Hawaii Employment Law Decisions Feb. 19, 2017 to Feb. 25, 2017 – Jeffrey S. Harris

U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

District court improperly granted summary judgment against Title VII hostile work environment claim.  A reasonable juror could find supervisor greeting with unwelcome hugs on over 100 occasions and at least one kiss during a 12-year period was more than ordinary workplace socializing and became abusive.  Supervisor hugging and kissing other women related to claim.  Zetwick v. Cnty. Of Yolo, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 3260 (9th Cir. Feb. 23, 2017).

District court properly granted summary judgment against disability discrimination claim.  Employee failed to raise genuine issue of material fact whether he was disabled and whether employer's legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for termination were pretextual.  District court properly granted summary judgment against failure to accommodate claim.  Employee failed to rise triable dispute whether he was disabled.  District court properly granted summary judgment against retaliation claim.  Employee failed to raise triable dispute on whether there was a causal link between protected conduct and his termination and whether legitimate reason for his termination was pretextual.  Tsuji v. Kamehameha Sch., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 3322 (9th Cir. Feb. 23, 2017).

District court properly granted summary judgment against hostile work environment claim.  Employee failed to raise a genuine dispute of material fact on whether employer's alleged conduct was severe or pervasive enough to alter conditions of her employment.  District court properly granted summary judgment against retaliation claim.  Employee failed to raise a genuine dispute of material fact on whether she suffered an adverse action because of engaging in protected activity.  Arvakhi v. Clemmensen, 2017 U.S. App. 3313 (9th Cir. Feb.23, 2017).

District court properly granted summary judgment against disability benefit claim.  Claimant failed to raise a genuine dispute of material fact on whether administrator's conflict of interest affected its decision and whether the administrator's decision was a reasonable interpretation of the plans terms   Hinshaw v. Unum Life Ins. Co. of Am., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 3195 (9th Cir. Feb. 23, 2017).

District Court properly granted summary judgment against retaliation claim under Sarbanes Oxley Act and Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Control Act, because she engaged in no whistleblower activity protected by those statutes.  Reporting violations of OFCCP was not protected under SOX or Dodd-Frank and no objectively reasonable basis existed to believe such violations would cause the company and its shareholders to suffer significant losses.  Employee's belief in misclassification was reasonable only regarding herself and fell far short of the material standard required for shareholder fraud.  Rocheleau v. Microsemi Corp., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 2964 (9th Cir. Fed. 21, 2017).

U.S. District Court for District of Hawaii

District court granted summary judgment against ADA failure to accommodate claim.  Plaintiff did not show he was disabled or regarded as disabled.  He did not show he was qualified individual, because he was absent from January to October and did not show he was able to perform the functions of his refuse collector position then.  The employer did not fail to accommodate the plaintiff.  Plaintiff failed to provide sufficient medical evidence or details about the nature and extent of his impairment to allow employer to determine reasonable accommodation for him to perform the position.  Plaintiff's violation of the employer's written leave policies was legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for terminating plaintiff and he did not show pretext.  Schwartz v. City & Cnty. Of Honolulu, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24946 (D. Haw. Feb. 22, 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.