Hawaii Employment Law Decisions from July 5 to July 11 - Jeffrey S. Harris

There are only two requirements in order for a whistleblower to be an "original source" who may recover relief under the False Claims Act: (1) before filing the action, the whistleblower must voluntarily inform the government of the facts which underlie the allegations of the complaint; and (2) the whistleblower must have direct and independent knowledge of the allegations underlying the complaint. It does not matter whether the whistleblower also played a role in the public disclosure of the allegations that are part of his suit. US ex. Rel. Hartpence v. Kinetic Concepts, Inc., 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 11463 (9th Cir. July 7. 2015).

A district court concluded that an employer did not retaliate against an employee's protected complaints by moving him from a private office to a semi public cubicle, because there were legitimate and non-discriminatory reasons for the move including the need for space due to expanding operations, the employee did not need privacy for confidential information like other employees did and he had personality problems that affected his ability to work with others.  The district court concluded that the employer retaliated against the employee by denying his request for an authorized absence, because the absence was for protected complaining activity and there was no legitimate reason for denying the absence.  The district court concluded that the employee's supervisor did not create a hostile work environment for the employee by not assigning him work, because the employee could not perform the work due to the personality problems and because it was more work for the supervisor to assign the employee the work than for others to do it.  The employer did not deny the disabled employee a reasonable accommodation because he was unable to perform the essential functions of his position (ability to work independently, interact with others, and address complex issues) with reasonable accommodation; lowering expectations for an employee's performance or allowing him to stay home were not reasonable accommodations.  Since the employer was responsible for the breakdown in the interactive process, the district court considered any other possible accommodations and concluded that none of them were reasonable.  The employer accommodated the employees need for a reasonably quiet area to work by allowing him to wear headphones. Yonemoto v. McDonald, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90162 (D. Haw. July 10, 2015).

The Hawaii workers compensation law was the exclusive remedy for the former employees' claims against their employer based on alleged negligent training, negligent retention, failure to investigate and negligent infliction of emotional distress.  Dowkin v. City and Cty. of Honolulu, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90161 (D. Haw. July 10, 2015).

A district court granted an employer's motion to compel an employee to arbitrate his discrimination claim, because the employee digitally signed the arbitration agreement (despite his claim that he did not read it), the parties mutual assent to arbitration provided bilateral consideration, it could not be said with positive assurance that the arbitration agreement was not susceptible a an interpretation that covered the dispute and the National Labor Relations Act did not invalidate the agreement, at least when the employee had an opportunity to opt out of it.  Williams v. 24 Hour Fitness, USA, Inc., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88782 (D. Haw. July 8, 2015).

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 that 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.