Hawaii Employment Law Decisions from May 10 to May 16 - Jeffrey S. Harris

A district court properly granted summary judgment against former plan participants, because their alleged injury could not be traced to any alleged misconduct by the plan or the sponsoring employer and it could not be redressed without excessive speculation. Any breaches of fiduciary duty did not cause material harm to the plan participants that entitled them to damages and they could not make a claim for equitable relief that was tied to a redressable damage claim. Defazio v. Hollister Emp. Share Ownership Trust, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 8048 (9th Cr. May 15, 2015).

A district court properly granted summary judgment against an employee's disparate treatment claim, because the employee did not perform satisfactorily by opening an electrical panel in direct violation of company safety policy, while he was not authorized to work on any energized circuits. Salas v. Indep .Elec. Contractors, Inc., 2015 U.S. App LEXIS 79057 (9th Cir. May 14, 2015).

A district court properly granted summary judgment against an applicant's race discrimination claim because the applicant failed to present evidence creating a dispute whether the decision maker was aware of his race and whether the employer continued to seek applications from other similarly situated individuals outside his class. The district court properly granted summary judgment against the applicant's retaliation claim, because he failed to present evidence creating a dispute whether the decision maker was aware of his protected activity. Stephens v. Nike, Inc., 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 7733 (9th Cir. May 12, 2015).

A district court erroneously found that there was no agreement to arbitrate under California law, because the employee signed an acknowledgment that incorporated the employee handbook and expressly referenced the arbitration agreement, the disclaimer of contractual rights only applied to ensure at will employment and the agreement applied to any dispute. The agreement was not unconscionable because it permitted an award of attorney's fees where required by law, it bound the employer to arbitrate and its provision allowing the employer to modify the agreement was subject to the covenant of good faith and fair dealing implied in every contact. Ashley v. Archstone Prop. Mgmnt., 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 7975 (9th May 12, 2016).

A district court erroneously found that there was no agreement to arbitrate under California law, because the employee signed an acknowledgment that incorporated the employee handbook and expressly referenced the arbitration provision l in the handbook. The case was distinct from prior cases, where the acknowledgments signed by the employees did not expressly reference the arbitration provisions in the handbooks. Ashby v Archstone Prop. Mgmnt., 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 7819 (9th Cir. May 12, 2015).

An employer was entitled to summary judgment against a former employee's disparate treatment race and sex discrimination claim. The employee failed to make prima facie case, because he did not show that he performed his work satisfactorily even though he did not report to work; or that he suffered an adverse employment action by being investigated without being disciplined, by not being moved to a preferable office, by not being provided better furnishings or by having a subordinate being removed from his supervision. The employee failed to show that the reasons articulated the employer for taking those actions were pretextual. The employer was entitled to summary judgment against the employee's hostile work environment claim, because the actions the employee complained about were not ongoing or persistent enough or tied to his race or sex. The employer was entitled to summary judgment against the employee's retaliation clam, because the actions the employee complained about were not likely to deter a reasonable employee from engaging in protected activity and there was no evidence that they were connected to any protected activity. The employer was entitled to summary judgment against the employee's disability discrimination claim, because the employee did not show that his leg and ankle injury was a disability or that he could have performed the essential functions of his position with accommodation despite his lengthy absence. The employer was entitled to summary judgment on the employee's claim that the employer discharged him solely because of his work injury, because the employee did not indicate what evidence would show that he was discharged soley because of a work injury, was capable of work that the employer had available or had suffered a work injury. The employee's aiding and abetting claim failed because he did not allege who individual aided or abetted or what actions he took to do that. McAllister v. U.S. Veterans Initiative, 2015 U.S. Dis. LEXIS 63526 (D. Haw. May 14, 2015).

The U.S. may seek injunctive relief against the airport division for failing to correct sexual harassment by a former employee and retaliating against the complainant, and the court may award that relief if the plaintiff shows that supervisors and managers may engage in similar behavior again. U.S. v. State of Hawaii and State of Hawaii Dept. of Transp, Airports Div., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61199 (D. Haw. May 11, 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.