Hawaii Employment Law Decisions Dec. 18, 2016 to Dec. 24, 2016 – Jeffrey S. Harris

U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

District court properly concluded arbitrator did not manifestly disregard the law by determining Pension Protection Act contributions were part of contributions that must be remitted under the pension plans' reciprocation agreement.  There was no well-defined, explicit and clearly applicable law that barred PPA contributions from being reciprocated.  Trs. of the U.S. Local 38 Defined Benefit Pension Plan v. Trs. of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Nat. Pension Plan, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 23214 (9th Cir Dec. 23, 2016).

District court properly concluded, to the extent fraud in inducement could indicate unconscionability, drivers offered no evidence the company knew the arrangement providing drivers would purchase new trucks would not be long term as allegedly represented, even though the agreement provided it could be terminated on 30 days' notice.  The evidence reflected the cause of the termination was the company's loss of its largest customer.  The agreement was not a contract of employment for interstate transportation workers, exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act.  Alvarado v. Pac. Motor Trucking Co., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 23205 (9th Cir. Dec. 23, 2016).

District court properly concluded arbitrator did not exceed power afforded by parties' arbitration agreement.  Campbell v. Nevada Prop. LLC, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 23222 (9th Cir. Dec. 23, 2016).

District court properly concluded plan administrator's decision denying benefits claim was reviewed for abuse of discretion.  Plan terms granted discretionary authority to administrator.   Administrator's denial of benefits was based on reasonable interpretation of plan's eligibility criteria and administrator did not abuse its discretion by denying the claim.  There is no constitutional or statutory right to jury trial in an ERISA action.  Cha v. 1999 SEIU Health Care Emps. Pension Fund, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 23235 (9th Cir. Dec. 23, 2016).

District court properly concluded former employee failed to raise genuine dispute of material fact on whether employer discriminated against her because of age, whether employer's stated reasons for adverse actions were pretext for retaliation, or whether conduct allegedly creating a hostile work environment was because of her age.  Jaroslawsky v. City and Cty. of San Francisco, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 23135 (9th Cir. Dec. 22, 2016).

District court properly concluded former employee failed to establish prima facie case or raise genuine dispute of material fact whether employer's legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for his termination was pretextual.  Thompson v. Fanning, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 23121 (9th Cir. Dec. 22, 2016).

District court properly dismissed employees' "hybrid" claim against employer for breach of contract and against union for breach of duty of fair representation.  Employees failed to file claim within six-months after they knew or should have known their union breached its fair representation duty.  Tolling ceased when they ceased actively availing themselves of grievance procedures and obtained counsel.  The employees did not plausibly claim the union obtained an agreement to extend grievance time limit and rationally obtaining an extension would not have breached union's duty.  Smith v. United Airlines Inc. and Int'l Ass'n of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 23104 (9th Cir. Dec. 22, 2016).

District court improperly denied technology company's motion to compel arbitration of two former drivers' Fair Credit Reporting Act and related claims.  Both of their agreements clearly and unmistakably delegated the question of arbitrability to the arbitrator, one excepted delegation as it pertained to arbitrability of class, collective and representative claims.  The delegation provisions were not procedurally unconscionable because they gave the drivers a meaningful opportunity to opt out of arbitration altogether.  Since the technology company agreed to pay the costs of arbitration, the costs did not prevent the drivers from effectively vindicating their claims in arbitration.  Waiver of the right to make representative claims was severable.  Independent background check company could not rely on arbitration agreement, because independent company was not party to the arbitration agreement and there were no allegations or evidence technology company controlled independent company, the two companies shared an identity of interest or the allegations against the independent company were intimately founded in and intertwined with the technology's company agreements with the drivers.  Mohamed v. Uber Techs., Inc., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 22898 (9th Cir. Dec. 21, 2016).

District court did not err granting summary judgment against ADA and ADEA claim, because former employee established no genuine issue of fact whether the reason for terminating him - his improperly shaving time off his employees' time records - was pretext for disability or age discrimination or retaliation.  Subordinate who engaged in same time editing was not similarly situated.  Other directors at his level engaged in substantially different time editing, both in frequency and reason, and did not prompt complaints or consternation by other employees.  Norton v. PHC-Elko, Inc., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 22921 (9th Cir. Dec. 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.