta Dena Certified Dairy, LLC, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 5847 (9th Cir. March 30, 2016).

District court did not err by granting summary judgment against claim for retirement benefits, even though skeptical review of reasonableness applied to decision by plan administrator with a conflict of interest.  Plan amendment prevented participation or credited service by former employee reemployed after January 2006.  District court erred by dismissing claim company breached fiduciary duty by not combining service employee accrued during his subsequent period of employment with service he accrued during his previous period of employment, because the company combined those two kinds of service previously when company promised "bridging" service and company again promised "bridging" service.  Surcharge remedy was available despite clear plan provision denying employee participation and credited service upon reemployment.  Gunther v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 5783 (9th Cir. March 29, 2016).

District court did not err by denying summary judgment compelling arbitration, because employee signed no agreement to arbitrate or other documents clearly and unequivocally incorporating an arbitration agreement, and employer gave no notice continued employment would constitute acceptance of arbitration agreement.  Socolof v. LRN Corp., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 5711 (9th Cir. March 28, 2016).

District court did not err by granting summary judgment against pregnancy discrimination claim, because violation of employer's confidentiality and non-disclosure policies was legitimate reason for discharge which employee did not prove was pretext.  District court did not err by granting summary judgment against retaliation claim, because termination of employee and opposition to her unemployment insurance claim came before her charge of discrimination and offer of settlement itself was not adverse employment action.  Employee's activities as slot marketing executive exempted her from overtime compensation under the FLSA as an administrative employee.  Her salary was above the required limit.  Cultivating relationships with individual gamblers was marketing related to general business operations.  Largely self managing client relationships and being held accountable based on results of efforts gave her sufficient discretion and independent judgment in marketing activities.  Dannenberg v. Wynn Las Vegas, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 5715 (9th Cir. March 28, 2016).

U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii

District court granted summary judgment against disability discrimination claim, because employer's reasons for declining to award employee annual pay raises, declining or reducing his annual bonuses and terminating his employment were legitimate and not pretextual.  District court granted summary judgment against failure to accommodate claim, because employer accommodated work restrictions described by employee's physician.  Employee and physician failed to respond to employer's requests for more information to identify a reasonable accommodation for right foot disability.  District court granted summary judgment against religious discrimination claim, because employee did not show religious beliefs required him to attend church at a specific time of day.  Employee had attended church services at different times despite his work schedule.  District court granted summary judgment against whistleblower act claim, because employer terminated employee over a year after he complained to HIOSH. HIOSH did not inform employer who complained, although employee's supervisor said come to him the next time he came across a violation.  Employer had legitimate reasons for terminating employee.  Employee failed to show individual supervisor's employment decisions were extreme or outrageous and willful or wanton sufficient to except intentional infliction of emotional distress claim from workers compensation exclusivity.  Turner v. AOAO of Wailea Point Village, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43385 (D. Hawaii March 31, 2016).

Hawaii Supreme Court

Circuit Court and Intermediate Court of Appeals erred by granting and affirming summary judgment against claims for negligence and negligent misrepresentation based on Railway Labor Act preemption.  Retiree claimed airline breached duty by failing to provide him with reasonably accurate Medicare retirement information and correct information regarding whether he should choose to have the airline's medical plan or Medicare Part B as his primary health plan.  Claim relied on referral to employer's advice in insurance brochure and restatement of torts; it did not depend on interpretation of airline's collective bargaining agreement.  Lower courts did not err by granting and affirming summary judgment against retiree's unfair and deceptive act and practice claim, because airline's alleged negligence did not occur in the conduct of any trade or commerce.  Wong v. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc., 2016 Haw. LEXIS 78 (March 30, 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.