Hawaii Employment Law Decisions from February 7, 2016 to February 13, 2016 – Jeffrey S. Harris

U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

District court improperly dismissed federal discrimination claim, because letter and draft complaint sent by employee's counsel was a timely filed charge.  Jones v. Scorpio Gold (US) Corp., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 2565 (9th Cir. Feb. 12, 2016).

District court properly granted summary judgment against retaliation claim under Energy Reorganization Act, because former employee expressing difference of opinion about designation of an existing internal condition report lacked a nexus to a concrete, ongoing safety concern sufficient to comprise protected activity under the Act. Sanders v. Energy Northwest, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 2467 (9th Cir. Feb. 12, 2016).

District court properly granted summary judgment against disparate treatment gender discrimination claim, because former employee identified no male employees who committed similar transgressions and were not fired.  Van Pelt v. Nevada, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 2554 (9th Cir. Feb. 12, 2011).

U.S. District Court, District of Hawaii

District court affirmed magistrate's award of sanctions, because magistrate did not clearly err by concluding Railway Labor Act preempted employee's constructive discharge claim, employee's amended complaint did not allege sufficient factual and legal basis for the claim or excuse failure to exhaust the collectively bargained grievance procedure and his attorney failed to conduct a reasonable and competent inquiry.  Debeikes v. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11430 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 2565 (9th Cir. Feb. 12, 2016).

District court granted summary judgment against federal retaliation claim, because employee's manager began reducing her work hours two months before the manager learned about her former lawsuit.  Kim v. Coach, Inc., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15531 (D. Haw. Feb. 9, 2016).

District court denied summary judgment against state whistleblower act claim, because former employee reported suspected violations of law, was subjected to multiple suspensions and raised genuine issues of fact whether his report was a substantial or motivating factor for suspensions and whether the disciplinary actions would have occurred regardless of his reports, based on the time between the reports and the disciplinary actions, evidence the employer did not discipline another employee who engaged in conduct that resulted in his discipline and his managers' wives complained about his conduct.  District court granted summary judgment against intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, because managers' false accusations of crime, disciplinary actions based on the accusations and conspiring with one of their wives was not sufficiently outrageous.  Ragasa v. County of Kauai, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15207 (D. Haw. Feb. 8, 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.