Hawaii Employment Law Decisions February 28, 2016 to March 5, 2016 – Jeffrey S. Harris

U.S. SUPREME COURT

The Employer Retirement Income Security Act preempts state law requiring self-insured health care plans to report payment of claims and other data relating to health care plans.  Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 2016 U.S. LEXIS 1612 (March 1, 2016).

U.S. NINTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

Employer waived right to contest withdrawal liability assessment in federal court by failing to arbitrate dispute with multiemployer pension plan sponsor concerning determination of amount.  Employer did not show proceeding under allegedly unconscionable arbitration provision would render arbitral process futile or cause irreparable injury.  Employer's challenge to arbitration provision did not toll time for seeking arbitration.  Dairy Empl. Union Local No. 17 v. Vander EYK Dairy, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 4151 (9TH Cir. March 4, 2016).

Former employee could not bring federal lawsuit against California unemployment insurance appeals board and state court for denying and affirming denial of unemployment benefits claim (based on Facebook post visible to "friends" including fellow employees violating employer's policies against threatening or abusive language against co-workers), because she was effectively appealing from state court.  The appeals board and its chairman were immune from the former employee's claims under the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The former employee could not claim breach of contract and the covenant of good faith and fair dealing against former employer because she failed to exhaust collectively bargained grievance procedure.  She could not claim violation of a constitutional right to free speech against former employer because it was a private entity.  Guevarra v. Seton Med. Ctr., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 4021 (9th Cir. March 3, 2016).

Non-union acute care hospitals failed to state federal antitrust claim against health care worker union and Kaiser hospitals for conspiracy to eliminate competition, because non-union hospitals did not allege union and Kaiser hospitals' actions caused competitors to exit the market or reduce their production, consumers to face higher prices or reduction in quality of care, quantity of services or overall choice of providers.  Non-union hospitals failed to state antitrust claim against Kaiser for monopolizing, attempting to monopolize or conspiring to monopolize the acute care hospital market because Kaiser owning 12% of the hospitals in the relevant area did not show it exercised power to control priced or exclude competitors.  Prime Healthcare Serv., Inc.  v. Service Empl. Int'l Union, United Healthcare Workers-West, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 3921 (9th Cir. March 2, 2016).

District court properly granted summary judgment against Fair Labor Standards Act retaliation claim, because the FLSA did not require employer to provide breaks, employee did not assert legal right to breaks or complain employer did not compensate for break time worked.  To be protected, employee's complaint must be sufficiently clear and detailed for reasonable employer to understand as assertion of rights protected by the statute and call for their protection.  Richard v. Carson Tahoe Reg'l Healthcare, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 3932 (9th Cir. March 2, 2016).

District court properly compelled arbitration of wage claims under California law, because arbitration agreement was condition of employment, employee was aware if he continued to work he would be bound by condition and he continued to work after condition went into effect.  Federal Arbitration Act applied and superseded California law providing wage claims are not subject to arbitration.    Wulfe v. Valero Ref. Co., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 3781 (9th Cir. March 1, 2016).

U.S. DISTRICT COURT, DISTRICT OF HAWAII

District court did not have jurisdiction to enforce arbitration award involving federal sector labor union.  International Association of Federal Firefighters Local F-263 v. Secretary of Navy, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24786 (D. Haw. Feb. 29, 2916).

District court dismissed qui tam claim under False Claims Act with prejudice, because employee did not make claim on behalf of federal government, did not allege employer took acts covered by Act and did not follow procedure set forth by Act.  District court dismissed federal and state discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims without prejudice, because employee did not allege exhaustion of administrative remedies.  District court dismissed Fair Labor Standards claim for denial of forty hour workweek, overtime and holiday pay, outside three year statute of limitations for willful violations with prejudice, and within statute of limitation as insufficiently specific without prejudice.  Navaja v. Honolulu Academy of Arts, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24785 (D. Haw. Feb. 29, 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.