Hawaii Employment Law Cases July 30, 2017 to August 5, 2017 – Jeffrey S. Harris

U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

District Court property granted summary judgment against ADA discrimination claim.  Former medical resident neither qualified nor satisfactorily performed; he left the hospital while on call without giving the pager to a colleague and was involved in a ‘red flag’ incident.  Record showed medical center terminated resident because he violated referral to health program and not because of his disability.  Referral did not violate ADA because resident’s emotional and belligerent behavior put patients at risk and was job related and consistent with business necessity.  Neravetla v. Va. Mason Med. Ctr., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 14401 (9th Cir. Aug. 4, 2017).

District Court properly compelled class arbitration of claims against employer.  District Court correctly found the employment contract was ambiguous on class arbitration, since it was capable of two reasonable constructions: 1) it properly construed the ambiguity against the employer as drafter, and 2) it correctly determined that the most reasonable interpretation of contract's expansive language was that it authorized class arbitration.  Varela v. Lamps Plus, Inc., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 14284 (9th Cir. Aug. 3, 2017).

District Court improperly enjoined plan from obtaining reimbursement of benefits from beneficiary who received recovery from third party.  Provisions of a summary plan description requiring reimbursement of benefits paid in a third-party liability claim upon receipt of third-party recovery were part of the plan because the other plan documents did not state the basis on which payments made to and from the plan.  Mull v. Motion Picture Indus. Health Plan, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 13949 (9th Cir. Aug. 1, 2017).

District Court properly entered summary judgment against Washington State Family Leave Act interference claim based on FMLA.  Employer issued corrective action memos because employee refused to comply with his manager’s instructions to contact her directly before taking any absence, as required by employer’s usual and customary attendance policies, not because he exercised his right to take FMLA leave.  Nothing outside of employee’s control prevented him from following the policy or showed he was reasonable in disregarding his manager’s instructions to notify her before any absence.  Shelton v. Boeing Co., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 14027 (9th Cir. Aug. 1, 2017).

District Court improperly granted summary judgment against hostile work environment claim by employee for actions employer took after co-worker raped her.  Employee offered evidence male supervisors denied her paid leave as her experience was insufficiently unusual but granted the co-worker paid leave while vocally and supporting the co-worker. The supervisor’s action could have created a work environment a reasonable woman could find altered by her employer condoning the rape and its effects, even though the employer fired the co-worker after she resigned.  The employer could be vicariously liable for the actions of the supervisors.  Fuller v. Idaho Dep’t of Corrections, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 13818 (9th Cir. July 31, 2017).

District Court properly granted summary judgment against hostile work environment claim by employee raped by co-worker.  The rapes created no hostile work environment because they occurred outside the workplace, after the employer placed the co-worker on leave because of a criminal investigation into other misconduct.  The co-worker did not harass the employee in the workplace or a related environment or return to work after the rapes.  District Court properly granted summary judgment against constructive discharge claim, because employer did not inform staff about sealed protective order against the coworker, removed the co-worker from the workplace, informed staff company employer did not permit him on premises and directed staff to call a supervisor if he appeared.  District Court properly granted summary judgment employer denied employee administrative leave because of her gender.  Employer’s refusal to grant leave for her unusual situation differed from grant of leave under other policies governing investigations or discipline and not because of her gender.  Fuller v. Idaho Dep’t of Corrections, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 13862 (9th Cir. July 31, 2017).

Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act did not preempt state’s minimum wage, meal break and rest break laws against carrier.  Ortega v. J.B. Hunt Transp., Inc., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 13864 (9th Cir. July 31, 2017).

U.S. District Court for District of Hawaii

District Court denied summary judgment against hostile work environment claim.  Employee submitted internal complaint about the conduct of supervisors and co-workers.  There was a genuine issue of material fact whether the conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment and create an abusive work environment.  District Court granted summary judgment against retaliation claim because employee offered no evidence permanent reassignment of her bucket truck made her job more arduous or less prestigious given assignment of another vehicle and reassignment to another location that did not use or need bucket truck.  District Court granted summary judgment against disability discrimination claim based on failure to create light duty position, because the limitations on the employee’s ability to work prevented her from performing the essential functions of any position and the employer did not have to create a new light duty position.  District Court denied summary judgment against disability discrimination based on raising employee’s lifting requirement because the employer did not respond to employee’s request to explain the change or revert to the original requirement.  Morris v. Verizon, Fed., Inc., 2017 U.S. Dis. Lexis 122422 (D. Haw. Aug. 3, 2017).

Note: We analyze cases to learn rules courts will follow or disappoint us if they do not. Rules courts follow allow us to behave and provide explanations they accept. Competent advocates may limit the rules to the facts of the case that discuss them, or expand the rules by showing differences in other cases are irrelevant.