Hawaii Employment Law Decisions Jan 22, 2017 to Jan 28, 2017 – Jeffrey S. Harris

District court improperly granted summary judgment against former employee's hostile work environment claim.  Reasonable trier of fact could conclude coworker's conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to create hostile work environment.  The employer knew about the conduct and failed to take corrective remedial action.  District court improperly granted summary judgment against disparate treatment claim.  Even though former employee could not show non-Hispanic employees walked off the job and were not terminated, he showed he was required to continue working with non-Hispanic coworker who harassed him and was hardly reprimanded.  Another non-Hispanic coworker did not have the lock on his locker cut instead of being opened with a key when drug sniffing dog alerted to it.  District court improperly granted summary judgment against former employee's retaliation claim.  Employer fired former employee within a month after he complained about a coworker who subjected him to hostile work environment.  Employer did not seriously punish the coworker but terminated the former employee for missing one and a half days when the coworker was also scheduled.  Reynaga v. Roseburg Forest Products, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 1395 (9th Cr. Jan. 26, 2017).

District court properly granted summary judgment against discrimination claims.  Former employee failed to raise a genuine dispute of material fact whether similarly situated employees outside of his protected class were treated more favorably and employer's legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for his termination were pretextual.  Natty v. Brennan, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 1416 (9th Cir. Jan. 26, 2017).

Section 301 Labor Management Relations Act preempted Washington state statute providing if employee is entitled to sick leave or other paid leave under collective bargaining agreement, employee can use leave to care for a sick child, parent, parent-in-law or grandparent.  The right existed solely as a result of the collective bargaining agreement.  Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Schurke, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 1318 (9th Cir. Jan. 25, 2017).

Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals

Circuit Court properly affirmed denial of unemployment benefit claim, because former employee engaged in misconduct connected with work because he knew or should have known his job would be in jeopardy if he failed to return to work as scheduled and, in making his travel plans, consciously disregarded the risk.  Lockwood v. State of Hawaii, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Employment Security Appeal & Referees' Office, 2017 Haw. App. LEXIS 41 (Int. Ct. Jan. 27, 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.