Hawaii Employment Law Decisions April 23 to April 29, 2017 – Jeffrey S. Harris

U.S. Supreme Court

Native American tribe’s sovereign immunity against lawsuits did not extend to tribal employee sued over actions he took within scope of employment when sued in individual capacity.  Tribe’s agreement to indemnify employee did not extend immunity.  Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community, 572 U.S, ___ (2014).

U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

District Court improperly denied employer’s motion for summary judgment under Equal Pay Act (certified for appellate review), because basing pay structure exclusively on prior salaries could be basing pay on any factor other than sex.  District Court had to evaluate business reasons employer offered and determine whether the employer used prior salary reasonably given its stated purposes (objectivity, attracting candidates by always offering 5% more, preventing favoritism and ensuring consistency, judiciously using dollars) and other practices.  Rizo v. Yovino, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 7427 (9th Cir. April 27, 2017).

District Court properly granted summary judgment against former employee’s age discrimination claim, because he failed to show the fourth part of prima facie case, similarly situated younger employees were treated more favorably. One younger financial advisor who received an assistant produced more, another who received an assistant was same age and another who received lower revenue goal had less seniority and lower prior performance standards.  Stever v. United States Bancorp & US Bancorp Invs., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 7494 (9th Cir. April 27, 2017).

U.S. Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Court of Appeals

Bankruptcy Court did not err concluding California Labor Commission’s un-appealed decision holding debtor should have known he had no right to offset property damages against an employee’s wages was preclusive in bankruptcy.  Debtor’s failure to pay employee was willful and malicious since it was implausible debtor would not have known harm to employee could result from nonpayment given it was a misdemeanor and caused injury.  Wages were non-dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Zeppinick v. Ramirez, 2017 Bankr. LEXIS 1118 (9th Cir Bankr. April 24, 2017).

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.